How to Choose a Humidifier
By Mercia Tapping, President, AllergyBuyersClub.com
Let me begin by saying that we are a great fan of increasing humidification in the winter months, especially for those of us who live in the frozen north and are forced to hibernate indoors all winter. However, as a company we have had a love-hate relationship with these units, since some humidifiers tend to have reliability issues. Our challenge has been to find a humidifier that does the job right, without the drawbacks or reliability problems.
The good news is that humidifier technology has come a long way over the past couple of years. They are now easier to maintain, much quieter, and have even omitted the white mineral dust which causes respiratory problems. 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.
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.
- Relieve cold, allergy, and asthma symptoms by keeping nasal passages moist, which also helps speed up the healing process
- Moisture is essential for preventing nose bleeds and relieving dry, aching sinuses
- Sleep with a snoring partner? Humidifiers help alleviate the intensity of that annoying snoring sound
- Soothes dried out, itchy, cracked skin and lips
- Reduce unpleasant static electricity in the air
- Valuable wood furniture, floors, and musical instruments are protected from cracking and warping
- Retain your heat better with moist air, reducing your heating costs
- 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 correctly sized 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.
- Humidity over 50% encourages dust mites, and even higher humidity levels encourage mold spore growth.
- 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. However, if there is a water softener installed in your home the high sodium levels in your water will create white dust when used in any ultrasonic humidifier. 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 humidifier, as it would cause white dust to be dispersed as a result of the salt used to soften it.
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 7147, 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. 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. We carry MoistAir evaporative humidifiers which we are for good value.
Air Washers: These 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 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. We carry both the Venta and the top of the line Stadler Form Robert airwasher.
Steam Vaporizer Warm Mist: involves a heating element in the humidifier that heats the water before dispersing it into the air. The advantage of a steam humidifier is that by heating the tank water, bacteria and organic compounds are destroyed. Our top of the line Air-O-Swiss S450 humidifier humidifies up to 860 square feet and is relatively quiet.
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.
Evaporative Cool Mist Humidifier Pluses
- Easy to operate and maintain
- Will humidify 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.
We sell humidifier replacement filters and cartridges for all our humidifier models.
See our comprehensive humidifier comparison chart on our different models.