Something something "moist" (regrettably, that's all I can think of)
October 15, 2015 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Now that Mr. St. Hubbins and I own our own home, a whole-house humidifier (the kind that hook up to your furnace) sounds like the greatest thing since ice cream delivery. But I can't seem to find anything online except slightly spammy sites that shill for particular brands. Anyone have or know anything about them?

I hate portable humidifiers. I hate finding a good one, refilling them, realizing they don't work, (not) cleaning them... but I am a singer and have a toddler and apparently we are both made of approximately 73% crusty boogers.

We live in Wisconsin (home of very dry, blisteringly cold winters) and our house is approximately 75 years old, 1700sf, with forced air and wood floors, and we would like to have a piano, so it would be super great to have decent humidity for once.

Are whole-house humidifiers actually decent?

Is it true that whole-house humidifiers only need to get the mineral buildup cleaned off at the end of the heating season and that's it?

I see that they sell units at, like, Home Depot for $200-300. Our basement guy (installing sump pump for unrelated reason) suggested some sort of Rolls-Royce version for $1500. Is that the kind of difference that actually makes a difference?

Anything to watch out for?

posted by St. Hubbins to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
i installed this one and it made a wonderful moist difference. installation was about a 3 out of 10 for a medium handy DIYer. they're canadian but it looks like they now sell online direct to USA for about $249. as far as types you want a rotary disc type instead of the feed through or sponge types. best surface area with least gross aide effects.

extra memory... if you install one of these the things to flush and refill periodically it prevents gross stuff and hard water scale and the thing becomes very very low maintenance.
posted by chasles at 3:33 PM on October 15, 2015

also... to answer your question about season ending maintenance. we had hard water. not terrible but def hard water. the scale built up very very quickly until we installed the flush kit thingy i mention in second link. cannot recommend it enough.
posted by chasles at 3:34 PM on October 15, 2015

I installed a whole house humidifier a few years ago and it cost about $150 for a Honeywell unit from Menard's (I'm in Wisconsin too). If you can follow directions and aren't afraid to cut a big rectangular hole in your plenum, you can do it yourself. You'll also need a nearby water supply and will have to tap into your furnace's electric. If you want a humidistat next to your thermostat, you might have to fish a control wire; otherwise you can mount it near the furnace.

It worked great by keeping the house at about 35-40 percent humidity during the winter, up from about 20 percent without it.
posted by PSB at 3:39 PM on October 15, 2015

My Honeywell truesteam had been nothing but trouble, just as a data point.
posted by pyro979 at 3:43 PM on October 15, 2015

We had an Aprilaire 600 installed a few years back and it's been a dream. It's around $150 before installation. We had it installed when the new furnace was put in, so no tips or advice on installation.

No more refilling tanks or trying to scrub them out. Every fall, I buy a new filter and chuck the old one. I can't imagine going back.
posted by advicepig at 4:11 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have had an aprilaire installed on my furnace for 20+ years (actually 2 furnaces the original and the replacement furnace we installed last year. ) I buy a fresh filter thingee (metal filter) every couple years --pour bleach in the discharge line every month and it has kept us moist. Best investment around.

Easy to install , easy to maintain. Very necessary for cold Midwest winters.
posted by prk60091 at 4:59 PM on October 15, 2015

We, too, had an Aprilaire 600 installed along with a new furnace, and it makes such a huge difference, it is absolutely the best thing. The cats no longer fear sniffing our extended fingers in the winter, and I never need to run a tabletop humidifier anymore. My skin feels better and I don't get nosebleeds.

No maintenance except replacing the water panel annually.
posted by mgar at 5:07 PM on October 15, 2015

Whole-house is the way to go. One consideration: We had a Honeywell installed with our new furnace in the basement. This particular unit is not controlled by a thermostat/humidistat located in the upstairs living area. I have found that the manual adjustment on the furnace unit wildly varies the humidity upstairs. If I did it again I would get a model controlled by an upstairs humidistat. (We live in the northeast, not sure if this is a factor. )
posted by nandaro at 5:15 PM on October 15, 2015

My parents have been loyal Aprilaire customers for decades. Another bonus for a whole-house humidifier is also less static cling and door knobs that shock you!
posted by whitewall at 5:21 PM on October 15, 2015

Also an Aprilaire 600 for us. we had it installed because it was a tricky spot. It has cut the occurrence of nose bleeds in our family in winter by about 99%.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:41 PM on October 15, 2015

Definitely get a humidistat controlled model. I also recommend spending $10 on a hygrometer that you can use to actually measure the humidity in the house. You don't want to go too high by accident and risk moisture-related problems in the house.

Also, with an older house you can usually reduce air leakage significantly with not too much work. Less air leakage = more humidity staying in the house. Of course, you save on heating costs too.
posted by ssg at 6:41 PM on October 15, 2015

You can fill your attic with ice and rot your windows from the inside out if you aren't really careful. I've seen $15k in Marvin windows ruined in Wisconsin in under 5 years by keeping the house too humid in winter. If you peek into your attic you may see all of your insulation covered in frost which turns to water which turns to mold.
Mold can also build up in the humidifier itself and then be pumped through the whole house.
I would never install one of these.
Get a small one for your bedroom only and don't be too surprised if the bedroom windows go bad before the rest of the house. If you see any frost on the windows you are damaging them all the way through.
Don't buy yourself these expensive problems.
posted by littlewater at 10:02 PM on October 15, 2015

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