If you know all you need to know about humidifiers before you make your purchase, you will be better prepared to make an informed decision that will benefit you. Humidifiers come in various shapes and sizes with different functions and purposes. While some are intended to rest atop a table and provide a cooling effect, others stand on floors and have a warming effect.
The basic purpose of a humidifier is to emit water vapor or steam into the air to increase the moisture level in the air, also known as the humidity. Generally humidity is higher in the summer than in the winter; in fact, many households use humidifiers only during the winter months. Ideally, the humidity level in your house should be between 30 and 50 percent. Lower humidity can cause dry skin and irritate your nasal passages and throat; higher humidity can aid and abet the growth of bacteria, molds and dust mites, which may trigger asthma and allergy symptoms in sensitive individuals.
As you go through the process of researching humidifiers, you will see that you can purchase cool mist humidifiers and warm mist humidifiers. They have the same general purpose, but they differ in the key aspects.
Cool mist humidifiers are best for year-round operation and in households in which one or more individuals has asthma. They don't raise the temperature of the room or emit hot steam, making them a good choice for warm, dry climates. There are three different types of cool mist humidifiers. An impeller cool mist humidifier forces water into the air in the form of a fine mist. Evaporative cool mist humidifiers soak water into a wick and use a fan to blow the moisture out into the air. Ultrasonic cool mist humidifiers use high-frequency sound to vaporize the water.
Consumer Search has found no evidence that impellers are effective. They found, also, that many consumers find evaporative humidifiers to be too noisy for everyday operation and that, although their upfront cost is relatively low, they have ongoing costs associated with them. The company found that ultrasonic humidifiers have the most positive consumer reviews, despite that they occasionally emit minerals with the mist that form a white dust on furniture.
According to Good Housekeeping, the best-performing cool mist humidifier is the Honeywell HCM-300T, which costs about $80 at most stores. It was found to raise a room's humidity by 50 percent, and was rated to operate continuously for 25 hours before requiring a refill. It has an ultraviolet light that disinfects the water before expelling it into the air, and costs about $1.32 in electricity costs per month if operated continuously.
Warm mist humidifiers operate by boiling the water in their reservoir before expelling it into the air. Because of this feature, they can actually raise the ambient room temperature by a few degrees and they succeed in killing some bacteria. Warm mist humidifiers are quieter than cool mist humidifiers with fans, and they are less expensive to maintain because they do not have filters that must be changed.
These humidifiers are dangerous in houses with small children because children can knock the humidifier over, spilling hot water on themselves or others. Also, warm mist humidifiers consume more energy than cool mist humidifiers, making them more expensive to operate. The minerals in the water have the potential to build up on the humidifier's heating element, reducing its performance efficiency. They are not recommended for use in households in which anyone has asthma because the warm mist has the potential to irritate breathing passages.
Good Housekeeping recommends the Enviracare Germ-Free EWM-211D warm mist humidifier, which costs around $90. This model uses ultraviolet light to disinfect the water, increases a room's humidity by 50 percent in just 30 minutes, and has easy-to-use digital controls. They found, however, that its electricity costs can be around $7 per month if operated continuously.
There are three basic sizes for humidifiers: tabletop, console, and in-duct. Tabletop humidifiers are the least expensive of the three sizes, and the most common. They are often capable of humidifying an entire room. The disadvantage of this size over others is the necessity to refill its reservoir often. Console humidifiers are larger than tabletop humidifiers, but they are still portable. They generate large amounts of moist air, making it capable of humidifying several rooms. It requires fewer refills than tabletop models because of its larger reservoir, but this size may be cumbersome to move. In-duct humidifiers are great for humidifying the whole house. They are best for houses with forced-air heating systems; they are installed in air ducts and receive their water from the plumbing system. These models are quiet, are inexpensive to operate, and require little maintenance; they do, however, require the most substantial initial investment compared to the other sizes, especially because most require professional installation.
When buying any new appliance, including a humidifier, knowledge is power; the more you know about humidifiers before you make your purchase, the likelier you are to be happy with what you’ve chosen.