House & Home

Whole House Humidifier: Less HVAC Energy, More Comfort

Posted May 5, 2015

The formula for reducing your use of HVAC sounds very simple in theory: set the thermostat higher in summer and lower in winter. This will help slash your energy bills and save our planet, say the environmentalists. A little voice inside you may be whispering, though, "But can't I be comfortable as well as green?" Actually, you can. There's a very simple trick to it -- understanding how we human beings sense heat and cold. Feeling unpleasantly overheated or excessively chilly is a function not only of the ambient temperature but also of the relative humidity in the air. Installation of a whole house humidifier can adjust the humidity in your home to an appropriate level all year round.

What is Relative Humidity?

Relative humidity, expressed as a percentage, is a measurement of the air's humidity content. It tends to be higher in summer than in winter. This combination of heat with increased relative humidity makes us physically uncomfortable because our perspiration (nature's built-in body cooling method) cannot evaporate efficiently. The opposite is true in cold weather; relative humidity generally drops and our sweat evaporates more quickly. As a result, we are left feeling overly cool. In addition, the nasal passages and skin tend to become unpleasantly dry, leading to respiratory problems, sore throats, and dermatitis.

The optimal relative humidity indoors varies according to individual body chemistry, but in general, 30-50 percent feels best. This is also the healthiest range for our homes. It will minimize the growth of dusts, mildew, and mold or -- conversely -- problems of drying, cracking, and shrinking of wood and other porous building elements like floors, drywall, and trim … not to mention valuable wooden furniture and musical instruments.

How a Whole House Humidifier Works

Unlike a single-room model, which needs to be regularly refilled with expensive distilled water, a whole house humidifier is installed with a direct connection to your home's water supply. Most units will contain a humidistat to measure humidity levels in your home. Some whole house humidifiers are designed to operate in tandem with your furnace's blower; others can work with different types of heating, such as baseboard heaters. In addition, units are available that are more flexible, humidifying independently of the home heating system, and dehumidifying in moister weather, regardless of whether you are operating your air conditioning.

Advantages of a Whole House Humidifier vs. Single-Room Humidifier

  1. With a whole house humidifier, your home humidity level is automatically measured and the unit shuts off when it is not needed. There is no danger of over-humidifying as there can be with room humidifiers.
  2. The water used by a whole house humidifier is fresh and clean. There is no danger of mold, bacteria, or insect larvae growth from standing water as there is with a single-room humidifier.
  3. Only one compact unit is required (which will generally be in your basement or garage together with your furnace) as opposed to numerous bulky single-room humidifiers.
  4. A whole house system is safer from children's curious fingers.
  5. Your whole house humidifier does not need a great deal of care. You will not have to worry about refilling it on a regular basis. (You will need to clean it occasionally, though. And if your area has exceptionally hard water, you will need to remove mineral deposit buildup).

Laura Firszt writes for

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