Buyer’s Guide: The Different Types of Humidifiers

There are several reasons why I hate winter.  One, ITS FREAKING COLD!  Two, it gets dark so early, and I hate leaving work when it’s dark.  Three, ITS FREAKING COLD!  Four, the air is so dry that I go through lotion like water.  And, finally, ITS FREAKING COLD!

Though I can’t do anything about the sun rising and setting or how cold it is outside, I can control how dry it is inside my home.  Enter, the wonderful world of humidifiers!  This lovely invention will provide moisture in your environment, which is great if you are an asthma or allergy sufferer, or get that dreaded winter cold, or just breathe easier with a little moisture in the air.  Now, there are several types of humidifiers and I will go through some of the more popular and provide what I think are the best ones.  So, let’s get moist up in here!

Crane Warm Mist HumidifierWarm Mist Humidifiers

Warm mist humidifiers product a warm, soothing mist that you can see and feel. These are great for treating colds and the flu, and they tend to be quieter than cool mist humidifiers.  In addition, the mist that is produced tends to be cleaner than cool mist humidifiers.  However, warm mist humidifiers require frequent cleaning and are generally more difficult to clean.  They also tend to cover a smaller area than their cool mist counterparts.  And, since some of them produce a rather hot steam, you should keep them out of the reach of children.  That said, this is a great choice to help soothe a dry area and provide a little warmth at the same time.

My favorite warm mist humidifier is the Crane EE-5200.  It has a one gallon tank that will give you a minimum of 10 hours before it has to be refilled, and has an automatic shut off when the tank is empty.  Also, it features various fan speeds and has a built-in reservoir for steam medication.  It is available in both white and black, though I am partial to the black.  Finally, it is compact and lightweight, so you can take it with you from room to room.

Vornado Cool Mist HumidifierCool Mist Humidifiers

Cool mist humidifiers use a filter to trap minerals and impurities and then a cool invisible mist evaporates into the air. They are generally easy to clean, are more effective in larger areas and work better in warmer climates.  Also, many believe cool mist is easier to breathe.  But, cool mist units are generally noisier than their warm mist counterparts, and require more maintenance with filters that you should change often to avoid algae and mold build up.

My cool mist humidifier of choice is the Vornado HU1-0021-28 (formerly the EVHUM).  This unit covers a large area (up to 1,000 square feet), has an impressive 1.8 gallon tank and comes with Vornado’s patented whole room circulation.  Another great feature is that it has a humidistat control on it, so you can set the humidity level you want and the unit will maintain that setting.

 Essick Air Whole House HumidifierWhole House Humidifiers

Whole house humidifiers will cover a large area. Now, many people tend to get these point-of-use units confused with ones that you attach to your furnace or HVAC system.  This is not that.  These will cover large areas without the expense of adding it to your HVAC system.  These units tend  to be larger and thus will not go from room to room.  However, with large tanks (generally around 5 gallons), you can go a few days between filling.  A few things to remember when you get a larger unit like this is that you do have to clean the tanks and the unit itself about once a week, and there are filters and wicks that you should change out about every three months or so.  A couple of tips on using these units.  If you are trying to cover two separate floors, you will want to have it on the upper floor since humid air tends to be heavier than drier air.  Second, you will want to try to use filtered, bottled or distilled water to avoid the “white dust” that humidifiers tend to produce.

My choice among these units is the Essick Air 4D7800.  It’s a console style with a 5.5 gallon water holding capacity (split among two tanks).  This unit will cover up to 2,500 square feet, and has a replaceable two stage air filter.  Also, it comes on casters, so you can move it from one room to another, and it has a humidistat control for you to set the humidity level you are most comfortable with.

Vornado Ultrasonic HumidifierUltrasonic Humidifiers

Ultrasonic humidifiers use a metal diaphragm vibrating at an ultrasonic frequency, much like a speaker.  This creates water droplets that are then put in the air via a fan.  These units tend be virtually silent, and usually create a cool fog.  As with whole home humidifiers, you can get the “white dust” with these units, but if you use distilled, filtered or bottled water, this is usually avoided.  Also, these tend to require less maintenance and are rather easy to own and care for.

My favorite ultrasonic humidifier, and favorite overall humidifier, is the Vornado HU1-0022-06 (formerly the ULHUM).  This unit comes with a plethora of features, including a full LCD display screen, humidistat control and can do warm or cool mist!  With Vornado’s patented vortex action, this will cover a pretty sizable room and is virtually silent.  Now, when you purchase this unit, be sure to get the replacement demineralization cartridge, which helps remove the minerals from your water and eliminate that annoying “white dust.”

Now, this just covers some of the basics on humidifiers.  There are certainly other great ones out there, among them the Guardian Technologies (comes with relatively large tanks that will last for days), Honeywell (among the easiest to care for and are mostly germ free), Stadler Form (innovative designs and great durability) and Vicks (an industry leader with great history and reputation).  Plus, there are a large variety of  humidifiers for kids that will make their rooms fun and more comfortable.

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