Humidifiers Buying Guide

During the cold months of the year, the air in your home can feel dry because of the increased amount of heat you use to keep warm.  From blasting your electric heater  to the stocking the wood burning stove  to the brim, all these methods that are supposed to keep you comfy during the winter can actually cause you to wake up with a scratchy throat, itchy skin and dry eyes.  But never fear--there is a remedy to all your dried out woes.  Humidifiers can help by adding moisture to the air and may even relieve allergies and common colds by reducing dust and other particulates in the air around your house.  Humidifiers can even work to protect your personal belongings, like wood furniture , which can be damaged by super-dry conditions.  But before you buy a humidifier, there are a few things you should know.  Check out the following guide to scope out the different varieties available on the market.

Humidifier Types

There are two basic types of humidifiers: warm mist  and cool mist , and each of these can be subdivided further.  In each category, however, most models are small and portable and can provide enough coverage for a single room.  A console-style  humidifier, on the other hand, are for wide-ranging coverage, often meant for humidifying an entire flat or house.

Warm Mist Humidifiers

Warm mist humidifiers  produce warm steam by boiling water and then allow the steam to cool before releasing it into the air.

  • Pros
    • Whisper quiet: They are usually quieter than cool mist humidifiers when on low settings, but some boiling and gurgling can be heard while set to high.
    • No germs: They produce cleaner air because they use boiled, distilled water.
    • Warmth: Warm mist can make a room feel warmer without raising the thermostat.
    • Speed: Warm mist disperses more quickly than cool mist.
    • Kid-friendly: Recommended by paediatricians for use in nurseries.
  • Cons
    • Regular Maintenance: Replacement filter pads  need to be bought regularly, thus increasing long-term costs.
    • Energy Usage: Since these models heat the water, they cost more to run per year.
      • Keep in mind that you may only use it for a few months of the year, so your energy costs may not be that much greater for this type of humidifier.

put out warm steam that isn't cooled before releasing it into the air. Most of the pros and cons of other warm mist humidifiers apply here, with the following additions:

  • Pros
    • Can add certain medications or herbal cold remedies for quick intake and respiratory relief.
  • Cons
    • Vaporisers usually don't cool the steam, so they are even more likely to cause burns.

Cool Mist Humidifiers

There are three distinct types of cool mist humidifiers: evaporative ,ultrasonic , and impeller . They all put out a cool mist without any risk of burn from hot vapour.

Evaporative humidifiers  put out a cool mist by blowing air through a moistened wick or filter.

  • Pros
    • The wick or filter retains any particles in the water and may be treated to kill bacteria.
    • Efficient and reliable.
    • Most commonly available type.
  • Cons
    • Noise: They are often much noisier than warm mist humidifiers.
    • High Maintenance: Costs are higher because the wick filters need to be replaced often.
      • Since the water isn't boiled, bacteria can grow in the tank unless it is cleaned regularly.

Ultrasonic humidifiers 

  • Pros
    • High-frequency vibrations, instead of a fan, disperse water droplets.
    • Quiet and efficient.
    • Some Air-O-Swiss models (pictured) can produce both warm and cool mist.
  • Cons
    • Has problems with "white powder" unless distilled water is used.
    • You can also use a demineralisation cartridge, but costs can accumulate.

Impeller humidifiers 

  • Pros
    • Inexpensive and widely available.
    • Efficient, and require fewer refills.
  • Cons
    • No method of getting rid of bacteria -- if they are in the water, they will be dispersed into the air.
    • Discharges white dust unless a demineralisation cartridge is used and changed regularly.
    • Can make rooms feel colder.

Major Considerations

When purchasing a humidifier, there is no single choice that's right for everyone. For some, noise level might be the primary concern. For others might cost or efficiency may be key.  Here are a few tips to help you determine what's right for you:

  • Noise -- Warm mist models are much quieter than evaporative models. Even on the highest setting, they may only make a little bit of gurgling or hissing. Evaporative models, on the other hand, can be quite noisy -- some can be as loud as small air conditioners. Keep in mind that all console models are evaporative.
  • Cost -- Usually humidifiers range in price from £30-£150, depending on their features and capacity. Consoles are more expensive than tabletop models, but warm mist and evaporative tabletop humidifiers are in the same price range (£30-£90).
  • Efficiency -- Evaporative models are much cheaper to run, since they don't heat the water. The smallest ones may cost only a few dollars a year. The largest ones, however, can approach the cost per year of a warm mist humidifier, so it also depends on the size you need.
  • Coverage Area -- Manufacturers may overstate the area that the model can properly humidify, but for the most part the manufacturers guidelines should be able to give you some idea about output of the machine.
  • White Dust -- White dust, or white powder, is frequently mentioned in articles about humidifiers. This means that when the water has a high mineral content, fine white dust can settle on furniture in the rooms where you use the humidifier. Some machines have built-in filters or demineralisers to deal with this problem, and sometimes they can be purchased separately. This problem can be avoided altogether, however, simply by using distilled or demineralised water.

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