Humidifier Buying Guide

Read our ultimate humidifier buying guide. Find information about ultrasonic, warm and cool mist, evaporative and the best technology features.

Humidifier Buying Guide: Basic options to know about.

Humidifiers offer a few types of technology. Each have their benefits and drawbacks. The types are cool mist ultrasonic, warm mist, evaporative- otherwise known as cool moisture, and combination humidifier and air purifier. The best combination humidifier and purifier is the Venta Airwasher models.

Buying Guide: Choices in humidifier technology, Cool or Warm Mist

Cool Mist Ultrasonic Features, Benefits

  • Very quiet operation, even on high setting
  • No filters to replace
  • Lowest annual operation cost Cons
  • Requires frequent cleanings (every 3-7 days) to avoid bacteria, germ build up
  • Brings down ambient air temperature and may feel too cold during winter
  • Must use demineralization cartridge and/or distilled water so it doesn’t produce “white dust”, which can irritate lungs

Warm Mist Features, Benefits

  • Soothing, warm mist, helpful during winter months
  • Some offer medicine cups to disperse medicinal vapors which help with sinuses
  • Many warm mist units boil the water before releasing it into the room. This kills most bacteria, germs.
  • No filters to replace
  • Requires de-scaling of heating element every few weeks if using hard water
  • Higher electricity usage from heating the water
  • For safety look for auto shut off units, so the heating element isn’t on when it is empty

Evaporative humidifiers use filters which sit in water and get wet, to wick moisture into the air with a fan that draws the humid air up and out to the room. These are cheap to run as they only use as much energy as a fan. They can be somewhat quiet, with the noise level the same as running a small fan, or loud if the fan runs loudly.

I had a Honeywell that was too loud for my bedroom, but my Vorando uses the same evaporative technology and is quieter. There is chugging sound from the tank when it fills the reservoir for the filters.

Some companies call evaporative units, “cool moisture” machines. These also use a filter which sits in water to wick moisture into the air with help of a fan.

Humidifier Buying Guide Questions to Ask

Do you want the option of having both cool and warm mist? Air O Swiss offer models that have the option of warm or cool mist. With all others, you must decide one or the other. Cool mist is cheaper to run because it uses less energy as it doesn’t have to heat up the water. Ultrasonic cool mist machines can leave a white residue of dust on surfaces unless you use a demineralization cartridge that eliminates the white dust. In the winter, cool mist units can feel a little drafty if you are sitting or sleeping near the machine. Warm mist keeps the air temperature comfortable.

Do you want a timer or automatic shut off when the tank is empty? A timer could be helpful if you only need the unit to run a certain amount of time. A cheaper option is to get an appliance timer, sold at hardware stores, which can tell the humidifier what time to start and what time to turn off.

Automatic shut off I believe is important, especially with a warm mist humidifier. These have a heating element which gets quite hot and shouldn’t run if there is no water in the tank. I find it’s easy to let the tank run dry when using the units all day and night.

Humidifier Buying Guide: Achieving optimal humidity

The optimum humidity is 30-40%. In the winter months, because of forced heated, dry air, it can dip below 10% and cause dry skin, cracked lips, and itchy eyes. Here in Colorado the already dry air becomes almost unbearable in the winter. I run the humidifier 24/7 and feel comfortable with no dry skin and lips. I couldn’t live without it!

I use an evaporative humidifier, so I don’t have to worry about the air becoming too wet because the unit wicks less moisture into the air as it gets wetter. It is self regulating, though if it’s on high in a small room all night, the air will get too wet. I use it in the large living area so it’s virtually impossible to get the air too wet with one machine.

If you think your air could get above 30-40% humidity, get a machine with a humidistat so it will shut off when the air is wet enough. If you get a machine without a humidistat, you can purchase one separately to monitor the air and turn down or shut off the unit when the air is the right humidity. Too much humidity in the air can be a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and viruses. Just enough will keep you healthy and happy all year long.

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