A furnace humidifier is basically an appliance that sends moisture into the air to increase indoor humidity levels. The moisture is fed into the living space in the form of an extremely fine mist.
They are typically used in the winter months to alleviate the dry air that can develop, however, some models are suitable for year round use.
Why Should You Install a Furnace Humidifier?
There are several health issues that can develop as a result of dry air. They typically affect the skin and respiratory systems and can include difficulty breathing, dry cough, scratchy throat, dry sinuses, cracked lips, cracked fingertips and itchy skin all over.
You can read more about the symptoms and negative health effects here.
When these symptoms develop, it is a sign that there may not be enough moisture in the air. A furnace humidifier increases the humidity in the home and can help to alleviate some of these problems.
Humidifier Comparison Guide
In our table below, we outline:
- Our picks of the best furnace humidifiers
- Images, as well as make and model
- Most important features
- Prices - these are the averages of price ranges that you will see on Amazon -
- $ = under $200
- $$ = $200-$300
- $$$ = $300-$500
- $$$$ = more than $500
- Customer ratings - these are the averages of customer ratings that you will see on Amazon, which can be very helpful in making your decision.
The Different Types of Home Furnace Humidifiers
There are two main types of humidifiers. The style designed as a humidifier for home furnace use is called an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) or ducted unit. The portable, single room style is called a console model.
Both have very distinct advantages and disadvantages which may help you to determine which the best is for you.
HVAC Humidifier Benefits and Disadvantages
A whole house furnace humidifier is installed directly into your home’s heating and cooling system. As a result, there is a large initial investment, however, there will be less maintenance required during the life of the system.
Plus, it is easy to operate and will provide several years of virtually worry-free relief from dryness in the home.
A variation on this type of humidifier connected to a furnace is the steam HVAC. This type of unit, which is also installed as part of the heating and cooling system of your home, sends steam into the air instead of a fine mist.
As the steam is warm, it will assist with heating your home during the colder months saving you some of your home heating costs.
Console Humidifier Benefits and Disadvantages
A portable console humidifier works the same as a whole house system only it puts moisture in the air in the area immediately nearby the unit. In other words, you can use a console model to increase humidity in a room, but that level will drop in relation to distance away from the unit.
They require less installation work as you can plug one into the wall, set the controls and let it run.
Where a portable humidifier can have disadvantages range from daily to other regular maintenance. Daily work will include cleaning of the water tank and venting system, refilling the water tank (often more than once during the day, depending on the time of use), and their location.
A portable unit may take up enough space to become inconvenient to use in some rooms.
The Three Types of Ducted Humidifiers
In addition to there being two very different kinds of home furnace humidifiers, there are three types of whole house furnace humidifiers. They are differentiated by the type of technology they use to do their job.
- bypass/drum humidifiers,
- flow-through humidifiers, and
- steam whole-home humidifiers.
Here is a short description of each:
1. Bypass/Drum Humidifiers
This unit is connected to your home’s water supply so that the reservoir located inside the humidifier is automatically filled when required. Controlled usually with a humidistat, the blower in your furnace moves air over a belt or pad that is wet with water.
The evaporated water is distributed through the ducting in your home to regulate the humidity. It shuts off once the desired setting is reached.
2. Flow-Through Units
Water pulled from your home’s water supply is used to soak a pad made of foam or aluminum. Warm air from the furnace it pushed through the pad and sends moisture throughout the home through the ducts installed.
Aside from requiring a drain connection to water, maintenance costs are low with this option. As for overall cost, this is more expensive than bypass/drum humidifiers but less than steam whole-home humidifiers.
3. Steam Whole-Home Humidifiers
Water is drawn from your home’s water supply to fill a reservoir. When the humidity in your home drops below a set level, the water is heated and the fan in your furnace sends the steam produced through the ducting in the home.
It shuts off automatically when the desired level is reached. This system does not require the heating system of your furnace to be on in order to operate. This is the most expensive of the three kinds but is the most effective in large homes.
All types of HVAC/ducted whole-home humidifiers require some amount of installation. While these can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer, the deciding factor should rest on the recommendations of the manufacturer.
You also need to determine if you will void any warranties by installing it yourself.
Drum and flow-though humidifiers require careful placement in a home heating system and although steam units include instructions for installation, many manufacturers say this is a job best left to a professional. This is because your model may require a dedicated extra power circuit in order to operate.
What Do Furnace Humidifiers Cost?
The lower end of the price scale is where you will find bypass/drum style units. While they cost between $150 and $225, they may incur long-term costs through maintenance requirements as time passes.
Flow-through humidifiers are the next step up in price. They are only slightly more expensive costing in the low to mid $200 range.
Steam humidifiers are the most costly with prices between $400 and $700. Where you will save most is in long-term use as you will save a considerable amount on the heating of your home as a result.
How To Keep Your Humidifier Working Its Best
The best way to extend the life of your HVAC/ducted humidifier is through taking proper care and maintenance. The instruction manual that came with your specific unit should include some tips on how to care for your product.
Bypass/drum units will require more routine care than others based on how fast minerals and sediments will coat the belt or pad inside. This will require regular cleaning to ensure the unit works properly.
Flow-through units contain no water reservoir so the chances of sediments encrusting anything are reduced considerably. Regular cleaning of the unit will still add years to its life and can be conducted seasonally.
Steam humidifiers will require the least amount of attention. However, it is still a good idea to conduct a seasonal cleaning regardless. This eliminates any kind of build up from forming and affecting how the unit operates.
For information on how a humidifier works, please have a look at the video below...
What Features To Look For
There are a lot of different features available on humidifiers. These are the ones you may want to have on the one you select:
1. Water Reservoir Warning
This will be a light or signal of some kind that will alert you to the fact that the water reservoir is either empty or requires replacement. This feature is only on bypass/drum style units.
2. Low Water Shut Off
There should be a sensor located in such a manner that it can sense when the water in the reservoir has dipped below a certain level. For example, when it drops below the heating element, the sensor will turn the humidifier off preventing the possibility of damage.
3. Automatic Operation
With settings at desired levels, some humidifier for gas furnace units will run automatically. When they are in this mode they will regulate the humidity without further attention.
4. Overflow Shut-Off
Evaporating water adds to humidity. When water that evaporates leaves the reservoir, it is automatically replaced by fresh water. A valve senses when the water needs to be replaced and automatically shuts the flow of water once a pre-set level is reached preventing water from overflowing.
5. Mounting Brackets/Framing
These ‘extra’ pieces are not specifically part of the humidifier unit but are necessary in order to properly mount it onto ductwork that exists in your home.
6. Corrosion Protection
If you want your whole-home humidifier for a furnace to last a long time, you may want to look for one that has added corrosion protection. These are ones that are housed in a corrosion-resistant casing.
7. Reversible Panels
Models that have side panels that are reversible are great for this reason: it does not dictate how the unit will be installed. In other words, with reversible panels, the humidifier can be mounted on the left or right of ductwork opening the possibilities of placement.
Our Picks For The Best Furnace Humidifier
Honeywell HE260A Higher Capacity Whole House Bypass Humidifier
This is a bypass flow-though humidifier that will regulate the humidity levels of homes up to 4,000 square feet.
An installation kit is required but it will easily mount on the warm air supply ductwork or the return duct.
The manufacturer says it will use up to 17 gallons of water per day when you add this humidifier to a furnace and features standard setting controls for ease of operation.
- Easy furnace humidifier installation for a do-it-yourselfer
- Simple instructions make operation a breeze
- Provides effective relief from dry air and low humidity conditions
- Rated for use in a large home and must be used in such for proper results
- Depending on your level of skills, installation may be a bit complicated
For more information on the Honeywell HE260A Higher Capacity Whole House Bypass Humidifier, click here.
Aprilaire 700 Automatic Humidifier
This humidifier attached to a furnace is capable of controlling humidity levels of homes up to 4,200 square feet.
It features easy to understand, set and use digital controls. In the manual mode, it will show temperature and relative humidity levels as well as when it requires service.
The manufacturer says it was designed to provide quiet operation and requires only annual maintenance.
- Well packaged and has a complete and concise instruction guide
- Easy to install for a do-it-yourselfer
- Provides flawless operation for area recommended for use
- Some users find the relative humidity readings difficult to see
- Support department can assist with problems but are costly
For more information on the Aprilaire 700 Automatic Humidifier, click here.
GeneralAire 1000A Humidifier, 120V
Designed for homes up to 3,000 square feet, this bypass model is made from durable UV stable automotive grade plastic and uses an integral humidity control bypass damper.
The pad used is described as a highly evaporative type which requires replacement once or twice per season. This package includes one replacement pad.
- Easy to install for do-it-yourselfers wishing to have a furnace with humidifier attached
- Outdoor temperature readings add to the value of the thermostat features
- One of the best humidifier for furnace choices with simple operation, effective in controlling humidity
- Some users found the installation difficult to manage
- Help desk not very helpful with some issues
- Valve requires small opening to prevent using excess water
For more information on the GeneralAire 1000A Humidifier, click here.
Final Thoughts on Furnace Humidifiers
A home furnace humidifier is an essential addition to your home heating/cooling system if you live in a dry climate. It is even more important if your home has low humidity on a regular basis or tends to dry out during winter. By returning moisture into the air you breathe, you can reduce several health issues.
There are many different kinds of humidifiers with each offering benefits specific to the technology they use to regulate humidity. The size of your home plays a role if you intend to install a whole-home unit. Portable styles are also available but are generally less effective.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you with the choice of the best furnace humidifier for your home.