As Fall will sadly be passing by sooner than it should and what sounds like another harsh winter is getting ready to unleash upon us, I can’t help but smile a little in anticipation. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of snowy, icy roads, trudging through snow and slush, shoveling sidewalks, and clearing the driveway, not to mention bone-chilling temps, is the farthest thing from my list of winter joys. However, after enduring winter upon winter of dry uncomfortable indoor conditions, the dry itchy and cracking skin that comes with that, and the constant, futile attempts to counter that with room humidifiers, last winter changed all that.
You see, last January, we finally said enough and embarked down path to the whole-house humidifier. Let me share our story so you too can decide whether enough is enough.
Research & Outreach
Like most, I started researching online, first by educating myself on whole-house humidifiers, followed by whether I thought it was something I could install myself. On the research front, of course, the information ran the gamut, from “worthless, don’t bother,” to whether the “bypass humidifiers” or the “steam humidifiers” were best. I’m not sure this will leave you any more certain on a decision than I was, so ultimately it still probably comes down to your own gut instinct.
I can only say that we had reached our limit and were ready to at least try this and hope we made the right choice. The only thing I still ponder is whether a steam humidifier would have been more efficient, environmentally speaking, as the amount of “run through” water on the bypass (water panel) type was more than I ever imagined it would be…it is literally like turning a faucet partially on. I’ve at least rationalized part of this with the idea that, because we are on a well/septic system, that any wasted water is simply being returned from where it came.
The only thing left was to decide whether I should attempt to install it myself. While I, on occasion can be handy, to use the actual phrase “handyman” with reference to myself might be taking liberties. Yes, I did change out our kitchen faucet and have replaced all of the working components of our toilets. And I have replaced all of our electrical outlets, switches, installed some ceiling fans as well as installed a number of lighting fixtures, both inside and out. However, installing a whole-house humidifier brings together both elements of plumbing and electrical, not to mention involving primary ductwork and one of the more expensive operational components of the house, the furnace. Your mileage may vary, but I had to draw the line on this one.
Calling in the Professionals
So back to the web where I submitted a few online forms at a handful of HVAC websites. I sat back, waiting for the responses to pour in. And waited. Apparently, it was a good time for HVAC businesses as most seemed too busy to even bother telling me how busy they were and that they didn’t need my business. I did get a couple of responses though, so we were around 40-50% here. One of which I went back and forth with and a couple of times thought he was going to stop by to assess our needs and provide an estimate. That never happened. The other response was from Approved Comfort. I’m thinking it was rather quickly, possibly the day I submitted the request, but I don’t honestly remember. At this point, the fact they responded was worth points anyway.
I was a little surprised that it simply came down to some basic details of our house over the phone versus an onsite assessment, but with that, I got a firm quote on the pricing and we were scheduled for installation.
Being, I believe, somewhat peak season, no surprise when I got a call the day of installation to be told that the technician scheduled for our install was running behind on another job. They were happy to reschedule, otherwise, they could still come out that day if it worked for us. But being notified ahead of time that someone is running late and given the option to keep the appointment or reschedule isn’t really something I could get too upset about, given the more common and typical alternative.
I received another call, late afternoon, informing me that they were again sorry for the delay. I was told that one guy could be there within 30 minutes or so to start and that the technician was finishing up the other job and would be along within the hour or so, but being a Friday heading into the evening, they wanted to make sure that this didn’t conflict with any plans that we may have had. I was a little surprised that there was no hint of trying or even pressure to reschedule.
While I wasn’t thrilled about dragging anyone’s day out longer on a Friday than necessary, after looking so forward to the proposed benefits of this moisture-injecting masterpiece, I was even less excited about waiting through another weekend without. Let them come.
They showed up, one followed by the other as expected, and began their various duties. At some point, the assistant, for lack of a better term, left and the technician continued with the installation. It went on for some time and I have to admit, I was feeling a little frustrated and also sorry for choosing to continue with the installation that day as we were hitting the 7:00-7:30 mark. At that point, we had reached a stopping point, and unfortunately, the only additional moisture to be found was in the glass of Scotch I had poured.
Surprisingly, the technician was quite happy to arrange to come out first thing Saturday morning…and I should mention again that this was basically a fixed price job, so this wasn’t a “premium rate” Saturday visit. Sure enough, Saturday rolled around and he was back as promised. Turns out, the wrong controller was sent along for the humidifier unit. Unfortunately, this also meant that the fancy digital one wasn’t going to work for us, and instead, we needed the very basic, manual analog version.
With the right controller installed, we were up and running. I appreciated that the technician then took the time to give me a quick run-through on operation, not that it was exactly rocket science, and also told me that it would take a day or so before we would even notice a change, and then a few days after that before it would really reach the proper humidity level.
Sure enough, we noticed a nice improvement, that is, no longer getting shocked every time we turned on a light, after a day or so. Then greatly improving a few days after that, at which point we started seeing water condensing on the windows and knew it was time to dial the controller back a little each day until the condensation stopped.
While there were plenty of things to dislike about winter last year, I can honestly say that from February on, the humidity and overall comfort within our house were not one of them.
Overall, we are thrilled. Was it more expensive than DIY? Of course. But when you factor in the time, which is worth something as well, and the risk of DIY damage, we felt it was a fair and reasonable price. Was it without issue? Of course not, but is it ever? Rather, I was impressed at how the issues were addressed…timely and without additional expense. The technician arranged to come back the next morning, rather than sometime next week. They were clean and courteous. We were given a couple of discount coupons for any emergency needs we might have.
We get a couple of phone calls a year, pre-Summer and pre-Winter for inspection and tune-up for the air conditioner and furnace, respectively. These aren’t hard-sales pitches or repeated efforts, literally one courtesy call and message for each.
The only issue otherwise was that I was told that there would be a scheduled follow-up visit for someone to come inspect the installation, which never happened. But everything seems to be working fine and I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could call and have that done. Again, not something that stands out as a big negative.
So, if you are dreading the coming winter and the dry, cracking skin that follows, I’d highly recommend looking into a whole-house humidifier. Winter is bad enough outside without being able to retreat to the comfort of the indoors. This truly is one of those, “I only regret not doing it sooner” things. You may want to check with friends and neighbors for recommendations, but regardless of those responses, I’d recommend giving Approved Comfort a call as well.
Be sure to check out the Approved Comfort (now part of Official Heating & Cooling) listing page, and if you have your own experiences, please add your review.