Below we review the common design features you’ll find in humidifiers. As you read this list, consider which features are important to you.
Types: There are two types of humidifiers: warm mist and cool mist. While both add moisture to your household air, they differ by the process in which they do so.
- Warm mist humidifiers boil water and release the steam into the room. Because they boil water to a hot temperature, parents may want to avoid using these in their child’s room.
- Cool mist humidifiers, predictably, use cold water. There are three subtypes of cool mist humidifiers, depending on the mechanism they use to produce the mist. Evaporative humidifiers blow air over a wet wick using a fan, so they may be a bit louder, but the construction makes them a cleaner option. Ultrasonic humidifiers produce cool mist using a vibrating nebulizer, which makes them quieter. Impeller humidifiers use rotating discs instead of a wick or nebulizer, resulting in quiet operation but for a steeper price tag.
Coverage: Humidifiers are designed to humidify a certain size area. The smallest humidifiers are intended for desktop use, while the largest ones can add moisture to an entire house. Humidifiers for bedrooms fall somewhere in the middle. You don’t want to over humidify your home, as too much moisture can lead to mold. Avoid this by choosing an appropriate-sized humidifier for your bedroom.
Noise: All humidifiers make some sort of noise, even the quietest ultrasonic options. If you’re using a humidifier for your bedroom, it’s important that it be as quiet as possible so it doesn’t interrupt your sleep. Generally, the larger the humidifier, the more noise it makes. Evaporative and warm-mist humidifiers also tend to be louder. Ideally, your humidifier serves as a sort of a white noise. If you’re very sound-sensitive, look for videos online of the humidifier you’re planning to purchase, and listen to see what kind of noise it makes.
Automatic Shut Off: Humidifiers with an automatic shut-off feature will turn the device off when there’s no water left in the reservoir. This prevents the unit from overheating or wasting your electricity, allowing you to use the device safely overnight.
Humidistat: Humidifier models with a humidistat measure the indoor humidity levels and automatically turn off the machine when it hits a level you’ve pre-set (such as 50%). This prevents the humidifier from over-humidifying the air to the point of creating indoor condensation.
Timer: Humidifiers that include a timer allow you to preset a time for the machine to turn on and start running. This way, your bedroom is properly humidified by bedtime without you having to go in beforehand and manually turn it on yourself.
Wick or Filters: Depending on the type of humidifier you buy, you may need to regularly replace the wick or filters. Before purchasing a humidifier, make sure you understand how frequently you’ll have to replace these (as you’ll have to do for a small cost), and ensure you have a place where you can easily buy them.
Display: Humidifiers may come with a digital display. At a minimum, this will let you know if the device is on, and perhaps whether you’re using a high or low mist setting. More advanced displays include a humidistat and timer information as well.
Diffuser Combos: Humidifier/diffuser combination units are designed to operate with essential oils and diffuse aroma into the air along with moisture. The calming scents may help you fall asleep.
Design: Functionality is obviously important but some people want their humidifier to look good, too. Since this may be a constant fixture in your bedroom during the winter, you’ll want to like what you’re looking at. Many humidifier manufacturers create humidifiers with design in mind to accommodate different style preferences.
Size: Beyond the look, take note of the size of the humidifier. Make sure you’ll have enough room to place it somewhere in your bedroom. Also measure your sink and the area underneath your faucet before purchasing, to ensure you’ll be able to refill the tank easily.
Do you have additional questions about humidifiers? Read below for answers to the top FAQ people have about humidifiers.
What is a humidifier used for?
A humidifier increases the amount of moisture in your indoor air. When the indoor air is dry, your skin gets drier and your lips may chap. It can be harder to breathe if you suffer from allergies or asthma, or it can take longer for you to recover from a cold or sinus infection (and you’ll feel more miserable in the process).
By using a humidifier, you help maintain ideal humidity levels in your home, so you can breathe and sleep easier at night.
What size humidifier do I need?
The ideal indoor humidity levels are between 40 to 60%. During the winter months, the indoor air can drop well below these levels, even down to 10%. The coverage area of a humidifier indicates the size of a room it can properly humidify to keep levels within that ideal range.
- Small and medium humidifiers are designed for single room use. They’re usually portable and can be easily moved from room to room. Because they’re smaller, you will need to refill the tank more frequently.
- Large and extra-large humidifiers are designed to humidify multiple rooms, or even a whole house. They’re not designed to be as portable, but the tradeoff in profitability may be worth it since you don’t have to refill them as often.
Typically, a humidifier with a 1-gallon tank will suffice for most bedrooms.
Is cool mist or warm mist better?
Both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers are effective at introducing moisture back into your household air. The question of which option is better for you depends on your unique situation.
Warm mist humidifiers, for instance, are recommended more for adults, as the heating element may become hot as it boils the water. If you live with pets or children, they may touch the device, or accidentally tip it over, and hurt themselves in the process.
Warm mist humidifiers can be better at killing germs, due to the boiling process, and their warm vapor may help relieve clogged sinuses. However, they are usually noisier since they need to boil the water.
Cool mist humidifiers are a better long-term option, because they can cover larger areas and use less electricity. However, they do need to be cleaned more often.
How much does a humidifier cost?
Humidifiers can range in cost from $25 to over $100. The larger the area the humidifier is intended to cover, the more expensive it will be. Additional features, such as a LED display, nightlight, or humidistat, can also increase the price.
How do you clean your humidifier?
Without proper cleaning, a humidifier has a tougher time doing its job. This means it can drain more of your electricity and be less efficient, but it also means your humidifier may become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. It’s important to regularly clean your humidifier.
Every day, drain your humidifier reservoir, rinse it, and let it dry. Every week, clean and disinfect the machine using vinegar or a bleach solution. Rinse it, and let it dry. Whenever you put your humidifier away for an extended period, clean it again before using it.
Your manufacturer will also include instructions for how to clean the humidifier. Follow these.
Do humidifiers help with allergies?
Humidifiers do help people with allergies sleep better, by adding moisture to the indoor air.
However, allergy and asthma sufferers may need to take special care if they buy an ultrasonic humidifier. These humidifiers are popular, but because of the way they produce the vapor, a thin white dust can accumulate in the bedroom—and become an allergen of its own.
Fortunately, addressing this issue is fairly easy. You can pour filtered water into the reservoir, as opposed to straight tap water, to avoid mineral deposits and dust from collecting. Also clean your humidifier daily. You can also invest in an air purifier to further remove allergens like this from your bedroom.
Can you put essential oils in a humidifier?
It depends. If you buy a humidifier that’s also a diffuser, the answer is usually yes.
Always check your manufacturer’s instructions before adding anything other than water to your tank. Some humidifiers are not designed to operate with essential oils, and introducing other elements may cause bacteria or mold to grow.
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