Furnace Humidifiers: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Central forced air heating is a modern marvel. It’s one of the most convenient and efficient ways to heat a home. Unfortunately, when it’s very cold out and the system has to work overtime, the air the system pushes out can be a little dry. It’s actually one of the most common complaints about forced air heat. Air in the wintertime is already drier than in other seasons, and heating the air also removes some of the moisture in it. The result is dry air in the home that some people find uncomfortable.

To solve this problem, some furnaces include a humidifier component. This humidifier can help to inject some moisture back into the forced air and make the atmosphere in your home more comfortable. Most humidifiers work by dripping water onto an evaporative pad. As air contacts the pad, it picks up residual moisture.

Coming at this from the angle of air duct cleaning, you can probably tell what we’re thinking: high-moisture environments create the opportunity for mold, and if mold develops in your furnace humidifier, the mold spores can spread through the rest of your ductwork.

Our advice? If you’re truly uncomfortable with the dry air in your home, first consider using one or more room humidifiers instead. These smaller units humidify the air around them but don’t affect the entire home system like the whole house humidifier. The problem with this solution is that it’s a bit less user-friendly than the “set it and forget it” whole house humidifier.

If you must use your furnace humidifier, use it sparingly. Start at the very lowest setting and use it for at least a day to see how the air feels, then, increase it from there, but try not to go over 30% humidity. It’s very easy to overdo it, and excessive moisture in the wintertime can lead to a host of other problems, including condensation, wood warping, etc.

In addition, because of the increased risks of mold, we advise that you regularly check your humidifier and clean it out with a cleaning solution that inhibits mold growth to prevent any problems.

If you start to notice a musty smell when your furnace kicks on, that may be a sign that you have some mold issues developing, in which case you’ll definitely want to turn the humidifier off and then get an air duct cleaning company to come check on your vents to analyze the extent of the problem.

If you have any questions on using your furnace humidifier, or think you may have mold issues because of it, get in touch with us for a consultation!