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Whole House Humidifiers Vs. Portable Humidifiers

If you go to any home improvement or department store this time of year, you’ll probably see a selection of portable humidifiers ranging from the small, tabletop variety to the larger free-standing versions. That’s because, during the winter, many people suffer the side effects of low humidity caused by dry, winter air and frequent running of their furnaces. 

But, how do you know if you need a humidifier? If you do, is it better to get a portable humidifier, or rely on a whole-home humidifier that connects to your heating system? At WM Buffington, we get all kinds of humidifier-related questions, so we would like to take a moment to discuss some of the things you should know and be aware of when deciding on a humidifier for your home.  

How to Know if You Need a Humidifier

Humidity is a way to describe the amount of water vapor in the air. Places such as Florida and Texas are known for having humid climates, whereas places such as Arizona are known for being very dry, or having little humidity. As a resident of Pennsylvania, you can expect the humidity to generally be somewhere in the middle. So, if that’s the case, why would you need a humidifier? 

In the winter, the air is naturally drier. That’s because air loses its ability to hold onto water as the temperature decreases. Combine this with the fact that most people run their home heating systems (which are also to blame for dry air), and you’ll quickly see why a humidifier is a good idea to have in the winter.  

Health Problems Related to Low Humidity

Humidity has a direct effect on your health and comfort. It’s suggested that a humidity level between 30 and 50% is ideal. When the humidity drops below this level, it can cause a whole host of problems that range from mildly bothersome to potentially serious health concerns. Some of them include:  

  • Itchy Skin
  • Dry Eyes
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Increased Coughing and Sneezing
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Poor Sleep

What Kind of Humidifier is Best?

If low humidity is affecting your health or quality of life, you might want to consider using a humidifier. Fortunately, you have a lot of options to choose from. Let’s start with the pros and cons of the two major categories of humidifiers: whole-home humidifiers and portable humidifiers. 

Pros and Cons of Portable Humidifiers

Portable humidifiers are freestanding units that can be moved from room to room. They come in all sizes and are popular because of their convenience and cost. That’s not to say that all portable humidifiers are budget-friendly. Some larger units can cost just as much, if not more, than their whole-home counterpart.   

Portable humidifiers vary widely in their size and features, but what is most attractive to most people is that you can pull them out when needed and easily tuck them away in a closet when you don’t need them. Plus, they run on their own power source and you can move them from room to room so you can increase the humidity where you need it most.  

Unfortunately, portable humidifiers also have their downfalls. One of the biggest is that they only cover a small area. That means, if you want to improve the humidity throughout your house, you’re pretty much going to need a humidifier for each room. Some humidifiers are so small that they don’t even cover an entire room – just a small area. So, unless you have a small house, or are only concerned with humidifying a particular room (such as your bedroom) you might be better off going with a whole-home unit. 

Other disadvantages of portable humidifiers are their water-holding capacity and maintenance. Since most have small reservoirs that need to be filled manually, they usually need to be filled every day or two - and this can turn into a big inconvenience. Secondly, portable humidifiers need to be cleaned regularly as they are prone to mold and bacterial growth. To keep your portable humidifier from spreading more than just clean, moist air you’ll want to change the water daily and do a thorough cleaning every few days. 

Pros and Cons of Whole Home Humidifiers

Whole-home humidifiers are units that are designed to do just as their name implies – humidify your entire house. They perform this function quietly and out of sight as they are usually built into your heating system. They provide a convenient way to control the humidity in your home and they do it more precisely than a portable humidifier. Not only that, but with a whole home humidifier, you won't have to worry about lugging containers of water across the room or spending 20 minutes every other day to clean it.

Although whole home humidifiers come with some clear advantages over portable units, there are some things you’ll need to consider. First, there’s the upfront cost. Whole home humidifiers are generally more expensive than smaller, portable units, and you’ll need a professional HVAC company to install them. Second, although they require less upkeep on your part, whole-home humidifiers still need to be properly maintained in order to prevent mold growth. 

Call WM Buffington for Whole-Home Humidifier Maintenance and Installation

Considering installing a whole-home humidifier in your home? Not sure the last time your humidifier had a maintenance call? At WM Buffing we service and install whole-home humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and more. Contact us to schedule an appointment!

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