While tabletop humidifiers can provide moisture in a single room, whole-house humidifiers (sometimes called console humidifiers) can humidify several rooms at once. Since a console humidifier has a larger tank, it needs refilling less often than a tabletop model, but the process can be awkward. Many whole-house humidifiers are evaporative rather than ultrasonic, are louder and require the use of costly replacement filters. However, these humidifiers will not produce white dust like ultrasonic models.
We did not find nearly as many reviews for whole-house humidifiers as we did for smaller units, and one manufacturer, Kenmore, dominates. The best-reviewed console humidifier we found is the Kenmore 15412 (*Est. $130). This evaporative humidifier has a 3.9-gallon tank and can produce up to 12 gallons of moisture per day -- enough to cover an area of 2,500 square feet. It includes a humidistat and a digital display, and humidity can be adjusted in increments of 5 percent. The humidifier uses a double-fill tank system: You fill the external tank, let it empty into the humidifier, then refill the tank and replace it. Other features include a four-speed fan, a mildew-resistant filter (*Est. $18) and a refill indicator light. The humidifier sits on four swivel casters, so it can be rolled from room to room.
In professional tests, the Kenmore 15412 produces very good moisture output and is easy to use. However, it is much noisier than most humidifiers. Users at Sears.com (the only source for Kenmore appliances) say this humidifier is reasonably easy to fill and can cover a large area. The treated filter is effective at controlling mildew. However, some users say the humidifier is loud and the filters are expensive.
Another highly rated whole-house humidifier is the Essick MA1201 (*Est. $110). This humidifier is suited for spaces up to 2,500 square feet, and like the top-rated Kenmore 15412, it can produce up to 12 gallons of moisture per day. It also features a 3.9-gallon tank, a humidistat and a three-speed motor. Users say that this is a strong, reliable option for those who are looking for a unit that can manage a larger space. The Essick MA1201 receives stellar feedback from nearly 70 reviewers at HomeDepot.com and was a top-rated whole-house model by a leading consumer publication.
We found few complaints about the Essick MA1201, but some users report that the machine did not last as long as they were anticipating and can be somewhat awkward to refill. Plus, like similar models, this is a loud machine.