Author Topic: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?  (Read 1401 times)

OzzieandHarriet

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Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« on: January 17, 2020, 12:21:18 PM »
We've known we need to replace our furnace/AC for a while now (it's a 22-year-old system), and now we have to do it because the gas company red-tagged it because they detected some leaks. We've contracted with a well-recommended local business to do the work, but one item we're not sure about is whether to get the whole-house humidifier. The old furnace has one, but I don't know if it's been effective or not. It's an extra $450 if we do it along with the install, about $650 if we do it later.

I'm kind of inclining not to do it. Our house isn't that big, it's a ranch with a basement + unfinished attic. The new two-step systems are supposed to be much less drying. Our climate here, in the mid-Atlantic region, is generally more humid than not.

Any thoughts?

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2020, 12:38:43 PM »
It kinda looks like you could get something like this if the need arises; cheaper and isn't attached to the furnace so there's less expensive crap to break.

https://www.thespruce.com/essick-aircare-console-ma1201-review-4692057

SunnyDays

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2020, 01:57:45 PM »
I've been debating buying a humidifier too, but my furnace guy told me years ago that they're a lot of hassle to clean (and have to watch out for mold, which I'm allergic to), plus I would have had to run a water line to the furnace, so I didn't go that route.  I also looked at console-type and table-top ones, and it's hard to find something that has consistently good reviews. And my water is hard, so it would take a lot of cleaning.  So I have resorted to simply putting a dutch oven full of water on the stove and letting it simmer for hours.  The forced air moves it around the house.  It's working well so far (feels so much better in here, and the dog appreciates not getting shocked every time I touch her, lol), so considering that I really only need it a few months of the year, that's what I'm going to stick to.

YttriumNitrate

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2020, 02:00:43 PM »
Well, do you have a problem with dry skin in the winter? If its so dry that your knuckles crack and bleed during the winter, I'd spend the $450 on the whole house humidifier, if not then maybe hold off.

geekette

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2020, 02:09:54 PM »
We have a whole house humidifier.  DH's skin would be dry and itchy even with large console humidifier and a smaller one in our bedroom.  The maintenance on those was also a pain (refilling, replacing filters) and they chilled the house.

We got an Aprilaire steam humidifier and it's doing well. 

We're also in the mid-Atlantic, and have plenty of humidity in the summer, just not nearly enough in the winter.

tyrannostache

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2020, 02:19:28 PM »
I love the idea in theory, as I definitely get cracked skin in winter. However, my only experience with a whole-house humidifier was in a rental house a few years back. The humidifier system had a small, slow leak. We only discovered it after the pool it had been creating for months finally crept out from behind the furnace. That's when we discovered mold all over the place in the wall behind the furnace. ETA: There was definitely some deferred maintenance, so this is maybe not a great example.

This winter, we have been running a Honeywell "germ-free" humidifier in our main room and our toddler's room, and it really does seem to help. So far, it works well, it's really easy to clean, and it hasn't developed any of the problems that cheaper humidifiers have (mold).
« Last Edit: January 17, 2020, 02:26:09 PM by tyrannostache »

Gay Burqueño Dad

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2020, 02:25:38 PM »
I've lived in the mid-Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest, and the desert Southwest. Out of all those places, the desert Southwest is the only place where I'd say a whole-house humidifier is probably worth the cost for most people.

I'd guess you know already if you or anyone in your family is prone to dry skin (most workplaces and schools don't have humidification so mild symptoms would likely be showing up). If anyone is, then sure, a whole-home humidifier is a nice thing to save time (lotion application & room humidifier filling/cleaning). If not, I doubt anyone will acquire significant dry skin symptoms going without a whole-home humidifier. Room humidifiers pulled out for respiratory illnesses are probably a similar amount of effort to maintaining a whole-home humidifier & are cheaper.

Dave1442397

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2020, 06:07:38 PM »
Well, we had one on our old furnace, and it was certainly not something I'd say yay about.

It was attached to the ducting on the side of the furnace (gas, forced air), and it was always leaking. After a few years of replacing clogged filters and cleaning all the gunk out of the housing, I disconnected it. There was no noticeable change in humidity levels in the house.

We got a new furnace a year ago, and I told the guy to leave the humidifier out of the pricing this time. I don't miss it.

Valhalla

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2020, 06:14:44 PM »
Leave it.  Anytime you have to add water unnecessarily to a system, it can cause leaks, mold, and other nasty build-up.

The southwest has nasty hard water, it would kill the systems if you didn't use soft water, which wastes water with salt exchange.

I say go for simpler. Get a portable humidifier if needed, but I'd definitely avoid adding it to an expensive and leak-prone system like an AC system.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2020, 10:32:12 AM »
Upshot is we didn’t get the humidifier. It feels very dry in here how, but that could be because it’s the coldest it’s been this winter (daytime highs in the 30s all week). I probably should get a hygrometer to see if we need to run a room humidifier. Any reccs?

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2020, 10:46:41 AM »
I'm in NJ (Mid Atlantic also) and really love having our humidifier in the winter.

If you have hardwood floors, they do not end up with large gaps. Skin feels much better. Also, with humidity, the rooms feel warmer.

Just make sure you get the right kind of humidifier. The old humidifiers had a pool of water and a rotating foam. This was a recipe for disaster and you got mold which made life miserable for those with allergies.

Someone mentioned the steam humidifier, which is a great solution. The other one is an evaporative one, where the water does not pool but flows to the drain after it flows through the metallic evaporator.

So, recommend you get the humidifier installed, but make sure you get one which does not cause any problems.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2020, 11:07:52 AM »
Too late now - we didn’t get it done. So it will have to be room humidifiers if any.

GuitarStv

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2020, 11:14:26 AM »
I've lived in a northern climate for my whole life, which means lots of heat in the winter.  This heat has come in the form of forced air gas, forced air oil, radiators, and wood stove.  All of these leave house humidity below 10% for large portions of the winter.  For a very long time I just accepted dry itchy skin, chapped lips, and regular nose bleeds as a fact of life in the winter.

Eight years ago we got a new furnace and installed a whole house humidifier with it.  It was incredibly super-duper worth it.  We set the humidity between 40 - 50% all winter long.  All the problems I was having have disappeared.  Getting rid of the nose bleeds alone has totally made it worth it.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2020, 03:48:41 PM »
We got a hygrometer today and it is registering close to 50% on the main floor of the house. So I think we are good.

We keep the temp fairly cool in winter - usually 64 F. So it may not get as dry as it would with the heat set higher.

Boofinator

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2020, 04:02:57 PM »
Rather than compare relative humidity, a better comparison (unless everybody is at the same temperature) is dew point. Here's a handy calculator:

http://bmcnoldy.rsmas.miami.edu/Humidity.html

My dew point during the winter, at 66°F ambient temperature and 30% RH, is 34°F. And it's generally dry as fuck, we run a whole bunch of humidifiers, but haven't broken down with the whole house humidifier yet.

Boring, nerdy explanation: The reason dew point is better is that the air that comes in contact with our body is warmed up close to body temp (especially the air going into our lungs), and so the effective relative humidity of this air that's drying us out is actually much lower than the actual relative humidity (since relative humidity is a function of temperature). Dew point is independent of temperature and relates solely to the amount of water in the air.

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2020, 04:22:06 PM »
With the numbers I posted, temp 64 and humidity 50 percent, dew point would be 45. Comfortable is considered to be 39-60.

des999

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2020, 08:16:16 AM »
we got one prior to this winter, and although I thought it was a little pricey, it's already paying off huge dividends.  The last 3 winters I have gotten a nasty cough, and the dry air would prolong it for over a month.  This winter I got nothing.  Also, my skin is not dry this winter, which has never happened.

We keep ours at 40% humidity, and it runs quite a bit so I can't imagine what % it would be if we didn't have it.  Overall, I think it was well worth it.

Omy

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #17 on: January 24, 2020, 08:24:54 AM »
I was told by a contractor that it's not a great idea to add water to the HVAC system for mold/leak and maintenance reasons. My house can get pretty dry in the winter (28% RH), but I have room humidifiers that bump it up to around 35% which feels ok. I also open the windows on warm, humid winter days and let the humidity in.

GuitarStv

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2020, 09:28:25 AM »
I was told by a contractor that it's not a great idea to add water to the HVAC system for mold/leak and maintenance reasons. My house can get pretty dry in the winter (28% RH), but I have room humidifiers that bump it up to around 35% which feels ok. I also open the windows on warm, humid winter days and let the humidity in.

It's hard for me to imagine much mold growing on the sheet metal that most HVAC systems consist of.

Omy

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2020, 12:21:33 PM »
I've seen moldy vents and units. I think it uses the dust and other organic debris for food...not the metal.

YttriumNitrate

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2020, 12:54:35 PM »
Regarding the mold issue, my guess would be that even with the whole house humidifier the air going through the my vents is still less humid in winter than in the summer when the humidifier is off.

ChickenStash

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Re: Whole house humidifiers - yay or nay?
« Reply #21 on: January 25, 2020, 01:36:29 PM »
I'm a fan of my whole house humidifier here in heating season. It keeps me from electrocuting myself and my pets when the heat is running so often in the depths of winter. I haven't had much luck with the little plugin units - they just don't seem to be effective enough for all the work.

Never noticed any leaks or mold but that would be a sign of a bad install or setup. There should be a damper to control the airflow through the unit and a controller to maintain the set humidity. If those aren't balanced right or fail then it can overdo the humidity and cause problems. A friend had a bad controller that got the house humid enough to "rain" from the bathroom exhaust fan in really cold weather.