humidifier help plz
February 22, 2010 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me to keep my humidifier filter from calcifying after a month.

I'm using a large, cold air console humidifier. It uses replaceable filters (not permawick). I bought it in November, and I'm on my third filter already, and it's hardened after about a month's use. I understand that's probably because of hard water.

I need an economical as well as practical solution. Buying a water softener is out of the question, as is buying distilled water (the house is very dry, and the humidifier goes through a LOT of water).

Any products/solutions you can recommend? I bought a bottle of bacteriostat for my old humidifier, which was a permawick, and it created an awful pink film all over the inside of the humidifier, so I threw it away. I'm hesitant to try it on my new machine.

Thanks in advance.
posted by Koko to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So are you talking about one of those giant humidifier systems that's fed by a water line? Or something you fill up manually? Need more clarification on how stuff is set up here. Model number or something, perhaps?

You could possibly rig something up using a brita water filter. Depending on the flow rate I'd wager that would last a month or two on its own, so you'd get much longer life out of your other filter. How you'd set that up depends on how your humidifier works.
posted by lizbunny at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, sorry. It's a Kenmore Digital Console Humidifier.

It has a detatchable tank, which I have to fill from the bathtub tap (it's upstairs, and the kitchen is downstairs, and trucking the water upstairs is also not an option), so a faucet Brita filter is also out, I'm afraid.
posted by Koko at 2:47 PM on February 22, 2010

I suppose you could take the old hardened filters and soak them in vinegar to eliminate or reduce the scale that's building up in them. They'd probably need a bunch of rinsing before being put back in service but that could be more economical than buying more filters.

A solution to the water transfer issues might be to buy a Brita dispenser system [this sort of thing] from which you fill your humidifier. That one has a capacity of about half your humidifer's, so maybe you use just that and refill it twice as often.

Or, you open the valve on the brita and let it feed a larger bucket. You keep the brita filter vessel full [top it off every time you walk into the bathroom] and it can take however long to trickle into the big bucket. Dump bucket into humidifier as needed.

It probably wouldn't be too hard to rig a float-controlled valve [like a toilet tank] to eliminate the manual filling.

Wouldn't be really pretty in the bathroom, though.

Note: I have no idea if something like a brita filter will have any impact on the crusty filter thing. I do not know if brita filters "soften" hard water.

We used to have a similar humidifier in the old house, and IIRC we combatted the crusty filters by flipping them top-for-bottom every few days. We have not used one in the "new" house, which has much much harder water, so it could be that this would not work.
posted by chazlarson at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2010

Best answer: Not that I'd ever found, and I think I have an intuitive proof for it.

The source water contains dissolved minerals.
Minerals don't evaporate at non-industrial temperatures.
You can distill the water using much energy and complex equipment.
You can demineralize (deionize) the water using chemicals (resins), energy, and complex equipment.
You can reverse osmosis filter the water using complex equipment and energy.
You can charcoal filter the water using loads of carbon.

Or, you can let the minerals be filtered by being left behind on the humidifier wick.

Absent magic, I can't think of another way, and the ways listed are expensive in materials, energy, or equipment. Viewed in that light, replacing the wick is irksome but relatively inexpensive. I live at the end of a municipal water line so in addition to hard water, I get an undue amount of water pipe silt. Sigh.
posted by fydfyd at 3:26 PM on February 22, 2010

Use water from your hot water tap, not the cold water tap.

Water that has been heated to domestic hot water temperatures has rather
less calcium hardness. The minerals are deposited in your water heater,
rather than your filters. If you have an electric water heater, the water is
rather more demineralized than if you have a gas water heater.

It won't completely demineralize your water, but it will improve the life of
your filters.

You can also soften your own water, in batches, depending on what your
hardness is from, with slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) or washing soda
(sodium carbonate). The hardness will precipitate out, and any residue on
your filters will be water soluble. These chemicals are a little hazardous,
like lye, so you should use the right precautions if you try this.
posted by the Real Dan at 4:10 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

You can't filter out dissolved minerals.

Use distilled water. That stuff is like a dollar a gallon, isn't it? Depending on your humidification needs, you are probably talking $10-$30 a month.

(Or just boil water on the stove in an old pan that you don't mind getting crusty.)
posted by gjc at 4:58 PM on February 22, 2010

Depending on how seriously you take "economical", you could try reducing your need to use the humidifier by drying your laundry on racks around your apartment. Don't laugh until you've tried it!

In emergencies when we haven't had a humidifier, I've also soaked towels and just let them evaporate into the air. They usually dry completely overnight.
posted by amtho at 5:22 PM on February 22, 2010

Response by poster: Sometimes the best answer is the one you don't want to hear! But it seems replacing the filter is really the only solution, short of hooking up a water softener.

I have tried rinsing out the filter in water, in hopes of prolonging its life a little, but it only stays moist for a few hours. The fibers also break down very easily, so I don't imagine rinsing in vinegar would help either.

Thanks for your responses!
posted by Koko at 10:48 AM on March 1, 2010

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