How To Choose The Best Humidifier

Humidifiers range in size from small, personal units you can carry in your backpack to units large enough to take care of your whole house. 

Should you use cool mist or warm?  Do you need a humidistat?  What is an air washer? 

Read on and we’ll tell you how to choose the best humidifier for your personal needs.

Types Of Humidifiers

Ultrasonic:  An ultrasonic humidifier uses a metal diaphragm that vibrates at a high frequency to break water molecules down into a fine warm or cool mist.  These high-speed vibrations kill any bacteria or viruses by shattering their cell walls.  The mist is then dispersed into the room by means of a fan.  Ultrasonic humidifiers are typically the most quiet and most cost-efficient.

The one drawback with this technology is that the vibrations tend to produce a white mineral dust that gets scattered along with the mist.  However, many units are now equipped with demineralization or anti-calcium cartridges that eliminate the problem.

Evaporative:  An evaporative humidifier utilizes a filter pad or wick to absorb water from the reservoir.  A fan then forces air over the wick to force water vapor out into the air.  This type of humidifier generally works more quickly and efficiently than an ultrasonic unit, however it only delivers a cool mist, and you may prefer a warm mist if congestion is a problem.  Evaporative models also utilize a filter, which is a small additional expense, and there’s an increased threat of bacteria formation if the unit isn’t properly cleaned and maintained.

Air Washers:  Air washers utilize a rotating disc with a filter that removes large airborne impurities and returns lean, humidified air to the room.  Dust, pollen, spores and odors are removed, making this the ideal unit for allergy sufferers.  Air washers are also easier to clean and maintain as there are no filters involved.  In most cases the discs can be placed in the dishwasher, and the base containing the water has ionic protection which prevents bacterial growth.

Humidifier Sizes

Humidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, including small personal-size units that can be used with a standard-size bottle of water.  It’s important to understand how they’re rated and what the rating means to you, personally.

Gallon Dispersion Rating:  Most humidifiers have a “gallon dispersion rating” which signifies how much water the unit can turn into mist in one 24-hour period.  For example, a 10-gallon humidifier can convert 10 gallons of water into mist in one day.  This rating has nothing to do with the coverage area.

The gallon dispersion rating is significant for one main reason:  The amount of water necessary to raise the humidity level to the standard 30-40% level will depend on how dry the air is both inside and outside your home.  If you live in a particularly dry climate it’s going to take more water to humidify your air.

However, while you might be tempted to purchase a humidifier with a larger gallon dispersion rating, remember, you’re also going to have to fill and carry that tank.  One gallon of water weighs approximately 8.35 pounds.

Coverage Area:  The coverage area is the maximum amount of area the unit can effectively humidify.  It’s important to note that manufacturers test their units under optimum conditions.  Since all environments vary, and all needs also vary, you should choose a humidifier that covers more than the necessary area, if possible.

Single-room Humidifiers:  You’ll find a wide variety of single-room humidifiers in all price ranges, some that look like cute little animals for the baby’s room, and some that look like high-tech gadgets for the office.  These are best for bedrooms, office and medium size rooms.  Most are loaded with features such as digital controls, timers, and humidistats to monitor humidity levels.

Large-capacity Humidifiers:  If you have multiple rooms to humidify then you’ll want to look at large-capacity humidifiers.  These units are typically evaporative, which is a quicker, more efficient method to disperse humidity into large areas or multiple rooms.  Keep in mind these units use a fan to disperse the vapor so they’re also generally a little noisier than smaller, ultrasonic models.  However, they’ve come a long way and they’re much quieter than they were back in the old days.  Best for multiple rooms or larger rooms like great-rooms.

Cool Mist vs. Warm Mist

In the past there was always the fear of bacteria growth with cool mist humidifiers.  On the other hand, there was also the fear of getting a steam burn from a warm mist model.  These days, those problems are gone.

Ultrasonic cool mist humidifiers vibrate at such high frequencies that the literally pulverize bacteria or virus spores.

Warm mist humidifiers tend to be more beneficial than cool mist, especially during the dry, winter months.  They’re also more helpful with stuffy noses and congestion.  And these days, they’re available in so many shapes and sizes that it’s easy to find one you can place out of baby’s reach.  If you’re really not sure if you prefer warm mist or cool, consider a humidifier that offers both.

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