Warm air heating systems are comfortable but very dry. In this episode, Richard Trethewey from This Old House explains how to choose the best humidifer for your home.
LESLIE: Well, as the heat goes on, the air in your house gets dry – I mean very dry – and that can make everybody feel very uncomfortable.
TOM: That’s right but there is a solution and it’s an appliance that works overtime this time of year. We’re talking about your humidifier and whether you have one, need one or just want to take care of the one that you have, we’ve got tips now from host, Kevin O’Connor, and plumbing expert, Richard Trethewey, from TV’s This Old House.
And Kevin, this is a pretty valuable appliance this time of year.
KEVIN: You’ve got that right. If you ever woke up in the morning with a dry, parched throat, you know all about the value of having a humidifier in your home. But Richard, with several types of humidifiers available, how do we pick the best one for our particular type of home?
RICHARD: Well, people generally think about the temperature of the air in a heating system but the humidity is very important for comfort as well. Most people feel that the right humidity is about between 30 and 40 percent relative humidity. Now, for the most part, I’m not a big fan of those drum-type systems on the side of a forced, hot-air furnace. You know, it goes around like a squirrel cage and it sort of lets this media dip down into some potentially gnarly water. And stand-alone steam systems are also available.
KEVIN: So what type of maintenance do we need to think about with humidifiers?
RICHARD: Well, any humidifier with standing water should be cleaned and disinfected really regularly. And steam systems require a little less maintenance but they still have to have a condensate line that runs to a drain.
KEVIN: Alright. Well, we’ve got a video of a steam humidifier installation and you can check that out on ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: Now, Richard, if you’re looking at a humidifier in your existing system – say it is one of the drum types – how do you clean it?
RICHARD: Well, they – sometimes there are – the drums have to come out, meaning you have to change the media, you have to get right down into that pan at the bottom. And sometimes, that pan is so corroded that it is really time to replace the whole unit.
TOM: What do you think of the types of humidifiers where there’s like an evaporator pad and the water is dribbling down vertically?
RICHARD: Well, that’s very similar to that wheel type; it just doesn’t have a moving part. And those are going to collect a fair amount of impurities, too; so, you really don’t want to have anything that has a lot of standing water and a place for the breeding of any bacteria.
TOM: So, for your money, steam is the way to go?
RICHARD: I’m pretty partial to it, yeah.
TOM: Richard Trethewey, Kevin O’Connor from This Old House, great advice. Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
RICHARD: Glad to be here.
LESLIE: You know and Tom, I’ve got a question for you. Now, what’s the best advice for people who don’t have a forced-air system and need to use a portable humidifier? I mean …
TOM: You mean, like Little Henry?
LESLIE: Yeah, well, and Henry’s mom and dad. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)
TOM: Well …
LESLIE: Are they just as effective and safe? Like do they do anything?
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yes, they can be but there are three really important things you have to remember: cleaning, cleaning and cleaning.
LESLIE: Ugh, I knew you were going to say that.
TOM: They get very dirty. Well, remember, as you use the – as the water evaporates, it leaves the mineral salt deposits behind and if you don’t clean that out of the evaporator pads, it really gunks up the works and it can really start to grow mold and bacteria. So make sure you follow manufacturer’s instructions – especially if you have a portable – and keep it very, very clean.
LESLIE: Alright. That’s good to know but – I mean, we just bought a portable one for Henry’s room and the instructions were like: “Every morning, please take the entire piece apart (Tom chuckles) and put this piece in the dishwasher. And scrub this one with this and that and take all these steps.” And I’m like, “Alright, maybe I’ll do that once every two weeks.” But I will clean it; just not every day.” (chuckles)
TOM: For more great tips from Kevin and Richard, be sure to tune into Ask This Old House, brought to you by Stanley, proud sponsor of Ask This Old House. Stanley – make something great.