HUMIDIFIERS: WHY USE THEM?
Humidifiers - love them or hate them? First of all, let me begin by saying that we are a great fan of increasing humidification in winter months, especially for those of us who live in the frozen north and have to live indoors all winter. However, as a company we have had a love-hate relationship to humidifiers, since some of them have reliability issues. Our challenge has been to find a humidifier that does the job but without the drawbacks or reliability problems.
We recommend that indoor humidity levels in winter should be around 30 to 40%. Wintry cold air holds less moisture, and when it is heated indoors becomes even drier, setting the stage for itchy dry skin, sinus attacks, dry eyes and the like.
The good news is that humidifier technology has been improving over the last couple of years and humidifiers are now easier to maintain and do not spew out the white mineral dust which causes respiratory problems. Some humidifiers are even nice and very quiet. We did find however that there is a universal tendency for manufacturers to exaggerate the square footage that is usually covered by their humidifiers. We have adjusted our technical specification charts on our web site to reflect what we believe to be the real square foot coverage.
- Humidifiers reduce the possibility of winter infection by keeping the mucous membranes moist and allowing the tiny hairs in the nose and throat to work to expel any particles that were suspended in the air
- Dry aching sinuses receive a great deal of relief from a humidified bedroom
- Sleep with a snoring partner? Humidifiers relieve the intensity and noise level of the snoring
- Cold symptoms are greatly relieved by using a humidifier in your bedroom at night
- Dry, itchy skin is prevented, and chapped lips are relieved with humidifiers
- Unpleasant static electricity shocks are reduced by humidifiers
- Valuable wood furniture and floors, musical instruments are protected from cracking and warping
- Using a humidifier can reduce your heating costs because moist air retains heat better than dry air
BUYERS GUIDE TO HUMIDIFIERS
- Home humidifiers usually cover an area less than the manufacturer states, so buy a larger size humidifier than you think you need.
- Humidifiers will definitely add moisture to the air, but you may not be able to reach the humidity level that you want to achieve i.e. 30 to 40% with a small capacity humidifier. There are many factors that can affect the humidity level reached. If you are using it for a specific room and leave the door open you may find the moisture you are adding from it leave to humidify other areas of the house. The rate at which it leaves the room will depend on how dry the adjoining parts of the house are. The reason is that the humidity in the air is always trying to equalize itself at all times. It circulates from high vapor pressure (high humidity levels) to low vapor pressure (low humidity levels). Therefore, if the adjoining area humidity levels are high more of the moisture will stay in the room. However, if the rest of the house is dry you will find that more of the moisture provided by the humidifier will leave the room to help equalize the humidity in the rest of the house. So, leaving the door open or closed can have a great affect on the humidity levels you can achieve and maintain. Furthermore, forced hot air heating systems add other issues to the puzzle. One will feel their humidifier is not working because every time the forced hot air turns on hot dry air will be introduced into the room through the supply registers. Thus, the colder it is outside and/or the higher one has the thermostat set at the more frequent this system will turn on and the longer it will run to introduce this hot dry air into the room. An added issue is if there is a return register in the room you are running your humidifier in. What happens then is as soon as the humidity level starts to improve it will drastically be reduced when this air is sucked out of the room through the return register and replaced with the hot dry air from the heating system. This is a one-two punch that no humidifier can defeat. So, you can see there are many factors other than just the size of the room that can affect the performance of the humidifier you choose.
- Humidity over 50% encourages dust mites, and even higher humidity levels encourage mold spore growth.
- The level of humidity that you can achieve is dependent on the outdoor humidity.
- The level of humidity you wish to achieve should vary with the outside temperature. A simple rule of thumb is as the outside air temperature decreases so should the desired humidity you wish to reach and maintain. The reason for this is that if you continue to maintain a certain level of humidity as the outside air temperature decreases you may notice a great deal of condensation forming on your windows. This is because the dew point remains high as the surface temperature of the windows decrease allowing the air to condense and release its moisture when it come in contact with the window's colder surface. In some cases, you may only wish to maintain a humidity level of 25 to 30 percent when it is very cold outside.
- None of our humidifiers produce any white mineral dust which can be a by-product of some other brands. The exception to that statement is a proviso that our favorite, Air-O-Swiss, is not receptive to softened water and will disperse white dust if softened water is used. This is as a result of the salt used in most water softening systems. The sodium from the salt cannot be removed by the demineralization cartridges in the ultrasonic humidifiers and the result is this fine white dust appearing on all the surfaces in the room.
- Hard water presents a problem for all humidifiers, and you should expect the filters to need changing more often. On the other hand, softened water can still be used in evaporative cool mist humidifiers but not in the warm/cool and cool mist ultrasonic variety like the Air-O-Swiss, as it would cause white dust to be dispersed as a result of the salt used to soften it.
TYPES OF HUMIDIFIERS
There are basically 5 types and you will find we carry all of them except for the latter type. They are: Ultrasonic Warm/Cool Mist, Ultrasonic Cool Mist, Evaporative Cool Mist, Air Washer, and Steam Vaporizer Warm Mist.
Ultrasonic Warm/Cool Mist: Liquid water particles in a form of a mist are emitted into the air where they evaporate increasing the humidity. This happens when a metal diaphragm vibrates at ultra sonic speed to agitate the water into very small water particles to create the mist. A silent fan pushes this mist up and out into the room. Some humidifier models, particularly Air-O-Swiss or Stadler Form offers you the choice of the warm or the cool mist. With the warm mist, the water is heated to about 176 degrees before the mist is created allowing the mist to exit the top of the humidifier at about 104 degrees so it is slightly warm to the touch. Or, one can elect to use the cool mist function which simply means the water will not be heated prior to creating the mist so it will exit the top relative to the water temperature which can be between 50 to 80 degrees. If you are looking for a humidifier that is maintenance free with no expensive wicks or filters to replace consider a pureguardian™ humidifier.
Ultrasonic Cool Mist: We offer a variety of ultrasonic humidifiers that can disperse a micro-fine cool mist into the air and do not have a heating function option for a warm mist option. For an ultrasonic cool mist only humidifier, we recommend the Air-O-Swiss 7145, Stadler Form Anton, and Stadler Form Hydra.
Evaporative Cool Mist: With our evaporative cool mist humidifiers, humidity is produced by a fan that draws the air in from the room and blows it over or through a moistened wick in water. Some of this water evaporates and this water vapor is added to the air which increases its humidity. This air is then blown back into the room to increase the humidity in the room. This air is not wet just has more humidity in it. Since heat is removed from the air when evaporation occurs the air is cooled as a result so the air coming out will be cooler than when it went in. This can be a disadvantage to some who like to keep their home warm but it will only lower the overall air temperature in the home a degree or two. Furthermore, the increase of the humidity in the air will make it feel warmer to the body so this would cancel out any temperature decrease.
Air Washers: are evaporative cool mist humidifiers that use a series of rotating plastic discs instead of filter wicks to evaporate water into the air. Air Washer Humidifiers add humidity to a room and help to clean the air. Water in conjunction with rotating discs retain and remove airborne impurities, including large dust and pollen particles, while returning clean, properly humidified air to the room. Air washers produce a cool mist only. An air washer is the most robust kind of humidifier, are very reliable and they can cover a larger area than the other types of humidifiers. Air washers have no problems with mineral dust; However they do require regular maintenance, as you have to rinse out a pan of dirty water on a frequent basis. Also, keep in mind that though an air washer is able to remove large allergen particles from the air, they do not remove the sub-micron lung penetrating particles that really hurt you. If one is looking to clean the air thoroughly of all allergens a stand alone dedicated air purifier is recommended.
Steam Vaporizer Warm Mist: usually involves a heating element in the humidifier that heats the water before dispersing it into the air. The addition of a heating element, usually has warm mist humidifiers be slightly more expensive to buy initially, and are more costly to run. We used to sell more brands of warm mist humidifiers but found they were either costly to maintain or malfunctioned. So we stopped carrying them. Most of the time, the temperature of the mist that is emitted from these type of humidifier is much warmer than from the ultrasonic warm mist. This is because most of them simply boil the water in the base and emit steam into the air. We think that whether you prefer a cool or a warm mist humidifier is a matter of personal preference and geography. Warm mist feels more comforting in a North Eastern United States winter bedroom or child's room.
WHAT SIZE HUMIDIFIER DO YOU NEED?
There are three major sizes of humidifiers and they each have a different gallon dispersion rating, as well as square footage usually covered. Decide how much square footage you are aiming to cover and how many rooms.
Portable / Tabletop humidifiers are the least expensive and best for a single room like a bedroom. These tabletop humidifiers require the most frequent refilling and are available in ultrasonic cool mist humidifier choices. These are mini size and excellent for travel where exposure to a cool mist in a small area or localized point where you sleep or work.
There are many room humidifiers to choose from that will efficiently humidify a single room or multi-room area of 650-1200 square feet. These would include our ultrasonic warm & cool humidifiers, evaporative cool mist humidifiers and air washers.
Our whole house humidifier models will humidify entire homes as long as there are open doorways. Our whole house humidifiers are ideal for areas between 1700 to 2700 square feet.
If one had to talk in generalities as to the difference between Warm/Cool and Cool Mist ultrasonic humidifiers and Evaporative Cool Mist they would be: Evaporative Cool mist humidifiers will cover a larger area and are cheap and easy to run, but are noisier and require more cleaning. Ultrasonic warm/cool and cool mist humidifiers are quieter and easier to clean, but more expensive to maintain. An exception would be the ultrasonic pureguardian humidifiers require no replacement filters.
ULTRASONIC WARM/COOL AND COOL MIST OR EVAPORATIVE COOL MIST?
WHICH HUMIDIFIER IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Evaporative Cool Mist Humidifier Pluses
- Are cheap and easier to run
- Will cover a larger area
Evaporative Cool Mist Humidifier Minuses
- Slightly noisier than warm mist units due to the fan noise
- The rate that the water will evaporate is directly related to the present humidity in the room. In other words, as the humidity in the room increases the rate that the water will evaporate inside the unit will decrease. However, this would become more of an issue if one wished to raise the humidity to levels higher than 50 percent which we do not recommend.
Ultrasonic Warm/Cool and Cool Mist Humidifier Pluses
- They are quieter than evaporative cool mist units
- When using the warm mist option the mist will evaporate faster into the air so you will be able to increase the humidity faster
- Warm mist humidifiers feel the most comfortable especially in Northern winters
- Require less cleaning
- There is no limit to how much humidity you can add to the air since the water mist droplets will not decrease regardless of the room humidity. These types of humidifiers are particularly beneficial if one wanted to raise the humidity over 45% or higher for the purpose of preserving certain materials or products such as cigars, musical instruments, etc.
Ultrasonic Warm/Cool and Cool Mist Humidifier Minuses
- They cover a smaller area than the evaporative cool mist humidifiers, often no more than one decent sized bedroom.
- They require placement at least 2 feet from the floor to prevent the moisture from hitting the floor before it has a chance to evaporate. One will note that as the humidity increases in the room the mist being emitted will take longer to evaporate into the air. Therefore, one may find it necessary to raise the humidifier positioning higher from the floor and/or use the warm mist option if the particular model has that option.
We sell humidifier replacement filters and cartridges for all our humidifier models.
See our comprehensive humidifier comparison chart on our different models.