Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers

Portable & Console Humidifiers

Choosing an efficient tabletop unit

A portable (tabletop) humidifier should be easy to fill, carry and clean and have an easy-to-replace wick or filter. Simple controls, programmable options, a humidistat to control moisture level and a water reservoir that can fit beneath the faucet are essential. Most portable humidifiers range in price from $20 to $100.

For those with big humidifying ambitions, many console humidifiers can be placed out of the way and easily moved around. Buying one console humidifier is usually more cost-effective than buying a few separate tabletop units. And, since most consoles are evaporative, they are energy efficient, although somewhat noisy. Make sure the water reservoir is sized right so it's easy to manage. Consoles range in price from $80 to $150.

There are several types of portable humidifiers on the market, dispersing varying amounts and temperatures of mist, with pros and cons for each.

Hot- and warm-mist humidifiers

Hot- and warm-mist humidifiers, also known as steam vaporizers, use a heating element to boil water. Although usually the cheapest to buy, they're also the most expensive to run. Steam vaporizers send out a stream of hot mist (warm-mist vaporizers cool the steam before it's released) and often include a compartment to add medicated inhalants. They generally avoid the problems of mineral and bacterial output that some cool-mist humidifiers (ultrasonic and impeller) can face, but boiling water means they are potential hazards for children.

Cool-mist humidifiers

Some cool-mist humidifiers can produce warm mist as well. Cool-mist humidifiers come in three main types:

  • Evaporative technology , the kind most often used in console units, is thought to be the best. These humidifiers blow air through a wet filtering material, such as a wick, sending the moisture-enriched air back out. Although better, this process creates more noise than the others. The evaporative humidifier's appeal lies in its ability to self-regulate. Since it becomes harder to evaporate water from the wick when the room's relative humidity is high, the output from these units slows down as humidity increases. (Note: They haven't been tested for mineral dispersal as the following two have.)
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers produce a cool, fog-like mist when water passes over a high-frequency vibrating apparatus. They are the least noisy of the bunch because they lack a fan, and energy costs are lower. Like impellers, they have been found (by the Environmental Protection Agency) to raise the level of airborne particles above acceptable levels in certain situations. Proper use and cleaning can control the spread of bacteria and mineral dust.
  • Impellers , also easy on energy, use a high-speed rotating disk to spray water at a diffuser and break it into small droplets that float out into the air as a fog. As with ultrasonic humidifiers, proper use and care are required to reduce mineral and bacterial output.

Health concerns?

Although worries persist, experts agree that portable humidifiers are unlikely to cause health problems as long as users follow manufacturer directions. This can mean emptying leftover water after each use and cleaning and disinfecting the water reservoir regularly.

When buying a portable humidifier, keep in mind that humidifier maintenance is important to prevent mold and mildew and that it will only work effectively in a single room or in a few rooms at most. If your plans extend beyond that, look into in duct humidifiers to regulate the entire house.

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