Whole House Humidification

January 27, 2011

With a house full of instruments, two 7-foot concert grand pianos and a violoncello being the primary ones, we have a keen interest in maintaining a good humidity level here at Casa Mark y Sibylle.

The pianos in particular would like a fairly constant 40% humidity year round. Here in central Kansas humidity is abundant in the summer months but rather scarce in the heating months. Forced air heating systems only dry the already parched air even more. For the first few weeks we tried a small room-sized humidifier that really couldn't begin to raise the humidity in the studio space, much less the whole house.

The studio is roughly 20 by 30 with a nine foot ceiling so there is a lot of air volume in just that one space to keep moist. We decided to get a whole house humidifier installed. My father has had a General attached to his furnace for several decades, and he knows of several other people who had the same model in their house. We called the local plumber/heating/ventilation guy and they recommended a General 1099, based on the size of our house.

The install took about three hours one afternoon last week. Midway through the process the installer mentioned that newer houses, which are well insulated and sealed, tend to not run the furnace as often and therefore won't run the humidifier as often. He offered to wire the control up to the fan as well as the furnace so that humidification would happen any time the fan was running regardless of whether the heat was also running.

We've run the fan for most of the day several times and managed to eek the humidity level up to about 40%, although it tends to hover a percent or two lower than that most of the time. The fan noise isn't terrible but one is aware of it droning on in the background after a while - especially at night when the house is quiet. We are willing to put up with the constant fan sound however, as without it we wouldn't be able to raise the humidity at all. With the solar gain today the house was a good 4º warmer than the thermostat setting and the furnace never ran.

Time will tell if we are able to continue to raise the average humidity level so that it never dips below 40%. For now it's good that we are able to keep things in that ballpark.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.