Humidifier Research: Is a Whole-House System What You Need or Will Portable Work?

Now that winter’s receding into the rearview mirror, you’re likely already forgetting how dry your home got during the heating months. But now might be a good time to rectify that issue before it completely slips your mind over the summer. Most experts agree that an optimum humidity level for a residential setting is about 50 percent, and during the winter, it can fall well below that level. If you’re interested in humidifying your home next heating season, but are unsure of the differences between a whole-house or portable humidifier, the following comparative guide may help you.


  • Humidifier Research: Is a Whole-House System What You Need or Will Portable Work?Whole house. Typically, a whole house humidifier is less expensive than the number of portable units required to humidify your entire home; however, installation will require the services of an expert HVAC contractor.
  • Portable. If you have a localized need for increased humidity, such as a room that gets particularly dry, a portable model will be the way to go, and will cost much less than a whole-house unit.


  • Whole house. Because a whole-house humidifier is integrated with your central HVAC system, and draws water from your home’s water supply, you never have to worry about it running dry.
  • Portable. Portable humidifiers range in size from desktop models to large freestanding units on wheels that are capable of humidifying a family room or other large room; however, frequent refilling of water is necessary.


  • Whole house. Whole-house humidifiers may collect mineral deposits, so careful cleaning at the end of the heating season (when you’re using the humidifier more) is generally necessary. Water panels may require infrequent changing.
  • Portable. Portable humidifiers must be constantly refilled, and the reservoir must be kept particularly clean to avoid spewing bacteria into the air.


  • Whole house. Because a whole-house humidifier is integrated with your central HVAC system, it operates almost soundlessly in the background.
  • Portable. Portable humidifiers tend to generate quit a bit of noise.


  • Whole house. After installation, most whole-house humidifiers operate for just pennies per year.
  • Portable. Day-to-day energy requirements may cause a noticeable increase in your utility bills, especially if you operate multiple units.

Other advantages to portable units include the ability to take them with you if you move, and the ability to target very specific areas (an office cubicle, for example); however, large portable units can be bulky as well as very heavy, even on wheels.

For any questions you may have regarding humidifiers, or for any other HVAC questions you may have, please contact us at Geisel Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Cleveland, Ohio about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).  For more information about humidifiers and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

For those Do it Yourselfers who would rather take control of your own indoor comfort, you can shop our online store for replacement parts, products and accessories!   

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