As we move into the colder winter months and change over to the heating season our home’s humidity begins to fall.
Severe dryness can lead to itchy dry skin for us, or the contraction of the wood and leather products in our homes, wallpaper can lose its adhesion, instruments will go out of tune, and lest we forget the stores of wine, extended periods of time in dry air can compromise the corks! While the vast majority of us are not so concerned with the condition or our corks, our overall comfort is a concern.
Thankfully we have the technology to amend the dry conditions that come with keeping our homes toasty warm when temperatures plummet. Humidifiers, either portable to increase the moisture in the air of a single room, or integrated whole house humidifiers that are added on to existing heating and air conditioning systems can ease our woes.
There are many types of humidifiers available with varying degrees of cost and effectiveness. The first is the evaporative single room humidifier that can be purchased at your favorite retailer. Simply plug it into the wall, fill it with water and turn it on, that’s it. They do need to be cleaned periodically, frequency will be dictated by the quality of your water. This type of humidifier is simple, and economical, however you will need 1 for every room in your home that needs additional humidification.
Not all homes can accommodate a whole house humidifier, and certain types may not be a usable choice depending on the infrastructure, physical space, and placement of the HVAC equipment. For example, if your home’s heating system is in the attic, it would be ill advised to add a whole house humidifier unit, there would be too much risk of having a leak and causing severe damage to your home. If you have a hydronic or steam heating system (radiators) an integrated system would not work for you. It is also important that a source of water for the humidifier, an open site drain, and possibly power source be available near the installation location.
Now onto the good part, types of integrated humidifiers.
The first is the most simple and economical and is known as the “bypass” style. it consists of a plastic housing that contains a water valve, a water distribution system and a water panel that the water trickles over. Air is then passed across the water panel and moisture is added to the air through evaporation. The reason it is called a bypass style is because the air moving through the water panel is ducted from the air supply to return air side of the existing heating and air conditioning system. The pros of this type of system are, there is no need for any additional high voltage wiring, and cost efficiency as these are the least complicated. Cons are these are the least effective type, and also require the physical space for additional duct work.
Next is the “Powered” style and our most popular by far. This type uses the same general principle as the bypass humidifier, but without the additional ductwork. Powered humidifiers have their own integrated fan in them that moves air across the water panel. This can be very beneficial in spaces that don’t allow enough space for additional ductwork. The downside is they have a higher cost, and you will need a place to plug it in.The upside is they tend to work more effectively then a bypass style without the infrastructure and cost requirements of the next type on the list, the steam humidifier.
On to the most complex, expensive and certainly most effective style, the steam humidifier. With steam humidifiers, or steam canister humidifiers as they are also known, we will boil the water in a canister and feed steam directly into the ductwork for distribution throughout the home. This type of humidifier finds its roots in the commercial market where they are used for critical environmental condition requirements, such as data centers, printing press rooms, or any other environments that require very stable and consistent conditions. Steam canister humidifiers can require significant amounts of power to operate, thus increasing infrastructure and wiring costs and operating cost. The cost of purchasing, installing and maintaining this type of system are significantly higher than bypass or powered style.
Last, but certainly not least, any and all of these whole house humidification systems will benefit greatly from a thermostat that can control the humidifiers function. It not only adds to the overall usability of the humidifier by the consumer but gives a more accurate picture of the conditions in the home.