When temperatures start dropping and you crank up the heat, the humidity level inside your home can quickly dip. Ideally your home's humidity level should not drop below 30%.
A good humidifier can help you by adding the correct amount of moisture to the air. In this article I'll cover the different humidifier choices you have today, how they operate, the pros and cons of using humidifiers, and which humidification system might suit you best.
Types of Humidifiers to Produce Ideal Humidity
There are a variety of humidifiers on the market today. And they all fill one basic goal ...
Adding moisture to the air. In this chapter I want to equip you with the different types of humidifiers so you can select the right one based on your needs.
Types of Humidifiers You Can Use at Home
1. Warm Mist Humidifiers (Steam Vaporizers)
Warm mist humidifiers boil water to create steam. This is then sprayed into the atmosphere of your room to increase the amount of moisture in the air.
They are a great help if you are suffering with nasal congestion and throat irritations. Warm mist humidifiers can also be useful with medications.
2. Cool Mist Humidifiers
Cool mist humidifiers come in three types - evaporative, ultrasonic and impeller humidifiers:
- Evaporative - In an evaporative humidifier a fan pulls in warm air from the room and uses it to evaporate water held inside a wick. The air becomes more humid as water naturally evaporates and is carried away.
- Ultrasonic - Rather than use a fan an ultrasonic humidifier uses high-frequency ultrasonic vibrations to evaporate the water which makes them significantly quieter.
- Impeller - Uses a rotating disc to fling water at a diffuser to produce a cool mist.
One noticeable difference between cool mist and warm mist humidifier systems is the electricity cost. Because a warm mist humidifier uses heat to boil water it uses more energy than a cool water humidifier that only uses a fan. If you are considering having your humidifier on for large portions of the day or are considering buying more than one humidifier then the extra cost could stack up.
Cool mist humidifiers don't use warm water, a breeding ground for bacteria, and therefore don't need as extensive cleaning. Warm mist humidifiers however, need to be cleaned on a regular basis.
When you're choosing a humidifier the main choice you need to make is between a cool mist humidifier and a warm mist humidifier. Cool mist humidifier benefits tend to outweigh those of the warm mist variety, and cool mist versions are typically more popular.
You can choose from a variety of warm and cool mist humidifiers. They basically perform the same job, relieving symptoms associated with dry air. The type you choose comes down to personal preference and budget.
3. Central Humidifiers (Whole House)
The whole house humidifiers are built into your HVAC system and are designed to add moisture to your entire home.
While many different kinds of humidifiers are available at the store or online to be set up as a stand alone unit, people accustomed to a climate that is dry all year long often outfit their ventilation and ducting system with a built in humidifier. This usually attaches to an intake or outflow point somewhere on your ducting system (usually requires professional installation).
What is the recommended humidity level inside a home?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a humidity level between 30 and 50 percent, while the Environmental Protection Agency recommends a humidity level between 30 and 60 percent to reduce the growth of harmful mold.
The Mayo Clinic sites:
"Low humidity can cause dry skin, irritate your nasal passages and throat, and make your eyes itchy. High humidity can make your home feel stuffy and can cause condensation on walls, floors and other surfaces that triggers the growth of harmful bacteria, dust mites and molds. These allergens can cause respiratory problems and trigger allergy and asthma flare-ups."
How do the Different Humidifiers Operate?
We know there's more than one type of humidifier. And at the most basic level, the devices emit water vapor into a room to increase the humidity level.
Let's look at an example of how a cool mist humidifier (with evaporative technology) works to produce a cool mist to make your home more comfortable.
How Does a Cool Mist Humidifier Work?
1. You pour water into the removable tank.
2. The water flows into the reservoir.
3. The filter absorbs the water and becomes saturated.
4. The dry air from your room is brought into the humidifier through intake grills.
5. The moisture will then evaporate off the filter.
6. Through the use of a fan, filtered moisture is added to the room to increase the humidity.
7. Once tank is empty, refill, process starts again.
8. Change filters according to the manufacturers suggestions.
How Does Whole House Humidifier Work?
Now let's look at an example of a whole house humidifier...
1. A whole house humidifier is installed as part of your HVAC system. It is connected to the ductwork of your furnace and your home’s water supply.
2. Moisture is added to the air when the water flows inside the humidifier through the humidifier water panel / pad.
3. Air is forced through the saturated pad and into your whole house ductwork to add the humidity.
4. The air flowing through your home contains higher moisture levels and the humidity level is maintained automatically.
5. Every room benefits from the whole house humidifier.
6. Replace your whole house humidifier water panel as suggested by the manufacturer. (usually once a year)
Simple instructions on how to replace the water panel on your whole house humidifier. Whether you own a humidifier manufactured by Aprilaire, Honeywell, Skuttle, or any other "flow through" unit - this video will help you keep your humidifier in new condition.
NTsupply, "How to replace your whole house humidifier water panel", via YouTube
Drawbacks Associated with Humidifiers
There are pros and cons to everything and humidifiers are no different. Despite all the benefits (which we will discuss more in the next section), humidifiers do come with a few risks to consider.
Here's what I mean...
Humidifier "Risks" You Need to Know
1. Dirty humidifiers do more harm than good
Water should not sit in your humidifier too long. A dirty tank can encourage germs. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that "bacteria and fungi often grow in the tanks of portable and console room humidifiers and can be released in the mist."
Regular cleaning will help eliminate this issue.
2. Overdoing your humidity - too much can lead to bigger problems
Excessive levels can lead to other problems, as in a damp environment which creates mold and mildew. Very high humidity provides a good environment for viruses and bacteria.
It's best to keep track of humidity levels in your room.
3. Steam burns (vaporizers)
Precaution is needed for those humidifiers that use heat (especially when used around children). A cool mist humidifier is the preferred option to a warm mist humidifier for safety reasons. Because a warm mist humidifier boils water to create steam there is a risk of children or pets burning themselves on the unit. For this reason any room likely to be accessed by children or pets should have a cool mist humidifier rather than a warm one.
Best to keep out of the reach of small children.
4. Lung issues
On the extreme side, breathing dirty mist may cause lung problems from flu-like symptoms to serious infection. (especially allergy and asthma sufferers)
If you use a humidifier take the necessary steps to keep it clean:
- Change the water daily
- Remove any visible dust on the unit
- Change the filter as recommended
- Maintain the proper relative humidity in your home
What are the Cons of Humidifiers?
The Creepy Truth About Humidifiers
23 Reasons Why Humidifiers are the Coolest
So humidifiers, are they helpful or harmful?
Keeping indoor humidity levels between 30-50% has many benefits. Mostly comfort and health benefits. There are several advantages to having a humidifier in your home for those dry times of the year. A humidifier will increase the moisture in a room, which will decrease the amount of dryness that can build up within your home.
The benefits outweigh the "risks"...
Here are 23 Benefits of Having a Humidifier
Like our infographic? Feel free to share it, here's the embed code for you to copy and paste:
An Easy Guide to Buying Your Next Humidifier
Your humidifier choice is a matter of personal preference.
We discussed all the benefits of running a humidifier in your home. The main goals to ease your breathing passages and eliminate the dry air in your home that can affect your furniture and interior.
Now it's time to choose the right size and capacity.
But first let's go over the most commonly used systems again...
- Whole house humidifiers
- Hot mist
- Cold mist
- Evaporator and ultrasonic humidifiers
- Portable units that can be moved from room to room
Portable units are often used in baby's room or other areas to sleep better when you have sensitive nasal passages.
There are cold air and warm air humidification systems available. A warm mist humidifier vaporizes the water as it passes through an electrical heating process and turns the water into steam.
A cold water mist uses a process to convert water into tiny droplets that are distributed through the vents. Most experts recommend the cold water system as it is more economical to install and operate. The hot mist often encourages the formation of mold and is said to cool before it hits the air.
Before you purchase one, here is a guide to finding a suitable humidifier:
- Your financial capacity
- The ideal system for your home; there are many types on the market
- The size of your home versus the size of a humidification system that you intend to buy
- The capacity and warranty
- User-friendliness and the functionality
You should review all the options available to you. You should take into account the size of your interior space as well as the cost differentials between the various units on the market.
You might start the process by taking a reading of the humidity levels in various sections of your home to determine exactly what type of humidifiers would be best suited for your needs.
This table can also assist you in evaluating the most ideal system for your home.
Every homeowner should prioritize a humidification system because it has health benefits, it's good for your furniture, houseplants, wallpapers/decorations, electronic equipment, and even hardwood floors.
Through proper air regulation within the home, a humidification system ensures that there is no more uncomfortable dry air.
Maintaining the proper humidity levels in your home is a very important. The varying amounts of humidity in the air can affect comfort, energy efficiency and the health of your family.
There are many different ways that homeowners can control the humidity levels in their homes. Choosing the right method for your home will depend on where you live and your preferences for your home environment. From simple humidifiers to installing a whole house humidifier, you have several options to achieve the comfort you desire.
If you are concerned about managing home humidity levels in your home, consult with a trusted, professional heating and cooling expert to ensure that your systems are keeping your home environment healthy and comfortable.