While a portable humidifier controls humidity levels in one room and requires daily maintenance, investing in the best whole house humidifier provides coverage for the entire house and reduces maintenance and operational costs because it shares resources with the existing HVAC system and does not require refilling since it is connected to a water supply. It is also quieter and mostly hidden from view.
In our review, we break down the most important features to take into account to identify the right model for you. This includes the type of humidifier (ducted or non-ducted), the size of coverage so you can match it with your space, the maximum daily output for sufficient protection and the dimensions to ensure there is adequate room for installation.
This review includes a list of recommended models based on feedback from buyers and authoritative review sites. You can easily find their ranking in the comparison table below, followed by a detailed analysis of each model’s features, pros and cons. Our informative buying guide delves deeper into the key features of the best whole house humidifiers. It also evaluates the importance of controlling your home humidity levels and why you should opt for a whole house model.
The Honeywell Home HE280A is an excellent whole house humidifier that can be mounted to almost any warm air supply or return air duct. It provides even moisture distribution throughout every room in your home when connected to your existing HVAC system. There is a user-friendly control that makes it easier to adjust the humidity levels to your preferences and requirements.
In most installation scenarios, this humidifier can cover approximately 2,000 square feet. However, if you have a newer build, it may be able to deliver up to 4,000 square feet of coverage. Due to the water saving technology from Honeywell, the HE280 can deliver this impressive humidifying performance while using 30 percent less water compared to similar sized models. The water saving technology includes PerfectFLO water distribution tray that optimizes the water usage, so you can have control over your comfort and utility costs. Additionally, unlike a portable unit, you won’t need to worry about your wooden furniture, floors or other items cracking, warping or suffering other forms of moisture damage.
The HE280A is supplied with detailed, easy to follow instructions that are designed to make the installation easier. However, some users have reported that this installation is a little complicated and may be difficult unless you have very strong DIY skills and confidence. However, after installation, Honeywell states that the HE280 will typically require less maintenance compared to competing models, which means that you will not only save time and money, but also hassle as you’ll need fewer technician or return trips to your home.
More features: provides service, temperature and relative humidity indicators in manual mode as well
This is a fully automatic humidifier which also provides the option for manual mode. It is equipped with intuitive buttons for a wide range of settings, a digital panel which displays the current temperature, relative humidity, and the selected settings, and two sensors which cover both the inside and the outside of the house. The sensor on the back of the control panel regulates humidity inside the house, while a sensor that is separate from the unit detects the ambient temperature outside the house and adjusts the humidity levels according to your desired settings.
It is a highly efficient model which is designed to cover large houses of up to 4,200 square feet. A maximum of 18 gallons of moisture per day is added to your house to protect your appliances from static electricity and your furniture from shrinkage and deformation from loss of moisture. The added moisture will also protect you from mold, dry skin and airborne viruses which cause flu.
When the humidistat detects a change in your preferred humidity levels, the unit automatically turns on so water can flow through the water panel and the built-in fan draws dry, hot air from your furnace into the unit to vaporize the water through evaporation.
This is a convenient humidifier which runs quietly and only requires simple annual maintenance once you install it. The mounting kit is bought separately. The manufacturer recommends installation on the return air duct by a licensed HVAC professional.
This console-style model is the best whole house humidifier you will get at a bargain. It costs less than the average portable humidifier, yet it has a more extensive coverage of up to 3,600 square feet to keep your entire house at optimal humidity levels for up to 36 hours before requiring a refill.
It utilizes evaporative technology to increase moisture in the air while the wick filter traps all the mineral deposits. In addition to protecting you from the flu virus and alleviating the symptoms of allergies, the evaporative mechanism and the filter make this humidifier a suitable choice for homes that use hard water since it traps the minerals preventing them from depositing on walls and furniture. A “CF” filter change indicator reminds you to replace the filter.
The built-in humidistat displays the current humidity settings on a digital panel and automatically shuts off the ETL-approved unit once the desired levels have been attained to save energy. Depending on your humidity needs, you can customize the level of moisture output by using either of the four fan speeds or by activating the auto mode.
Although the unit is bulky, the three caster wheels provide smooth mobility whenever you want to change the location of the humidifier.
A notable complaint with customers is the frequent need for refilling. This is because this dehumidifier has a maximum output of 12 gallons per day which is much higher than the water tank capacity of 3.6 gallons. The refill indicator light notifies you when the tank is due for refilling and switches off the humidifier automatically to prevent accidental fires.
This is the best whole house humidifier for large homes or homes without a central heating system. The steam emitted increases your humidity levels while warming your house a bit. Steam humidifiers also produce higher amounts of moisture in a shorter time because they do not depend on the furnace or heating system to heat the water. This is evident in the high output of this model which releases 34.6 gallons of moisture in a day to adequately cover spaces of up to 6,200 square feet.
The Aprilaire 865 uses electrode technology where the water resistance to the electrical current flowing between the submerged electrodes heats the water. No filtration mechanism is required because electrode technology actually needs the impurities in the water to transmit electricity. This makes it convenient for use with hard water ranging between 3 and 36 grains and eliminates the need to clean the unit. The only maintenance required is the replacement of the canister which houses the electrodes.
Due to the technology involved, steam models tend to be pricier than other types of humidifiers. The installation which must be professionally done by a licensed HVAC expert to prevent voiding the five-year limited warranty also adds up to the initial cost.
The ductless unit comes with a fan pack and a humidistat to monitor the humidity levels in your home, but some customers have had to replace theirs because of the inaccurate readings.
More features: mounts on warm air supply duct; installation video included
This Honeywell humidifier uses powered flow-through mechanism to optimize the humidity levels in your home. The saddle valve opens to allow water through the unit. Some of the water saturates the pad which causes evaporation when warm air is forced into it by a fan, while the rest of it flows into the drain. Since there is no water stored in the humidifier, it reduces the proliferation of mold and harmful microorganisms which thrive in environments with high moisture. As the water flows through the unit, it flushes away dust, minerals, and impurities, therefore reducing the frequency of cleaning to at least once a year.
The unit is designed to cover up to 4,200 square feet of space while producing 18 gallons of moisture every day. It comes with a humidistat mounted in the duct and wired to the unit and variable speed for you to adjust the output to suit your humidity needs. You can install it either vertically or horizontally, as long as it is on the supply plenum. There is also an option of wall mounting for flexible placement.
Other features include a Vista model No. 714 filter pad and PerfectFLO distribution tray which speeds up the saturation of the humidifier pad. You will also get one filter and an instructional video, but the installation kit is bought separately.
Since the water that is not absorbed into the air flows down the drain, a significant amount of water is wasted. According to buyers, you can reduce the amount wasted by having a valve on the water inlet.
This is our recommended best bang if you are looking for the best humidifier for the whole house which does not require integration into a HVAC system and is easy to operate. It is designed to humidify spaces with maximum coverage of 4,000 square feet, and is equipped with dual bottle tanks with a total holding capacity of five gallons. The full tanks fuel the unit for up to 24 hours on high setting and 55 hours on low setting, yielding 14 gallons of moisture per day.
It draws dry air through the back and humidifies it as the air passes through the saturated wick, then fans it back into your house through the top of the unit. After approximately 720 hours of usage, the ‘CF’ indicator will flash on the digital display to remind you to check the condition of the wick filter for the build-up of mineral residue and white dust. The digital panel also displays the current humidity levels in your house, the selected humidity settings, and an indicator light to remind you to refill. It is easy to access the control panel and the buttons for setting your preferred humidity in the range of 25% to 65% with 5% interval, and for adjusting the fan speed to any of the three options. The unit will automatically shut off once the selected humidity has been reached.
Customers love the accurate humidistat, the ease of usage and the caster wheels which allow you to change the position of the humidifier or to move it to a water supply to refill it.
More features: indoor relative humidity sensor; larger coverage area models available
You can expect a quieter operation and low operational costs with this model because, as a bypass humidifier, it does not feature a motor or a fan. Instead, it relies on the furnace blower to move the dry, hot air through the water panel which converts the moisture into vapor. The humidified air is then circulated back into the air. This Aprilaire humidifier also works well with both hard and soft water although hard water may require more frequent replacement of the water panel than the recommended six months.
It is operated manually, with a single sensor monitoring the indoor relative humidity and allowing you to adjust them to your preferred level.
This humidifier produces a maximum of 12 gallons of moisture per day to increase the humidity levels in a house with up to 3,000 square foot coverage. It is rated as one of the best whole house humidifiers for furnaces, and we expect no less from Aprilaire which pioneered the first evaporative humidifier for forced air furnace systems in 1954. Aprilaire also features other models designed for larger homes.
The multiple wiring variations and the bypass duct which can be flipped to the right or left side provide greater flexibility in installation and operation. A wiring diagram will guide you through the process, but it is best to have it installed by a qualified HVAC professional in order not to void the warranty through faulty installation. You will need to acquire a drain hose and additional tools for wiring and ductwork separately.
More features: 9-speed motor with analog controls and digital display
This humidifier is as unique as it is intriguing. The dual water tank and the whopping nine-speed options make it a quite outstanding unit. The molded plastic construction is often mistaken for wood which adds to the unit’s attractiveness. Each of the water bottles inside holds 2.75 gallons of water, yielding a maximum output of 11.45 gallons of moisture per day from both of them to cover up to 3,600 square feet. You will find two knobs and a digital panel on the fan assembly under the removable top cover. The digital panel displays an ‘F’ when the tanks are empty and a ‘CF’ when the filter is due for cleaning or replacement.
As an evaporative humidifier, it features a Super Wick which absorbs water from the tank to humidify the air passing through it. Adding one teaspoon of vinegar per gallon of water extends the lifespan of the wick by reducing mineral buildup. One filter is included to capture impurities and protect the unit from damage. Buyers have noted that it lasts one season before requiring replacement.
Fan speed determines how loud the unit will be. It produces 45 decibels on low setting and 77.5 decibels on the highest setting, which is pretty loud. Fortunately, the caster wheels allow you to move and place the unit wherever you desire or move it closer to a water supply for refilling. Other convenient features include an adjustable humidistat which lets you select your desired humidity levels and auto shut-off capability once those levels have been reached.
More features: runs continuously for up to 70 hours; check filter and water refill indicator
The appeal of AIRCARE 831000 as one of the best humidifiers for a whole house lies in its multiple options in terms of settings and placement. It is equipped with a water tank with a capacity of six gallons, with a full tank lasting up to 70 hours on low setting. The tank is easily accessed by removing the front grill, and the wide opening makes refilling it a breeze.
You can effectively humidify up to 2,700 square feet of space. The attached caster wheels facilitate smooth movement of the unit so you can place it on areas with low humidity. To further customize this model to your humidity needs, the unit comes with an auto humidistat which can be set at five-point intervals up to 65% humidity levels, and three fan speeds to regulate the rate of output. Once the desired humidity level is achieved, the unit shuts off and restarts when those levels change. The unit also shuts down when the water tank is empty to avoid damage.
The digital controls on the panel located on the front of the unit allow you to easily select your preferred humidity and speed settings while Trapmax Filter Technology traps impurities to improve your air quality. The manufacturer recommends replacement of the wick after every two to three months.
When you purchase this ETL-listed humidifier, you will also get a five-foot-long electrical cord. Featuring a decibel rating of 46, it runs quietly on low setting but can be quite noisy on medium and high speeds.
If your house is constantly plagued by mold and allergens, this humidifier offers an ideal solution. The Honeywell Replacement Wicking Filter Model HC-14 (Filter E) included in the package is treated with Protec antimicrobial to prevent up to 99.99% of mold. It is also the best choice for hard water because you can take the unit apart to clean it if such need arises.
This model features two 1.5-gallon tanks which humidify multiple rooms for up to 24 hours on low setting. We were cynical about the small capacity of the water tank and wondered whether they had enough output to qualify on our list of the best humidifiers for a whole house, but reviews from verified buyers who raved of this model’s effectiveness in optimizing humidity levels in their homes won us over. There were complaints about the lack of caster wheels and the second tank needing a little shake to feed water to the wick, but customers almost unanimously agree on its excellence in regulating humidity and the convenient top-fill option.
One benefit of investing in a console-style humidifier, such as this model, is the flexibility in set up since it does not require connection to your HVAC system. You can place it in the room or area that needs it most and regulate the rate of humidification with the adjustable humidistat and the three-speed options.
When the tanks need to be refilled, a light goes off to alert you, and the shut-off feature switches the unit off to protect your humidifier from damage from overheating and short circuit.
More features: includes the stainless steel humidifier assembly, automatic flushing timer, automatic humidistat, water filter, saddle valve, fan control relay, blower safety switch and mounting frame
You only need to glance at the additional features above to understand why this is the best rated whole house humidifier on our list of recommended models. Let’s break down the importance of these features: the stainless steel construction makes this humidifier sturdy and durable; the automatic flush timer purges the water in the unit for ten seconds after every two hours to prevent accumulation of mold contaminants and buildup of minerals. You can adjust the duration from 10 seconds to 20 or so seconds; the water filter traps impurities which could clog the humidifier; the saddle valve allows water to flow slowly into the unit; the built-in thermostat activates the relay which turns on the blower even when your furnace is not operating while the blower safety switch applies to wiring that is designed to work with the furnace running. In this case, the thermal bimetallic switch closes to turn on the blower when the boiling water reaches steaming point; and the frame which mounts to the ductwork conveniently slides the unit out for maintenance.
This is a powerful steam humidifier which covers a minimum of 1,400 square-foot space. It also produces up to 13 gallons of moisture per day. Some customers report that it sufficiently covers their houses measuring 4,500 square feet at 45%+ humidity.
The automatic humidistat turns on the unit when your selected indoor humidity levels drop and switches off when the set levels have been achieved while the two float valves protect the unit from damage from overflow or low water level.
The manufacturer stipulates installation by a qualified professional contractor to avoid nullification of warranty and recommends routine maintenance after every one to three months to remove the buildup of minerals.
Why do you need to keep an eye on your indoor humidity levels? Also, is a whole house humidifier really necessary? We ponder over these questions and other common questions in the FAQ segment and in this informative guide which also contains an in-depth examination of the key features to consider before making your purchase.
Experts recommend indoor humidity levels to be between 30 and 50 percent. Adhering to this is important to protect your health, pets, and possessions. Dry air increases the likelihood of flu virus, allergies, sinuses, parched skin and cracks in your house and furniture while high moisture level provides a perfect breeding atmosphere for mold, musty odor, bacteria, and allergens. Controlling these levels with a humidifier protects you and everything in your house from the effects of dry air which include aggravating asthma and sinuses, increased susceptibility to the flu virus, itchy cracked skin, dry coughs, static shocks in electronics, and deformation of furniture and the structural integrity of your house. It is the best way to ensure optimal humidity levels in every corner of your house.
Since humid air retains more heat than dry air, investing in the best humidifier for the whole house will also keep your heating bills low because humidification warms your house a bit.
Whole house humidifiers usually work in conjunction with your HVAC system to keep your indoor humidity at optimal levels by distributing humidified air throughout your house via air ducts. All you need is a one-time installation and occasional maintenance because, unlike portable models, whole house humidifiers do not require constant refilling since they are connected to your water supply and drain for continuous performance. They may initially cost you a pretty penny due to the technology involved and the professional installation, but they are much cheaper to maintain in the long run. They are suitable for a multi-level house and large spaces.
On the other hand, a compact free-standing humidifier such as the AirCare MA1201 and Honeywell HEV685B is the best choice if you do not have a HVAC system, or if you are renting the house, or if you have space restrictions and need a unit that can be wheeled to different areas in your home to regulate indoor humidity levels.
The numerous models and their variations may be tedious to sift through, but with the following important elements in mind, you can narrow down your selection to the most suitable whole house humidifier for your budget, space, and indoor humidity levels.
Ducted humidifiers are mounted on the existing HVAC system return and supply air ducts and connected to the water supply and drainage while free-standing models feature a reservoir and use their own fan to draw air in for humidification and circulate it back into your house. Ducted models are convenient for large spaces and multiple rooms because they have high humidification capacity, extensive coverage, long lifespan, low operation, and maintenance costs and high air filtration since the air also passes through the filter on your HVAC system. Their drawbacks are the initial cost and the additional expenses on professional installation.
Free-standing humidifiers are mobile and flexible enough to be placed anywhere when you need to control humidity in one area. They are also cheaper to purchase and easy to install. However, the constant need for water refilling and filter replacement makes them high-maintenance.
The most common types of whole house humidifiers are evaporative and steam, with the former being the most popular.
Evaporative models feature an evaporator pad which humidifies the warm air that passes through it before it is distributed back into your house while steam humidifiers feature electric probes which heat the water in the reservoir to boiling point before it is released back into the air as steam.
Evaporative models are the best whole house humidifiers for a gas furnace because they produce a cool mist, as opposed to steam emitted by steam models, which can counter the immensely hot air from a gas furnace. Humidifiers which use evaporative mechanism can either be bypass like Aprilaire 500M, or fan-powered like the Honeywell HE360A. Fan-powered models use their own built-in fan to draw air through the evaporation pad and disperse it back into the ductwork while a bypass humidifier has a bypass duct and damper to use the furnace fan for the same process. Evaporative models are less expensive, but they require regular replacement of the evaporation pad.
Steam models like the Honeywell Home HE280A do not require a furnace to work. They can be configured to turn on the blower whenever they are ready to release the heated water into the air to humidify it. They are better for people who are prone to allergies because the boiled water kills bacteria and other airborne microorganisms. They also have an automatic flush system which self-cleans regularly to purge residue from water.
It is essential to confirm the designated coverage beforehand to ensure it covers your intended space. The models featured in this review are all designed for a whole house of various sizes, from Honeywell HEV685B with three-gallon tank capacity for multiple rooms to Aprilaire 865 with a daily moisture output of 34.6 gallons for large houses of up to 6,200 square feet.
The best whole house console humidifier is the one whose reservoir has a holding capacity that is sufficient to fuel the unit for long enough to cover the designated coverage. This prevents constant refilling and extends the period of operation. AIRCARE Space-Save Evaporative humidifier has a sizeable tank capacity of 6 gallons while AIRCARE 696 400HB features a dual tank which holds 5.6 gallons.
Instead of a water tank, ducted humidifiers typically connect to your water supply and drainage for continuous operation. This is convenient because it eliminates refilling and thriving of mold and bacteria which favor stagnant water. Manufacturers indicate the amount of moisture produced by the humidifier in 24 hours. Twelve gallons per day is considered adequate for 3,600 square foot coverage, so you can be assured that the Honeywell HE360A and Aprilaire 865 are more than capable of keeping your indoor humidity at optimal levels. Steam models tend to have the highest output, followed by fan-powered evaporative models, then bypass models which have to rely on the furnace fan.
As noted earlier, some evaporative models have their own motor and fan to draw air into the unit and disperse it for redistribution throughout your house. All the evaporative models on our list of the best whole house humidifiers come with adjustable settings for speed to control the rate of moisture output and reduce the noise produced on high settings. AIRCARE 696 400HB is impressive in that regard because it is equipped with nine customizable speeds.
Ducted models require mounting so you need to check your available space and ensure the place it is mounted on can hold the weight of the humidifier. Stand-alone units are more flexible in placement because they are mobile. However, this means that they are not out of view like the built-in humidifiers, so the size will definitely matter in order to fit among the other items in your house.
Humidifiers, especially the ones that need to be integrated into your heating and cooling system, cost quite a bit of money because they are designed to last long. You, therefore, require coverage that can take care of defects and malfunctioning for as long as possible. This may range from one year to five years, depending on the model and the manufacturer. Online reviews from buyers are resourceful in feedback on the performance of the model, the length and terms of warranty and the quality of customer care.
One caution we regularly came across from buyer reviews is to ensure the installation is carried out by a licensed professional to avoid nullifying the warranty.
Design: This is incorporated in many ways. For instance, Emerson HSP2000 features a mounting frame which allows you to easily remove the unit for maintenance, while the AIRCARE EA1407 and AIRCARE Space-Save Evaporative Humidifier feature conveniently-placed tanks for quick access to clean or refill.
Ease of installation: This varies from one model to another. While some can be easily installed, others require the services of a professional due to the complexity involved.
Noise level: Motors and fans generate a substantial amount of noise, mainly when they are operating at high speed. This is more significant in stand-alone units than ducted models. Choosing a lower setting reduces the noise to whisper-quiet. This is why it is crucial to opt for a humidifier with adjustable settings. AIRCARE 696 400HB produces 45 decibels on low setting and 77.5 decibels on the highest setting.
Humidistat: It displays your current humidity levels and allows you to adjust them to your preferred setting.
Multiple mounting options: They allow for flexibility in placement to fit the available space and resources. Some models, such as the Honeywell HE360A, include wall mounting.
Caster wheels: They allow stand-alone humidifiers to be moved from one room to another or to the sink for refilling. AirCare MA1201, AIRCARE EA1407, and AIRCARE Space-Save Evaporative Humidifier are some of the humidifiers equipped with this feature.
Filter: Filters capture dust and impurities to protect the unit from damage and prevent them from circulating in your house. Some, like Honeywell HEV685B, feature antimicrobial filter which protects you from flu and airborne allergies.
Digital display: It provides useful information on the selected settings, current indoor humidity levels and alerts on maintenance.
Indicator lights: This includes the check filter alert which reminds you to clean or replace the filter, and the full tank alert which notifies you when the tank is due for refill.
Budget: As you have noted, there are some humidifiers which you can acquire at a relatively low price without compromising on performance. The rest of them may feature initial high cost and require even more money for the mounting kit and professional installation, but they end up saving you money due to their low maintenance and long lifespan.
Auto shut-off: This is a safety feature which protects your unit form damage caused by overheating or short circuits. It is triggered to shut off the unit when the tank is empty.
Adjustable humidity settings: They allow you to choose your preferred humidity levels throughout the house. The AIRCARE EA1407 and AIRCARE Space-Save Evaporative Humidifier let you adjust your preferred humidity in the range of 25% to 65% at 5% interval.
Certification: Look for models which have been approved by the relevant authorized bodies for quality and performance. AIRCARE Space-Save Evaporative Humidifier and AirCare MA1201 have been certified by ETL. The
ETL Listed Mark
The ETL Mark is proof of product compliance to North American safety standards. Authorities Having Jurisdiction(AHJs) and code officials across the US and Canada accept the ETL Listed Mark as proof of product compliance to published industry standards. www.intertek.com is proof of product compliance to North American safety standards. Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) and code officials across the US and Canada accept the ETL Listed Mark as proof of product compliance to published industry standards.
Controls: A humidifier that is complex to navigate will give you a headache. The models in this review feature control knobs which are convenient to access or automatic features which are activated using intuitive buttons and a control panel.
If you want to improve the moisture levels in your home, but have concerns about your utility bills, the Honeywell Home HE280A is a great choice. It can cover up to 4,000 square feet, but the water saving technology ensures it uses up to 30% less water.
Aprilaire 700 does all the work for you. It is the only model among the best whole house humidifiers in this review that monitors both your indoor and outdoor temperature in up to 4,200 square feet of space to protect everything inside and outside the house. Choose your favorite settings from the multiple options, digital display and intuitive buttons.
AIRCARE MA1201 is the best whole house console humidifier for houses that occupy up to 3,600 square feet. You can sneak away on the weekend and trust the ETL-approved model to automatically turn on or off, as required, to keep consistent humidity levels in your house for up to 36 hours.