Central Humidifier Operation and Annual Maintenance Tips
Do you have a forced air furnace heating your home during the winter? Do you also have a central humidifier attached to your furnace? What you may not know is that in order to reap the maximum benefit from your central humidifier, there are some important tips and service reminders to keep in mind as your furnace starts seeing regular use each year. Using your furnace can mean big changes to the humidity in your home, so keeping your humidifier working at peak performance is a must for achieving the best indoor air quality and the most comfortable indoor environment.
While Save Home Heat Company can’t authorize you to work on your own humidifier or make professional recommendations other than hiring a skilled technician, we’re glad to provide you with information that should benefit you as the weather shifts into the heart of the heating season. We’d be the first to admit that many of our customers replace their own humidifier pads (as well as furnace filters), and we certainly don’t go out of the way to discourage that practice. Our primary goal in offering this disclaimer is, of course, to ensure your safety.
A Few Operating Tips
Is The Humidifier Back ‘On’ For The Season?
If you also have central air conditioning, make sure your humidifier was turned back ‘on’ at the humidistat control when you switched your thermostat to the heating mode after the cooling season. This a ‘dry air’ symptom we see more often than you’d think, and is completely avoidable with detailed annual maintenance. Potentially making matters worse, when the AC gets turned back on in the spring or summer, if you forget to turn the humidifier ‘off,’ that can cause your AC system to freeze-up, taking it off line for the better part of a day. To avoid these situations, we highly recommend an annual maintenance agreement to help assure trouble-free comfort, year round.
Get In Tune With The Humidistat Control
Your humidistat control operates the humidifier much like a thermostat controls the heat in your home. The optimal humidity level varies throughout the heating season, but a general rule of thumb is the colder it is outside, the lower your humidistat should be set. The humidistat is usually located either in the mechanical room adjacent to your furnace, or upstairs near your thermostat. In some cases, in particular many newer model programmable controls, the humidistat function is incorporated in the thermostat itself.
To maintain the right humidity level in your home, be sure you understand how the humidistat control for your system operates. Automatically adjusting humidistats certainly have benefits, but even in these cases, it’s a good idea to be aware of how to adjust the range it’s operating in, in order to customize performance for your specific home environment. Too much static electricity, flying dust, and itchy noses might mean that the humidistat needs to be turned up a bit higher, while water condensing on windows, for example, means you should turn down the setting. Don’t get carried away turning humidistat settings very far in either direction; rather, adjust it a little bit at a time and give the system time to catchup before deciding if more (or less) humidity is needed.
If your central humidifier is controlled by a manually adjusted humidistat, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of changing the setting as outdoor temperatures swing to different average daily levels (see the label on the control for recommended settings). Manual controls aren’t very common with new models of central units, but there are plenty still in use and operating just fine. We should mention, having a manual humidistat control located in the mechanical room down in the basement can be a bit bothersome. If you’d like to explore other control options, in the Denver-Boulder area, give our team at Save Home Heat Company a call.
The Benefits of a central home humidifier include:
- Improved indoor comfort levels
- Potentially lower heating bills
- Helps protect valuable wood furniture and products
- Reduce static electricity
- Reduce airborne dust
- Improved air quality
And Some Service Reminders…
Our team feels that the best way to assure the most effective, reliable operation is to have an experienced service technician perform annual maintenance on your central humidifier each year, preferably at the same time that annual maintenance is done on the heating system. The cost of adding this work to an annual maintenance plan is typically pretty reasonable. While a handy, careful homeowner may be able to accomplish much of what’s needed, in some cases, a visit by an experienced technician is necessary and may well be in your best interests.
Evaporative Media Replacement
Standard humidifiers such as bypass and fan-powered units, flow-thru or reservoir models – which require heat from the furnace in order to be effective, should have their evaporative media pads replaced regularly. The question of how often this should be done is something that an experienced technician can help you answer during a service visit. In some cases, due to significant use and/or water quality issues, the pad may need to be replaced every year, or in some unusual cases, even more frequently. In others, you may be able to use the same media effectively for as long as 2 or 3 years. There is no iron-clad rule of thumb, but it’s always better to replace the pad sooner than later, for best performance.
As we mentioned above, some handy homeowners may choose to service this type of humidifier themselves. For those folks, we remind you to absolutely unplug or turn OFF power to the unit before attempting any service at all, and to closely follow all instructions and warnings provided in the manufacturer’s paperwork.
Steam humidifiers are the other type of popular central home humidifier. While steam units are on the higher end of the installed cost and service range, these units are by far the most effective models, the only central units which offer the ability to provide reliable humidification, 24/7, regardless of your heating needs. Central steam humidifiers do not require heat from the furnace in order to do their job; just the furnace fan to deliver humidified air through the ducting system to the home.
The two main categories of steam humidifiers are reservoir-type units and canister humidifiers. Reservoir steam units typically feature an electric heating element immersed in a stainless steel reservoir of water, while canister humidifiers feature a high-performance evaporative canister in the heart of the unit. All steam humidifiers require a thorough, detailed annual maintenance procedure, which in some cases may involve routinely replacing OEM (“original equipment manufacturer”) parts. In some cases, a water filter may be incorporated with these types of systems, to protect the humidifier from the effects of hard water and assure the most reliable performance. Our team feels that this is NOT a type of unit that even a handy homeowner is qualified to service.
Is It Draining Properly?
Another thing to keep in mind is annual inspection of the drain attached to your unit. Central humidifiers typically incorporate some sort of drain line, often clear vinyl or PVC pipe, whether for regular use during operation or just for overflow protection. Close visual inspection should be able to determine if it’s fully clear and not kinked, or otherwise prevented from doing its job properly, and that the end of the drain line is properly and securely terminated (often at a floor drain or into a washing machine drain stack).
Consult the Pros
If you have questions or concerns about the state of your home’s central humidifier, in the Denver-Boulder area, give our friendly team at Save Home Heat Company a call and we’ll help you decide the course of action that makes the most sense for you. We’d be glad to quote a price for including your humidifier in a discounted annual maintenance plan covering your heating and cooling systems (as needed) – plans which also provide a close look from skilled SHH pros at other crucial home systems, your plumbing and electrical systems. If you’re interested in learning more about having a new central humidifier installed in your home, we can assist you with that, as well.