Furnace humidifier drum maintenance, operation and cleaning

A clean humidifier is a happy humidifier and a happy humidifier provides lots of moisture all the dry winter. Humidifier maintenance is easy enough but forgotten. Prepare your humidifier each year.

A humidifier provides comfort while helping to reduce heating costs. Proper humidity keeps noses soft, elbows from getting white, the plants smiling, the furniture tighter and rooms warmer. It also prevents static electricity, which keeps my computer from getting a little jumpy when I wear wool socks.

The preferred method of cleaning old scale and crust off the humidifier is with a humidifier descaler. Remove most of the water in the reservoir, and using an inexpensive brush coat all scaled surfaces. Then mix equal parts descaler and water and soak pads and or belts for about fifteen minutes. When clean, rinse all surfaces.

Note: if this is done in the spring instead of in the fall, it is much easier.

If you don’t want to run to the hardware store to purchase the humidifier descaler, household vinegar, which is acetic acid, does a suitable job. They both sweeten the humidifier that sometimes gets a little ripe.

Note: To make this job easier next time, use a humidifier water treatment every month or so this winter. They prevent lime scale buildup. It comes in a liquid or tablet form. The premium humidifier water treatment also inhibits odor causing bacteria and algae in drum and wick-type humidifiers.

Some humidifiers have a rotary drum that works in a reservoir of water. As the drum rotates it carries water up into the path of the furnace air. A foam pad on the drum is responsible for lifting the water up. The pads, filters as most of my customers call them, are easily replaceable when they get hard and crusty. Remember to take the frame or the manufacturer and model number to the store to prevent a “2-tripper”. (That’s two trips to the store for one job.)

Water level in the reservoir of drum humidifiers is crucial to efficient operation. A float assembly, not unlike a toilet ballcock, is adjustable. If adjustment is not working it is likely the washer has worn out. No, there is not a standard washer, bring the old one or risk a ‘3-tripper’.

Another style of humidifier is a flow-through. These units use a solenoid valve to control water flow over a media pad. One advantage of this type of humidifier is it always uses fresh water. The disadvantage is it discharges water every time it operates so drainage can be a minor concern.

Over time the media pad fills with lime deposits, thus reducing surface area for the water to evaporate. The top of the media pad and the drain tank can use a good cleaning every year like the drum type humidifier. The pads in these units come in as many sizes as the drum humidifiers so get the manufacturer and model, and or bring the old parts.