How Does A Whole House Humidifier Work

mist coming from a humidifier

There’s a lot to look forward to during those cold winter months: the first snowfall, a crackling fire in the fireplace, warm blankets and hot cocoa. Then there are those things we wish didn’t accompany the winter months, like dry skin, cracked lips, bloody noses and colds. While it won’t shovel your driveway, a whole house humidifier could be the answer to some of winter’s most annoying problems. You might be asking, “How does a whole house humidifier work?” Read on to find out.

Whole house humidifiers help you regulate the humidity inside your home. Studies show that humidity levels should be between 35% to 50%. Without having a whole house humidifier, it is nearly impossible to add this much humidity to your home’s air, especially during the winter. Most people only consider the temperature when assessing their home’s comfort level. However, humidity has a lot to do with how warm or cold your home feels. In this article we explain all you need to know about a whole house humidifier, and we list the types of humidifiers and the benefits of installing one yourself.

How Does a Whole House Humidifier Work to Increase Humidity?

Whole house humidifiers use your existing heating and air conditioning system to increase the humidity throughout your entire home. Most systems use your home’s existing water supply to add moisture to the air. From this water supply a portion is redirected to a collection medium, or filter. As air passes through your furnace, it passes through this filter where it collects water particles that are then added to the air. This makes the air more humid. This air then flows through the air ducts in your home and then out into each of the rooms.

Unlike portable, one room, humidifiers, whole house humidifiers do not plug into an outlet, but are installed on new or existing heating and air conditioning systems, usually on the furnace. They can be installed in either the intake air flow or the outtake air flow sections of your system, depending on the type of humidifier you choose.

Who Should Have a Whole House Humidifier Installed?

Whole home humidifiers offer many benefits to any household. Many people may wonder, “How does a whole house humidifier work to improve health?” For those with specific ailments and allergies they are almost a necessity. The following is a list of customers who would benefit most from installing a whole house humidifier.


Those Living in Dry or Cold Climates

How does a whole house humidifier work for people in cold or dry climates? Any household in a dry climate, or an area of the country that experiences cold winters, would enjoy having a whole home humidifier. Areas where the winters see temperatures below freezing need regulated humidity throughout the winter months. Homes in regions that have year-round dry climates would use the whole house humidifier throughout the year to regulate humidity in the home.


Allergy Sufferers

Allergy sufferers would appreciate the moister air the humidifier would provide. Dryer air irritates our air passages and causes our bodies to make more mucus. Breathing in more humid or water-filled air will help eliminate this problem.


Chronic Snorers

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If you snore while sleeping, breathing in more humid air might help. While a humidifier will not cure all snorers, it can help ease symptoms for people who snore because of dry, irritated passageways or from allergens floating in the air.


Chronic Bloody Noses

Those who suffer from chronic bloody noses might also benefit from installing a whole house humidifier. Typically, bloody noses are caused by dry skin in air passageways in the nose. Breathing in more humid air can keep these passageways moist and less likely to bleed.

How Does a Whole House Humidifier Work to Save Me Money?

Whole house humidifiers are much more affordable and cost-effective than one might think. Actually, they might end up saving you money in heating costs. Once installed, you will find you turn your thermostat dial a lot less. You can purchase most types of whole house humidifiers for around $500, installation included. For some higher end models you may pay closer to $1,000 total. This is reasonable considering the portable units cost an average of $100 per unit, and they only cover one room each.

Maintenance for any whole house humidifier is minimal. Each type requires attention only once a year. This is much easier than the portable humidifiers, which require continual refills and cleanings throughout the year.

What Are Some Types of Home Humidifiers?

There are three types of whole house humidifiers available on the market. All three types are effective, and each option has its benefits. Below, we will explain how each one works, and list reasons it would be a good fit for a particular household. So if you are asking how does a whole house humidifier work, the answer depends on the type you install.

Bypass Whole House Humidifier

The bypass humidifier system works by adding moisture to the warm air circulating through the house from the furnace or heating system. This is done by using a water panel, or filter that would be installed into the existing duct work of your home. This warm air is pulled into the water panel where it picks up droplets of moisture. Then, this moisture-filled air is circulated through the house when the central heater is running.

This system can be installed on a new or existing unit on either the supply or return plenum of your forced air handling system (HVAC). Typically, this unit requires a floor drain for the water filters. However, there is a Drainless Bypass Humidifier option available if your system cannot support the floor drain. The one drawback to this system is that it only works when your HVAC system is on and running.

Fan-Powered Whole House Humidifier

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The fan-powered system works just like the bypass system except it includes a fan that blows the air across the water panel. This additional air increases the water evaporation and therefore works more efficiently than the bypass option. While this fan runs continuously, it only uses electricity similar to that of a 25 watt lightbulb.

Fan-powered systems require much less space for installation because they do not require a bypass duct. Therefore, these systems are perfect for slab foundation homes or homes where the HVAC system is stored in a small space like a closet. One advantage to this system over the bypass humidifier is that it runs independently from the home’s HVAC system and does not require the furnace to be on for it to work.

Steam Whole House Humidifier

The steam humidifier option works different than the other two whole house humidifiers. This unit heats water to its boiling point, causing it to evaporate, and this helps create the desired humidity. This system works independently of the furnace and can run whether the HVAC system is on or off. The system’s blower then circulates the steam.

Because this system uses the steam produced from boiling water, it is a pure and natural option. It is also the fastest and most efficient system available. It allows you to regulate the moisture circulating through the air when your heat is running. This means you can increase the humidity in your home during warmer months.

How Does a Whole House Humidifier Work to Improve Our Lives?

While we’ve mentioned some groups of people who should definitely have a whole house humidifier installed, there are many benefits for anyone to have one of these systems in their homes. We’ve listed the most prominent benefits below. Most homes would be better off with a whole house humidifier.

  1. 1Whole home humidifiers are efficient and cost affective. Moist air feels warmer than dry air, so if you use a whole house humidifier during those cold winter months you will stay comfortable at lower temperatures.
  2. 2Even if you aren’t a chronic allergy sufferer, breathing moist air will keep your air passageways moist and the mucus and allergies down. 
  3. 3If you’ve ever wondered why people catch colds more often in the winter months, it’s usually because we are all breathing in in hot, dry air, and this dries up our air passageways and makes our bodies produce more mucus. Keeping the air moist in your home cuts down on the harmful things floating around in the air that make us sick.
  4. 4Moist air isn’t just good for people, but it’s also good for your prized possessions. Keeping the air in your home more humid will help preserve your wood furniture and even the various materials comprising your home.
  5. 5Nobody enjoys having dry, cracked skin or chapped lips. Adding moisture to the air we live in helps ease these problems.


Now that we’ve answered the question, “How does a whole house humidifier work?” you probably also know how beneficial they are for most households. Whether you choose the bypass, fan-powered, or steam humidifier option, your next winter can be filled with refreshing moist air that keeps dry skin and sickness at bay. If you need more information, contact your local HVAC servicer and installer, and they can guide you through the process of choosing the best option for you and your home.

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