DIY install Aprilaire 500 humidifier? Couple questions...

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Old 11-06-11, 06:36 PM
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Question DIY install Aprilaire 500 humidifier? Couple questions...

I've contemplated putting in a whole-house humidifier a couple times over the past few years, and I'm now fearing the coming dry winter air -- and accompanying 15-20% humidity levels in the house from mid-November through March -- enough that I'm finally ready to bite the bullet and do it.

I live in a ~1,700 sq. ft. townhouse, so I've looked at the Honeywell 220/260 and the Aprilaire 500. Honeywell seems to be more DIY-friendly, but most of the opinions I've read say the Aprilaire's are just as good and "you're just paying for the Honeywell name". So I'm leaning towards the Aprilaire 500M (I've got a VisionPro IAQ that I plan to wire into, so I don't need the automatic control that comes with the 500A).

The first question is, is a DIY install of the Aprilaire doable? I would imagine so, since it's pretty much the same thing as the Honeywell with a different name, and Honeywell seems to advertise their units as DIY-able -- heck, you can buy them and the "install kit" at Home Depot and Lowe's. I gather that the Aprilaire isn't available in home centers, though, and the set of install instructions I found online (here) says that things like the water supply tubing, bypass ductwork, drain tubing, and several other items aren't supplied, so I'd have to get all those things myself separately, correct?

Second: placement of the unit. Both manufacturers say the unit can be installed on the supply or the return side, but most of the examples they show have the unit on the supply, with the bypass to the return. Unfortunately, I took a look and it doesn't look like there's any room to install the main unit on the supply side:







I wonder if it would be possible/make sense to put the humidifier where that single supply branch comes off the back of the supply trunk right above the air handler, and move that branch connection around to the side facing the camera in the first picture, right on the 90' where the supply trunk turns to run along the ceiling? If not, of course I can put the main unit on the return -- in one pic you can see where there used to be an old non-functioning drum-style humidifier when I originally bought the house, but was removed when I had the air handler and compressor unit replaced in May 2009. I could just put the new unit right where the old one was, yes?
 
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Old 11-06-11, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by mjl5007 View Post
and accompanying 15-20% humidity levels in the house from mid-November through March
Must have a leaky home if it's that dry on a heat pump system!


The first question is, is a DIY install of the Aprilaire doable?
Yes.

I gather that the Aprilaire isn't available in home centers,
Correct.

things like the water supply tubing, bypass ductwork, drain tubing, and several other items aren't supplied, so I'd have to get all those things myself separately, correct?
Correct.

Second: placement of the unit. Both manufacturers say the unit can be installed on the supply or the return side, but most of the examples they show have the unit on the supply, with the bypass to the return. Unfortunately, I took a look and it doesn't look like there's any room to install the main unit on the supply side:
Put it on the return side where the old one was (I think where there's a bunch of tape?).

You are safe there just in case there was water problem, you are not getting it inside the air handler where there's a lot of electric stuff..

Do you have an outdoor sensor on the IAQ?
 
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Old 11-07-11, 06:41 AM
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Thanks for the prompt reply, Jay!

Yeah, I've suspected the house is pretty leaky for a while now. I'd love to seal up the leaks a bit, but it's such a daunting task, I don't know where to start. I've got a can of Great Stuff (the expanding foam-in-a-can), but I understand that once you 'open' the can and start using it you've gotta use the whole can, otherwise it'll seal itself shut -- and I don't know that I'm fast enough to hit all the places I should (or what those places are to begin with). Anyway...

Your point about using the return side to avoid any potential water-leaking-into-the-air-handler problems makes perfect sense. I *believe* that the area that was patched where the old unit was actually had a square of duct cut to fill the hole, and then the entire area was taped over... I'd be upset if I found out all they did was cover the gaping hole with tape and nothing else. Assuming there's something there besides tape, is it alright to just cut the opening for the new unit right into the patched area? Or should I move up or down from the patched area so I'm cutting/mounting to 'clean' duct?

I do have an outdoor sensor for the IAQ; I assume you ask since I can then program the IAQ to adjust the minimum humidity level based on outdoor temps?

Oh, one more: I should plumb the humidifier from hot water since it's a heat pump system, correct? Water heater is electric, is that going to blow my electric bill by a good bit?
 
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Old 11-07-11, 07:11 AM
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Best thing to do is check with your local utility company to see if they offer home audit and some time they offer discount.

I had ours done a couple of years ago for I think I paid $100 and it's the best $100 I spent and had an eye opener on areas I would never thought we'd have issues on. That way you know where to go with the can of great stuff, and add gasket to the wall plates for outlets/switches.

I'd go on that patch area with the new unit.. You may have to make a frame for the humidifier to mount on something solid than just on the ductboard, and screws pulling out on it.

Yes, tap on to the hot water for your system.
 
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Old 11-08-11, 09:32 AM
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Alright, so I was all set and ready to order an Aprilaire 500M, but (stupid me) I checked out Honeywell's website and now I see that they have these new "TrueEASE" bypass models in addition to the HE220 and HE260 that I had looked at earlier, as well as HE225 and 265. Problem is, I can't figure out what the difference between all these different models are; they don't have any sort of comparison chart that I can find.

I understand that within each line there are different sizes... so the 260 is 'bigger'/puts out more water than the 220. But what does the 265 have over the 260? And then what's the difference between the TrueEASE vs the 265 or 260? I also gather that there are "basic" and "advanced" models in each size within the TrueEASE line; what's the difference between "basic" and "advanced"? Any experience with the TrueEASE models, or info on how they compare with the Aprilaire's offerings?

Nothing's ever easy...
 
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Old 11-08-11, 11:29 AM
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The HE220/260 are DIY models.

HE225/265 are Pro models, and has a built in bypass damper.

TrueEASE 200 basic is a basic 2 wire hook up like the the others, just an easier pad change out. the 250 has automatic damper, status, maintenance, service LEDs, and advanced operation.
 
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Old 11-08-11, 02:24 PM
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"Advanced operation"? Any further clarification on what exactly is "advanced" about the TrueEASE 250? Honeywell's literature talks about "energy and water savings" -- that, coupled with the automatic damper, sound like the damper just closes automatically when there's no call for humidification so no air gets pulled through the bypass and across the pad. But on the basic models without automatic damper, the water solenoid won't open without a call for humidification anyway, so even though air will be pulled through the bypass and across the pad in those units, the pad won't be wet... so does it really make any difference whether air is coming through the bypass or not? Put another way, is there really any benefit to the automatic damper?

Also, I assume the built-in dampers in the Honeywell 225/265 and the Aprilaire 500 are manual, as opposed to the automatic damper in the TrueEASE 150/250? I also see that the advanced TrueEASE models require a transformer, and I believe the Aprilaire does as well... I assume that I could power the transformer from the existing 120v line that runs the air handler itself, before it enters the air handler? Or, is there a possibility my air handler has 24v accessory terminals that would mean I don't need a transformer?

Sorry for the constant questions, Jay -- just trying to make the best decision. I really appreciate your willingness to help!
 
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Old 11-08-11, 06:31 PM
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Glad to help.

The advanced model has more wires hook up to allow installer to let the humidifier to force the fan to come on, or knows when heat is on allow the humidifier to come on when it's running, let's you know when it's time to change the pad and also it cycles the water valve on and off to save water since there's already water on the pad vs the steady flow of water on the basic and DIY model.

With the automatic damper that opens and close are great for home owners who don't close the damper in the summer when they run the A/C, and also in heating mode and no humidity is needed it keep the temp rise a bit lower on the furnace.

Yes, the damper on the 225/265 are manual, and should be closed at the end of the heating season, otherwise, the A/C coil may be at risk of freezing.
 
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Old 11-09-11, 01:22 PM
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Since I have an IAQ thermostat (and the outdoor sensor), do I need the capabilities in the 'advanced' model of the TrueEASE, or can I get the same functionality (force fan on when humidification is needed, or turn humidifier on when there's a call for heat) from the IAQ with a basic model humidifier?

Also, I realized that my furnace is fed by a 220v circuit, not a 110... and I'm going to need a 110 circuit to power a transformer, regardless of which unit I end up getting, aren't I? Not looking forward to running a new circuit from the panel all the way across the basement...
 
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Old 11-09-11, 06:10 PM
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The only thing you'll gain with the Advanced model then is the water savings, and damper closing...

Otherwise, If it was me, I'd go with the basic mode.. Unless your water rates are high!


Transformer is already on the air handler.. Don't need another one.
 
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Old 11-11-11, 09:02 AM
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Where might I find the transformer in the air handler? Or, put another way, where would I wire in the humidifier into the air handler?

 
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Old 11-11-11, 05:17 PM
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Transformer is behind the control box cover.. We will get the power from the t-stat hook up on the lower right side. R and hot, C is common.
 
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Old 11-15-11, 08:13 AM
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Last questions before I choose and order a unit, I promise!

How much water would you estimate the humidifier will use? The TrueEASE literature talks about savings of up to 5,500 gallons/year with the bypass models (I assume only the advanced models with time-metered water flow), but without knowing what percentage of the total usage that is, it's hard to tell whether it's that big of a deal. Our water rates are $3.95 per 1,000 gallons; not sure if that's high or low relative to other locations, but 5,500 gallon savings over a year would only come out to a difference of ~$22. Of course, that doesn't take into account the savings from not using as much hot water, which is expensive to heat. Also, I live in a small condo complex (11 units) and we all share a water meter, so our water bill is paid by the condo association with funds collected from monthly condo fees and I never see the bill itself. I'll try to find out from our treasurer how much water we use collectively per quarter so I have an idea of how much it will be affected by a humidifier.

Secondly, Aprilaire specifically says that the effectiveness of their 400 (water-saving) model will be reduced to ~60% if used with a heat-pump system, because of the wicking action of their water pad -- even if you plumb to hot water, the water will cool considerably as it is drawn up the pad, resulting in less effective evaporation and humidification. Would the same thing occur with the time-metered water delivery in the advanced TrueEASE, or not? If so, the basic model would likely be more efficient and thus possibly run less to meet the humidity setpoint, correct?
 
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Old 11-15-11, 09:36 AM
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I hardly saw a change in our water bill when we added the humidifier to our furnace, I have the basic HE220. But then, our water rate is is pretty cheap. We pay 69¢ for 748 gallons.

I've seen mixed reviews on the 400 on here.. So I couldn't say for sure how well the work since I've not seen one in person.

Mine is rated 12 gallons a day.. Last heating season, it ran about 30 days total. So, I used about 360 gallons of water =33¢ a year to run it.

With your higher rates, I'd do the advanced model from Honeywell if you were paying it.
 
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Old 11-30-11, 04:10 PM
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Alright, I think I'm going to go with the Honeywell HE150 (small advanced TrueEASE). One final question;

All of my ductwork is the insulated type, with no rigid sheet metal inside or outside. All of the instructions for any model humidifier I've seen seem to assume that the unit will be installed on uninsulated, rigid sheet metal ductwork using regular self-tapping sheet metal screws. I suppose I'm going to have to do something different to mount this unit properly to my insulated ductwork?
 
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Old 11-30-11, 09:11 PM
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I've never worked with anything other than duct.. You have the duct board, or the flex?
 
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Old 12-02-11, 01:33 PM
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Duct board, at least for all the trunks in the basement. Insulated flex from the trunks to the registers, although I believe the 'adapters' (or whatever the correct HVAC term is) that connect the flex lines to the trunks are metal; I wonder how those are attached? I suspect they just have flanges that are then taped directly to the exterior of the trunks, since there's not much weight to be supported.

Come to think of it, I believe every house I've ever lived in (all with unfinished basements in Pennsylvania) has had duct board, not metal. I never even realized that duct board wasn't the 'standard'.
 
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Old 12-02-11, 08:55 PM
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I have to say, I figured ductboard was just used down south, where in the northern area, sheet metal is used.

There's a flange that is spread out like you see here.

I''d make a metal frame around the opening for the humidifier to help support it to the duct.
 
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Old 01-04-12, 12:18 PM
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Would something like this work?

Aprilaire Humidifier Ductboard Installation

If so, would I only need pieces for the top and bottom of the plenum opening, or all four sides? Would there be any problem with the humidifier getting a good seal against the outside of the plenum since the outside surface that it is sealing against isn't flush the whole way around the opening (at the very least all four corners would be void of the U-channel framing, so there would be a transition from the framing to the outer surface of the plenum itself and back again)?

Would I be able to fabricate something like this myself, either out of sheet metal stock or pre-formed channel stock, or would I need to have a sheet metal shop do it for me? Mainly thinking of dealing with sharp edges/corners and/or having the proper tools to bend sheet metal stock into U-channel with nice straight bends.
 
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Old 01-05-12, 07:35 AM
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Top and bottom all you'd need since that's where the screw for mounting goes.

You could caulk the gap on the side to seal the opening off.


You could make your own if you can find a channel that is the same opening as the duct board is.
 
 

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