Bypass Humidifiers: A Buyer’s Guide
This article on bypass humidifiers is part of our series focused on the different types of whole house humidification systems.
We highly recommend checking out our main guide that provides an overview and comparison of the key features for all the major whole house humidifier options.
This article will specifically cover bypass humidifier technology, pros and cons, typical applications, installation and maintenance recommendations.
Bypass humidifiers are one type of whole home system that gets installed into a home’s HVAC ductwork. They work by adding moisture into the air stream when the humidity drops below a set level, as measured by the humidistat. Excess water gets channeled back into the plenum via a bypass duct to prevent over-humidification.
Below we’ll dig into the details on how bypass humidifiers function, their benefits and downsides, tips for proper installation and maintenance, the top brands, and recommendations for choosing the right unit.
How Bypass Humidifiers Work
|Water supply||Water is supplied to the humidifier from a home’s plumbing|
|Evaporation||The water is evaporated into steam|
|Distribution||Steam is injected into the HVAC system’s supply ductwork|
|Humidity control||A humidistat monitors and adjusts moisture levels|
Bypass humidifiers integrate into the ductwork of a home’s forced air heating and cooling system. They consist of a water panel or pad installed horizontally across the supply plenum, often using a duct tee fitting. Some key features:
- Bypass duct – Excess water gets channeled here rather than into the air stream. Prevents saturation.
- Water panel – Absorbs water from the tray and evaporates it into the airstream when humidification needed.
- Solenoid valve – Controls water flow into the tray based on humidistat reading.
- Humidistat – Senses relative humidity and signals the solenoid when moisture needed.
As air passes from the HVAC system into the supply plenum, it flows through the humidifier water panel when the humidistat determines moisture needs to be added.
Excess water gets funneled into the bypass duct so only the required amount of humidity gets into the home.
Benefits of Bypass Humidifiers
Bypass humidifiers have some notable benefits:
- Energy efficient – The bypass prevents over-humidification which wastes energy trying to cool excess moisture.
- Prevent condensation – The controlled moisture level also minimizes window condensation issues.
- Effective for multi-level homes – Duct integration allows even humidity on all floors.
- Automated maintenance – New models have auto-flushing and cleaning features.
- Variety of capacities – Units sized for homes 2,000 – 6,500+ sq ft.
- Flexibility – Can work with hot water or steam heating systems.
The downsides of bypass humidifiers include:
- Higher install cost – $500-$1,500 range for equipment and professional installation.
- Need HVAC expertise – Proper integration into existing ducts is crucial and requires a specialist.
- Ongoing maintenance – Water panels need replacement every 1-2 years. Annual cleaning required.
- Older homes may need ductwork upgrades – Bypass systems require adequate space and airflow.
- Not as customizable – One unit for whole home, not room-by-room control.
Typical Bypass Humidifier Applications
Some common uses of bypass humidifiers include:
- Whole home humidification in cold winter climates where low moisture is a constant issue.
- Maintaining humidity in large, multi-story houses where portable units are insufficient.
- Commercial buildings like offices, hospitals, schools, museums to evenly humidify all connected spaces.
- Homes with updated, sufficient HVAC systems for integrating the humidifier.
- New home construction where ductwork can be designed to optimize humidifier performance.
Bypass Humidifier Maintenance Tips
|Replace water panel||Annually|
|Clean water supply line||Annually|
|Check drain lines||Twice a year|
|Inspect steam distribution||Annually|
- Professional installation is recommended to properly integrate the humidifier into existing ductwork. Costs range from $200-$600.
- Absorption panels or pads require replacement every 1-2 humidifying seasons. DIY’able but messy job.
- Annual cleaning to flush out mineral deposits and debris in the water tray.
- Inspecting for leaks around plumbing and duct connections. Seal any cracks found.
- Checking that bypass flaps/dampers are functioning properly each season.
Top Bypass Humidifier Brands
Some of the top names in bypass humidifiers include:
- Aprilaire – Leading manufacturer, range of capacities and features. Models like the Aprilaire 600M suitable for many homes.
- Honeywell – Reliable bypass humidifiers like the TrueSTEAM, integrated humidistat. Known for quality and support.
- DregeSteam – Commercial grade humidifiers built to handle large spaces. Higher price tag but robust construction.
- Carrier – Strong reputation in HVAC, bypass models integrate well with Carrier systems.
- Trane – Similar to Carrier, Trane bypass humidifiers pair best with their heating/cooling systems.
Key Considerations for Choosing a Bypass Humidifier
- Size the humidifier based on square footage, number of levels, and desired humidity range. Check manufacturer sizing guides.
- Evaluate your home’s current HVAC system – age, capacity, layout – to ensure compatibility.
- Consider automation features, capacity, run time, plumbing fittings, warranty period, and brand reputation.
- For DIY installers, Aprilaire and Honeywell have models feasible for self-installation if you have HVAC expertise.
- Budget for professional install costs if not doing it yourself. And remember to factor in ongoing maintenance expenses.
Installing a Bypass Humidifier: A DIY Guide
While professional installation is recommended, it is possible for handy homeowners with HVAC skills to install their own bypass humidifier. Here are the steps involved:
- Review the manual and installation diagram for your specific model. Account for any unique specifications.
- Confirm your HVAC system has adequate airflow and space in the plenum for the humidifier and bypass.
Mounting the Humidifier
- Turn off power and water supply before beginning work.
- Select the plenum installation location, typically high on the supply side.
- Cut a rectangular opening per dimensions in the plenum using tin snips.
- Mount the bypass tee fitting aligned with the plenum opening. Use sheet metal screws.
- Set the humidifier cabinet in place and secure using mounting flanges and screws.
Water and Drain Connections
- Attach the drain line tubing from the bypass outlet to the condensate pump line or HVAC drain port using provided hose clamps.
- Connect the water supply line to the fill valve using compression fitting.
Ductwork and Wiring
- Attach ductwork to the humidifier outlets and bypass tee outlet. Seal with aluminum tape.
- Connect wiring harness to humidistat control panel and power supply wire to 120V source.
Startup and Testing
- Reconnect power and water. Check for leaks and proper water flow.
- Power on the humidifier to verify humidistat, solenoid and fan operation.
- Adjust humidistat to desired relative humidity setpoint.
Take precautions working in tight plenums and allow time for careful installation. Follow all safety procedures when brazing, soldering, or cutting ductwork.
Overall, bypass humidifiers are an effective whole home solution when properly installed and maintained. The controllable moisture output and duct integration allows them to efficiently humidify homes in cold winter climates while minimizing window condensation issues. Just be prepared for the higher upfront investment and eventually replacing water panels. With a quality bypass humidifier from a reputable brand, you can maintain optimal humidity for many years.
How does a bypass humidifier work?
Bypass humidifiers have a water panel installed in the supply plenum that adds moisture into the airstream when the humidistat reads that humidification is needed. Excess water gets channeled into a bypass duct so levels don’t get too high.
What does a bypass humidifier do in an HVAC system?
A bypass humidifier integrates into a home’s ductwork to add moisture during heating cycles based on the humidistat reading. This balances humidity levels in the living space.
Where is the best place to install a bypass humidifier?
Bypass humidifiers are typically installed high on the supply plenum or ductwork so gravity helps excess water flow into the bypass duct as designed.
What maintenance is required on a bypass humidifier?
You’ll need to replace the water panel or pad about every 1-2 years. Annual cleaning to flush out mineral deposits is also recommended.
Are bypass humidifiers energy efficient?
Yes, bypass technology only adds the specific amount of moisture needed, minimizing energy waste from over-humidifying.
How long does a bypass humidifier last?
With proper maintenance like replacing pads and cleaning, a bypass humidifier will typically last 5-10 years before needing full replacement.
What size bypass humidifier do I need?
Check manufacturer sizing guides based on square footage and desired humidity range. Also account for home construction, number of stories, and HVAC capacity.
How much does it cost to install a bypass humidifier?
Expect $500-$1500 total for the unit and professional installation. DIY installation can reduce costs but requires HVAC expertise.
Can I install a bypass humidifier myself?
Some DIY-friendly models from Aprilaire and Honeywell allow self-installation with proper HVAC knowledge. But specialized tools and skills are needed.
Do bypass humidifiers waste water?
Minimally. The bypass recirculates excess water rather than wasting it, and the humidistat only activates humidification when needed.