Humidifier Buying Guide: Tackle Dryness With a Humidifier
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:
Low Humidity (Use Humidifier)
|High Humidity (Use Dehumidifier)|
Chapped Lips & Skin
|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:
|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.
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.
|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.
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:
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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