When the air is dry, it’s a humidifier that people turn to for moisturized relief. How do they turn the water in the tank into a mist of water? What are my humidifier options, and what exactly is relative humidity? We here at HouseholdMe aim to answer all your burning humidifier questions with this collection of frequently asked questions.
What Is a Humidifier?
Although there are several kinds of humidifiers from which to choose, the end result is the same. A humidifier is a small appliance that produces moisture in the form of minute droplets. Using a fan or other technologies, humidifiers push out the droplets into the surrounding air in order to raise the air’s moisture and increase the relative humidity.
What Are the Different Types of Humidifiers?
When it comes to humidifiers, you have plenty of options. Some are stationary units while others are portable. There are several kinds of cool mist humidifiers, and there are even warm mist models.
Whole-Home and Portable Humidifiers
Stationary humidifiers, also known as whole-home humidifiers work in conjunction with a home’s furnace, so it can deliver moisturized air to every room in the house. As far as portable humidifiers go, they can be categorized into two groups – ones that make warm mist and those that make cool mist. These humidifiers can be carried from room to room and put wherever moisture is needed the most.
Warm Mist Humidifiers
As their name suggests, warm mist humidifiers heat the water, which comes out warm when it hits the air. In turn, the ambient temperature increases by several degrees. Warm mist humidifiers are nice to have around during the cold-weather months. There are some models that distribute both warm and cool mist.
Cool Mist Humidifiers
The mist that comes out of a cool mist humidifier is typically room temperature once it hits the air. These humidifiers come in four variations – evaporative, vaporizer, impeller and ultrasonic. Evaporative cool mist humidifiers contain a fan that blows air across an absorbent wick; the fan also releases the mist into the air.
Vaporizers are often able to generate cool mist or warm mist. These humidifiers usually have a compartment that is dedicated to holding medicated inhalants, which help alleviate upper and lower respiratory problems.
Impeller humidifiers are one type of fan-free humidifier, and they use a rotating disc for moisture distribution. Finally, there are ultrasonic humidifiers. These appliances are also sans fan, and they are equipped with a ceramic or metal diaphragm, which produces a fine mist and pushes the mist out of the humidifier.
Our Recommended Humidifiers in 2023
To make your comparison shopping easier, we’ve cherry-picked five excellent humidifiers. Each one is affordable and offers some of the best humidifier technology currently available.
3) URPOWER MH501 Humidifier
Sleek and simple. The Urpower Humidifier is an ultrasonic model with a black cover and brushed nickel accents. It features indicator lights that denote which one of the three mist modes you’ve chosen and a power button that lets you change the mist output and put the humidifier in sleep mode.
With a max mist output rate of 350 milliliters per hour, you can run the humidifier for up to 17 hours without needing to add water. The 5-liter reservoir contains a built-in filter, and the humidifier has a recessed carrying handle to make relocation easy.
Levoit Humidifier LV600HH
This Levoit LV600HH humidifier sports a hefty 6-liter tank, which can adequately humidify spaces of up to 753 square feet for 60 hours on its lowest speed setting. It offers 2 misting modes—cool and warm—so you can slightly alter the temperature of a room as the Levoit introduces much-needed moisture into the air.
The warming feature works up to 4 times more quickly than other humidifiers, and it has an onboard essential oils tray to gently perfume a room. With a built-in humidity gauge, users can simply program their desired relative humidity level, and the Levoit humidifier will automatically turn on and off when needed.
Levoit Classic 300S Humidifier
This Levoit Classic 300S Smart Ultrasonic Humidifier comes with a large-sized 6-liter tank that you fill from the top. The ultra-quiet humidifier provides 60 hours of continuous humidity in rooms as large as 505 square feet, making it ideal for nurseries, bedrooms, living rooms, and dorms. Levoit’s ultra-sensitive humidity gauge lets you set a relative humidity level, and the appliance will automatically turn on and off to meet it.
If you’re in bed and don’t want to disturb your little one, simply download the Levoit smartphone app or use the remote controller to configure the humidifier from the comfort of your bed. This humidifier also doubles as a diffuser to perfume the air in your favorite essential oil.
2) Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic Humidifier (6L)
Its 6-liter tank makes the Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic Humidifier the biggest on our list. The humidifier can run for 50 hours straight on a full tank, covering a room as large as 400 square feet with its fully rotating nozzle.
A simple dial controls the mist output, which tops out at 270 milliliters per hour, and you can turn on the blue LED nightlight with the press of a button. Everlasting Comfort added a slide-out tray for essential oil usage, and the humidifier has a wide base to lend it stability.
- 50-HOURS OF CONTINUOUS MIST: Enjoy extended relief with our cool mist humidifier for...
- PERFECT FOR ANY ROOM UP TO 500 SQUARE FEET: Create an oasis of comfort in any space with...
1) Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier
Teardrop-shaped and only 2.3 pounds, the MistAire is a lovely, lightweight addition to any 250-square-foot room. The tank holds 1.5 liters of water, which means the ultrasonic humidifier can run for as long as 16 hours. When the tank is empty, the humidifier automatically turns off.
There are two mist speeds from which you can choose by pushing a button. When on high speed, the humidifier produces mist at a rate of 150 milliliters per hour. You can spin the nozzle in any direction, and you even have the option of turning on the humidifier’s night light.
- INSTANT DRY AIR RELIEF: Ultrasonic cool mist technology safely and quickly moisturizes dry...
- YEAR-ROUND COMFORT: High and low-speed settings combined with a 360° mist nozzle help you...
What Are the Benefits of Each Portable Humidifier?
Every style of humidifier has its own set of benefits and downsides. With warm-mist humidifiers, you get the benefit of warm air that soothes the nasal and sinus passages. However, these humidifiers use the most electricity, and you must keep them away from babies and small children due to the burn risk of the hot steam.
Vaporizers offer the unique benefit of medicated air moisture if you choose to exercise that option. If the vaporizer creates warm mist, the burn risk also applies. These humidifiers also use more electricity than cool mist humidifiers.
Evaporative humidifiers rely on a foam or paper wick to pull in the water in the tank. Since these humidifiers use a naturally occurring water absorption process, you don’t have to worry about under or over-saturation. Plus, you can use any type of water to fill the reservoir. However, they generate more noise due to their fan.
Impeller-style humidifiers may also be used with any type of water – tap, softened or distilled. While they make less noise and use less electricity, impeller humidifiers may create a fine, white dust depending on the mineral is the tank’s water.
Ultrasonic humidifiers are the quietest of all the humidifiers, and they are energy-friendly appliances. However, white dust production is still a possibility. If you don’t clean the humidifier frequently, it’s all too easy for bacteria and hard-water scale to accumulate.
What Is Relative Humidity?
Relative humidity is a measurement of the water vapor in the air. Specifically, it is the ratio of water vapor to air in grams-per-cubic meter, and it’s given in a percentage. When the air is unable to hold any more moisture, the RH is 100 percent – This is the ratio that forms rain clouds.
The temperate of the air also plays a role in the air’s relative humidity. The higher the temperature, the more water the air can hold. Therefore, cooler temperatures mean more water. For instance, the air has a higher moisture capacity at 60 degrees Fahrenheit than it does at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the reason that cool mist humidifiers are the most efficient humidifier style.
What Is the Ideal Indoor Relative Humidity?
When the relative humidity is too low or too high, health and household problems can result. When the RH measures below 30 percent, the air creates the perfect environment for viruses to grow. Dry air under 30 percent may also damage integral structural components of your home, including its foundation. It can also ruin wood furniture.
When the RH rises above 50 percent, mildew proliferation is fostered. Overly moisturized air also leads to bacteria, dust mite and mold growth. Furniture and fabric damage may also occur in exposure to high-RH air.
To prevent these issues, your home’s indoor RH should ideally be kept within the range of 30 to 50 percent. However, most people find an RH of 45 to 50 percent to be the most comfortable.
How Do I Measure the Relative Humidity?
Measuring a room’s relative humidity is super easy if you have the right tool at your disposal. A hygrometer is designed to read the RH of any given space. Hygrometers are cheap and easy to use, especially the digital variety.
Some of the latest humidifiers have hygrometer technology built into them or externally attached to them. More often, you’ll see humidifiers with an integrated humidistat. Unlike a hygrometer that can only measure the relative humidity, a humidistat measures the RH and adjusts the humidifier’s moisture output accordingly to reach and maintain a healthy RH.
What Are the Health Benefits of Using a Humidifier?
Dry air spurs a whole host of health problems that affect your respiratory tract, including a sore throat, irritated sinuses, breathing difficulties and a bloody nose. Air with too little moisture also causes skin issues such as cracked lips and dry skin.
When you regularly use a humidifier, you can reduce and even eliminate the occurrence of these health issues by making the environment hostile to sick-causing organisms. Humidifiers relieve congestion and help open the nasal and sinus passages. They also surround the skin with moisture, making it more elastic and healthier. Humidifiers are also a lifesaver for people with undeveloped or compromised immune systems like infants, the elderly and those who suffer from chronic conditions.
How Does Low Relative Humidity Impact My Home?
Low relative humidity is damaging to not only health but also your house. From the foundation to the ceiling, dry air is a real threat. It can put cracks in the ceiling and the walls. If you have hardwood floors, they may warp. Window frames can shrink, preventing you from opening your windows. Door frames can shrink too, causing the doors to stick.
Non-structural components can also sustain damage. Dry air leads to peeling paint and wallpaper. Particularly with wallpaper, mold growth can occur. Wall trim may even split. Your furniture and valuables are also at risk. Objects such as artwork and musical instruments may become unusable due to prolonged dry-air exposure.
Where Should I Keep My Humidifier?
While the most popular place to use a humidifier is the bedroom, you can put a humidifier in any space that has low relative humidity as long as the humidifier is sized correctly for the room’s square footage.
When deciding on specific placement, the closer to the center of the room you put it, the better. Central placement allows for the most even moisture distribution. Alternatively, you can put the humidifier next to your bed at night or wherever you spend the most time in a room, so you can glean the most benefit.
When deciding where to set up the humidifier, be careful not to put it too close to any vents or heat registers. Doing so may give you an inaccurate RH reading, and it forces the humidifier to work harder, lowering its overall efficiency.
How Do I Add Water to My Humidifier’s Reservoir?
No matter what type of humidifier you have, there is one component it’s sure to have – a water reservoir. Without water in this reservoir, the appliance is unable to create and distribute moisture.
The water-addition method depends on the size and design of the tank. Some reservoirs are filled from the top; you don’t have to remove them to add water. Simply fill up a pitcher and pour in the water. Other reservoirs must be taken off and turned upside down to access the water inlet. People usually fill these in their bathroom or kitchen sink.
How Often Will I Need to Refill the Humidifier’s Reservoir?
A good rule of thumb is to plan on refilling your humidifier once per day, especially if you use the humidifier around the clock. However, the frequency of refills depends on the size of the reservoir, the mist setting and the square footage of the room. For instance, a larger tank requires fewer refills, and it takes more mist to cover a larger area. The higher the mist settings, the more often you’ll need to add water to the tank.
Some humidifiers are equipped with a timer. When this timer is set, the humidifier will automatically shut down when the time is up, which comes in handy when you won’t be home for long periods. The benefits of a timer are twofold. First, a timer saves electricity usage. Second, it reduces the amount of water waste.
Will I Break My Humidifier If I Run It Without Water?
Maybe. Running a humidifier while it’s dry is never a recommended practice. Doing so frequently or for long stretches of time can burn out the humidifier’s motor and fan. Since it’s common for people to forget to set a timer or turn off the humidifier, most humidifiers have an auto-shutoff function that activates when a sensor no longer detects water in the reservoir.
What’s the Best Type of Water to Use in My Humidifier?
Humidifiers are generally built to work with all kinds of water. Some humidifiers are better suited to certain water types than others. Tap water is safe to use, but it can produce white dust in ultrasonic humidifiers. To combat this issue and allow for the dust-free use of municipal tap water, many manufacturers put a filter cartridge in their humidifiers. This cartridge will capture the minerals that lead to white dust.
For evaporative and impeller-style humidifiers, hard water from the tap is rarely an issue. If you choose an ultrasonic humidifier without a demineralization filter cartridge or you simply don’t want to maintain and replace the filter, you have the option of adding distilled water to the reservoir. Distilled water is mineral-free. Although it’s inexpensive per gallon, there is still the matter of its small cost.
Some homes have softened water running out of the taps. Softened water is water that is treated to remove metals, magnesium, calcium and other minerals in order to reduce scale buildup in the home’s plumbing system. Softened water is safe to use in evaporative and impeller humidifiers, but it can cause premature failure of an ultrasonic humidifier’s diaphragm.
Is It Safe to Put Essential Oils in My Humidifier’s Tank?
Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, you should refrain from adding essential oils to the reservoir. Some humidifiers are equipped with a tank that can withstand essential oil usage. There are even some humidifiers that have an essential oil drawer. This drawer slides out and contains a sponge for essential oil drops.
What Is That White Dust All Over My Room?
Water found in nature or municipal supplies contains minerals. Certain types of humidifiers release white dust along with water droplets because of the water’s mineral content. Warm mist and evaporative humidifiers do not generate white dust, but ultrasonic and impeller humidifiers tend to if you add tap water to them.
For most people, this white dust is more of a minor aggravation than a real health threat. Like regular dust, this fine powder can be removed from surfaces with a vacuum cleaner or damp cloth. Those who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions should take care as to the water they put in their humidifier, so they don’t irritate their lungs. Distilled water and demineralization cartridges stop white dust from forming, and either one is highly recommended for people who shouldn’t inhale fine dust.
How Often Should I Replace My Humidifier’s Filter?
All evaporative humidifiers contain a wick. The wick acts as not only a moisture delivery component but also a water filters. Since it does trap minerals, the wick should be replaced about once every two months. Wicks can last longer if you don’t run your humidifier often or use hard water. Some wicks are also covered in an antimicrobial material to hinder mold and bacteria growth.
Ultrasonic humidifiers may have a demineralization cartridge. This cartridge is dedicated to reducing the volume of minerals in the reservoir’s water supply. Often, demineralization cartridges are reusable, but you will need to clean them on a regular basis. Warm mist humidifiers usually don’t have or need a filter.
Why Are There Two Different Capacity Figures for a Humidifier?
When looking at the specs, you may see two figures that describe the humidifier’s capacity. There is the capacity of the humidifier’s moisture output. This is a measurement that details how much moisture the humidifier releases in a 24-hour period.
Then, there is the capacity of the humidifier’s reservoir, which explains how much water the appliance’s tank can hold when it’s full. Humidifiers come in varying sizes; therefore, the reservoirs all have different capacity. The typical portable humidifier can hold up to 5 gallons of water in its tank.
How Much Electricity Does a Humidifier Use?
There are several factors involved with a humidifier’s electricity usage. Besides the current rate charged by your electricity provider, the style of humidifier matters. For instance, warm mist humidifiers draw more electricity than cool mist models because they have to heat the water before releasing vapor.
The frequency in which you use your humidifier is also important. Obviously, the more often you run your humidifier, the more electricity it will use. If the humidifier offers variable-speed mist, its electricity usage will increase on higher speeds.
Are Humidifiers Loud?
When it comes to sound output, evaporative humidifiers rest on the upper end while ultrasonic humidifiers stay on the opposite end. Since evaporative humidifiers are equipped with a fan, they make the most noise due to the number of moving parts. However, many people find the sound they make to be a soothing white noise in the background.
Ultrasonic humidifiers are super-quiet. Their diaphragm moves so fast that it creates sound waves at a high frequency, which is too high than the human ear can detect. If you suffer from interrupted sleep or want a quiet humidifier for your baby’s room, an ultrasonic humidifier is the way to go.
Warm mist humidifiers are also low-noise makers although not as quiet as ultrasonic models. Humidifiers that produce warm mist generate vapor with a boiler, rendering an internal fan unnecessary. Impeller humidifiers are also quieter than evaporative ones, but not as quiet as warm mist and ultrasonic humidifiers. Again, the higher sound output is due to more moving parts, namely a spinning disc.
How Much Maintenance Does My Humidifier Need?
The cleanliness of the vapor or droplets that come out of a humidifier directly depend on the cleanliness of the humidifier’s reservoir and nozzle. This means regular maintenance of your humidifier is necessary in order to get rid of mildew, bacteria and mineral buildup. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for germs. If you dump and refill the tank on a daily basis, you can minimize the growth of these contaminants.
Depending on how often you run your humidifier, you should clean it every few days up or once a week. To clean the humidifier’s reservoir, use a soft cloth and soapy water to clean the interior. If your hand cannot fit inside of the tank, grab a gentle brush instead of a cloth. Be sure to rinse the interior completely and allow the tank to dry before you reattach it to the humidifier.
You should also clean the nozzle to keep the water hygienic and prevent droplet blockage. If the manufacturer didn’t provide a nozzle brush, a Q-Tip will do just fine. Dip the brush or Q-Tip in soapy water and thoroughly run it along the inside of the nozzle. Don’t forget the exterior. A quick wipe-down with a damp cloth will remove dirt and dust from the humidifier’s housing.
Can I Use Bleach to Clean My Humidifier?
It’s tempting to use bleach because it is a sure-fire way to get rid of bacteria and mold. However, bleach can eat away at a humidifier’s internal components and reservoirs treated with antimicrobial material. More importantly, bleach produces strong fumes that put a strain on your lungs. If you don’t rinse all the bleach, that chemical will run through the humidifier every time you turn it on, causing you to inhale its fumes.
A better cleaner is mild soap mixed with water or diluted white vinegar. Manufacturers also make descaling cleaners just for humidifiers. This type of a cleaner is a packet of powder or a tablet that you drop into the water-filled reservoir. After allowing the solution to sit, empty the tank, rinse the interior and clean the tank as you normally would do.
A Quick Guide to Humidifier Features
If you looked at our top-five list, you probably noticed the variety of features available on these humidifiers. Some features are important while others are considered extras.
The capacity of a humidifier is important. The more water it can hold, the longer you can go without refilling the tank. In addition, you want the humidifier to put out as much mist as possible – a rotating nozzle helps. If the nozzle doesn’t spin, at least look for a humidifier with a wide outlet. Don’t forget the bottom of the humidifier. It should have a sturdy base or stabilizing feet.
While multiple mist speeds allow you to tailor the moisture output, this feature isn’t essential to achieving a higher relative humidity as long as you use the right humidifier for the size of the room. Some models have a humidistat and a timer, which you can live without if you own a hygrometer and don’t mind spending a little more time on adjusting the humidifier’s settings.
Premium features such as a nightlight and an essential oil are nice to have. However, these two features are definitely extras that won’t impact the performance of the humidifier or the relative humidity of the room.
If you have any questions or comments, please add them below in the comment section. Similarly, please let us know if you spot any mistakes or omissions. Thanks!
United States Environmental Protection Agency. A Brief Guide To Mold, Moisture And Your Home. EPA.gov. 2021.
Pullerits, Kristjan et al. Impact Of UV Irradiation At Full Scale On Bacterial Communities In Drinking Water. Npj Clean Water, vol 3, no. 1, 2020. Springer Science And Business Media LLC, doi:10.1038/s41545-020-0057-7.
Humidifiers: Why You Might Need Them, Mayo Clinic.
American Academy of Asthma and Immunology. Humidifiers And Indoor Allergies.
Last Update: 2024-02-22 | Affiliate links/Images from Amazon Product Advertising API