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Old 07-06-2018, 05:58 AM   #1
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Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


I am in the process of replacing my entire hvac system. So I'm doing research to see if it make sense to add a whole house humidifier along with this installation.

My home is a three levels town home end unit. It has 2k square feet of living space. It's about 18 years old. Located in Virginia, USA.

Currently, in January and February, the humidity level in the house is extremely low. Our skin dry up and crack. These two months are the coldest two months of the year in my area. To solve this issue, we have four room sized portable humidifiers. Two on the main floor, and two more in the bedrooms up stair. Each humidifier cost like $50. We get them from Amazon.com. The only hassle that I have to deal with is having to refill these humidifiers every two days or so in those two months. That's the only two months out of the twelve months of the year that these humidifiers are turned on.

So I'm curious if it's even worth while to install a whole house humidifier. The benefit is I no longer have to maintain these four humidifiers during those two months. The drawback are (1) the initial purchase and installation cost. (2) Professional annual maintenance cost. Compare to the portable humidifier, if something goes wrong, I just toss them out and get another one for $50 off Amazon. (3) increase the complexity of my HVAC system. (4) Thus more crap are more likely to fail with my new HVAC system.

So from my perspective, it just doesn't make sense to install a whole house humidifier. I like your opinion on the matter just to double check and see if my reasons are valid and if I have missed something.

Other questions:

- Does the whole house humidifier run year round? Or can I turn the device off when not needed, and on only when I needed to use it?

- For those who own a whole house humidifier, what are your reason to have one in your home? How big is your home? Base on your personal experience, is it worth it to own one, or it's just better to deal with room sized humidifier?

Thanks.
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Old 07-06-2018, 06:17 AM   #2
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Dry crack skin isn't a good measure of relative humidity. A better measure is how far a oatmeal cookie can be bent before breaking.
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Old 07-06-2018, 06:51 AM   #3
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


The pros will be along shortly but here is my opinion. The humidifiers controls will be ran through the furnace controls. The RH control is usually located next to the furnace thermostat in the home. It will bring the humidifier on/off to your set point (50% RH is about the highest people are comfortable with) as it senses whatever RH %levels your return air has in it.

We have gas heat and our homes humidity levels drop down in to the 20 % range in the heating season. ( air leaks and insulation values in a home affect RH levels too). I wake up with bloody nasal passages, and have skin that I need to shed like a snake.

I would get a whole house Humidifier like the AprilAire add on units, but my furnace is in my crawlspace. If the humidifier water inlet valve sticks open and is running water wide open all the time, I would never know it. If it has issues, like algae buildup, scale buildup, control problems, etc, the access to check such things will be... I have to crawl under the floor. Yuck.

So if you have easy access to your heat/cool unit, and if it were mine, I would have it done. JMO
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:13 AM   #4
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Quote:
Originally Posted by SeniorSitizen View Post
Dry crack skin isn't a good measure of relative humidity. A better measure is how far a oatmeal cookie can be bent before breaking.


An even better way to measure relative humidity is a hydrometer.


Edit..... oops hygrometer

Last edited by SPS-1; 07-06-2018 at 07:23 AM.
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:19 AM   #5
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Your humidifier will have an adjustable controller, (like a thermostat for humidity) that turns on the humidifier when humidity gets below pre-set level. Your house must be pretty leaky if humidity drops so low in winter. so humidifier is a good idea. However, if you have very hard water, beware that humidifier will get caked in mineral deposits.
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:22 AM   #6
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


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However, if you have very hard water, beware that humidifier will get caked in mineral deposits.
What do you mean by "get caked"?
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:24 AM   #7
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Translation "Caked": The filter and weep holes will get clogged with white crusty crap.
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:30 AM   #8
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Like this:


http://eastsidehomeinspection.ca/part-2/


If you have hard water, make sure your HVAC contractor is aware of it.
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Old 07-06-2018, 07:31 AM   #9
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Quote:
Originally Posted by SPS-1 View Post
Like this:


http://eastsidehomeinspection.ca/part-2/


If you have hard water, make sure your HVAC contractor is aware of it.
I do have hard water. What would the contractor do when there's hard water?
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:19 AM   #10
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


I just change the filter every year and clean out the housing.
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Old 07-06-2018, 09:42 AM   #11
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


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Originally Posted by 012abc View Post
I do have hard water. What would the contractor do when there's hard water?

First, he should be able to have an intelligent conversation with you about the issue. He has likely installed and/or serviced dozens or hundreds of humidifiers. Second, probably some types of humidifiers are better able to handle hard water than others. Hopefully he can suggest a model that requires minimal maintenance for hard water deposits.
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Old 07-06-2018, 10:26 AM   #12
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Outside winter air is dryer than summer air. Cold temperatures reduce the moisture holding capacity of that air, remember the humidity reading is relative to the temperature. Take 30 outside air at 65% RH and bring it inside and heat it up to 70 degrees and you get 16% RH. Calculator here

The point is, as mentioned, you are losing too much of the day to day moisture you and your family generate, showers, cooking and people. The threshold between too tight and too leaky, when measured, is a complete air exchange every 3 hours. Tighter and you get mold in places and condensation on windows as symptoms. Too leaky you get the dry skin issues mentioned but most of all you get low humidity. I have audited (retired energy auditor) tight homes that have to run DE-humidifiers in the winter.

With a moderate effort to air seal your house and air ducts (plus balance supply and return) you could potentially eliminate the dry air without the expense and hassle of a humidifier. Plus, reduce both your heating and air conditioning bills.

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Old 07-06-2018, 11:04 AM   #13
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Re: Is a whole house humidifier worth it?


Flow through humidifiers are low maintenance and reliable. You can buy one yourself and put it in for a lower cost than what your contractor will charge. Honeywells are sold through home depot and should be okay.

The only issue is that they use a lot of water, most of which goes down the drain.

The humidifiers that recycle the water, either a drum type or a flow-through with a small sump and wicking action need a lot of maintenance.

------------------
Very dry air is a symptom of too much air leakage.

Get a furnace that pulls combustion air directly from outside and do everything you can to air-seal the house.

Attic penetrations for air ducts, exhaust fans, plumbing stack, electrical leak a lot.

So do wood burning fireplace dampers, attic access hatches, and sill plates where foundation meets the house.

Electrical penetrations, window frames, leak moderately.

Ducts in attics can leak a lot.

After air leaking and putting equipment that takes combustion air from outside, if it's still super dry add a humidifier after.
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