Best Whole House Humidifiers Reviews and Buying Guide 2019

Many of you are here because you know PickHVAC does the research to bring the best available products to your attention. You want to see our picks for best whole house humidifiers, choose one, and get on with your day.

That’s why we start with our quick list.

Others want to dig deeper into the research we’ve done. That’s where the Reviews and Buying Guide will be of help.

Best Whole House Humidifier List

There are two types of whole house humidifiers:

  • Ducted whole house humidifiers use a home’s ducts to distribute humidified air.
  • Non-ducted console whole house humidifiers are larger versions of portable room humidifiers.

These differences are discussed in detail in the Buying Guide. The guide will assist you in deciding which type is right for your home.

*Note: We have NO relationship to Aprilaire or Airecare. The companies simply make the best whole house humidifiers, so dominate the list.

Top Whole House Humidifiers

      Image                    Product

Aprilaire 400 Humidifier

  • Ducted, bypass
  • Up to 4,000 sq. ft. 
  • Up to 17 gal./day

Editor's Pick

Aprilaire 700 Humidifier

  • Ducted, fan powered
  • Up to 4,200 sq. ft. 
  • Up to 18 gal./day

Aprilaire 500 Humidifier

  • Ducted, bypass
  • Up to 3,000 sq. ft.
  • Up to 12 gal./day

Emerson HSP2000 Humidifier

  • Ducted, steam
  • Up to 3,500 sq. ft.
  • Up to 13 gal./day

Aprilaire 800 Humidifier

  • Ducted, bypass
  • Up to 6,200 sq. ft.
  • Up to 34.6 gal./day

Aircare 826000 Space Saver Console Humidifier

  • Non-ducted/Console, evaporative
  • Up to 2,300 sq. ft.
  • 6 gal. tank

Holmes Cool Mist HM3855L-UM Console Humidifier

  • Non-ducted/Console, mist
  • Up to 2,000 sq. ft.
  • 1.25 gal. tank

Aircare MA1201 Console Humidifier

  • Non-ducted/Console, evaporative
  • Up to 3,600 sq. ft.
  • 3.6 gal. tank

Editor's Pick

Whole House Humidifier Reviews

This section has the model details you can use to compare the top whole house humidifiers head to head.

#1 Aprilaire 400 Whole House Humidifier​​​​

From the top-rated whole house furnace humidifier brand, the 400 makes such good use of water that no drain is required.

It’s a bypass humidifier, which means heated air from the furnace is diverted through it. The warm air evaporates water trickling in the Aprilaire 400. The humidified air is carried to the rooms of your home through the ducts.

Specifications: It’s ideal for homes from 1,250 to 4,000 square feet depending oh how well they are sealed

  • Home with a loose seal: Up to 1,250 square feet.
  • Homes with an average seal: Up to 2,000 square feet.
  • Homes with a tight seal: Up to 4,000 square feet.

Our Buying Guide below gives tips for determining how tightly sealed your home might be.

In short, a properly sealed home is one that is fully insulated, has house wrap or vapor barrier, newer windows and doors and similar updates. Most homes built or remodeled in the last 10-15 years are well sealed.

Features: Your choice of manual or digital controls. A bypass damper that opens to produce humidity when needed and closes when the proper humidity level has been reached.

What users are saying:

  • Keeps my home’s humidity within 2% of where I set it.
  • My water bill is lower than before I replaced an old humidifier with this one.
  • DIY installation was a little tricky, tho possible. Would recommend hiring an installer.
  • Works with Nest thermostat and with ecobee thermostat.
  • The bypass is shown on the left but easy to change it to locate the bypass on the right.

Best for: Homes with a forced air system and ducts, obviously. This whole house furnace humidifier works well in most homes from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet. If the home is new and tightly sealed, it can be up to 4,000 square feet.

Pros

  • check
    No floor drain required because no excess water is released into the humidifier through the water line. This saves installation costs and money on your water bill.
  • No pad and no standing water mean little change of mold developing.
  • A 5-year warranty.

Cons

  • If you have an older home that hasn’t been upgraded, you’ll need one of the larger Aprilaire models if it is larger than 1,250 square feet.
  • The warranty will only be honored if the unit is installed by a professional HVAC technician.

Similar options: On the Amazon product page for the 400, you have three other options, models 500, 600 and 700, based on the size of your home and the features you prefer.

#2 Aprilaire 700 Whole House Humidifier

The large-capacity Aprilaire 700 humidifier uses an internal fan rather than a bypass damper to pull air from the furnace.

The air picks up moisture inside the humidifier and sends it into the ductwork to be carried to the rooms in your home.

Note: A 700M model is available with manual controls. This is a digital humidifier that is easier to use and more accurate too.

Specifications: It is rated for 4,200 square feet in homes that are well sealed. It also works well in older homes up to 2,500 that have not been updated with new windows, additional insulation or house wrap.

Features: Internal fan delivers a consistent stream of humidified air into your ducts. Dual sensors – one to monitor outside temperature and the other to monitor indoor relative humidity ensures precise, optimal humidification. A water panel evaporator does not require absorbent drums or pads, so the risk of mold is reduced significantly.

What users are saying:

  • Raised the humidity in our arid home about 12% the first hour after installation!
  • We built our 4,000 square foot home in 2012, and it is quite tight. This unit does the job.
  • DIY installation took 4+ hours, but I was successful. What I saved on whole house humidifier installation will cover a new unit if I ever need one.
  • Works with ecobee 4 and nest 2 & 3 – not sure about other smart thermostats like geo or Lyric, but it should.
  • Took my time research humidifiers, and so happy with the Aprilaire 700. Set it and forget it – comfortable home 24/7.

Best for: Large homes and when homeowners want the reliable stream of humidified air created by the Aprilaire 700 internal fan.

Pros

Very precise humidity control, very little water waste, so OK for metered water. Little maintenance required.

Cons

Costs a little more than the manual 700M version, but performance is better.

Similar options: Other Aprilaire humidifiers based on your home’s size and the features you prefer.

#3 Aprilaire 500 Whole House Humidifier

This is a smaller-capacity version of the Aprilaire 400. The 500 is a bypass, ducted humidifier without an internal fan. It will evenly distribute up to 12 gallons of moisture into your home each day.

Specifications:

Suited for tightly sealed homes up to 3,000 and homes of 1,000-1,500 square feet that aren’t sealed as tight.

See the Buying Guide part below for how to tell how tightly sealed your home is.

Features: This is the digital version. It costs a little more than the Aprilaire 500M, but is easier to use and much more accurate in delivering the humidity level you want. Built-in drain prevents mineral buildup. Indicator when it‘s time to change the metal water panel – about once per year.

What users are saying:

  • Itchy dry skin was gone in two days after the whole house humidifier installation. Works great!
  • Our home is older with old windows, 1,175 square feet, and this unit is the right size.
  • Hated the mess of cleaning and changing a drum humidifier. Not needed with this one.
  • The metal water panels are inexpensive at super easy to change.
  • Definitely get the digital version (this one) not the 500M. The digital version syncs with the furnace fan, providing humidity every time the furnace runs.

Best for: Those willing to pay a little more for the digital model in order to get more precise, balanced humidification.

Pros

Dependable, accurate, quiet and easy to use. Installation is simple, so even if you hire a pro, it won’t be very expensive.

Cons

Not drain-free, so you will need to place it where a floor drain is available.

Similar options: Other Aprilaire models can be accessed on this model’s product page. Select the one with the right capacity and features you want.

#4 Emerson HSP2000 Comfort Plus Whole House Humidifier

This is a steam humidifier – A 1500 watt boiler in the unit creates steam that is distributed in your forced air system.

Emerson is a White Rodgers brand.

The HSP2000 steam humidifier does not need the furnace to be creating heat to run, as evaporative humidifiers do.

Instead, when the humidistat calls for more humidity, this unit fires up. It is wired to the furnace, so the blower (but not the burner) also starts and disperses humidified air.

Specifications: This steam humidifier produces 13 gallons per day. It is recommended for homes from 1,400 to 3,500 square feet.

Features: Runs on 110/120V line to the 1500 watt heater. The automatic humidistat keeps relatively humidity precisely controlled. The fan control relay starts the furnace blower motor. A flushing timer controls how often fresh water flushes the tank to prevent sediment/scale buildup. Run it less for softened water, more for hard water.

What users are saying:

  • Rapidly humidified our very dry house. Keep feel it in the first hour.
  • The flush control runs a few times a day for 10 seconds to eliminate the possibility of scale and mold.
  • Our furnace runs a lot in during a Minnesota winter, and this unit keeps our 3,600 s.f. home comfortable.
  • Instructions are clear and easy to follow.
  • Installation probably not a job for an inexperienced DIY homeowner. Looked it over, and called a pro. Glad I did.
  • Draws quite a lot of power, so running a dedicated 20A line is a good idea.

Best for: Homes where sufficient humidity is essential because household members have breathing issues or the house wood floors and expensive wood furniture that must be protected by sufficient humidity.

Pros

Humidifies rapidly and effectively. It’s quiet too.

Cons

Uses more energy than evaporative types, especially bypass humidifiers like the Aprilaire 400 and 500.

Similar options: The White Rodgers Emerson HSP2600 is a 240V steam humidifier rated for homes from 1,850 to more than 4,500 square feet.

#5 Aprilaire 800 Whole House Humidifier

This is Aprilaire’s whole house steam humidifier.

Specifications: 

This is a high-output steam humidifier rated for tightly sealed homes and buildings up to 6,200 square feet.

Output can be regulated at 6 levels from 11.5 to 34.6 gallons per day.

Features: Electrode technology is used to turn water into steam. The electrodes are housed in a small canister that must be replaced each year. There’s no need to use filtered or softened water. Relay to the furnace turns on the blower when the humidistat calls for humidity and the steamer starts make it.

What users are saying:

  • Rapid humidification – the house was comfortable within an hour of it starting.
  • Changing the electrode canister is a simple, 3-minute job.
  • Our oak flooring is 60 years old and was cracking because the last homeowners stopped using a humidifier. We installed this one several years ago, and no more cracking.
  • We have a reverse osmosis filter, so had to install the water line to the humidifier BEFORE the filter, since the electrodes need minerals in the water to conduct electricity to create heat.

Best for: Large homes where the cost of the unit is worth paying in order to protect your investment in wood flooring, fine furniture and expensive wood trim.

Pros

A dynamic humidity machine. Rapid, consistent humidifying in the coldest winter weather. Well-built and dependable.

Cons

Expensive unit and replacement electrode canister. Requires a 220/240 line. The Emerson does not.

Similar options: The Aprilaire 865 whole house humidifier is designed for homes without ducting. It mounts to a wall and has its own fan.

#6 Aircare 826000 Space Saver Console Humidifier

This unit is also called the Essick Air 82600.

This compact humidifier also has a large 6-gallon water capacity. It’s doesn’t take up much space or be filled often.

Specifications: 

The console humidifier is rated for tightly sealed homes up to 2,300 square feet, smaller areas if not well sealed.

On the lowest setting, it can run for 70 hours before refilling.

Features: 6-gallon tank, two-speed fan, refill indicator, casters make it easy to relocate, top-fill design, analog rather than digital controls. Wick-type filter.

What users are saying:

  • Very reliable over three winters so far.
  • A little bit loud on the high setting.
  • You can add water when fan is on low, but not high.
  • Direct fill at the top, without having to open a cap, is very convenient.
  • Cabinet plastic is a little flimsy, but it has held up fine for a year+.
  • We live in a 2,200 sq. ft. ranch, and a fan toward the far end of the house helps pull humidified air to it (since it doesn’t use ductwork).

Best for: Anywhere that floor space is limited. If you want to save a little bit over a digital model, then this one is ideal. If you’re moving soon, a portable humidifier like this one is better than having one installed that you can’t take with you.

Pros

Compact and dependable with a large tank for such a small unit.

Cons

Analog controls lower the cost, but aren’t as precise. We recommend buying a separate hygrometer to measure humidity level in your home. Then, you can adjust the manual control, if needed.

Similar options: Aircare makes a wide range of console and pedestal humidifiers for many home sizes. They can be searched on Amazon by starting with this model’s product page.

#7 Holmes Cool Mist HM3855L-UM Console Humidifier

This the largest console humidifier from this brand. 

Specifications: 

Rated for 2,000 square feet, if the house is well sealed. Otherwise, it’s suitable for about 1,200 square feet.

Features: 1.25 gallon tank, multispeed fan.

What users are saying:

  • Humidifies our 900 sf apartment with ease.
  • There’s no digital humidity readout, so a hygrometer is helpful.
  • Wish the tank were larger…have to fill it once per day when running a lot in winter.
  • Doesn’t automatically turn off when the tank is empty.
  • About half as loud as a box fan.
  • No wheels, so hard to move.

Best for: While rated for up to 2,000, our recommendation is that it be used in spaces under 1,500 sq. ft. because most homes and apartments are not tightly sealed.

Pros

Dependable. Tough design. Holmes has good customer service.

Cons

No wheels.

Similar options: This is the best whole house humidifier made by Holmes.

#8 Aircare MA1201 Console Humidifier

This Aircare whole is house humidifier a console with plenty of features.

Specifications: Rated for a tightly sealed home up to 3,6000, less for homes that are more loosely sealed. Its tank holds 3.6 gallons, and the runtime when full is up to 36 hours.

Features: 4 fan speeds including an auto modedigital controls for precision humidification, indicators for refill and for filter check, casters make it easy to move wherever needed.

What users are saying:

  • Compact size, but puts out about 5 gallons of humidity a day.
  • Our 1,650 s.f. house is older, so are windows, but it keeps humidity where we like it at 45%.
  • Doesn’t leave white dust behind – the filter takes care of it!
  • One filter replacement per year is about right.
  • A little loud on max fan, which comes on a lot on Auto mode, so we keep ours at 3 tops.
  • On automatic mode, it turns on when the humidity drops 2 or 3 percent below the set point.

Best for: Medium-sized homes when a ducted/built-in humidifier is not an option.

Pros

Excellent reliability. Small footprint and overall size for the amount of humidity it delivers.

Cons

Might not humidify a two-story home of 3,600 square feet unless the home has a forced air system that will pick up the moist air near the unit and distribute it.

Similar options: There is a smaller, 2.5-gallon model rated for 2,600 sq. ft. It’s the MA0800. It can be viewed and selected by clicking on the Amazon page for this model and choosing the 2.5 gal. 2600 sq. ft. option.

Whole House Humidifier Buying Guide

This guide discusses these key topics:

  • Types of best whole house humidifier units
  • Ducted vs Non-ducted
  • How to choose the right size for your home.
  • Whole house humidifier installation

Whole House Humidifier Types

There are two main distinctions:

Built-in humidifiers, also called whole house furnace humidifiers and ducted humidifiers, are installed in the supply (hot air) plenum or the cold air plenum adjoining the furnace.

Stand-alone whole house humidifiers do not attach to the ductwork, so can be place anywhere in the house.

Here’s an overview of each kind.

  • Ducted Humidifiers

Built-ins are made in three different whole house humidifiers types:

#1 Drum whole house humidifiers

It has a rotating drum, absorbent drum pad and a water tray. When the furnace is running, the drum rotates and picks up water. The water evaporates into the warm air passing over it on its way to the ductwork of your homes. For this reason, drum humidifiers are called evaporative humidifiers.

Pros and cons: Drum humidifiers use less water than types that require a drain and steam humidifiers. They require more maintenance because mold and mineral deposits can accumulate in the tray without regular cleaning.

#2 Bypass whole house humidifiers

It has a metal pad that water trickles over as warm air passes over it. These are also evaporative humidifiers. The air is directed from the furnace using a damper, and therefore the name “bypass.” The term “pass through” is also used for this type of evaporative whole house humidifier. Larger bypass humidifiers sometimes have their own fan to facilitate drawing in air and pushing it into the ductwork.

Pros and cons: These humidifiers require less maintenance and are rarely plagued by mold. Some bypass water heaters waste water because what isn’t evaporated goes down a drain. Others bypass models reduce water waste and cut water bills. The Aprilaire 400 in our best whole house humidifiers list does not require a drain.

#3 Steam whole house humidifiers

It contains a small boiler that creates steam. The unit is wired to the furnace, so that the blower motor comes on when the steam humidifier is creating steam.

Pros and cons: Steam whole house humidifiers produce the most humidity and do it rapidly. They also use a lot of water, for steam and for periodically flushing sediment out of the unit. If you have metered water rather than a well, beware of higher water bills. A drain is needed for this type to drain the flush water.

  • Stand-alone Whole House Humidifiers

There are two types: Console whole house humidifiers and pedestal whole house humidifiers. The names refer to shape/size only. They are both a type of non-ducted humidifier. The Aircare models in our top whole house humidifiers list work by evaporation. The Holmes is a cool mist humidifier.

Non-ducted whole house humidifiers are often marketed for use in homes without a forced-air system. There are two issues to consider:

Homes with forced air HVAC: These units also work in homes with forced air systems. The moist air is pulled into the cold air returns when the furnace is running and evenly distributed to all rooms. In short, stand-alone systems can be used with forced air systems – and used quite effective.

Homes without forced air HVAC: No ductwork means a non-ducted unit is often the best option. However, in sprawling ranches and multi-story homes, you might need to place a fan or two in strategic locations to get the humidified air disperse. Moisture will eventually even out in a home’s air, but if you want to facilitate it, place a fan at the top of stairs or in a hallway leading to bedrooms.

Whole House Humidifier Controls

Most models now have digital controls. They show precise humidity level of the air and they can be set to the exact relative humidity you desire. Models with digital controls cost 12% to 25% more.

Some units have manual controls. They cost less, but are not as precise. If you purchase one, you might also want to buy a digital hygrometer that will show you the humidity level in the room.

Ducted vs Non-ducted Whole House Humidifiers

Each has its pros and cons. Here are things to consider.

Advantages of a ducted whole house humidifier:

  • They don’t need to be refilled
  • Cost of bypass and drum types is competitive with non-ducted whole house humidifiers
  • The ductwork of a home is the best way to evenly disperse humidified air
  • Ducted humidifiers use less electricity
  • They are preferred in two-story homes
  • Often located in non-living areas, so quieter

Disadvantages of a ducted whole house humidifier:

  • There are installation costs, if you hire a pro, that you don’t have with a non-ducted model.
  • Steam furnace humidifiers are quite expensive and use a lot of water
  • Steam models can over-humidify spaces, so they have a minimum home size rating in addition to the maximize home size rating
  • If you move, you likely won’t take the unit with you

Advantages of a stand-alone whole house humidifier:

  • Portable and easy to move from room to room
  • Can take the unit with you if you move

Disadvantages of a stand-alone whole house humidifier:

  • More noise
  • Relies on natural airflow to reach the furthest areas of a home without a forced air HVAC system

How to Choose the Right Size Whole House Humidifier

It’s easy to just go by the rated size, right? If a humidifier says “2,600 sq. ft.,” then that’s it!

That’s not it – at least not potentially.

Ratings are usually based on homes with a very tight envelope – a home that is tightly sealed. These homes don’t allow air to escape – and moisture with it.

Let’s consider the Aprilaire 400, which is rated for homes up to 4,000 square feet. Here’s what we said above:

  • Home with a loose seal: Up to 1,250 square feet.
  • Homes with an average seal: Up to 2,000 square feet.
  • Homes with a tight seal: Up to 4,000 square feet.

What do these terms loose, average and tight mean?

Loose: The house is probably 50+ years old. No house wrap. Draughty windows and doors you can feel air come through. A traditional fireplace, which is essentially a large hole in your wall. Insufficient attic insulation. You know you don’t have enough insulation if your HVAC bills are higher than you expected, a visible inspection of the attic shows only a few inches of it or snow melts off your roof sooner than other homes in your neighborhood.

Average: The house is probably 25+ years old. Like a home with a loose seal, only not as bad. If it has house wrap or if the windows and doors have been upgraded, it will move it into the “average” range.

Tight: The house is probably less than 20 years old. Making houses tighter for energy efficiency really took off a couple decades ago. Attic insulation of R-38 or higher is common. House wrap is in place. The windows are well-sealed two-pane units with low-e glass. Doors are insulated. There is no traditional fireplace. The US Department of Energy offers suggestions for proper house sealing in this guide.

Whole House Humidifier Installation

A non-ducted humidifier usually needs light assembly. Wipe it out with a water and white vinegar solution, fill it and turn it on. You’re done.

Installing a ducted humidifier is more of a challenge.

First, you’ll have to decide if saving money on whole house humidifier installation is worth giving up your warranty on the unit. Aprilaire’s warranty speaks for all manufacturers. It says, “This limited warranty is void if defects result from failure to have this unit installed by a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor.”

If installation estimates are higher than the cost of the unit, a distinct possibility, then DIY installation should be considered if you know what you’re doing and have the right tools:

  • Know how to safely work around electricity and plumbing
  • Can read installation manuals
  • Can follow a wiring drawing
  • Have tools for cutting sheet metal
  • Have basic hand tools

A few steps are common to most ducted whole house humidifier installation:

  • Tapping into a cold-water line with the included saddle valve
  • Connecting the wiring to the furnace
  • Cutting a hole in sheet metal to fit the humidifier
  • Attaching the humidifier to the sheet metal
  • Wiring and plumbing the humidifier
  • Running a dedicated 110/120 or 220/240 line (steam humidifiers only)

Perhaps now that you’ve read our Buying Guide the reviews of the best whole house humidifier models above will be clearer. This might be a good time to go through them to select the model that best meets needs.

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