How To Choose A Humidifier – A Handy Guide

Do you ever notice strange cracks in your house’s paint job and furniture in the winter? What about sudden pricks on your skin when you touch certain surfaces at home? All these, on top of physical discomforts like having dry skin, symptoms of colds and allergies, as well as nosebleeds, can be linked to winter heating.

It’s a common misconception that the cool air of winter causes these troubles on your body and house. The actual cause is the dry air caused by heating. In order to add moisture into the air and lessen the threat of dry air on your health and home, it may be good to invest in a quality humidifier.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the main points to consider when choosing a humidifier.

What is a humidifier?

Advantages of a humidifier

Humidifiers are devices you can install at home in order to add moisture in the air, therefore lessening the lifestyle risks associated with dry air.

Here are some of the main benefits of having a humidifier:

  • Protection against cold and flu germs

Experts say that germs that cause sinusitis, asthma flare-up, and several other respiratory and skin conditions thrive in dry air. If you regularly experience colds and extremely dry skin in the winter, then a humidifier can help solve your problems.

  • Preserves electronics

The high level of static electricity that gets discharged in dry air is not just annoying for the fact that it makes your hair and clothes stick to surfaces — it can also damage your electronics. Believe it or not, the slightest hint of electrostatic energy can fry the most important components of your work laptop or your gaming PC.

  • Healthier indoor plants

Indoor plants do not shrivel up and die because it’s cold outside. They actually need more humidity than is present when you’ve got winter heating on, so a humidifier can help preserve the life of your indoor plants, even when it’s freezing out.

  • Preserves your voice

If you work in an industry or at a job where your voice is considered a main asset (sales, music, hosting, etc), then you simply cannot live inhaling dry air all the time, since this is one easy way to damage your vocal cords. Even if you drink a lot of water during the day, the dry air you breathe at night when you sleep can cause you to lose your voice quick.

How does a humidifier work?

The engineering behind humidifiers is actually quite simple. One of the most important components of a humidifier is its water reservoir, which will hold the main source of humidity that will be expelled in the air.

Depending on its type, the humidifier will have either a wicking system, a diffuser, or an impeller that will turn the water in the reservoir into steam or water droplets that will then be expelled and absorbed by the indoor air in your home. 

To understand this process better, we have to discuss the different types of humidifiers and how they work. Different types of humidifiers feature different systems and technologies, and it is important to note every one of them in your decision-making process in picking out a humidifier for your home or office.

Types of humidifiers

The type of humidifier you choose will depend on your specific requirements and budget. There are pros and cons to each type mentioned below, depending on your situation.

1- Central Humidifiers

This type of humidifier is usually the most expensive, because it is not portable. Instead, it has to be installed and built into your air-conditioning and heating systems at home. However, this is the best choice for those who need to add moisture all throughout the house. Additionally, central humidifiers do not carry risk of burns, unlike other portable humidifiers that emit steam.

2- Evaporators

Evaporators use a wicking system where an absorbent matter like a filter or wick draws water from the reservoir. An internal fan then blows onto the moistened wick, allowing water to evaporate and eventually mix into your indoor air. 

According to Consumer Reports, this humidifier type carries the least likelihood of spreading unwanted bacteria as it adds moisture to the air. 

The main downside to this type of portable humidifier is that it can service only one room at a time. Thus, even though it is inexpensive, you might end up spending more if you want to have a humidifier for every room in the house.

3- Steam vaporizer (warm mist)

Also commonly referred to as ‘warm mist’ humidifiers, steam vaporizers practically heat water in the reservoir to the point that it will produce steam (usually boiling point). Before this steam exits the machine and gets expelled onto your home, the vaporizer cools it first.

Since the water is boiled in this humidifier type, you don’t have to worry about any pollutants or unwanted minerals being spread around the house. However, the actual setup of the humidifier can pose a threat if there are kids living in the house who might accidentally gain access to the piping hot water in the vaporizer’s reservoir. If this is the humidifier type you want, just be sure to keep it out of children’s reach.

3- Impeller (cool mist)

Cool mist humidifiers or impellers are the most common types of humidifiers we usually see in commercial establishments. It features high-speed rotating discs, which constantly flings water at a comb-like diffuser, which then releases the cool mist or fog into your home.

Despite its popularity, impellers are quite tricky to maintain. Since water is not boiled or even heated, the water droplets that float in the air after exiting the impeller may carry pollutants or unwanted minerals. Therefore, you constantly need to wash the humidifier with water and soap after every use to get rid of any impurities.

4- Ultrasonic

Finally, ultrasonic humidifiers make use of metal diaphragms that produce ultrasonic vibrations, much like the ones used in surround-sound speakers, to produce a cool mist. Aside from this cool technology, it also launches the quietest operation among all the humidifier types in this list. However, take note that much like impellers, ultrasonic humidifiers have yet to find a way to purify the mist it produces. It is thus imperative to keep the humidifier spotless and clean to prevent germs from spreading around the house.

Types of humidifiers explained

Best water for humidifier

Now that you already have a humidifier type in mind, the next question to ask is this: Can you use any water for your humidifier?

The answer is yes, but the US Environmental Protection Agency warns that you shouldn’t. For the record, tap water will work just as well as purified or treated water, but using water laden with minerals could pose serious health risk to you and your family, especially when used for impeller or ultrasonic diffuser types.

If you have a water purification system at home, this shouldn’t worry you. Otherwise, the hard minerals present in your water may be spread and inhaled by your family. Minerals present in untreated tap water may even promote the growth of rust or limescale on your actual humidifier, allowing for the easy growth of microorganisms.

The EPA thus promotes using distilled water in humidifiers, since distillation is the best-known method for removing all unwanted minerals in your water. You can also look into reverse osmosis systems as they also produce very clean water, free of minerals and most other contaminants.

The Bottom Line

A humidifier has many benefits for every household, especially if you’re susceptible to colds, irritated sinuses, dry skin and other similar conditions. A high-quality humidifier will also  help you maintain your plants and keep the atmosphere in your home perfectly humid.

However, when choosing a humidifier, consider the type of device you require based on your needs. If you’re looking to buy a humidifier, but aren’t sure how to choose one, we’ve selected and reviewed the best humidifiers on the market, complete with a buying guide.

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