Portable Humidifier vs Whole House: Which One is Right For You?

by Garrett Yamasaki on Apr 05, 2021

Portable Humidifier vs Whole House

You've probably started noticing dry air within your house or office space, and the atmosphere is now becoming quite uncomfortable for you and your loved ones. While low humidity is common during winter, you don't have to sit in discomfort. A humidifier could be just what you need!

But there's one major problem: Many homeowners buying humidifiers for the first time, though overwhelmed, get confused on whether to go for portable humidifiers or whole house humidifiers.

Both humidifiers, despite each having a share of their pros and cons, are an excellent choice for boosting indoor moisture levels. Your decision entirely depends on your preferred specifications and preferences.

In this guide, we'll expound on portable humidifiers vs whole house humidifiers, when to use either of the humidifiers, and everything in between to help you decide which humidifier is right for you.

But before we get started, don't forget to out our Hey Dewy Portable Facial Humidifier to enhance your lifestyle!

Why is Dry Air a Major Concern?

According to Mayo Clinic, the ideal humidity levels range from 30% to 50%. If the levels are below 30%, house occupants gets exposed to health hazards. Why? The dry air irritates the skin, eyes, and nasal passage, welcoming dry skin, nosebleeds, and opportunistic infections. More so, it worsens conditions like asthma and allergies.

You'll need to prioritize remedies to avoid these problems. While some people opt for over-the-counter medication like eye drops, creams, and lotions, that might not be the best option if you're looking for a long-term solution.

Here's the good news: Investing in a quality humidifier and keeping it maintained properly solves the problem once and for all. You enjoy maximum comfort and keep your family, including furry friends, away from health problems.

Which One is Right for You: Portable vs Whole House Humidifiers?

Ready to spend on the best humidifier as winter approaches? Here's a detailed comparison of portable humidifiers and whole house humidifiers to help you make a sober decision.

Let's get started!

Installation Process

If you have installed a whole house humidifier before, a new installation shouldn’t worry you. However, having a professional who understands ductwork, plumbing, and electrical works to install your humidifier allows you to maximize the device performance without risking damage to the HVAC and humidifier. Many would argue that a DIY can help, but this won't work for everyone.

A portable humidifier is easy to set up, and you'll get it right in your first trial. All you need is to fill water as required, plug it in your room's socket, adjust the moisture output, and voila! Make sure you first finish setting it up before connecting to power to avoid any inconveniences.

Installation Costs

You need an HVAC to install your whole house humidifier perfectly, or else you'll have to part with around $120 to $1,000 and beyond for a fresh HVAC installation. You'll also have to buy a humidifier and hire a professional to facilitate the whole process. Although it's worth it, you'll need to spare a significant amount of money if you're buying everything at once.

That's not the case with portable humidifiers. They are reasonably valued, with prices starting from as low as $25. The humidifiers come complete, and you don't need someone to help you with the installations — it's strictly DIY.

If you're working on a budget, you now know what to do. Note that some high-end portable humidifiers with more complex features will require you to spend even way beyond $120.


How big is your interior space? If your house is around 2,500 to 5,000 square feet, a powerful whole house humidifier is the perfect fit. For extensive homes, several whole house humidifiers come in handy.

With these humidifiers, the humidity distribution extends across the house, and everybody will feel the impact evenly. With low humidity also affecting the wood floor spaces, this humidifier's extensive moisture distributions keep the floor solid.

Many people buy a portable humidifier to serve a particular room. But based on the type, some can serve the neighboring rooms but with little impact — the less than a gallon capacity and positioning won't make a significant change in your house. This option suits individual who needs to increase humidity levels in one or two rooms in the house. For maximum functionality, you'll need more than one portable humidifier.


You already know that a humidifier emits moisture to increase humidity levels. But how does that happen? The heating unit works closely with your whole house humidifiers. With the humidifier connected to your home water source, the heating unit activity leads to moisture accumulation in the ductwork. The furnace blower system coupled with the systems fan pushes the moisture across your house.

The portable humidifiers function on a simple principle. When connected to a power source, the humidifier fan gains momentum and blows water via a vent to form moisture that saturates in the air.

Mode of Action

Different brands produce varying humidifiers, with each ranging from high-tech humidifiers to a variety of different functions. Humidifiers can leverage evaporative, ultrasonic, or even steam mechanisms. Evaporative humidifiers have fans that blow settled water to generate moisture. A steam humidifier boils water to generate steam, while ultrasonic humidifies converts water to moistures through ultrasonic vibration frequencies.

Portable humidifiers adopt either of the mechanism. Based on the brand you buy, the performance will also vary. For instance, portable steam humidifiers cost more than spray humidifiers.

With whole house humidifiers, whether steam humidifiers or evaporative pad humidifiers, the performance is higher than portable types using similar mechanisms. These humidifiers get the most preference from home users because they give you the value for your money.


Portable humidifiers need daily maintenance to enhance the operations — failure to change the water every day breeds bacteria, mold, and other contaminants. Professionals recommend cleaning every three days, keeping the surfaces dry, and routine water change for healthy functioning.

For whole house humidifiers, you don't need frequent maintenance considering it's attached to the HVAC ductwork. Most installers will schedule maintenance once or twice every winter season. During this time, the technicians focus on cleaning or replacing the humidifier pads or evaporator panels, which hosts harmful debris and mineral deposits.

If your HVAC has served you for years, frequent maintenance will help prevent air leaks and maximize the humidifier's effectiveness. Without professional attention, the humidifier accumulates specks of dust which combines with moisture to generate molds. Since it's also dependent on water from the local supply, they're prone to minerals and salts deposits.

Buying a humidifier means being cautious about its maintenance, and that includes frequently scheduled maintenance. Note that despite the humidifier you opt for, maintenance is not exceptional.

Operation Costs

A portable humidifier may need frequent changes, especially if it's always in use. If you've used it for years, replacing it necessary. Old humidifiers attract bacteria growth. Again, you must connect the humidifier to electric power and change the water quite frequently. Remember you need to use demineralized and distilled water or invest in antimicrobial agents to get clean moisture, and this is an added expense.

With little maintenance and interventions needed, it means you will not spend a lot of money operating whole house humidifiers. They can serve you even for ten years without significant operating costs. The energy consumption is also moderate.


Whole house humidifiers get installed in a fixed position. You'll at no point impart damage on it physically unless it's intentional. With no close contact, the humidifier serves you for many years uninterrupted. Coupled with maintenance, you rest assured of continued functionality.

Now, imagine a scenario where you'll have to carry your portable humidifier around most of the time. Many things can happen; you can break it accidentally as you shift it to another room, children can play around and break it, or it might even topple and stop working. We're not saying this might happen to you, but the reality is many people experience such inconveniences—life happens!


Portable humidifiers work from a fixed position. Identifying the best spot where to place the humidifier and serve everyone in the house can be daunting. While you need to locate a central place to put the humidifier, occupants in different rooms will miss the comfort. That means you'll keep changing the positions. Sounds too much work, right?

Whole house humidifiers are quite convenient. It's a single operating device fixed in a particular spot—no need to refill water or carry it around to serve you in the specific room. Every profession installs a HVACs with humidifiers in mind, allowing for proper positioning and comprehensive coverage.

Ease of Use

Not everybody will view a portable humidifier an inconvenience. The small size makes it easy to carry the humidifier around. If you're into traveling around, portable units are a plus. For absolute performance, go for a humidifier with more than one speed and a couple of humidity control features.

Whole house humidifiers works automatically provided your furnace is active. It has a humidistat, which acts as a thermostat to regulate humidity. Most allows for smart control integration to prompt various changes from the comfort of your smartphone.


Whole house humidifiers don't distract you. They produce minimal noise, but it's also attached to the furnace. You won't hear distressing sounds from the outside even at high speed.

Well, it's totally different with portable humidifiers. The fan noise in some portable humidifiers is likely to disturb you before you get used to it. It's even worse when you have more than one big portable humidifier in your house operating at high speed. If you work from home and want to maximize your productivity, you might feel it’s challenging to be cooped up with the noise of a portable humidifier, unless you don’t mind white-noise in the background!


Portable humidifiers are positioned in the most frequented areas of the house, especially the living room and bedroom. That interferes with the house arrangement and general looks. Sometimes you can't decide where not to place your humidifier; you'll have to put it where it serves best, even when it means being unsightly to your room.

Whole house humidifiers are fixed to your HVAC and out of sight. If you value minimalism in your space, this humidifier should sound like a good deal.

Which Type of Humidifier is Right for You?

The answer is straightforward — both portable and whole house humidifiers are worth it and assure healthy and comfortable indoor air. By focusing on both the pros and cons of each humidifier you can decide on what would be the best fit for you.

If your location experiences long winter or episodes of dry air during fall and spring, you need a humidifier that's most effective for your space. That being said, investing in a whole house humidifier is the best decision you can make!
They tend to be more attractive, efficient, and effective than portable humidifiers when it comes to functionality, aesthetics, and usability. The humidifiers also add significant value and benefits to your home.

Portable humidifiers work best when controlling humidity in your small space. You can move with them around, and you don't have to break the bank to own one. If you're in a rented space and you probably won't be residing there for long, a portable unit will work best for you.

Not Sold on a Humidifier? We’re Here to Help!

Conclusion For Portable Humidifier vs Whole House

Maybe, maybe not! Luckily, we have different types of humidifiers that guarantee the right home atmosphere to maximize your comfort and health. If you have questions about the whole house vs portable humidifier, we’d be happy to listen to your needs and recommend the best humidifier, and more so, facilitate the installations.

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