How to Use Your Whole House Humidifier

Whole house humidification systems are a common Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system add on. They make your life a lot more comfortable while also keeping your home upkeep costs down. There are many situations where it makes sense to have a humidifier. In fact, there’s a good possibility your home already has one. In this article, we’ll answer the following questions:

  1. How do I know if I need a humidifier?
  2. How do I control my humidifier?
  3. How do I maintain my humidifier?

Identifying the Need for a Forced Air System Humidifier

There are many factors that go into the decision to buy a humidification system for your home, but the primary reason is to regulate humidity in situations when your home’s interior conditions are too dry. When your home is too dry it can have a big impact on its occupants and sometimes even affect materials inside your home.

If the conditions in your home are too dry, then your construction materials will start to dry out, warp and become damaged. You might notice paint and dry wall cracking or peeling wallpaper. Wood surfaces might start to dry out, which can cause them to shrink and leads to damaged flooring, paneling, or furniture. Your home really won’t like dry conditions and your wallet won’t appreciate having to correct the damage.

Dry conditions can also cause mild to severe problems for humans, pets and plants. For most humans, the side effects can range from dry skin and nose bleeds to more severe conditions like allergies and asthma. Your plants might suffer in the form of wilting or sagging. Imagine living in a desert, but doing it full time. It isn’t a scenario most of us would want to live in. If you’ve noticed you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, then checking your interior humidity would be a good start to fixing the problem.

A hygrometer is the easiest way to check your humidity and can be purchased locally at a hardware store. Certain geographic or climate conditions can lead to a higher probability of low humidity inside a home. As temperatures drop and the need to use a furnace increases, then  it’s likely you’ll experience drier conditions. Northern states that experience cold winters are great candidates for a humidification system. Areas where external humidity levels are low, i.e. desert or near desert climates, would also be good candidates.

Another factor that can help you determine whether you need a humidifier is the amount of space in your home. Many portable humidifiers can handle smaller square footages without the complexity of having to install a whole house system. Some portable systems can handle larger areas over 2000 sqft. The main downside to portable systems is you have to manage them at the unit and fill the water basin, which can be easy to forget. A whole house system manages this task for you, so the day-to-day maintenance is much lower.

Controlling My Whole House Humidifier

Now that you’ve gotten your whole house humidifier, we imagine you want to know how to use it. The entire purpose of a humidifier is to control humidity and it’s constantly battling low levels while ensuring your humidity doesn’t get too high. Since you already know the symptoms of low humidity, we also thought we’d let you know high humidity can be just as bad. There are many problems with high humidity, including mold, dust mites, and condensation, which can damage windowsills.

Your internal humidity levels should often be regulated by your external temperature levels. For example, if the outside temperature is -15 degrees Fahrenheit, then your internal humidity level should be 15 percent at 70 degrees. This might seem low, but if it was higher you’d start to see condensation on your windows and other cold surfaces. At 20 degrees Fahrenheit, your home can tolerate 45 percent humidity levels at 70 degrees. Here’s a chart to help understand these relationships.

Humidity Levels

If you have a whole house humidifier system, then it will be controlled by a humidistat. Think of a humidistat as a thermostat, but instead of controlling your temperature it’s controlling your humidity. There are several different options of humidistats including manual, automatic and even thermostat/humidistat combinations that regulate both devices.

Aprilaire Humidistat

A completely automated humidistat manufactured by Aprilaire.

If you have a manual stat, then you’ll need to manually set it based upon interior and exterior conditions. An automatic stat will typically have an outdoor sensor that gauges conditions outside the home and then manually compensates for these conditions inside your home. Thermostats with humidistat features will also typically measure outside conditions and automatically compensate. Purchasing an automated stat is the easiest option since you don’t have to think about it. It may not seem like a difficult task, but monitoring and adjusting your humidistat is an easy thing to forget to do.

Maintaining your Humidification System

Your humidifier will typically be attached to your HVAC system, which should be near or on your furnace. Your mechanical systems are frequently located in an attached garage, basement, or a dedicated closet. The systems themselves are fairly simple with some form of water panel or wick, which absorbs water that is dropped onto it and introduces humidity into your home as the air blows across it.

Humidifiers are fairly simple technology and should require little servicing other than replacing your water panel once or twice a year. If you live in an area that requires constant humidification, then you’ll want to replace your water panel twice a year. If you live in an area where the need for humidifiers is seasonal, then you should only need to replace your water panel once per heating season.

You may be wondering what happens if you don’t change your water panel according to the guidelines we recommended above. It’s simple really. When you don’t change your water panel at least once per year it can become calcified and too disruptive to airflow. These changes to your water panel can cause increased energy bills due to lower efficiency and tend to disrupt your HVAC system as a whole.

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