Why do some contractors never offer their clients a humidifier? What are the concerns, fears, or misconceptions of humidifiers to the contractor? We asked our contractor consultants and here are their replies.

Ann Kahn of Kahn Mechanical, Dallas, noted, "Aside from the obvious fact that some areas are naturally humid and don't require humidifiers, a lot of contractors shy away from them for the liability involved. Also, some contractors just don't understand the benefit of offering add-on accessories like humidifiers, air cleaners, and setback thermostats when selling new systems."

"We offer a central humidifier on every warm-air heating job and even have our service department offer them as an add-on for customers they service - those that either don't have one or have an old-fashioned drum type," said Arthur Pickett of Royal Air Systems Inc., North Reading, Mass.

Location, Location, Location

Geography plays a role in humidity levels and, consequently, in how to approach the sale of humidifiers.

"Where we are in the Northeast, we recommend humidifiers," said Vince DiFilippo of DiFilippo's Service Co., Paoli, Pa. "The longer the heater is on, the more the air dries out. Some doctors even write a prescription for the installation of a humidifier to help with dry conditions in the home.

"We do not fear them [humidifiers]," DiFilippo said. "As long as they are maintained yearly and are the bypass type, they work great."

"Because of our great climate, we normally only quote humidifiers on high-end residential jobs when the client has artwork or other special needs," said Russ Donnici of Mechanical Air Service Inc., San Jose, Calif. "We do quote humidifiers on all clean room systems and critical commercial jobs.

"I think most contractors just haven't been educated on proper humidifier selection and application," he continued. "Most of the inexpensive residential humidifiers aren't that effective because they only function when the heater is on. It is especially problematic when a heater is oversized and has reduced run time."

Larry Taylor of Air Rite Air Conditioning Co., Fort Worth, Texas, stated, "Speaking on a regional case - depending on type of heat used [and] whole-house leakage rate, infiltration rate, or air changes per hour, etc. - there may not be much need for one in the Dallas/Ft. Worth market.

"With that said, it also comes into a physical fit issue. Many times on upflow systems, the closets are so tight we can hardly get the furnace and coil in, much less other accessories. Sometimes we don't even have the height to install a high-efficiency air cleaner."

"We rarely see humidifier applications in our tropical Florida climate," said Todd Morgan of Comprehensive Energy Services, Inc., Altamonte Springs, Fla. "It's kind of like selling ice to Eskimos.

"Dehumidification is a different story. We have some innovative methods of dehumidifying with heat pipes and tri-coil systems, in addition to the more typical method of dehumidifying with cooling and reheat."

"In our area, humidifiers are a real benefit to all," said Hank Bloom of Environmental Conditioning Systems, Mentor, Ohio. "In the commercial world, we have found that none of our customers want to pay for humidification or the maintenance to keep humidifiers operating in their office buildings.

"There are many other specialty rooms that need humidifiers for precise humidity control; then the customers will pay for that option."

What Do You Sell?

"We sell the Aprilaire 700 power humidifier if it will fit on the supply and Aprilaire 600 bypass type if it must go on the return duct," said Pickett. "Most of these installations require a pump to get rid of excess water, and we wire the safety switch on the pump to shut off the humidifier if the pump fails.

"There are a couple of options," he said; "either a manual humidistat that the customer changes based on outdoor temperatures, or the new temperature-compensating unit with the outdoor sensor."

"We still offer these accessories as part of our normal Comfort Accessories Package, along with duct cleaning, duct sealing, infiltration testing, different levels of air cleaners, insulation packages, dehumidifiers and humidifiers, thermostats, etc.," Taylor said. "We believe if you don't always offer them, the customer doesn't know.

"It's like winking in the dark. You are the only one who knows what you are doing."

"We offer, and heartily recommend, humidifiers with every proposal," said Steve Miles of Jerry Kelly Heating and Air Conditioning, St. Charles, Mo. "In fact, humidifiers are included in the package price of all of our upper-end systems (13-plus SEER).

"Unfortunately, the contractors that don't recommend humidifiers must not understand comfort and how important latent heat is to comfort in the heating season as well as in the cooling season," Miles said. "In my opinion, a high-efficiency air cleaner and a modern humidifier, properly maintained, are necessary components of a modern comfort system."

Publication date: 08/09/2004