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What's Wrong With Your Humidifier? The Questions to Ask Right Now

A whole-home humidifier can make the dry indoor air bearable again. But what happens when this HVAC accessory acts up? If your humidifier is on the fritz, take a look at what questions to ask next.

How Old Is the Humidifier?

Is the humidifier a new addition to your existing HVAC system or is it an older model? While age doesn't always predict humidifier failure, wear and tear from years of use can cause irreparable damage. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), the average home humidifier lasts for 12 years.

A 12-plus-year-old humidifier that leaks, doesn't keep the air moist, or has another similar issue may require a replacement. Contact a qualified HVAC professional to diagnose the problem and recommend a course of action. If the contractor feels your older whole-home humidifier will cost more to repair than a replacement or will require future repairs, you should invest in a new appliance.

Is the Evaporator Pad Clogged?

Over time, the humidifier's filter or evaporator pad can clog with mineral deposits. Ideally, you would replace the filter or pad before it clogs with sediment. But if you forgot to switch out the pad last year (or at the beginning of this year's heating season), you could run into problems.

A clogged filter pad can cause a blockage that leads to a leak. If you suspect the pad is the problem, replace it. But if the unit still won't work properly or leaks, you'll need an HVAC technician to repair the humidifier.

Can the Humidifier Drain Properly?

A clogged evaporator pad isn't the only potential reason for a leak. Without the ability to drain properly, water can back up into the humidifier's system.

Most humidifier drainage problems result from a clogged or backed-up drain line. If the line isn't positioned correctly (it requires a downward slope), has kinks in it, or is filled with debris, it won't drain. Reposition the drain line, make sure it isn't filled with air bubbles, and flush it out to remove buildup. If these steps don't do the trick, an HVAC technician can repair or replace the line.

Is There a Valve Leak?

The drain isn't the only potentially leaky part of a whole-home humidifier. The solenoid valve allows water to enter the unit. The humidistat (the humidifier's version of a thermostat) controls this valve and tells the solenoid when to open.

Debris buildup, damage, or incorrect water flow can cause the solenoid valve to leak. Before you attempt to diagnose a valve leak, turn the humidifier off. Flush a clog with water to remove a backup. If this isn't the problem, or you can't pinpoint the cause of the leak, contact an HVAC technician for a professional fix.

When Was the Last Time You Cleaned the Humidifier?

While whole-home humidifiers require little maintenance, you will need to clean the unit to avoid excessive mineral deposits — especially if your home has hard water.

The longer you let mineral deposits sit, the more likely it is the sediment will harden. Hardened deposits are difficult to remove and may cause premature system failure or result in the need for a replacement. The easiest way to reduce the risks of mineral deposits is to clean your humidifier every year.

Don't wait until the fall to clean your whole-home humidifier. This is an end-of-season job. Follow the manufacturer's directions, ask the HVAC technician how you should clean the unit, or dilute white vinegar with water to remove this season's buildup.

Does your whole-home humidifier need a repair or a replacement? Contact Service 1 Plumbing, Heating, & AC Inc., for more information.