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Humidifier Buying Guide: Tackle Dryness With a Humidifier

sunpentown

Do you suffer from dry, itchy eyes, throat or skin?  Do your asthma symptoms get worse during the winter? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, your air may be too dry. 

In addition to health benefits, a quality humidifier can also reduce static electricity, peeling wallpaper, and cracks in paint and furniture. Learn more about humidifiers and see a comparison chart of some of most popular models below. 

Do You Need a Humidifier?

There are two basic types of moisture problems that can exist in your home: excessive or insufficient moisture.  Excessive moisture causes damage to furnishings and promotes mold growth. Dehumidifiers can solve this problem by drawing moisture from the air. 

Insufficient moisture in the air can cause dry nasal passages, increased respiratory problems and excessive static electricity in clothing and carpets. Humidifiers  add moisture to the air when it's too dry. The chart below illustrates how humidity levels can affect your home and overall health:

Common Sysmptoms

Low Humidity (Use Humidifier)

High Humidity (Use Dehumidifier)

Chapped Lips & Skin

Allergic Reactions

Respiratory Problems Musty Odors
Static & Sparks Mold Growth
Scratchy Nose & Throat Stains on Ceilings and Walls
Damage to Electronics Condensation on Windows & Mirrors

About Humidity Levels

There are two types of humidity: absolute and relative. Absolute humidity is the amount of water vapor present in a unit volume of air. Absolute humidity does not fluctuate with the temperature of the air. In other words, the hotter the air, the more water it contains.

Relative humidity is the ratio of the amount of water in the air at a given temperature to the maximum amount it can hold at that temperature, which is expressed as a percentage. Warm air holds more vapor than cold air.

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy, it's recommended that relative humidity be kept between 30% to 50% in the summer and 30% to 40% in the winter. To get an idea of the human perception of humidity look at the chart below:

Human Perception 

Relative Humidity at 90° F
May Feel Dry 30%
Very Comfortable 31 - 37%
Comfortable 31 - 41%
Acceptable for Most 37 - 46%
Somewhat Uncomfortable 44 - 52%
Very Humid and Uncomfortable 52 - 60%
Extremely Uncomfortable 52 - 60%

 

How Can a Humidifier Help?

Humidifiers are household appliances that increase humidity. They emit water vapor or mist to increase moisture levels. They come in lots of sizes, and are commonly used in individual rooms. Whole house models cover large areas - sometimes up to 2,500 square feet. They usually fall into two categories: cool mist or warm mist. 

Cool Mist Humidifiers

Cool mist units are some of the most popular. Because they don't heat the water in the tank, there's no risk of burn, making them great for households with children. Cool mist types are energy efficient because there's no heating element, but they're generally noisier and require frequent filter changes to control bacteria growth.

elephant

There are three different types of cool mist humidifiers available: evaporative/wick units, impeller models, and ultrasonic.

Wick units have a wick or filter that's used to absorb water.This water is evaporated by a fan and pushed out of the unit. They offer a more natural form of humidification. As your moisture levels increase, the evaporation rate gradually decreases. While these work great, many people dislike the noise created by the unit's fan.

Impeller models have a spinning disk that's submerged in the water tank. The disk creates the mist Units with impellers tend to be more quiet when compared to evaporative models.

Ultrasonic units of the most modern options on the market. They contain a small metal diaphragm that vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency. Vibration creates water droplets without creating noise, emitting a cool fog mistHave antibacterial features to help prevent the problems associated with stagnant water.

 

icon_bulb-blue-1Humidifier Tip:

Consider your climate when shopping for a humidifier.  Cool mist models are recommended for warm, dry areas while warm mist units are better for cool, dry areas. 

 

Warm Mist Humidifiers

Warm mist humidifiers aren't as popular as cool mist units, but they work just as well.  Many consumers like this type because the warm mist produced by these units can be extremely soothing during cold or flu season. 

warmmist

All warm mist units have some sort of heat element that warms the water in the tank.  As a result, they use more electricity than their cool mist counterpart. Because the water is heated before it's released it into the air, there's less room for bacteria growth. 

Almost all warm mist units use steam to add moisture to your air. The process is simple: water is boiled and sent out as steam, which then kills any mold or bacteria.  Many offer the benefit of dispensing medications for inhalation, but again, they're not suitable for use around small children because of the burn risk. 

Cool Mist Versus Warm Mist - Which Should You Choose? 

Both kinds of humidifers are equally effective, but there are pros and cons to each. The one you choose really depends on personal preference. Look below for a quick overview on the two:

Cool Mist 

vicks-v3700

Pros:

Cons:

  • Can cover larger areas

  • Less expensive to purchase than warm mist units

  • More energy-efficient

  • Safer to use around children

  • Bacteria can accumulate in the tank if the unit isn't maintained frequently

  • Can be noisier than warm mist units

 

Warm Mist 

stadler-form-f-007

Pros:

Cons:

  • Steam kills bacteria

  • Generates heat - good for cooler areas

  • May be able to dispense medications for inhalation

  • Not recommended for use around children because of burn risk

  • Dangerous if tipped over

What Humidifier Features Should I Look For?

As with any household appliance, consider cost, convenience, efficiency, and noise. Examining these factors will help you choose the perfect model.

Cost

  • The best option isn't always the most expensive 
  • A basic unit with 1500 square foot coverage can be purchased for under $50
  • A more advanced model with digital display and built-in humidistat will cost a little more
  • Don't forget to include the cost of ownership into your buying decision
  • Remember that because a warm mist unit has an additional heating element, it's going to use more energy than an evaporative humidifier that only has a fan 

Convenience

  • Humidifiers require periodic maintenance
  • A console style or tabletop option will be the easiest to clean
  • These models are small and should easily fit under a faucet for hassle-free refilling too 
  • If you're thinking about buying an evaporative unit, look for one with an easy-to-replace wick.
  • Additional features to consider are user-friendly digital controls and a humidistat that automatically turns off the unit once the preset humidity level is reached
  • Lastly, another great feature is a programmable timer that turns on the unit at a specific time so that your room is at the right humidity level when you get home

Efficiency

  • You'll need to find an option that produces enough moisture to meet your needs
  • First, choose the right size humidifier for the area you wish to humidify
  • The standard output measurement for humidifiers is the number of gallons of water absorbed into the air in a 24 hour period

Noise

  • If you're planning to use a humidifier next to your bed, think about how much noise the unit will produce 
  • As a general rule, a warm mist unit only makes a faint boiling or hissing noise
  •  Cool mist evaporative models with a comparable capacity might be slightly louder because of the internal fan

Compare Our Most Popular Humidifiers

 

VoltageNoise LevelHumidifier TypeDaily OutputTank SizeHumidistat
Sunpentown SU-1051B
$37.40
4.0 Star Rating: Good

240
volts
Cool Mist.72
gallons/day
Pureguardian H1000
$39.99
4.3 Star Rating: Good

120
volts
Cool Mist.70
gallons/day
.23
gallons
Essick Air 821000
$124.71
4.3 Star Rating: Good

120
volts
Cool Mist9
gallons/day
6
gallons
Yes Humidistat
Crane EE-0865
$39.99
4.0 Star Rating: Good

120
volts
36.5
dB
Cool Mist2.1
gallons/day
1
gallons