There are many types of humidifiers on the market, so how do you choose?
Before you buy a humidifier, it helps to understand how it works, which type is the most suitable for you and what is involved in its maintenance. Read on to learn more.
Why do I need a humidifier?
Humidifiers keep the surrounding air in a room moist. Just like how dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air, humidifiers help to add moisture to the air.
Maintaining a healthy level of moisture in the air has several health benefits, including helping to relieve sinusitis and nasal congestion caused by dry air. It also helps to keep your nasal passages lubricated and speed up healing from a cold, asthma, and allergies (especially when combined with an air purifier).
Pulmonologist Katina Nicolacakis, MD explains that setting up an air humidifier helps improve indoor air quality and breathing:
“When the air is dry, your respiratory system just isn’t happy. Even if you have no medical problems at all, you can suffer,” she says.
With that, having a humidifier to reintroduce moisture into the air also helps prevent nosebleeds, alleviate snoring, and soothe dry skin, lips and throat.
How will I know I need a humidifier?
It’s easier to tell if you have an indoor humidistat. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends keeping your home’s humidity level between 30 to 50% RH.
Otherwise, sure signs the air in your house is too dry are static in your hair or the sparks that fly when you touch someone or something in winter.
Other than that, you can tell that the air in your home is too dry if you start coughing in the morning, or wake up with cracked lips.
“Your skin and nasal passages get dry – all the way down to your lungs. You can wake up with a dry mouth and start coughing for no reason,” adds Dr. Nicolacakis.
How does a humidifier work?
There are three common types of humidifiers that you’ll find in stores today – vapourisers (also known as steam or warm mist humidifiers), evaporative humidifiers and ultrasonic humidifiers.
Vaporisers heat up or boil the water to create hot steam. Usually, medicated inhalants can be added to the steam vapour to help reduce coughs.
Evaporative humidifiers consist of a reservoir, wick and fan. They rely on a fan to blow air through their wick filters, which absorbs water from the reservoir and provides a large surface area for it to evaporate from. They are partially self-regulating too – a room with low humidity will have a higher evaporation rate compared to a room with high humidity.
Ultrasonic humidifiers like the Ionmax ION90 humidifier shown above, utilise a small metal plate (nebuliser) that vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency, which is inaudible to humans, but can break water particles from the humidifier’s water reservoir apart into vapour.
The humidifier then emits this fine mist into the air, and the mist is instantaneously distributed throughout the room. These humidifiers are the most popular types used today, but it’s important to look for a model that includes a demineralisation filter so that the mist output does not contain impurities from the water. Otherwise, ultrasonic humidifiers are best used with distilled water to minimise the amount of impurities in mist.
The best humidifiers today feature an internal humidistat that continuously checks the moisture level in the air. In the Ionmax ION90, for example, if the humidistat detects that there isn’t enough moisture in the air, it will send a signal to the motor to activate the nebuliser to create more mist. Once mist is produced, a small internal fan blows the mist up and out of the humidifier through the mist outlet.
Which type of humidifier should I choose?
Which humidifier you choose depends on your personal preference and needs. Some things you’d need to consider include its size and coverage area, the humidifier type, and their pros and cons.
Size & area coverage
First, measure the size of the room that you’ll be using the humidifier for. Then, check the coverage area of the humidifiers you’re browsing to see if it’ll cover your room or home.
In terms of size of the humidifier, making the right choice involves trade-offs in efficiency, noise, and convenience. Small to medium humidifiers such as tabletop or portable humidifiers may suit small to medium sized rooms, but may need more frequent refills. Also, the tank needs to be small enough that it’ll fit under your faucet during refills.
Larger humidifier models may suit small to large rooms and have different mist output settings, but may be difficult to move from room to room. Some models may also not allow you to control the mist output, making it difficult for a large humidifier to accommodate smaller rooms.
The type of humidifier is also important, and each type has its pros and cons.
Vapouriser humidifiers can be used with medical inhalants to alleviate coughs, and are very cheap and affordable.
However, they consume a lot of energy and increase electricity bills. Additionally, the heat source in poorly designed humidifiers can overheat, causing it to melt, leak, or even start fires. They are also difficult to clean, and generally unsafe for use in children’s rooms.
Evaporative humidifiers don’t involve heating, so they’re safer to use in homes with kids. They’re also affordable and self-regulating, adjusting itself to surrounding humidity levels, making them easy to use.
However, they tend to be noisy due to the fan inside, and because the water that’s used is stagnant and not boiled, there’s the risk of bacterial infection. Additionally, the wicks can become mouldy easily if they are not dried out completely between refills, and can become saturated with mineral deposits over time. They regularly need cleaning or replacement, otherwise the humidifier stops functioning.
Ultrasonic humidifiers are energy-efficient and low in energy costs, and they’re also quiet and great for use in bedrooms or as a humidifier for baby rooms. There’s also no danger of burns because they use ultrasonic vibrations to convert water into mist.
However, they are generally more expensive and if not cleaned regularly, the water tank can become a harbour for bacterial contamination.
Cool or warm mist?
Cool mist humidifiers do not cool your room down, but provide mist at room temperature. However, adding moisture to the room may make your room fall a few degrees lower in temperature.
On the other hand, vapourisers provide hot mist, whereas ultrasonic warm mist humidifiers provide mist that’s a few degrees warmer than room temperature. This may be useful for winter to warm up the room, but they should not replace heaters as they won’t warm up the room enough to heat the room up.
Rather than going for only a cool or warm mist humidifier, which cannot be used all year round, you could opt for one that can do both. Ultrasonic humidifiers are the best humidifier to buy in this case, as most can provide both cool and warm mist. For example, the Ionmax ION90 humidifier provide both warm and cool mist, and also utilise UV sterilisation and a demineralisation filter to provide cleaner mist.
After you’ve chosen a humidifier, it’s important to know what’s involved in its maintenance. You should refer to the product manual but, in general, here are the best ways to keep your humidifier in top condition:
- Always use a filter with the water tank, or use distilled water to prevent minerals and other contaminants in the water being emitted as mist
- Always empty and clean the water tank after each use to prevent bacteria and mould from growing inside the tank
- Use cool, fresh, clean water each time you refill the tank. Avoid hot or boiling water unless your manual allows it.
- Clean the water tank thoroughly with distilled vinegar (or as recommended in the manual) on a regular basis, e.g. weekly
If you are interested to buy the best humidifier for yourself, contact us for a free consultation and product recommendation, or browse our humidifiers online to learn more.
We will be happy to assist you in creating a healthier home.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your needs.