When it comes to maintaining the humidity levels in your home, the value of the process can’t be overstated. Clearly it is important, then, to choose a humidifier that will be best for your space. There are several different types of humidifier to choose from, and it can be difficult to know which is best. Here we explore the most common humidifying systems, their advantages, and their drawbacks.
What Is the Goal of a Humidifier
Though they vary in how they execute it, all types of humidifier have the same goal—to maintain the humidity levels in your home. As they work to do this, humidifiers also provide several other benefits. They improve overall air quality, especially in regions where the air runs dry, they reduce the irritants in the air that can cause allergies, they minimize static electricity, they can protect wooden furniture from cracking, and they can save you money on your energy bill.
Humidifiers are clearly a good investment, but it is important that you choose one that is right for your space. Ideally, you want to have a unit that is easy to maintain and that is efficient in its energy and water usage. Sifting through the many types of humidifier to find the right one for your space is a big step toward improving your home’s air quality, literally letting you breathe easier.
Types of Humidifiers
With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know which is the right kind of humidifier for your home. To that end, here we compare a few types of humidifier: steam, bypass, and fan-powered.
How It Works: Steam humidifiers make their own heat to produce steam. The unit boils the water in the canister using electrodes submerged in the water. The steam that is produced is released into your HVAC system’s ductwork where the system’s fan moves it through the home. The process requires that the HVAC’s fan be turned on, but the furnace itself does not have to be.
Pros: Of the types of humidifiers listed here, steam humidifiers are perhaps the most efficient. They are approximately 90% more efficient in water use, and they are powered independently, without running the furnace. A steam humidifier can even be used without ductwork if necessary.
Cons: When you opt for a steam humidifier, you get what you pay for. The installation is relatively complicated when compared to the other types of humidifier, and a steam humidifier is initially more expensive.
How It Works: Using a bypass humidifier is the traditional method of maintaining home humidity levels. These types of humidifiers work with the home’s furnace, drawing its warm air via a bypass duct on the HVAC system’s return side. Water pours over an evaporator panel, and the heated air from the furnace bypasses the heat pump, blowing over the panel when the heat is on. This system too utilizes the furnace’s fan to circulate the air, and the excess moisture is absorbed and recycled.
Pros: Bypass humidifiers cost less than fan-powered units at the outset because they don’t have their own motor. This also makes them energy conscious because they take advantage of the furnace’s motor instead of running two systems simultaneously. This gives them the added benefit of being quieter.
Cons: The biggest drawback to a bypass humidifier is that your furnace must be running in order to use it. Because the ductwork is necessary for a bypass system to function (and sometimes extra ductwork is needed), the bypass option technically takes up the most space. Because of the long process the air follows, some of the humidity is lost. This makes bypass systems less efficient.
How It Works: Fan-powered humidifiers work in a way that is similar to bypass systems, but fan-powered units have their own powered fan. These humidifiers are installed on the supply side of the furnace, and they blow the humidity directly into the air ducts when the heat is on.
Pros: This direct approach is highly in fan-powered units’ favor. They moisturize the air directly, without the need of a complicated system. They can add up to a gallon of moisture into your home’s air supply system with their improved evaporation capabilities. Fan-powered units do not require additional ductwork, so they are a good fit for small homes or homes without basements.
Cons: Unfortunately, fan-powered humidifiers require a 120-volt power supply to run both the fan and fan motor, increasing operational costs when compared with the other types of humidifier.