I wanted to go over a problem I had this winter due to a new Humidifier I introduced in our home. The winter was so cold that the HVAC System had been sucking all of the moisture out of the air. This caused problems for my family including very dry skin, dry eyes and sinuses to the point I would wake up with headaches.
To try to get rid of the problem I went down to the store and purchased a ultrasonic humidifier that didn’t require any filters. I thought this was best after reading reviews where owners complained about mold buildup on the filters and the cost and availability of changing them.
Within 3 days there was improvement in our conditions. No longer was I waking up feeling like someone sucked all the moisture out of my body. I was able to reduce my water intake and stop using eye drops to cure a problem the heater was causing.
About 2 weeks later another problem arose I woke up to a cold home the temperature had got down to about 65F and it was 2am in the morning. My heater was running constantly but no heat was coming out of it. I went down to the heater expecting the worst because the cold winter had been making it run so much I thought maybe something was wrong with it.
Opening up the heater access door I saw that the light on the computer control board was blinking and it was showing an error light. I looked through the manual and found that it could be a number of things but it ended up being a clogged filter.
Having replaced the filter 2 months before I was wondering how it got clogged so fast. I looked closer at the filter and it seemed the filter was covered with a thin film of white dust not the normal fiberous gray or yellow dust you normally see.
From that point on I went through a new filter about every 3 weeks. This was very strange and after the second one I started wondering what this was all about.
I had been noticing a white dust on the furniture in the house and although I clean every weekend the buildup and type of dust seemed different. It looked like it was dust from sanding drywall.
Well I called one of the HVAC companies in the area and asked them if they had any idea. I told them that I had just started using a one gallon ultrasonic humidifier and their response was that I shouldn’t see a problem from it.
So, now its March and I am at the home store picking up my second package of heater filters. I am now on my third filter in just 5 months which seems a bit insane. Of course I am buying the really cheap paper ones not the $10 ones or the cheapo Fiberglass ones that are of no use. I am even considering buying the washable type but I decided that the type of dust in the filter probably wouldn’t be removed easily with washing or vacuuming.
After all this I started doing some web searches. Probably something I should have done earlier but you live and learn.
I found that there are at least a handful of other people that are complaining about the same problem. They recently purchased a ultrasonic humidifier and were having problems with their heater filters.
Many people who were techs were saying get better filters or maybe its a different problem but since all of us never had this problem before the humidifiers were introduced and we all also had this thin film of dust blocking the surface of a what would be good filter and our homes all had white dust….. well you can’t keep denying something is the problem if its the problem.
So that is the story.
If you have hard water and you decide to use an Ultrasonic Humidifier you will find that the unit will cause a calcium deposit dust that goes throughout the home.
It will also be sucked into your return ducts and will block your heater filter.
The time this takes will depend on weather conditions and the amount of time your heater is running.
Will the dust cause problems for your heater?
Well if the dust buildup is not caught before the filter is completely blocked or blocked so much that it is restricting air flow enough to set off one of your sensor then yes it will shut down your system.
A new filter will return your system to operating use and if you don’t have one on hand you can probably suck the dust off the face of the filter and replace it long enough to go out and buy some more.
Unfortunately you can not get this dust off easy and you are likely to do damage to the face of the filter. The calcium deposits really cling on to the surface just like calcium on your faucets becomes almost like cement.
So whats the solution for this problem? The only one I can see is moving to a place where you never need a heater.
If you need more moisture in your home then you need to run a humidifier.
You can choose a different type of humidifier and you may have better results with a wicking humidifier but if you have hard water the calcium will be in the water and deposited throughout your home.
You could also install a whole home water softener or use only distilled water in your humidifier but thats a bit of overkill. On the other hand if you do have very hard water you may have deposits in your water heater or in your plumbing which can also cost you in repairs.
As for health concerns of hard water thats a different subject.
But if you don’t have baseboard heat you can and should expect your HVAC system to get clogged with this white dust which will require you buying an extra package of filters.
For us it is not normally a problem and I will be looking into alternatives for introducing moisture. I do not like the idea of plants because they are living things which can cause you allergies or just simple reactions if you were to have enough of them to actually effect the moisture levels in your home. Keeping a boiling pot on the stove is also a stupid idea unless you run a wood stove that heats your home. You can’t keep your stove running 24/7 for 5 months. And drinking gallons and gallons of water may be great for your kidneys but probably not so great if you’re running to the bathroom all day.
Fortunately the winter is almost over here. The residual dust in the ducts should be gone in a month and I should be good until next year. Hopefully its just a bit warmer next year. This year saw many days that were in the teens and single digits and weeks of really cold weather that just didn’t give up.
All in all the humidifier did result in better health, fewer migraines from completely dried out eyes and sinuses.. but it seems there is always a tradeoff in this world.