Whole-home vs. Portable Humidifiers — What You Should Know

There is rarely just one way to solve a problem, but often there is a best way. When it comes to the health and comfort of your family, finding the most complete and effective solution is always important to you. Every homeowner faces on common problem: dry air. Luckily, there is more than one solution.

Individuals can relieve some symptoms of dry air with creams, lotions, eye drops and other over-the-counter products. However, these solutions treat only the symptoms and not the cause. If improper humidity is behind your family’s health and comfort issues, the best thing to do is raise humidity levels!  Room and whole-home purifiers do the same thing, but the results are not equal.

Despite their higher cost, portable humidifiers only deliver humidity to a limited space — usually a single room. Whole-home units, however, use the central HVAC system to deliver humidity throughout the house.

How the Contenders Measure Up


Room humidifiers add moisture by blowing a fan over a wick of cold water, or using a heating element to create steam. Both can change the humidity in a small space — as long as is there water in the tank. You will have to replace the water daily.

Whole-home humidifiers blow hot air from the furnace over a water panel to deliver moisture to the air evenly throughout the house as the home is being heated. Whole-home units are connected to the home’s water supply so there is no tank to limit capacity. Steam units plumbed directly to the water supply with fan packs provide whole home capacity in homes without central heat.


Portable humidifiers need nearly daily maintenance to remain safe and operational. The humidifier only works when there is water in the tank, however the tank can also be a breeding ground for mold or bacteria. This means the unit must also be cleaned at regular intervals

Whole-house humidifiers require only a change of the water panel once or twice a heating season.

Operation Costs and Noise

Portable humidifiers are often placed near the bed or in the living space and the bubbling of heated water or the fan noise can be intrusive.

Attached to the home’s HVAC system in a basement or closet, whole-house humidifiers are quiet and out of sight. Utilizing the operation of the furnace, whole-house units can humidify an entire house for less energy than portable humidifiers require to treat one room.

Dry Solutions from Aprilaire

Aprilaire has a full line of whole-house humidifiers specifically designed for the needs of your family. Best of all, our network of HVAC dealers can select and install the correct product for your home and HVAC system today!

Are you ready for a whole-home solution to dry air that improves health and comfort at an affordable cost with minimal maintenance? Find an Aprilaire expert near you.

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