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The Alberta Humidifier Buyer’s Guide

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Humidifiers make many homes in Alberta’s dry climate more comfortable, but how do they work and what should you know before buying one? Whether you...

Posted by Ryan | December 22, 2022

Humidifiers make many homes in Alberta’s dry climate more comfortable, but how do they work and what should you know before buying one? Whether you’re adding a humidifier to your HVAC system for the first time or replacing an old unit, the Action Furnace team is here to help you learn more about these simple but often essential systems.

We’ve worked with whole home and steam humidifiers for years, and we’re happy to share our professional expertise with you to help make buying your next humidifier an easier process. Learn about humidifier prices, installation times, maintenance, and more below.

Humidifier attached to HVAC in Calgary basement

How Does a Humidifier Work?

The basic science behind an evaporative humidifier is really simple:

  • The humidifier’s tank contains water, which is used to soak the filter and make it damp.
  • Your HVAC’s fan blows air through the damp filter, causing the water on it to vapourize.
  • The water vapour then enters the air circulating throughout the home.

There are two main kinds of evaporative humidifiers—flow-through and drum versions. Flow-through humidifiers move fresh water through the system on a continuous basis to keep the filter wet, which drains away afterwards. Drum humidifiers are designed for the filter to soak up standing water from a pan.

Some humidifiers introduce variations on this concept. For instance, steam humidifiers use electricity to heat up the water in the tank until it evaporates, warming the air as well as adding moisture to it.

What Should You Consider When Buying a Humidifier?

Because the air in Alberta homes is typically so dry, adding a humidifier to your HVAC is a great way to make the interior more comfortable. But to get the most from your new humidifier, you’ll want to consider the following:

Humidifier Size

Humidifiers are designed with a range of capacities to accommodate the needs of different buildings. There are two main points you’ll need to consider to determine the right size humidifier for your home:

How Big Is Your Home?

The size of the area you’re trying to add moisture to plays a key role in how much capacity your new humidifier will need. Use the chart below to find out how much water your humidifier should hold to work properly in an average home:

Home Size (square ft)10001500200025003000
L per day of water11.3520.8230.2839.7549.21

To figure out how many litres of water per day your humidifier uses, you’ll need to know its output (generally measured in ml/hr). Then convert this number to L and multiply it by 24.

How Insulated Is Your Home?

The chart above assumes your home is average, but the capacity your humidifier will need can vary depending on how well or poorly insulated it is.

Here’s the chart for homes with loose insulation:

Home Size (square ft)10001500200025003000
L per day of water15.1426.5037.8549.5960.95

And here’s the chart for tightly insulated homes:

Home Size (square ft)10001500200025003000
L per day of water5.3012.1118.5524.9831.42

The charts above apply to whole-home humidifiers connected to your HVAC system. Not sure how well insulated your home is, or how to figure out how much water per day the humidifier you’re considering uses? Contact our comfort advisors and let us recommend a humidifier that will meet your home’s needs.

Humidifier Type

You’ll also want to give some thought to the kind of humidifier you purchase. We’ve touched on the two main kinds of whole-home humidifiers above—evaporative and steam humidifiers—but which one is best for you?

Evaporative Humidifiers

Evaporative humidifiers generally cost less up front than steam humidifiers, but aren’t quite as efficient. They also need to be cleaned on a more regular basis to prevent the accumulation of mould (although cleaning is easy).

Flow-Through vs. Drum Humidifiers

In our experience, most Calgary homeowners opt for flow-through humidifiers instead of drum models, since the constant flow of water through the system flushes out minerals and helps them stay clean for longer periods of time. Drum humidifiers are more prone to mould buildup as well, so they need to be cleaned more regularly.

Steam Humidifiers

Investing in a steam humidifier requires less maintenance in the long run and will use less water over time, although they typically cost more at the front end.

Where to Install Your Humidifier

Whole home humidifiers are generally connected to your home’s furnace. The humidifier will either be connected to the cold-air return duct or the hot air supply duct, depending on what kind of humidifier it is. When you contact us to have a new humidifier installed, we’ll be able to tell you the best way to connect it to your existing HVAC system.

Whole Home vs. Portable Humidifiers

Not all humidifiers are whole home versions—some humidifiers are standalone units with their own water tanks, which are generally plugged into electrical outlets and set up in the rooms they’re intended to moisturize. But these portable units lack the ability to add moisture effectively throughout the air in a home, meaning you’ll use a lot of electricity just to improve the comfort in a small space. We recommend investing in a whole home humidifier for the most comfortable and cost-effective experience.

Humidifier Cleaning & Maintenance

You’ll have to do some maintenance to keep your humidifier in good condition, depending on the kind you have. Here are the basics:

  • Every week or two while your humidifier is in use, power it down and remove the filter.
  • Visually inspect the filter for mould, which can indicate that it’s time to replace it with a new one.
  • Place the humidifier pad into a bucket of white vinegar or a solution of bleach and water. Let it stand for 20 minutes to an hour.
  • Scrub the inside of the humidifier with a soft-bristled brush afterwards and rinse it out, allowing all components to dry before using the humidifier again.

Click here for our complete guide to cleaning and disinfecting your whole home humidifier.

a young woman cleaning air conditioning system

Frequently Asked Questions about Humidifiers

How Much Do Humidifiers Cost?

On average, whole house humidifiers in Canada cost anywhere from ~$400 to ~$2000 once you factor in the installation process. Evaporative humidifiers for smaller homes tend to sit on the lower end of the spectrum, while steam humidifiers intended to moisturize larger areas will be more expensive.

To get an accurate quote for the kind of humidifier that will effectively moisturize the air in your home, contact us and let one of our experienced comfort advisors walk you through the options.

How Long Does Installing a Humidifier Take?

Installing a whole home humidifier attached to your furnace should only take a few hours. Our team will arrive, complete the installation, clean up the site, and leave within the day you’ve scheduled to have your humidifier installed.

What Are the Benefits of Humidifiers?

Adding moisture to the air in your home has several benefits for homeowners beyond comfort. These include:

  • Reducing the likelihood of irritated skin due to dry air
  • Improving sinus congestion and dry throat or nose symptoms
  • Helping prevent coughing, vocal fatigue, headaches, cracked lips, and bloody noses
  • Preventing wood furniture and hardwood floors from drying up

How Long Do Humidifiers Last?

Most whole home humidifiers last from 10 to 15 years with proper maintenance and service. Use the tips listed earlier in this article to keep your humidifier clean so that it can work efficiently and keep your home comfortable longer.

How to Know When Your Humidifier Needs Service

Your humidifier might not be working properly if you notice:

  • Electrostatic shocks when touching carpets or fixtures (a common sign of dry air)
  • Uncomfortably dry hair or skin, even when the humidifier is running
  • Coughing, sinus problems, headaches, nosebleeds, or vocal fatigue
  • Unpleasant smells coming from your HVAC (which can be a sign that your humidifier needs cleaning or that your filter needs to be changed)

Learn more about using whole home humidifiers to improve your home’s air quality when you reach out to Action Furnace and speak to one of our comfort advisors. We’ll be happy to help you find a cost-effective humidifier that can keep the air throughout your home comfortable.

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Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.

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