Why Buy a Room Humidifier vs. a Whole House Humidifier?
Dry air can cause a lot of problems, for you and your home. It doesn't just cause It also causes flaky skin, chapped lips. It dries out your respiratory system - nose, throat, and sinuses - increasing congestion, infections, sore throats, and nosebleeds. Dry air is also bad for asthma and allergies. Dust, pollen, and dander circulate more freely when the air is dry. Flu viruses last longer as well, so you get sick more often. Static shocks are more frequent, and wooden furniture, plaster, and paint cracks and peels.
The best, really the only solution, is installing a humidifier in your home. Humidifiers return moisture to the air when it dries out. It keeps your skin and lips hydrated, your nose and throat protected, and your respiration clear. It weighs down allergens, kills of flu viruses, and preserves the look and feel of your home. It even helps cuts down your heating bill. Water vapor absorbs and transfers heat more effectively than air, so the more there is, the less you need to run your furnace.
There are so many benefits of humidifiers, that the only question you need to answer is what kind to get: cool mist, warm mist, room humidifiers, and whole house humidifiers? We've already discussed the pros and cons of cool and warm mist humidifiers, but what are the benefits of room humidifiers vs. whole house humidifiers? Is it better to humidify one room or your entire house? To answer that question, we've examined the most popular room and house humidifiers and laid out the positives and the negatives.
Room humidifiers are small, freestanding appliances that plug into standard electrical outlets. They're light enough to be carried from room to room and set up on the floor, tables, countertops, or dressers. Luma humidifiers like the Luma Comfort HC12W Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, the Luma Comfort HC12B Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, and the Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier are designed to humidify spaces 538-650 square feet. They're most effective in areas with open floor plans. Walls and doors hinder airflow and limit their range, but don't take away from their main benefits, delivering humidity right where you need it without wasting energy on empty rooms.
Room humidifiers are categorized by the method they use to generate humidity: evaporation, vaporization, and ultrasonic vibration. Evaporative humidifiers like the Honeywell HCM-350 use a fan to draw air through a moistened filter. The air causes the water to evaporate into vapor and the fan releases it into the air. Vaporizers, or warm mist humidifiers, like the Vick V790 heat the water until it boils and release it as steam. Some can treat colds, asthma, and respiratory ailments by boiling steam medications instead of water. Ultrasonic humidifiers like the Luma Comfort HC12B Cool Mist Humidifier and the Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier send acoustic waves through the water by vibrating a metal plate called a transducer. The waves are ultrasonic, beyond the threshold of human hearing. As they travel through the water, the compress it, raising the internal pressure of each droplet until it exceeds the vapor pressure of the air. The droplets vaporize and get blown out into the air by the compression waves from the transducer. Ultrasonic humidifiers are remarkably quiet. The Luma Comfort HC12B Cool Mist Humidifier, Luma Comfort HC12W Cool Mist Humidifier, and Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier operate at 35 dB, barely above a whisper.
Room humidifiers also provide a whole slew of operational features beyond simple humidification. Humidifiers like the Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier and the Air-O-Swiss 7144 contain a heating element that lets them alternate between cool mist and warm mist. Once the water's been broken up into vapor, the heating element warms it up before it's released. Other units, like the Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier and the Honeywell HCM-350, have built-in hygrometers that monitor humidity levels and automatically release more vapor whenever the humidity drops below your desired level. The Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier and Air-O-Swiss 7144 also have timers, so they can be set up to humidify your home at pre-determined times - before you get home from work, for example.
Room humidifiers also feature extensive anti-bacterial protection. Some have anti-bacterial coating on the sides of their water tanks. Others use filters to trap contagions or UV lights to microrganisms. The heating elements in vaporizers and dual cool and warm mist humidifiers have an added layer of protection. They sterilize the water as they heat it, completely eliminating the danger of mold and bacteria.
The biggest downside of room humidifiers is the extensive maintenance required to keep them clean. If neglected, stagnant or dirty water in the tank becomes a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. If your humidifier's infected, it can trigger the very ailments it's are designed to relieve: asthma, allergies, and sickness. The water in the tank has to be changed at least once a day, and the whole tank should be cleaned at least once a week. (Tips on How to Clean a Cool Mist Humidifier)
Another problem is scale. Scale is caused by minerals in the water supply that get released with the water as it's broken up into vapor. Once they're in the air, they create a layer of white dust over your furniture and your floors. Boiling the water separates the minerals from the vapor, so this is only a problem you'll encounter with cool mist humidifiers. If you buy one, make sure it comes with a filters or demineralization cartridges that trap hard water particles before they're released. The effectiveness of demineralization cartridges diminishes over time. As they absorbs minerals, it has less room to absorb more. Regularly soaking them in vinegar or lemon juice will extend their lifespan, but eventually they'll give out and need to be replaced, normally once every 12 months.
Room humidifiers also can't be connected directly to your water supply, so they have to be manually refilled whenever they run dry. Not a major inconvenience, but it can be tiring if your humidifier has a small tank. If you use it while you sleep, there's also a chance it may run out in the middle of the night.
Whole House Humidifiers
Whole house humidifiers are evaporative units attached directly to your home's air dusts. When the HVAC system is activated, some of the air is diverted into the humidifier and through a water pad.The water pad is moistened with water from a pipe hooked directly to your water pipes. When the humidifier is activated, the pipe opens up and water flows down onto the water pad. As air is drawn through, it evaporates the water and the vapor gets blown out through your air ducts, evenly distributed into every room in your house. Whole house humidifiers never have to be refilled and though they work with both hot and cold water, manufacturers recommend feeding them with water from your hot water heater because it supplies the heat required for evaporation.
|Aprilaire Model 700 High-Capacity Whole House Humidifier||Honeywell HE360 Whole House Powered Flow-Through Humidifier|
|Daily Output||17 Gallons||18 Gallons|
|Coverage Area||4200 sq. ft.||4500 sq. ft.|
|Features||Humidistat, Humidity Display, Repair Indicator, Maintenance Indicator||Humidistat, Humidity Display|
Whole house humidifiers monitor your indoor humidity by measuring the moisture in the cold air return duct and displaying it on the humidifier control panel. They can be set to operate manually or automatically. When set to manual, you set and adjust the humidity level yourself. When set to automatic, the humidifier automatically adjusts its output to maintain the ideal humidity level programmed into it. Ideal humidity is set during the first few days of operation by adjusting the humidifier controls until you feel most comfortable. Once set, it never has to be adjusted again. The humidifier control will automatically lower humidity in the summer, when its hot, and raise it in the winter, when it's cold, though some manual adjustments will be necessary if you ever see condensation forming inside your home.
Whole house humidifiers require little maintenance. The water valve closes automatically whenever the humidifier is deactivated, so the water pad remains when the unit's inactive. Without any lingering moisture, there's no way for mold and bacteria to grow so contamination's next to impossible. Most water pads are also treated with an anti-bacterial enzymes to further reduce the risk. To prevent scale, hard water particles are collected by the distribution tray and flushed away by the water flow. The only maintenance that needs to be performed is replacing the water pad once a year.
Whole house humidifiers also energy efficient and extremely quiet. Since they utilize your furnace's existing fan, they don't create any extra noise and because evaporation doesn't require electricity, they only need enough energy to run the humidifier control and the humidistat, roughly 96 watts, less power than you need to run the Air-O-Swiss 7144 or the Luma Comfort HCW10B Cool & Warm Mist Humidifier.
The biggest downside of whole house humidifiers is their humidity is spread out over the entire house rather than concentrated in the room you're in. If your house has several occupants, this may not be a problem, but in general, moisture directed into a single room is going to be felt more strongly than moisture spread out over every room. This is especially important if you're suffering from cold and flu symptoms. Room humidifiers can be repositioned in order to direct humidity into your breathing zone and provide greater respiratory and sinus relief. Whole house humidifiers cannot be.
Containment is also an issue. Water vapor is like any other gas. It flows from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. During winter, when the air is dry, it tends to flow outside through leaks in walls, floors, window panes, and door jambs, anywhere you might feel a draft. These leaks are normally small, but added up across every room in your home, they can be significant. Air loss from one room is always less than air loss from your entire home, so contamination is a bigger problem for whole house humidifiers than it is for room humidifiers. If you think you may be losing humidity from house leaks, an ultrasonic leak detector kit can help you located and seal them.
Whole house humidifiers also provide less control over the humidification process than room humidifiers because they have only one way of generating humidity: evaporation. Because warm air holds more moisture than cold air, evaporation works best at high temperatures. This is why manufactures recommend connecting house humidifiers to warm water rather than cold water. If you decide to use cold water instead, the heat has to be supplied by the air instead. That means running the furnace more often. If it's too hot or you're concerned about your heating bill, whole house humidifiers can also be run with the furnace is set to fan only mode, but they'll be less effective. Cold air blowing through the water pad causes less evaporation and takes longer to humidify your home.
Finally, whole house humidifiers aren't plug and play appliances. They require modifying your HVAC system, which, if you don't have any experience installing or repair HVAC equipment, means hiring a contractor for installation and repair.
Room humidifiers and whole house humidifiers approach the same problem from different angles. They both supply humidity in order to increase comfort, but differ in terms of scale. Room humidifiers are large, personal appliances while whole house humidifiers are large, household utilities. Deciding whether the benefits of room humidifiers or whole house humidifiers outweigh their costs means evaluating the size and condition of your home, the amount you're willing to spend and the time you have for cleaning and maintenance.