4 Types of Whole House Humidifiers (Plus Buying Tips)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

A common problem many homeowners deal with during the onset of winter is the prevalence of dry air. Similar to excessively humid air, dry air can cause significant discomfort and trigger certain health conditions. To combat the onset of dry air, homeowners have enlisted the help of whole house humidifiers.

The number one job of a humidifier is to add moisture to the air. Notably though, that job can be carried out in a variety of ways, hence the availability of different whole house humidifier types.

Bypass whole house humidifiers rely on the HVAC system to work and they also make use of a duct attachment. Fan-powered whole house humidifiers can spread moisture throughout the air by using an internal blower. Steam humidifiers feature their own heating element and water container while spray-mist units rely heavily on an existing HVAC system.

The different types of whole house humidifiers bring their own set of pros and cons to the table. See which of those humidifiers is the best fit for your home by continuing with this article.

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Examining the 4 Different Types of Whole House Humidifiers

There’s a surprising amount of variety in the selection of whole house humidifiers. It’s important to examine your options closely in order to better understand how they match with your home. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of whole house humidifiers below.

1. Bypass Whole House Humidifiers

First off, let’s discuss the bypass whole house humidifiers. Bypass humidifiers need an existing HVAC system in order to do their job. Without that HVAC system in place, the bypass humidifier will simply not be effective.

Bypass humidifiers also need to be paired with duct attachments. That duct attachment does a lot of heavy lifting here. The duct attachment is responsible for providing the heat needed to evaporate the water.

The amount of maintenance you need to carry out can differ depending on the kind of drainage your bypass humidifier utilizes. If your bypass humidifier has a drain, you will have to clear that out pretty often. Drainless bypass humidifiers don’t require that same kind of diligent upkeep.

Drum-Style or Flow-Through

When shopping for a bypass humidifier, you’ll have to decide between getting either a drum-style or flow-through model. They each have their own pros and cons too.

Drum-style models feature a foam pad resting on top of a drum. That drum is then set inside a reservoir of water. Once the humidifier is engaged, the drum moves and allows the pad to get soaked with water. The hot air coming from your HVAC system will then evaporate the water soaking the pad. The air will continue to move until it spreads the moist air to the different parts of your home.

Do note, however, that drum-style models are more susceptible to mold. That’s due to the amount of stagnant water that often gets left behind.

Flow-through models use a valve and a pad to introduce additional humidity to the air. When activated, the valve will open up and allow water to soak the pad. The hot air from the HVAC system will again be tasked with spreading the moisture coming from the pad. Mold is not a big concern when it comes to flow-through models. The real issue with them is that they tend to waste a lot of water while working.

2. Fan-Powered Whole House Humidifiers

Next up, we have fan-powered whole house humidifiers. Fan-powered humidifiers are great because they don’t rely too heavily on your HVAC system.

Since they already come with a fan included, the moist air can be dispersed without the help of your heating setup. You also don’t have to worry about finding room for a bypass duct to get this whole house humidifier working, Some might think that those units consume way more electricity, but their built-in fans are actually pretty efficient.

There are two potential drawbacks to consider though when it comes to fan-powered humidifiers. The first is the cost because those units are a bit more expensive due to the addition of the fan. Fan-powered units are also known to produce more noise when they’re working.

Drum-Style or Flow-Through

You will again have to decide between getting either a drum-style or flow-through fan-powered humidifier. Drum-style and flow-through fan-powered humidifiers operate much in the same way as their bypass counterparts.

The only real difference here again is the presence of the internal fan. The same pros and cons from earlier still exist so consider them when deciding which type is better for your home.

3. Steam Whole House Humidifiers

The steam whole house humidifiers are the most expensive variants currently available. That comes as no surprise given the additional components steam humidifiers feature.

The steam units make use of a container filled with water. Once you turn on the humidifier, electric probes built into the humidifier will start to heat up the container. The electric probes will continue to work until the water in the container turns to steam.

More and more steam will fill your home’s ductwork as the unit works. Eventually, enough steam will flow through the ducts to create a more humid environment inside your home. What’s so great about steam humidifiers is that they can work fine even without the help of the HVAC system. They just need the ducts to spread the steam.

Like we said earlier though, those steam units are expensive. They also cost more to operate because of the electric probes involved.

4. Spray-Mist Whole House Humidifiers

Last up, we have the spray-mist whole house humidifiers and they are the simplest options available. Humidifiers of this kind are connected directly to your home’s existing HVAC system.

After turning on this humidifier, it will spray a fine mist of water into the ductwork. The air passing through the ductwork will then move that moisture throughout your home. Spray-mist units are popular because of how inexpensive they are. Even operating them regularly doesn’t cost a whole lot.

Unfortunately, spray-mist humidifiers do struggle with big spaces. The humid air may not make it to all parts of your home consistently if you’re using a spray-mist unit.

Which Type of Whole House Humidifier Should You Choose?

Now that you know more about whole house humidifiers, you can choose the type that works best for your home. Thankfully, the whole house humidifiers we talked about are pretty distinct from one another. We can evaluate certain factors to make the selection process easier.


Convenient operation is always a plus when it comes to any appliance. If you’re looking for the most convenient whole house humidifier, your best bet is the steam unit.

You don’t even have to activate your HVAC system to get the steam units working. They also don’t cause much of a mess and are not very susceptible to mold, thus making them easier to maintain.


Many of the whole house humidifier types we highlighted in this article can capably provide moist air throughout your home. You can opt for a bypass unit, a fan-powered unit, or a steam humidifier and they will all do fine in that regard. The spray-mist humidifier is the only one that will really struggle to fill a large space with moist air.


The steam units are the most expensive humidifiers and they also cost a lot to operate regularly. The initial cost to get a steam humidifier can go as high as $1000. Prepare to take on more expenses if you decide to add one of them to your home.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the bypass and spray-mist humidifiers. You can get one for your home at the price of around $150. They also don’t cost that much to operate, which is another reason why they’re loved by budget-conscious homeowners.

Does Your Home Need a Whole House Humidifier?

Whole house humidifiers aren’t especially expensive. Even so, spending a significant amount of money on an appliance you will hardly use is not ideal. So, how can you check if a whole house humidifier is needed inside your home? Start by checking out the current condition of your home. Keep an eye out especially for cracks along the windows and walls.

The reason why you may have consistently dry air is because of the outside air always getting inside. By sealing up those openings, you could reduce the amount of dry air without relying on a humidifier.

You also don’t have to use a whole house humidifier right away. Use a portable humidifier first and see if that resolves the dry air problem. Remember to keep the door open when you use the portable humidifier to help the moist air spread better.

If those solutions still don’t work, purchasing a whole house humidifier is probably what you need to do. Use the information above to make sure you pick the right whole house humidifier.

Do You Need Central Humidifier Installation or Replacement?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Related Questions

Should You Attempt to Install a Whole House Humidifier on Your Own?

Generally speaking, no, homeowners shouldn’t take on the job of installing a whole house humidifier on their own. That’s because the installation process can actually be quite complex.You will often have to work with water, electricity, and furnace lines to get the whole house humidifier working correctly. Mounting the humidifier properly can be an ordeal unto itself as well. Steer clear of any unnecessary problems and opt to have your whole house humidifier professionally installed. The cost of professional installation is more than worth it.

How Long Will a Whole House Humidifier Last?

Whole house humidifiers have an average lifespan of about 10 years, assuming that they’re maintained properly. Interestingly enough, whole house humidifiers can be moved to a different HVAC system if the old one starts to malfunction. You don’t have to shy away from purchasing a whole house humidifier even if your HVAC system is old.

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

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