Single room humidifiers are designed to replace lost moisture in small spaces, but they aren’t able to affect the entire home. Instead of getting a room humidifier for every room, consider a whole-house humidifier. These provide a single, convenient source for balanced humidity that is beneficial both for people and the home itself.
There are many aspects to consider when choosing a whole-house humidifier. This guide makes the selection process a little easier, by detailing how to find the best whole-house humidifier to replace lost moisture and restore comfort, whatever the size of the living space. To help make the search even easier, below are some of the best whole-house humidifiers in their respective categories.
- BEST OVERALL: Aprilaire 500 Whole-Home Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Aircare 831000 Whole-House Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST FOR LARGE HOMES: Aprilaire 800 Whole-House Steam Humidifier
- BEST FOR SMALL HOMES: Vornado Evap40 Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST FOR HARD WATER: Aprilaire 700 Whole-Home Humidifier
- BEST FAN: Honeywell Home HE280A Whole-House Bypass Humidifier
- BEST PORTABLE: Aircare 3.6 Gallon Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST PEDESTAL: Aircare Whole-House Pedestal Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST CONSOLE: Aircare 5.6 Gallon Evaporative Humidifier
How We Chose the Best Whole-House Humidifiers
As an engineer and as someone who has installed a whole-house humidifier, I have hands-on understanding of how they function. From all the leading manufacturers, the BobVila.com team researched the latest models to ensure we had up-to-date information. Feedback from customers who live with these devices day-to-day also formed an important part of our selection process.
In making our choices, we wanted to provide a wide range of options encompassing the various technologies and different types of installation. With the breadth of high-quality options, we have provided solutions for the widest possible range of needs, as well as whole-house humidifiers to suit most budgets.
Although the number of manufacturers represented is relatively low, we felt it important to focus on brands that have built a reputation for producing reliable, durable equipment. In the longer term, this ensures buyers get the best value for their money.
Our Top Picks
The whole-house humidifier market is dominated by several established brands that produce high-quality and reliable systems. Some are standouts in their respective categories, and this list of top picks can help make finding the best whole-house humidifier for specific needs quicker and easier.
It’s tough to pick a single best whole-house humidifier because there are so many different types of homes. However, for most typical situations, the American-made AprilAire 500 is our top pick because of its combination of efficiency, comprehensive feature set, and suitability for the average modern home, which is about 2,300 square feet, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures. This HVAC humidifier has an actual maximum coverage of 3,500 square feet.
It has two sensors: one for outside temperature and one for relative humidity. Once the desired level is set using the clear digital display, the AprilAire humidifier automatically adjusts performance to suit. This reduces power and water consumption, keeping bills lower as a result.
The additional external sensor makes installation more complex than some, but the affordable price of the unit goes a long way toward compensating for any increased labor costs. Once running, it is simple to use and highly effective.
- Coverage: 3,500 square feet
- Maximum runtime: Continuous
- Tank capacity: 12 gallons per day
- Sensors for both outside temperature and relative humidity automatically maintain humidity indoors
- An easy-to-read panel provides convenient monitoring and control
- Compact design is ideal for many modern homes, and it comes with a very competitive price
- The manufacturer suggests professional installation, which will mean increased costs
Get the AprilAire 500 whole-house humidifier at Amazon.
Space is often at a premium in many modern homes, so the compact dimensions of this Aircare may be ideal. Despite its diminutive size, it can provide humidity for areas of up to 2,700 square feet.
There are three speed settings that allow managing performance and volume. It can be noisy when working hard, but the unit will shut off when it reaches the user-set humidity level. The easy-fill water tank holds 6 gallons, allowing up to 70 hours of continuous output.
This humidifier provides alerts when the water level is low and when the filter needs to be changed. Casters provide for easy movement. This high-quality Aircare humidifier is a neat unit that is easy to live with and offers outstanding value for the money.
- Coverage: 2,700 square feet
- Maximum runtime: 70 hours
- Tank capacity: 6 gallons
- Compact design and low noise help reduce impact on living spaces
- Choice of 3 fans speeds and an adjustable humidistat to maximize personal comfort
- Auto shutoff at desired humidity and refill indicator make it easy to use
- Casters offer easier mobility for cleaning and moving compared to other units
- Some find the control panel too bright, and occasional fan switch faults have been reported
Get the Aircare whole-house humidifier at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The AprilAire 800 is a high-output steam humidifier that works in conjunction with a furnace and can provide precise humidity levels for homes of up to 6,000 square feet.
Special heating electrodes allow use of ordinary tap water, unlike competitors that often require a purified supply. Once the digital humidistat is set, outdoor and indoor sensors ensure automatic maintenance of the desired humidity. Alarm lights on the main unit warn of problems with water supply, steam production, drain blockage, or when the humidifier needs to be serviced.
For homes without an existing HVAC system, a version is available that uses a wall-mounted fan situated in the main living space. Professional installation is strongly recommended for either model. However, the steam canister, which needs to be replaced every 6 to 12 months, can be changed by the user.
- Coverage: 2,500 to 6,000 square feet
- Maximum runtime: Continuous
- Tank capacity: Up to 34.6 gallons per day
- Straightforward control panel provides 7 “set it and forget it” humidity levels
- Dual sensors monitor the environment indoors and outdoors for 24/7 automatic humidity management
- Runs on ordinary unfiltered household water to help minimize running costs
- Premium-priced model that requires professional installation and periodic maintenance
Get the AprilAire steam whole-house humidifier at Amazon.
For those who live in small apartments or other small homes, most whole-house humidifiers are overkill. Yet many room humidifiers don’t provide sufficient coverage. One efficient, low-cost solution is the Vornado Evap40 Evaporative Humidifier.
This unit offers three fan speeds and a clever vortex action that spreads humidity evenly over an area of up to 1,000 square feet. There are two easy-to-manage 2-gallon tanks, giving 24 hours of runtime at the highest fan setting. Automatic sensors adjust humidity to the chosen level, so it might run longer.
The Vornado would also be a good choice for large single rooms, though the lack of wheels makes it a little awkward to move around.
- Coverage: 1,000 square feet
- Maximum runtime: 24 hours
- Tank capacity: 4 gallons per 24 hours
- Vortex action provides rapid circulation and evenly distributes humidity
- Simple controls make it easy for new users to adjust and use
- Very affordable and sized appropriately for smaller homes and apartments
- Regular filter replacement can be inconvenient and expensive over time
- No auto-off feature when the unit is empty can be a deal breaker for those who rely on automatic shutoffs
Get the Vornado evaporative humidifier at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Wayfair.
The minerals in hard water can play havoc with whole-house humidifiers. Some eject calcium and magnesium into the air, which can aggravate breathing conditions. White dust can settle out too, covering furniture and getting into sensitive electronics. Others trap the chemicals, but the buildup eventually causes blockages or damage.
The AprilAire 700 can operate with hard or soft water, and with a hot or cold supply. Any minerals from hard water are collected in the water panel, preventing them from getting into the air. As water panels need to be changed on an annual basis (they are not expensive), the buildup is typically too insufficient to cause problems.
Other key features of the AprilAire 700 are precise digital control, sensors to automatically monitor humidity levels, and a powerful fan that uses furnace air to increase humidification speed over an area of up to 5,300 square feet.
- Coverage: 5,300 square feet
- Maximum runtime: Continuous
- Tank capacity: 18 gallons per day
- Runs off ordinary household water supply, and is unaffected by water hardness or softness levels
- Uses existing HVAC system to measure and balance humidity throughout the home
- Easy-to-read digital control panel for monitoring, adjustment, and service alerts
- Professional installation is required for warranty, and the water panel needs to be replaced annually
Get the AprilAire 700 whole-home humidifier at Amazon.
The Honeywell Home HE280A bypass humidifier is a fan humidifier that is designed for DIY installation and can be mounted on either the warm-air supply or the return duct of any forced-air furnace. It has a capacity of up to 4,000 square feet.
Without the need to heat water, the Honeywell Home HE280A is usually more economical than comparable steam humidifiers or bypass models. The flow-through design prevents the buildup of microorganisms that can cause mold and reduces maintenance. The included hygrostat is manually operated, though an automatic conversion is possible.
Installation is a relatively straightforward process when compared with other HVAC humidifiers, and all the necessary components are included. However, a floor drain is also required.
- Coverage: 4,000 square feet
- Maximum runtime: Continuous
- Tank capacity: Not applicable
- Fan saves energy by taking warm air from the HVAC to provide humidification
- PerfectFLO system optimizes water consumption and helps reduce running costs
- Easier to install than many competitors, and requires little ongoing maintenance
- A floor drain is required, which can involve considerable extra work
Get the Honeywell HE280A whole-house humidifier at Amazon or The Home Depot.
The modest size of this Aircare whole-house humidifier belies its performance, which has a coverage area of up to 3,600 square feet. The digital humidistat is controlled from a clear and easy-to-use front-mounted panel. Once set, it can be left to regulate humidity automatically.
Should there be a desire to move it from one place to another, casters and a built-in handle make the task almost effortless. There are four speeds to offer flexibility of choice between high output and low noise. It is easy to clean, too.
The tank size is modest at 3.6 gallons and provides a maximum runtime of 36 hours. However, given the performance, that’s perhaps not a major drawback. This Aircare humidifier is also very competitively priced.
- Coverage: 3,600 square feet
- Maximum runtime: 36 hours
- Tank capacity: 3.6 gallons
- Impressive performance from such a compact, mobile, and affordable unit
- Easy-to-use digital controls allow precise setting of humidity level
- 4 fan speeds, auto shutoff, plus indicators for water level and filter check
- Evaporative wick needs to be replaced every 30 to 90 days
Get the Aircare 3.6-gallon whole-house humidifier at The Home Depot or Amazon.
The Aircare pedestal humidifier is designed to fit into a wide variety of decors, and it provides a useful extra table surface. The discreet, easy-to-use control panel is the only thing that gives away its true purpose. For added coordination, the top can be swapped out for any 12-inch-by-12-inch tile.
Coverage of 2,400 square feet makes it ideal for apartments, small homes, or guest accommodations. While not designed to be portable, it weighs only 25 pounds so it’s not difficult to move. Although the 3.5-gallon tank is modest, the high efficiency and a choice of nine fan speeds means this Aircare can provide humidity for up to 60 hours. There’s a low-water indicator and an auto shutoff to prevent damage or wasted electricity should the tank run dry.
- Coverage: 2,400 square feet
- Maximum runtime: 60 hours
- Tank capacity: 3.5 gallons
- Combines exceptional runtime with 9 fan speeds for fine humidity control
- Easy-fill reservoir comes with low-water indicator and auto shutoff
- Appearance will suit many decors, and the top can accept any 12-inch-by-12-inch tile
- Some feel the higher fan speeds are noisy
Get the Aircare pedestal whole-house humidifier at The Home Depot or Amazon.
With its wood-grain effect and classic credenza styling, this Aircare can be an unobtrusive addition to many homes. This is one of the most powerful whole-house console humidifiers on the market, with a coverage area of up to 3,600 square feet.
The built-in humidistat with digital whole-house control allows precise adjustment of the environment. Once set, it only needs to be refilled with water periodically. The twin tanks have to be removed to refill, but it’s not too onerous a task with each tank being 2.8 gallons. When full, they offer a maximum runtime of 45 hours. There are three fan speeds and an automatic shutoff for when the desired humidity is reached.
While this Aircare unit can be moved, it weighs more than 30 pounds and has no wheels. Like other furniture and appliances, it is designed to be stationary. Given its attractive appearance, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a permanent site for this humidifier.
- Coverage: 3,600 square feet
- Maximum runtime: 45 hours
- Tank capacity: 5.6 gallons
- Once set, the digital humidistat automatically maintains a chosen humidity level
- Energy-saving shutoff at desired humidity or if the unit runs dry
- Twin 2.8-gallon water tanks are easy to remove and fill
- It is quite bulky, and the appearance is not to everyone’s taste
Get the Aircare credenza whole-house humidifier at Amazon or The Home Depot.
What to Consider When Choosing a Whole-House Humidifier
Finding the best whole-house humidifier for any given home is easier when shoppers have a basic understanding of the most important technical and practical features of these devices. The following section is intended as a quick and easy guide to those elements that may have the biggest impact on choice.
Types and Effectiveness
Whole-house humidifiers can be divided into two distinct categories: those that work with an existing HVAC system and those that are freestanding console models.
The installation requirements of humidifiers that work with an HVAC system vary. Some can be installed by DIYers with moderate skills, while others will require an HVAC engineer to install it. Once installed, though, whole-house humidifiers that work with HVAC systems need little attention. They connect to the existing electrical and water supply systems in the home.
Whole-house humidifiers that work with an HVAC system can further be divided into three types:
- Steam humidifiers are generally the most powerful and are often used for large homes. They heat water in a steam canister until it boils and then release the steam through the ventilation ducting. They can be expensive, and their energy consumption is higher than other types.
- Bypass humidifiers do not need to heat the water because they use the warmth from the furnace. Water is held in a panel, which is usually replaced annually. Water particles pass through the ducting in the same ways as a steam humidifier.
- Fan humidifiers don’t use heat at all. They blow air across a humidifier pad that is soaked in water. Again, this releases fine water particles through the ducting. They are more energy efficient and, because there’s no warm air, they don’t affect air cooling.
Bypass and fan humidifiers are also known as evaporative humidifiers because they don’t rely on steam.
Whole-house console-style evaporative humidifiers are much simpler. They just need to be placed where preferred, filled regularly with water, and plugged into a convenient power outlet.
There’s also the question of noise. Permanent installations near the furnace seldom have a noise impact on the living space, whereas console whole-house humidifiers can make a noticeable noise, particularly on high fan settings.
Cool-mist models are loudest, as they need a fan to project moisture. Usually only found on room-size humidifiers, warm mist and ultrasonic models have no fan and they are quieter.
While there are a number of clever DIY hacks that can improve the moisture level in a home environment without the added expense of a new unit, these are not really practical, nor are they consistent and reliable solutions to provide coverage throughout the entire home.
The coverage area required depends on the size of home. In general, a console-style evaporative humidifier is less powerful and has less coverage than its HVAC counterpart. They range in coverage from around 2,500 to 3,600 square feet, which will be sufficient for many homes. However, HVAC systems can humidify in excess of 6,000 square feet.
When shoppers are checking the coverage area offered, it’s common to see the expression “tightly built home.” This describes a fully insulated living space where doors and windows also fit properly and thus the internal environment is well sealed. Older homes may not be so tightly built.
Those homes that aren’t fully insulated or have occasional drafts could require a model 40 to 50 percent more powerful for effective humidification. Alternatively, a home’s owner can remedy those deficiencies. This would lead to the need for a less expensive humidifier and a more energy-efficient home, reducing heating system bills.
There’s another element to coverage that needs to be considered, and it relates back to the type of whole-house humidifier chosen. If one that works with an HVAC system is selected, then even closed rooms still receive humidity. With a console model, a closed door cuts a room off from the humidified air supply.
Water Tank and Runtime
Since whole-house humidifiers that link into the HVAC system are plumbed in, the supply is continuous. However, a water consumption rating is still generally given.
Console models are not connected to the household plumbing. They have onboard water tanks that need to be refilled periodically. How often that is required will affect overall convenience. As they can’t provide humidification when the tank is empty, this also affects runtime.
How efficiently the humidifier runs, the coverage area, and the desired humidity level demanded by the occupants all have an impact. It’s impossible to say, for example, that a particular tank size offers a specific runtime. A small device for a 1,500-square-foot home might run longer than a large one for a 3,000-square-foot home when providing humidity over a smaller area, but it will empty much more quickly if the space is beyond its intended capacity.
Since there is no general runtime guideline, each model needs to be checked and compared to those with similar output and features. However, most units run anywhere from 24 to more than 40 hours between refills. Manufacturers give reasonable guidance within product specifications, though the amount of moisture loss through gaps around doors and windows or due to lack of insulation will likely reduce runtime.
Ease of Use
In most whole-house humidifiers, a built-in sensor called a humidistat (also known as a hygrometer or hygrostat) monitors humidity levels and turns the device on and off to maintain a consistent level. In addition to providing the level of comfort desired, it minimizes water and power consumption.
Console whole-house humidifiers usually have water-level monitoring and will turn the machine off to prevent damage if it runs dry. Refilling may be possible on the unit, but some require that the tank is filled from a faucet. Bear in mind that a gallon of water weighs more than 8 pounds, so two small tanks might be more convenient than one large tank.
The following extras may affect efficiency and ease of use.
- Different fan speeds are a huge benefit, allowing the user to boost humidity quickly to combat dry air or run the device more quietly.
- Handles and wheels aren’t only fitted to small portable humidifiers; they can also be found on larger models that might be used in open rooms, guest accommodations, or office spaces.
- Digital controls support the setting of humidity levels with absolute precision. This allows consumers to monitor and adjust performance with much greater accuracy than is possible with a manual dial.
- Smart controls via phone apps and integration with smart-home management systems are becoming increasingly popular. Currently, however, the choices are limited.
Now that you are more informed about how to choose the best whole-house humidifier for your particular situation, you may have additional questions. Below are answers to some of the most common concerns about this type of humidifier.
Q. Can a humidifier help with health issues?
It certainly can. A humidifier can have a positive impact on skin issues and respiratory problems, and it can help suppress some types of viral and infectious diseases. Dry air can also impact pets, so they feel more comfortable with ideal humidity, too. However, people who have specific health issues should always consult a medical professional before installing a humidifier, as these devices may not be appropriate in all cases.
Q. Are whole-house humidifiers safe?
Yes, whole-house humidifiers are safe when properly installed and maintained. Mold has the potential to cause problems, but it shouldn’t occur if the humidifier is properly looked after, allowing the correct indoor relative humidity to be maintained. Parts of an HVAC humidifier may get hot to the touch. Evaporative humidifiers use cool air, so these models are usually considered safe for pets and animals.
Q.Do whole-house humidifiers cause mold?
Humidifiers can cause mold, but the problem is generally easy to prevent. Mold usually grows when humidity is higher than normal. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that homes should ideally be between 30 and 50 percent humidity, which is the range most of these devices cover.
Mold shouldn’t normally grow within these parameters. Stagnant water, however, can also cause problems, so users should clean tanks regularly and empty them when not in use.
Q. What is the recommended indoor humidity level?
The ideal indoor humidity level for health and comfort is generally considered as between 40 and 50 percent. This level will usually help ease cold and allergy symptoms and make breathing easier while not making the air so humid that it promotes mold growth. It also helps prevent wooden furniture and hardwood floors from drying out. Of course, personal comfort always has an impact, and many of the best whole-house humidifiers give precise control that lets users set humidity levels to their own preference.
Q. How often should I schedule maintenance for my whole-house humidifier?
Maintenance very much depends on the type of humidifier, and each manufacturer will offer a schedule to help achieve maximum benefit. Some filters need to be changed every 3 months. Steam chambers usually last 6 to 12 months. Humidifier pads are usually replaced annually.
Q. How long do whole-house humidifiers usually last?
Though there are a number of variables that make it impossible to give a precise answer, console units would be expected to last 5 years or more. Evaporative humidifiers have filters or wicks that usually last no more than 3 months.
The majority of HVAC-mounted models have a life expectancy of around 10 years. Bear in mind periodic maintenance is usually required, and an annual service is usually recommended for HVAC models, and some components may need to be replaced at that time.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.