Every aspect of HVAC systems received increased attention from homeowners during the pandemic as they sought solutions to improve comfort and IAQ. One device that does both is the humidifier. As a result, sales of these units have surged since the spring.
Josh Crouch, director of sales for Professional Services in Port Washington, Wisconsin, said his firm received more calls about humidifiers this past fall than they have ever had. Crouch attributes the increased interest to people spending more time than ever in their homes.
“When you are only home for three hours and then you go to bed, you don’t care as much,” Crouch said. “But when you’re working from home all day and you’re constantly getting [electrical] shocks, your nose is dry, you want to get it taken care of.”
DRIVERS OF DEMAND: Allan Feys of General Filters said demand for humidifiers is driven by increased interest in IAQ and booming new-home construction. Courtesy, General Filters
Comfort definitely plays a role in humidifier sales, but IAQ may play an even greater role. Several studies show indoor humidity levels influence the spread of coronavirus. ASHRAE has found that 40% relative humidity seems to provide some protection against the virus.
“There has been a marked increase in humidification product sales since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Allan Feys, director of marketing and business development at General Filters. “The effects of humidity controls on IAQ has become a pretty important topic at the homeowner level.”
Feys said 15 years ago, if you asked a group of 10 people about IAQ, one might know what you were talking about. Last year, it might have been half. This year, Feys said, almost everyone would know what IAQ is.
Perfect Timing for New Humidifiers
General Filters usually sees an uptick in humidifier sales in the fall, but this year sales jumped in the spring. That was perfect timing for General Filters, as it was rolling out two newly redesigned units — a new evaporate bypass humidifier and a new steam humidifier.
“We have new customers for the new product that we’ve never sold to before,” Feys said.
He described both as a “significant reimagining.” The new humidifiers take up much less space than the units they replaced.
Humidifiers in general, like all HVAC technology, have been advancing in recent years. Mindy Wetzel, product marketing manager at Aprilaire, said one of the biggest changes has been improved controls. Many consumers still think of humidifiers with manual controls that need direct input for the homeowner. Wetzel said today a homeowner can experiment to determine the ideal humidity setting and then set the level. After that, the humidifier itself determines the output based on the outside temperature.
Of course, that implies consumers think of whole-home humidifiers at all. Wetzel said a survey her company conducted of contractors and consumers found most people think of humidifiers, they think of the single-room units bought at the local drugstore. She said Aprilaire is working with contractors to train them on how to get the message to people that they can have the same level of comfort and protection through their entire homes.
All At Once, Everyone Wants Humidifiers
Wetzel said her company saw a dip in demand last spring when the entire economy seemed about to shut down for an unknown duration. But by mid-summer, orders from distributors came pouring in. Aprilaire set a record for humidifier sales in July.
The company had predicted an increase in sales, but executives had expected a more gradual increase. Instead, everyone wanted product at once, Wetzel said. As a result, Aprilaire had to put humidifiers on backorder for the first time in the company’s 60-year history.
“We’re really excited that so many people are making that link between protecting their families from viruses and having proper humidity in their homes,” Wetzel said.
Aprilaire caught up its supply with demand, she said, and no longer has units on backorder. Wetzel does expect interest to remain strong even once the coronavirus pandemic subsides. She said people are now more aware about the role humidity plays in their health.
This includes more than virus protection. Aprilaire’s survey found considerable interest in how humidity improves “sleep hygiene.” This is the recent trend of people seeking health benefits from a more restful night’s sleep. Wetzel said one way to do this is by avoiding being woken in the middle of the night by a dry throat.
New-home construction also helps humidifier sales. More new homes are being built now than at any time in the past decade, and Feys said many of them will come with whole-home humidifiers as part of the HVAC system.
Of course, home builders don’t always spend the most on units. That comes from consumers replacing and adding humidifiers. Feys said more consumers are willing to spend for better humidity. General Filters’ steam unit is more expensive than its evaporate unit, both in terms of upfront and ongoing costs. Consumers pay the extra for more reliable humidity. And that’s often what they want these days, regardless of the expense. Steam humidifier sales have never been higher, Feys said.
“We’re really excited that so many people are making that link between protecting their families from viruses and having proper humidity in their homes.” — Mindy Wetzel