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What Is the Right Winter Setting for Your Whole House Humidifier?

Up. Down. Wet. Dry. Windy. This is Ontario Canada’s unpredictable winter season at a glance. Just when we think we know what is to come, it changes again.

This can make winter the most difficult season for staying healthy. Your sinuses – the gateway to accessing the interior of your body – can’t keep up with the increase in threats plus the chronically changing environmental conditions.

Too much damp encourages mould and mildew. Too much dry hangs out the welcome sign for cold, flu and COVID-19 droplets to come in and make themselves at home.

Adding a whole-house humidifier can keep you healthier all year long. But in order to stay protected, your central humidifier setting must be right for the season. Learn what to set your humidifier at in winter.

Pre-COVID Winter Temperature Indoor Humidity Guidelines

In past years, general guidance has suggested aiming for indoor air relative humidity at twice to three times the actual air temperature.

Here are some examples:

  • If the indoor temperature is 0 to 10 F (-17 to -12 C), set your humidifier for 20%
  • If the indoor temperature is 10 to 20 F (-12 to -6 C), set your humidifier for 25%
  • If the indoor temperature is 20 F (-6 C) or greater, set your humidifier for 30%

However, as the global pandemic continues to unfold and evolve, that guidance has changed.

Post-COVID Winter Temperature Indoor Humidity Guidelines

Virologists have discovered that humidity can be a major player in reducing the transmission of airborne viral droplets. Heat won’t do it. Neither will the ever-present cold.

But with sufficient amounts of ambient humidity, viral particulates can’t live as long or travel as far to infect us.

Today’s guidance reflects this.

As of 2021, the new goal is to maintain 40 to 60 percent relative humidity indoors at all times. This is already being done in many research laboratories and COVID-19 hospital wards. Increasingly, businesses and homeowners are also opting to follow suit.

So how does this translate to setting up your whole-house humidifier in winter? And what do you need to know about adjusting your humidifier settings?

Identify Your Specific Type of Whole House Humidifier

The best humidifier setting for your personal whole house humidifier system will depend on what type of system you own and how it is set up. So first, you need to be sure you know what type of whole house humidifier you have.

There are two main types of whole-home humidifiers: 

  1. Steam Humidifier 
  2. Flow-through Humidifier

 Let’s review the major features of each humidifier type.

Whole-House Steam Humidifier

Whole-house steam humidifiers inject steam directly into the air.

Steam humidifiers don’t need to be connected to your HVAC blower to do their job. A steam humidifier also has its own inbuilt heating element that converts water to steam. Steam humidifiers also typically have two settings: automatic and manual.

The most interesting feature of a steam humidifier is that it can be used in homes and workplaces that do not have forced air systems or air ducts in place.

Whole-House Flow-Through Humidifier

Whole-house flow-through humidifiers are designed to work in tandem with your home’s existing forced-air HVAC system.

Flow-through humidifiers don’t need their own heating element. Rather, they make use of a bypass valve that sends the warmed air across a humidifier pad that adds back moisture to the air before it gets pushed out through the air ducts for distribution.

Some flow-through humidifiers use a seasonal damper system with two settings: “summer” and “winter.”

Newer flow-through humidifiers have lots of added features, such as evaporative technology for water conservation and automatic digital settings.

If you still are not sure what type of whole house humidifier you have, scroll down to the last section here and contact us – we are happy to help!

Choosing the Best Humidifier Setting for Winter in Canada

Many whole-home humidifiers have dials (or the digital version of the same) numbered 1 through 7. These settings might appear to correspond to the amount of humidity, but actually relate to the type of insulation in your home.

In most cases, your humidifier will come with out-of-the-box presets that will maintain indoor air relative humidity at 35 percent when the indoor air temperature is 70 F (21 C). This preset will hold true as long as the temperature outside is 20 F (-6 C) or higher.

However, many other factors can also influence how much humidity is present in your indoor air, including:

  • Weather
  • Airtight construction
  • Ceiling height
  • Room size 
  • HVAC age
  • Thermostat preferences

For example, the Coleman humidifiers and Aprilaire humidifiers we carry include a settings guide in the user manual.

You will notice different outcomes for each of the settings (1 through 7) based on the temperature of the air outside. You can change the amount of relative humidity in your indoor air by adjusting this setting up or down as the outside temperature changes.

Here is an example:

Let’s say the temperature outside is -10 F (-23 C). Setting your whole-home Aprilaire humidifier to “7” will deliver 30 percent relative humidity. But then let’s say it gets warmer outside and the temperature is now 10 F (-12 C). If you want to keep 30 percent relative humidity, you would need to adjust the dial to 4.

Shipton’s CleanAir Solutions Is Your Trusted Air Quality Expert in Hamilton Ontario

Shipton’s CleanAir Solutions has been serving our customers in Hamilton, Ontario, and surrounding areas for nearly a century!

Have you inherited a whole-house humidifier along with your home? Are you ready to upgrade from low quality portable humidifiers to a central humidity system for your whole house? Do you need assistance maintaining or setting your whole-house humidifier?

We can help! Give us a call at 1-905-549-2470 or visit us online for safe, fast, contact-less free estimates and assistance.

We know how important it is to stay comfortable during the summer months, but we also know that keeping your home warm in the winter can be just as important. If your HVAC equipment isn’t working as it should, this typically simple task can become a monumental challenge. That’s where we come in.

Whether you need a new furnace and air conditioner or general HVAC services, Shipton’s Heating & Cooling Ltd team is ready to help!

We have been providing HVAC services for over 95 years. Having been locally owned and operated by the same family since our founding, our priority is helping our Hamilton neighbours.

We take pride in our work and strive to provide great service every step of the way.


HVAC Hamilton, ON