The best humidifiers help create comfortable indoor living spaces by controlling condensation levels and bringing health benefits. The majority of humidifiers are simple-looking machines, but you can’t just plug them in and leave them to work.The best humidifiers help create comfortable indoor living spaces by controlling humidity levels and bringing health benefits. The majority of humidifiers are simple-looking machines, but you can’t just plug them in and leave them to work.
There are lots of plusses to be enjoyed, including energy savings, thanks to humidifiers. However, you need to be prepared to put in some maintenance time and use them properly. So dive in to find out which type may be best for you, some popular brands, and how to operate humidifiers with these answers to commonly asked questions about humidifiers.
Why Use a Humidifier?
Many people use humidifiers in their homes to counter problems brought on by dry air, such as dry sinuses, dry skin, and cracked lips. In the United States, dry air is often a winter issue when people use space heaters and other heating systems to keep their homes warm.
The most suitable humidifier for your home depends on several factors, including your space, your health, and whether you have children or pets, among other things.
Humidifier benefits may include:
- Combating viruses and bacteria
- Help with congestion
- Reduced snoring
- Clearing nasal passages
- Easing the symptoms of asthma, allergies, and coughs
But, you may not need a humidifier. Measure the humidity in your home with a basic hygrometer — available on Amazon from around $12 and up — before buying a humidifier. These tools are useful for measuring your humidifier’s performance, too.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends relative humidity be kept below 60%, ideally in the range of 30-50%.
How Do Humidifiers Work?
There are several types of humidifiers, and they work in slightly different ways. Once you know which type of humidifier works best for you, you need to choose between whether it emits warm or cool mist.
Evaporative humidifiers draw in air from the room, pass it over a wick or filter, and then return the air into the room with extra humidity. The wick or filter — which needs changing regularly — ensures this humidifier won’t over-humidify a room. Because of the filter, there are also fewer minerals in the dispersed water, so an evaporative humidifier won’t leave white dust particles around a room.
Ultrasonic humidifiers use high-frequency vibration to launch microscopic water droplets into the air via a fan where they turn into water vapor. These machines don’t filter the air or water. Instead, ultrasonic humidifiers disperse minerals in the water, resulting in white dust in the room or on the floor. There may also be some puddling at their base. They are easier to maintain because they are filter-free with no wick to replace.
An ultrasonic humidifier can over-humidify a room because it keeps releasing water droplets into the atmosphere no matter how humid the room is. Built-in humidistats help avoid this problem with an automatic shut-off feature. Should your model be humidistat-free, you can use a hygrometer to monitor your room’s humidity level. Also, check to see if your model has an automatic shut-off that kicks in once the water tank is empty.
Central humidifiers, or whole-house humidifiers, are built into a home’s heating and ducting systems.
Impeller humidifiers have a rotating disk that produces a cool mist.
Dehumidifiers do the opposite of humidifiers — they remove moisture from the air and are generally used in the summer to reduce humidity in a room, helping restrict the growth of mold and mildew.
Warm Mist or Cool Mist Humidifier?
Both evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers are available as warm mist humidifiers or cool mist humidifiers. A warm mist humidifier — also known as a steam vaporizer — pushes steam into the air while a cool mist humidifier sends cold water vapor into a room.Both evaporative and ultrasonic humidifiers are available as warm mist humidifiers or cool mist humidifiers. A warm mist humidifier — also known as a steam vaporizer — pushes steam into the air while a cool mist humidifier sends cold water vapor into a room.
A warm mist humidifier warms water over its heating elements then pushes steam into the air to humidify the room, killing any bacteria in the water holding tank. Some models, such as the Vicks steam vaporizer, can incorporate medications into the mist, offering relief to people with sinus or nasal passage issues.
Warm mist humidifiers may use more electricity than other humidifiers because of the heating element. Warm mist humidifiers are not recommended if you have young children or pets because they may burn themselves on the steam or the heating element.
A cool mist humidifier needs to be kept clean and well-maintained. Otherwise, dangerous bacteria can grow in the water holding tank and later be dispersed throughout your home and into your lungs.
Some humidifier models market themselves as suitable for people with asthma, for babies, or for sleeping environments. Always read the label and recommendations carefully to ensure the humidifier is approved for your needs.
What If I Live in a Humid Climate?
People living in humid climates often need to reduce the humidity in their homes and may need to buy a dehumidifier. Again, check humidity levels with a hygrometer to determine your needs.
Should You Run a Humidifier All Day?
The answer here is you may run your humidifier all day if required, but it’s not essential.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends relative humidity be kept below 60% and ideally between 30-50%.
You can run it all day if necessary to keep humidity levels within that range. (Of course, it’s never advisable to leave any device running when you’re not at home.)
Be aware that running electrical items like dryers can affect a home’s humidity, too. So leaving an ultrasonic humidifier running all day creates the risk of too much humidity in your home because these humidifiers keep adding humidity until they are turned off.
What Are Some Top Tips for Buying a Humidifier?
There are a wide variety of humidifiers available on the market. Here are some things to consider when choosing which type of humidifier is most suitable for your needs.
- Location: Is the humidifier for a small living room, a large room, or a whole house? Know the room’s area in square feet.
- Tank capacity: Larger water tanks mean less refilling. Think about how you’ll refill it, too, and consider the tank’s weight, both empty and full. Can you lift a large, heavy tank to your faucet, or will you refill it with water jugs? Can you clean the tank easily?
- Run time: This is how long the humidifier can run before the water tank needs refilling.
- Output: Some models offer variable mist levels or mist outputs to help you adjust the amount of mist you need to establish the correct humidity levels.
- Maintenance: Think about how much cleaning, maintenance, and effort you will make to ensure the humidifier’s smooth operation.
- UV light: Some humidifiers come with a light filtration system to reduce microbe growth in the water tank, helping prevent its release into your room.
- Price: Not just the initial outlay. Evaporative humidifiers require regular filter changes, so factor in that cost, too. A budget humidifier like the Levoit Classic 200 Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier starts from around $40. Ultrasonic humidifiers are filter-free.
- Quiet operation: Ultrasonic humidifiers tend to be quieter than evaporative ones.
- Lighting: Some humidifiers have a night light.
- Medicine: Do you want a humidifier that can dispense medication? The Vicks steam vaporizer is one example.
- Type: Portable humidifiers (or tabletop) have small water tanks, so they need more regular refilling. But they can be relocated easily, and there are even some travel-sized humidifiers. Console humidifiers are much larger units that require less refilling and can humidify areas up to 1,000 square feet (depending on the model). Whole-house humidifiers connect to your home’s ductwork and plumbing, providing humidity to your whole house, and the water tank doesn’t require refilling.
Remember, if your home has dry air, then you need a humidifier to add humidity. If the air is overly humid, you need a dehumidifier. And if you want to purify the air, you need an air purifier.
What Are Some Popular Humidifier Models?
There are many brands, prices, and types of humidifiers. Here are some examples with a wide price range, from $25 and up.
Diffuser or Humidifier?
Diffusers and humidifiers may look similar but have very different uses. Diffusers tend to be smaller and are generally for use with essential oils in aromatherapy treatments.
You should never put essential oils or aromatherapy oils in any type of humidifier.
Humidifiers and Your Health
Many advertisements and websites extol the virtues of humidifiers. However, while it’s true humidifiers bring health benefits, they are also machines that need to be used correctly. If not, they could soon be doing more harm than good for your health.Many advertisements and websites extol the virtues of humidifiers. However, while it’s true humidifiers bring health benefits, they are also machines that need to be used correctly. If not, they could soon be doing more harm than good for your health.
Are Humidifiers Good for You?
Air dryness is problematic for both babies and adults with asthma or sinus problems. Humidifiers can improve indoor air quality and help people with dry skin conditions, respiratory conditions, and more.
But people using humidifiers and adding humidity into rooms must be very careful when using them. If left uncleaned, humidifiers can quickly become breeding grounds for fungi and bacteria that cause everything from allergies to fevers. A worst-case scenario is an inflammation called hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as humidifier lung.
EPA studies have shown that cool mist humidifiers can disperse minerals, microorganisms, and bacteria if not well maintained. These airborne pollutants may cause respiratory problems or allergies. The young, the elderly, and those with lung diseases or respiratory allergies may be particularly susceptible.
How Do You Maintain a Humidifier?
Important: Always unplug your humidifier from the wall socket before performing any maintenance tasks.
It’s vital to keep your humidifier in good working order for both your health and your home. Here are some maintenance tips:
- You can use tap water in your humidifier, but distilled water is better. Distilled water has some minerals removed and should produce less white dust. Bottled water labeled as “spring” or “mineral” may not have been demineralized.
- With portable humidifiers, empty the tank daily and wipe it down before refilling it with fresh water. Leaving water in the tank, even overnight, can encourage bacterial growth.
- Clean the tank every 3-4 days to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on which chemicals to use. Empty the tank, then scrub or brush it to remove any scale or deposits, and be sure to wipe it dry.
- Change filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually every 1-3 months.
- If you only need your humidifier in winter, give every part of the humidifier a thorough cleaning before storing it away for the season. Give it another thorough cleaning before using it again.
- Check that your humidifier’s tank is dishwasher friendly before washing it in the dishwasher.
If you develop any respiratory symptoms while using your humidifier, stop use immediately and contact your doctor.
Is It Healthy to Sleep With a Humidifier Running?
A humidifier can help you at night just as it does during the day. This is especially true if you sleep in a room with air conditioners turned on — air conditioning dries the air.
A correctly-used humidifier adds moisture to the air, helping you breathe more easily as you sleep, especially if you have a runny nose, dry cough, or sore throat.
Some seasonal illnesses like colds and influenza live longer in dry air conditions, too, so humidifying your bedroom can help combat transmission.
How Close Should You Sleep to a Humidifier?
Check the manufacturer’s handbook for each model’s advice, but for smaller, portable humidifiers, a distance of at least three feet is often recommended.
Humidifier Energy Usage
Smaller, portable humidifiers are not as energy-hungry as your air conditioning or many other household appliances. However, should you start placing a portable humidifier in every room in your home and using them daily, your household’s energy conservation could go out the window.
How Much Energy Does My Humidifier Use?
Your humidifier’s energy usage depends on the wattage needed to run it. As a general rule, ultrasound humidifiers use less electricity than evaporative humidifiers. It’s important to understand how much a new appliance may add to your electricity bill before buying one.
Honeywell’s UV Cool Moisture Germ Free Humidifier (HCM-350B) needs 60 watts to run and has a 1.1-gallon tank. Imagine running it for 8 hours for one day.
We first work out the kilowatt-hours. (Watts (60) × time (hours, 8) / 1,000 = kWh), so our Honeywell uses 0.06 kWh, and over 8 hours, that’s 0.48 kWh for the day.
The overall daily cost depends on the price of our electricity. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States’ average price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in February 2021 was 13.34 cents per kWh.
So 0.48 kWh x 13.34 cents = 6.40 cents to run the Honeywell for eight hours for one day.
How Can a Humidifier Protect Your Home?
- Houseplants draw moisture from the air and will appreciate the humidity.
- Humidity can make a heated room feel warmer, so you may be able to turn down your costly heating a degree or two when you run the cheaper humidifier.
- Humidifiers reduce static electricity, which can affect your electronics.
- Humidity offers wood protection. Timber can warp and crack in dry conditions. A little humidity can keep wooden furniture, doors, and window frames in good shape.
Common Questions About Humidifiers, Answered
Humidifiers can play a vital part in a healthy home and body, softening the harshness of dry air. However, despite being a simple machine, they need to be handled carefully to operate them safely.
It’s important to research the types and models of humidifiers to make sure it meets your needs, space, and budget before making a purchase. Also, be sure to monitor your home’s humidity levels before and after you buy a humidifier, and you could soon be enjoying relief from allergies, dry skin, and more.
Remember: Regular cleaning and maintenance are the keys to enjoying the health benefits of humidifiers. Failure to do so could end up harming your health.
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