5 Types of Whole-House Furnace Humidifiers That’ll Keep Your Air Comfortable

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated September 20, 2021
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No system is one-size-fits-all

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Dry air comes with itchy skin and a sore throat. Not only that, but dry air can also suck moisture out of wood floors and furniture, causing them to crack or split. The best way to prevent overly dry air in your home? Installing a humidifier. 

Whole-house humidifiers, also known as furnace humidifiers, are the most efficient for keeping you—and your home—comfortable. There are several types to choose from, so consult this list before you add-to-cart.

How to Choose a Whole-House Furnace Humidifier

Furnaces produce dry heat, so furnace humidifiers are necessary to replace that harsh air with some that’s clean and moist. This prevents damage to the home and helps you and your family breathe more comfortably. 

If you live in an area with seasonally low humidity, you definitely need a whole-house furnace humidifier to distribute healthy air throughout your home. But if you live in an area with a dry climate, you may need a whole-house dehumidifier instead.

When you’re looking for the best whole-house furnace humidifier for your home, consider your budget, your current furnace system, and your personal preferences.

Types of Whole-House Furnace Humidifiers

Common types of whole-house furnace humidifiers include bypass, fan, steam, evaporative, and self-contained. While they all do their job well, each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

Evaporative

Evaporative humidifiers, sometimes called pad humidifiers, hook up your home’s direct water line to constantly supply water to a humidifier pad. When warm air blows over the pad that has water running down it, water evaporates and moisture releases into the air. Your air system then distributes the humidity throughout your home.

Bypass

Bypass humidifiers take warm air from your home’s HVAC system and pass it through a water tray, where the air picks up moisture before re-entering your home. 

This type of whole-house furnace humidifier doesn’t require an extra power supply to push the air through the system. Instead, it uses the furnace blow motor and eliminates the need for a high-voltage power supply.

Bypass humidifiers are relatively inexpensive when compared to other whole-house humidifiers, at $125 to $200. Plus, they reuse water, so they won’t cause your water bill to skyrocket. They’re also much quieter than other models (especially fan-powered humidifiers).

On the downside, they aren’t very energy-efficient and require some sort of drainage system, like a floor drain.

Fan-Powered

Similar to bypass furnace humidifiers, fan-powered humidifiers push humidified air through your home using ductwork. But unlike bypass humidifiers, fan-powered ones use their own fan, resulting in increased water evaporation. These systems can produce a gallon more of humidity per day compared to their bypass counterparts. 

Fan-powered whole-house furnace humidifiers don’t require a duct, so they can be placed in more confined areas, like a closet. But they can be noisy, so if you put one in your bedroom it’ll probably keep you up all night.

Steam

Steam humidifiers create humidity by boiling water and releasing steam, which the humidifier pushes through a home’s ventilation system. These systems use electricity, so they can be relatively expensive to operate. Installation is also expensive because these systems are complex and require a local humidifier installer.

Steam humidifiers are one of the most effective whole-house systems and provide a more consistent level of moisture compared to other systems. If you need precise humidity control for health reasons or to protect your prized wood furniture, a steam humidifier is a great option. If you don’t have ductwork, consider a self-contained whole-house humidifier to keep your home’s air moist and healthy. Self-contained humidifiers work independently from furnace systems and use a fan to circulate the humid air.

Self-Contained

If you don’t have ductwork, consider a self-contained whole-house humidifier to keep your home’s air moist and healthy. Self-contained humidifiers work independently from furnace systems and use a fan to circulate the humid air.

Best Whole-House Furnace Humidifier

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Some humidifiers will meet your needs more than others. 

Best Budget-Friendly Whole-House Furnace Humidifier

Bypass humidifiers are the least expensive whole-house furnace humidifiers on the market, at about $300 on average. Other humidifier types can cost upwards of $1,000 with professional installation.

Best Whole-House Furnace Humidifier for Large Homes

If you have a large home, opt for a steam whole-house furnace humidifier. These are the most expensive systems to install and operate, but they can create significantly more humidity than other options.

Best Whole-House Furnace Humidifier for Small Homes

A self-contained whole-house furnace humidifier is the best option for smaller homes, especially those with ductless heating systems. You can install them almost anywhere, including in a closet or under the stairs, to keep them out of the way.

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