Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers

How to Choose a Humidifier

Guidelines for the perfect humidifier

A humidifier can have a big influence on a home's comfort level. The right choice will cover all your needs, only moderately affect your budget and require little in the way of trade-offs.

Here are some specific guidelines for choosing your perfect humidifier:

  • Square footage - If your humidity needs are confined to one room, possibly the one you sleep in, console or in duct humidifiers will be overkill. A portable humidifier will adequately maintain comfort level and save you a bit of money right off the bat. Look at the humidifier's stated coverage area and assume it will work well for an area a bit smaller. Don't be scared off by the math; measuring square footage is easy! Simply multiply the length of the room by its width. For example, a 10-foot-by-12-foot room is 120 square feet.
  • Running costs - If efficiency is a major necessity, in-duct systems or evaporative models will deliver the most bang for your buck. Although in-duct humidifiers come with higher price tags initially, they'll cost the least over time. Warm-mist vaporizers are cheap to buy but are known as the worst energy users because water is evaporated through boiling. A humidistat can control running time to cut down on unnecessary usage. Another factor in price is whether replacement filters, wicks or cartridges will be needed. How often replacements are required and how much they cost could make the price too high for some.
  • Humidistat - Whether dial or digital, it can include a hygrometer (to detect moisture), display humidity levels and shut the humidifier off at a desired point. Humidistats are considered essential because a unit without a gauge will continue to pump mist into the air until it's manually shut off. High humidity levels cause condensation to form on windows and sometimes within walls, contributing to mold and mildew growth. Be aware, though - some humidistats aren't entirely accurate, so a portable hygrometer might be needed.
  • Noise - A warm-mist tabletop humidifier will barely make a peep beyond a little boiling and hissing. Evaporative humidifiers can generate as much noise as a small air conditioner, and some as much as a vacuum cleaner. Since most models for larger areas are console humidifiers, and therefore evaporative, you'll enjoy them more if they're away from sleeping areas.
  • Water quality - Many humidifiers have lower output when hard water is used. It may also cause them to require more maintenance than usual. If hard water is an unavoidable reality, look for a model that is made to perform under those circumstances and weigh that against the cost of purchasing distilled water for an unaccommodating humidifier.
  • Safety - Look for a humidifier that will turn off when the water reservoir empties. Even better, choose one that will alert you when it's running low and needs to be refilled. A see-through reservoir can make it easier for you to tell when water is required.

Cool or warm?

Some people say cool mist is the way to go and compare warm mist to breathing inside a sauna, but others like the soothing warmth and say cool humidity makes the air feel clammy - it's really all a matter of personal preference. Your doctor can recommend one or the other if it's needed for a medical condition. If you're going to be using a vapor medication, most warm-mist vaporizers will facilitate them.

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