Humidifier Buying Guide
What is a Humidifier?
Humidifiers are appliances that can either be set on a dresser or table or floor standing and put moisture back into the air through either cool mist or warm mist. The majority of units will have tanks that you will with water. The tank size can range from 1 gallon to a large 9 gallon size. The water you add to the humidifier gets put into the air through evaporation or misting. The benefits to this moisture can help people deal with the common cold and flu, nose bleeds, dry skin and other symptoms of dry air.
What Can Happen When Air is too Dry?
Dry air is especially prevalent during the winter months when the windows are closed and heaters are running. This dry air can cause throat irritation, nose irritation that can result in nose bleeds and also cause dry chapped skin on the body and lips. You may not have known this but dry air can also affect wood floors, walls and furniture too.
A humidity level of 40-50% is comfortable for most people. If it drops below 30% you’ll notice that the air becomes too dry and the house might feel cold. Having dry air for extended periods of time can cause health problems as well as affect your furnishings. On the other hand, having too much humidity can make the room feel damp and can also cause mold and bacteria to grow and can cause dust mites too. If you notice condensation collecting on a window or window sill the humidity is too high in the room.
Types of Humidifiers
Humidifiers come in all sizes and types. You can get table top models, tower and console designs and floor standing models. You can even get whole house units. With all the styles and types, water is used to put moisture into the air. The differences in each of the styles in found in how they work to put that moisture into the air.
Warm Mist Humidifiers
These humidifiers produce warm humidity by heating water that is in the tank, turning it to steam and sending the steam into the room. The water is heated with simple heating elements that turn the water to steam. Before it is released into the room the steam is cooled slightly. In addition to adding moisture to the room, warm mist humidifiers also raise the temperature. Water needs to be added to warm mist humidifiers regularly.
Warm mist humidifiers can be as small as a toaster or as large as a toaster oven depending on their capacity. Some models even allow the user to set the humidity level they want to have in the room. Using a warm mist humidifier takes care of many issues that can be associated with humidification. By boiling the water before it is released as steam, bacteria and pathogens are killed making the mist much more effective at taking care of health related concerns. Some models even have a medicine cup that allows users to add specific medicine to the steam to be added to the air. Because of the fact that mineral impurities can build up, make sure that you clean the warm mist humidifier regularly.
Pros and Cons of Warm Mist Humidifiers
This type of humidifier is pretty inexpensive to get and they produce germ-free and mineral-free steam. They also are much quieter to operate. You don’t have to buy a filter for them to work properly but filters are available if you desire. They are also good for heating up the air in addition to adding moisture to it, which makes them nice to use in the cold, winter months.
They tend to be the least energy efficient of all the types of humidifiers available and since they rely on using boiling water, they should not be kept anywhere that a child could accidentally knock them over due to the potential burns one could get. The other drawback that some may find is that they are limited in their range so it’s best to use these in smaller rooms.
A vaporizer is a smaller, dressed down version of a warm mist humidifier due to having fewer features. They also use boiling water to put mist into the air. They use less energy than warm mist humidifiers and are safer as well.
A vaporizer heats water to steam and sends it immediately out into the air. They are usually much smaller than warm mist humidifiers and make a great humidifier for a small room or area. You will need to add water regularly to keep them running properly. They turn off and on with a single switch and are not very expensive to purchase. You can’t add medicine to a vaporizer but other than that, they work very similar to warm mist humidifiers in that they remove pathogens and mineral impurities from the air.
Vaporizers need to be cleaned regularly as well to ensure that the mineral deposits don’t build up on the heating element, affecting its performance.
Pros and Cons of Vaporizer Humidifiers
Because they are so small, vaporizers are the perfect choice for dorm rooms, nursing home rooms and other single rooms. They have no moving parts and are very simple in construction. They also add heat to a room making them a good choice for the winter months. Because they are much smaller and simpler in design the chance of burns is reduced. They’re not really good for hot climates due to the heat they put into the air, but they are ideal for bedrooms in the cold winter months.
Cool Mist Humidifiers
Cool mist humidifiers are another type of humidifier that uses cool air rather than warm air. They are typically the most commonly used humidifiers. They add room temperature or fan cooled moisture to the air making them good for the hot, summer months.
Another name for these humidifiers is evaporative humidifier. It contains a wick filter that soaks up water from the base of the humidifier. A fan blows through the wick filter, evaporating the water and spreading it throughout the room. You can improve the moisture of an entire floor of a house or entire small house if the strength of the fan is strong enough and you have in placed in a good area. Water needs to be added regularly to this type of humidifier. Some models come with dials where you can select the level of humidity you want in the room or area.
The filter of a cool mist humidifier traps impurities and it is for this reason that it needs to be replaced or cleaned properly every couple of months. It is best to get a cool mist humidifier that uses an antibacterial filter since this type of humidifier can be a transmitter of bacteria and other pathogens since no boiling of the water is being done to kill anything.
Pros and Cons of Cool Mist Humidifiers
Cool mist humidifiers are much better than warm mist varieties when it comes to power consumption. They can also add moisture to a very large area if the humidifier has a large enough fan. Because they don’t use boiling water they are much safer to use around children. This type of humidifier is great for hot, dry climates since they cool the air as well as adding moisture to it.
They are a little more expensive than warm mist humidifiers of equivalent size. They are also less effective at helping those who are suffering from sinus issues. They require more frequent filter changes and are also a bit louder than warm mist humidifiers.
These less commonly used humidifiers are similar to cool mist varieties except they are usually smaller, don’t use fans and you won’t need to replace any filters. They do spread cool moisture throughout the space they are being used in. These humidifiers use a spinning disc impeller technology rather than a filter and fan that send cool water vapor throughout the room. The spinning disk separates the water into miniscule droplets which are sent through diffusers and then transformed into the vapor that is put out into the air.
They are small in size and simple in design. You can’t set a specific humidity level with this type of humidifier and they need to have water added regularly just like all the other styles we’ve gone over. They are good for adding moisture to the air of smaller rooms. They are powered with a simple on/off switch. Just like cool mist humidifiers, they don’t remove bacterial or mineral impurities from the air. Since they don’t have filters to screen these things out, you should only use distilled water in Impeller Humidifiers since distilled water has already been purified. You may notice a fine white dust on surfaces in the room you are humidifying.
Pros and Cons of Impeller Humidifiers
These are the most inexpensive humidifiers you can buy to humidify a room using the cool mist technology. Since there are no heating elements, they are safe for use around children. Since they don’t have fans, they are the most quiet to run and are also very energy efficient. They are perfect for hot, dry climates since they cool down the air as well as moisturize it.
Impeller humidifiers need to be cleaned on a regular basis to keep from spreading germs around. They are not a very common form of humidifier to use and more than likely won’t be found in traditional marketplaces.
Although they may sound super high tech, an ultrasonic humidifier is a regular humidifier that can use heated or room temperature water. They use high-frequency sound waves which then transform the water into vapor before it is sent out into the air. Water for the ultrasonic humidifier is kept in a reservoir that sits on top of a diaphragm surface. The surface vibrates at ultrasonic speeds and that causes the water to break down into microscopic particles which are instantly vaporized.
Some models use fans to send the vaporized moisture into the room and some use a heating element. Like warm mist humidifiers, ultrasonic models can have medicine added to them and many include a medicine cup for this reason. There are usually a lot of features available with this type of humidifier including
- Several dials to control the level of heat and humidity
- Demineralization cartridges
- Antibacterial filters
Heating water is still the best way to truly remove pathogens and minerals from the vapor but the antibacterial filters do a good job as well. Ultrasonic humidifiers come in all sizes and can be bought according to the size of the space you want to humidify. Water needs to be added regularly to ultrasonic humidifiers as well.
Pros and Cons of Ultrasonic Humidifiers
The versatility that ultrasonic humidifiers offer users is one of the many things that make them pretty popular with consumers. Since they can be used in either warm or cool climates and adjusted accordingly, you can use them all year round. They are quiet and energy efficient and depending on the power of the fan they contain, they can humidify fairly large areas.
You will not need to replace any filters and they are pretty much maintenance free. This type of humidifier is often recommended by doctors. To ensure 100% demineralization, be sure to use distilled water. If you don’t use distilled water you will notice a fine dust on all your surfaces which is mineral dust. They tend to be the most expensive humidifiers, but since they can be used in summer and winter, many feel it’s worth it. If the fans are large, you may notice a noise when using them so using this type of humidifier in the bedroom during the night may not be a good idea.
Common Sizes of Humidifiers
Portable – Portable humidifiers are easily moved around from one place to another and are small in size and lightweight s well. They have a reservoir that you add the water to and can also hold a small medicine cup. This size is not intended for all day use and is good for dealing with helping those who have a cold or the flu.
Compact/Table top – These humidifiers are also lightweight and small and can be moved from room to room easily. They have a refillable tank that will need to have water added to it once or twice a day. This size humidifier is good for a small to medium sized room.
Tower – These humidifiers sit directly on the floor and are good for a medium sized room. They have larger water tanks and need to be refilled less often than compact and portable varieties.
Console – These humidifiers have larger tanks that can provide moisture for multiple rooms at the same time. They can be moved from room to room but since they are larger and heavier, it is less convenient to move them around than their smaller counterparts.
Whole House – This type of humidifier uses household forced air to deliver moist air to all the rooms in the house at once. There’s no water tank to worry about refilling since whole house humidifiers use the main water supply of the house.
The output capacity of humidifiers will depend on the size of the humidifier so you will need to know the size of the rooms you want to use them in to determine which size is right for you.
Compact – Can handle one small room and takes about 1.5 gallons per day
Tabletop – Good for one room of small to mid size – takes 2-4 gallons per day
Tower – Also good for one room of medium size – 2-4 gallons/day
Small Console – Can handle 2-3 rooms and output is 6-8 gallons/day
Large Console – These big ones can handle 2500-3000 sq ft and output is 9 plus gallons/day
Whole House – 3000-4000 sq ft and output is 9 plus gallons/day
Humidifier Safety Tips
If you have small children in the house it is important to keep any steam humidifier that is in use out of reach to avoid the child pulling the unit over onto themselves and sustaining burns. This includes watching that power cords are not hanging down where they can be pulled on or tripped over. Even a rambunctious dog can knock one over onto a child so watch your pets too.
Some humidifiers have an automatic shut off which is a great feature to have. If the tank is empty or the water level reaches a certain level, the unit will automatically shut off. There are even some units that have an auto shut off when the humidity level desired has been reached in the room. This will prevent the humidifier from having the motor burn up.
Cleaning Your Humidifier Properly
Sitting water attracts bacteria, germs, mold and dirt. Regular cleaning of your humidifier prevents these particles from being put out into the air which can cause a lot of health problems. There are humidifier cleaners available that clean and disinfect the humidifier including minerals and metals that may be in the water. The only type of humidifier that does not have to be cleaned in this manner is the ultrasonic type that has a demineralization cartridge that filters out minerals and/or uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria.
Your user guide is an important part of your purchase, so be sure to read it once you purchase a humidifier. It will tell you how often and how to clean your humidifier, as well as telling you how often to change your filters. Some units may have a filter sensor that comes on when it’s time to change the filter, but not all styles have this feature.
Other Features Available on Some Humidifiers
There are several features that can be available on certain styles and models of humidifiers. These include:
- Filter sensors
- Automatic shut off features
- Digital display
- Programmable timers
- Energy Star Label
No matter what your humidifier needs are there are many styles available that you can choose from. The information in this buyer’s guide can help you narrow down the choices by focusing on what your needs are and what features you want. All the information you need to decide which one fits your needs best is in this guide which makes your decision much easier to come to.
Humidifiers have long since been used to improve air quality as well as helping people get through colds and flu. They have come a long way over the years and have all kinds of features that make them easy to use and more beneficial than ever.
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