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Whole-House Humidifiers Are Not Install-And-Forget Units!

People either don't know or aren't proactive about it but whole-house humidifiers are not install-and-forget units!

These appliances rank among the most unmaintained items found during home inspections.

You will see ads that tout them as "install-and-forget" appliances.  THEY ARE FAR, FAR FROM INSTALL AND FORGET!

Basically there are two kinds of whole-house humidifiers - those that spray a mist into the furnace air flow and those that have a tray of water and a turning drum that absorbs the water.  As furnace air blows over and around that wet drum it adds humidity to the house.

There are people who swear by them.  I am not sold.

Why am I not sold?  Because people are people.

What do I mean by that?

Simply that people are busy or think that some things are install and forget.

Homeowners can be an ignorant bunch!

That is not a slam.

There is a lot to know and to think about and to maintain when you own a home.

But doing things regularly are not on most people's radar.  That's just the way it is.

And if there is a service to maintain something in the home, like the HVAC system, the contract may, OR MAY NOT, include the humidifier.

This is a photo of a drum humidifier.  I see such caked stuff all the time.

What's happened?  It had not been maintained for years.  Water is full of minerals that accumulate if not removed.  How often should they be removed?  ANNUALLY.  And minerals accumulate where they can!  I see this build up on more units than I don't see it on!

But there is another issue.  The technical term is goopy crud.   In addition to mineral build up there is very often a build up of goopy crud.

Bacteria can develop in that goopy crud   that causes Legionnaires' Disease.  And a fungus can develop that causes humidifier lung.

All this can get blown around the house.  Yummie.

In addition to cleaning a whole-house humidfier EVERY YEAR for mineral deposits by soaking things in one of the mineral removers or white vinegar.  At the same time the appliance parts should be treated with some sort of bacteria stat to kill any goopy crud   build up.  There can be so much build up that the unit clogs and leaks also.

My recommendation:  if you have a whole-house humifier learn how to maintain it!  Or when your system is serviced make sure the humifier is on the contract.  If it isn't maintained it will break quickly anyway.  But you don't want anything untoward to get blown around the house in any event.  Goopy crud.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 29 commentsJay Markanich • November 09 2014 03:16AM

Comments

Yuck.  Good techinical term for that yucky mess.  I'm sure most people don't realize this.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 4 years ago

Debbie - when the words work, go with them!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

 Good morning Jay. A good argument for having good filters and periodic maintenance.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 4 years ago

I wouldn't have one.  Years ago my dear now-departed father-in-law installed one on our gas furnace.

It rained in the dining room.

Fact is, my home is very comfortable.  What I have in the basement though, is a dehumidifyer.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Michael - on an inspection a number of years ago my client was a surgical nurse who said that there had been an outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease at the hospital.  I said it was really hot for an early spring and they may have turned on the AC without cleaning it first.  She immediately got on the phone and guess what - they should have had a home inspection at the hospital!  She said they were getting right on the cleaning part.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Sometimes those are needed Lenn.  Your house has that mostly underground foundation wall and that huge hill.  It probably runs a lot.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Or you can disconnect the useless thing and never use it.

What I have seen is the over use of humidifiers. Since it gets fairly cold here, the air can become pretty dry. Which leads people to crank up their humdifiers. You see humans can not detect subtle variations in humidity, so the unit gets turned up to 11. Mean while all that moist warm air finds it way into the attic where it condenses. Now they have a rain forest. 

I actually looked at a house where water was running out the soffit vents. The house was two floor with two furnaces, with a humidifier each and they were both all the way up. The funny thing was, no one could figure out why this was happening. 

Like I said, useless.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 4 years ago

What a mess Jay.  Maintenance keeps everything working as it should.  Like a home filter they need to be maintained.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 4 years ago

Sounds like something that ought to be on the routine systems maintenance checklist and usually is not.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 4 years ago

We be bros Jim.  That's what I tell people.  And to put a piece of sheet metal over the hole (with an abundance of duct tape to seal it obviously...).  It's surprising how some people don't make connections.

Regular is regular James.  And many people are not.

S&D - it is on my spring check list.  I give a copy of that to people during inspections.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

homeowners are ignorant bunch...you say and I say...I have seen it first hand

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 4 years ago

Love that term Goopy Crud. I'm sure the word will come to mind frequently every time I go on a home inspection now. =)

Posted by Janis Borgueta, LIC RE Salesperson (Key Properties of the Hudson Valley ) over 4 years ago

I cant get the mental image of your goopy crud pic being blown through out a house.  Certainly will remember your post Jay next time I see one .  Hard to believe a hospital could be so ignorant about building maintenence.

Posted by Annette Thor, Residential & Commercial Real Estate Broker in CT (Connecticut Homes and Commercial Fairfield Cty,CT reinct.com) over 4 years ago

Yeah Jay, that legionnaires disease scared me years ago...none of this for me but will relay to clients that have one!!

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 4 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Thank you for the tip and mine is checked by my HVAC person each year.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 4 years ago

Excellent advice. I've seen that too many homeowners in general simply ignore annual maintenance on their mechanicals and then don't understand why they have a shorter life span for their mechanicals. Much cheaper to maintain than to fix or replace.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage ) over 4 years ago

Jay, if you install one and do not have a maintenance contract, think about not installing one. Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 4 years ago

I am surprised to hear they are used in your area of the country. You wanna see dry? Move to the southwest area of the contry! They use them here, which is why the use of evaporative (swamp) coolers is so popular.

PS - You gotta clean those babies!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 4 years ago

Gross and disgusting. I never met a whole house humidifier I didn't hate. 

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 4 years ago

Richie - it is what it is!  We homeowners is what we is.

Janis - when teaching it is important to create a mental image.

Annette - in all fairness, it was early spring and unusually hot.  But sure, things need cleaning when they need cleaning!  I'm betting they got right on it.

Ginny -  L.D. is not exactly common, but surely possible.  I am not a fan of whole-house humidifiers.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Check and clean Raymond.  Every year.

Nina - when I see a five year old house and a new HVAC system I can usually guess why.

Wayne - they really need to be taken apart and properly maintained.

Fred - people are sold so they can "maintain" their hardwood floors.  And I have no idea how to take care of a swamp cooler, but imagine it involves the sticky side of duct tape.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Scott - I can usually prove that by shining my light on the discharge tube!  Goopy crud...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Very good post feature worthly indeed. Thank you for sharing. have a great day  perfect post for up north 

Posted by Laura Filip, What can we do for you today? (Laura Filip Broker , Opening doors for All Seasons of Life ) over 4 years ago

Thanks Laura.  We like to share!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

     A family member put a humidifier with a tray in our mountain house, in the kitchen.  They forgot to turn it off when they left. 

    We arrived at the house a few months later.  The kitchen floor (tile over wood) was soaked.  It took days just to dry it out. 

Posted by Fred Griffin, on leave of absence from ActiveRain, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) over 4 years ago

I think you raise a lot of good points.  I am not a big fan of whole house humidifiers for all the reasons you suggest!

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 4 years ago

Not install and forget Fred!  When that type is turned off it should be drained of water first so stuff does not grow in the sitting water.

We are on the same team Joan.  But as I said, some people swear by them.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

Ugh, no thank you. I'd rather just buy those portable ones for individual rooms. 

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 4 years ago

That's what I tell people Suzanne.  If you have a need just humidify a room.  And empty it in the morning so water does not sit.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 4 years ago

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