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There two different types of furnace mounted humidifiers in use today; bypass evaporative humidifiers and steam generators.
Two Types of Humidifiers
Bypass Type Humidifiers
Bypass humidifiers use the heat of the furnace to evaporate water into moisture and they use the pressure differential of the supply and return to pull the moisture into your heating and cooling system and to all your conditioned rooms.
This type of humidifier has no pan of standing water, but rather when humidity is needed a water valve opens up and water is sent down a ceramic coated evaporative pad that dries out when the heat turns off.
This feature keeps mold and bacteria from growing in a pan of standing water.
The bypass humidifier is controlled by a humidistat that senses how dry your home is and automatically turns the device on when needed.
Reliable sells a number of brands of this type of humidifier with the most popular ones built by Aprilaire and Honeywell.
Steam Powered Humidifiers
Steam generators contain a pan of water with an immersed heating element that boils the water and produces steam when humidity is needed.
The steam is injected into the ductwork of your HVAC system and the furnace blower distributes the moisture to all the conditioned rooms in your home.
The steam humidifier system has a cleaning mode that flushes out the standing water in the pan to stop mold growth. This same systems empties and dries the humidifier system in the summer to keep it clean and bacteria free when it is not in use.
The most popular of this types of steam humidifiers are manufactured by Honeywell and Aprilaire. They are also controlled by a humidistat, just like the bypass type.