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Best Humidifiers of 2020
A humidifier offers an effective solution to unbalanced humidity in your home. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best humidifier for your specific needs.
Shopping Guide for Best Humidifiers
A home humidifier offers an efficient solution to the problem of unbalanced humidity. But which one should you choose? It's crucial to achieve the correct balance of humidity in your home because too much moisture could invite dust mites, mold, and bacteria to settle in—problems you certainly don't want to deal with.
However, if you don't address humidity issues in your home, the problems can be just as bad. Living in a dry atmosphere is uncomfortable. Your throat might become irritated. You might get headaches. You might even snore due to dry nasal passages—and that irritates your throat even more.
There are other side effects of living in a dry environment that can harm you physically. Asthma and sinusitis sufferers find dry air particularly unpleasant. Dry air can aggravate allergies and increase the likelihood of nosebleeds and respiratory infections. Viruses love low humidity.
Dry air can also create static electricity, giving you shocks when you touch metal objects around the house. If you have solid wooden furniture, floors, or a piano, a lack of moisture can lead to long-term damage to those items.
What causes air to become harmfully dry? Living in desert-like conditions seems like an obvious cause, but there are others. Cold air robs the environment of precious humidity. Central heating and air conditioning can do the same.
You need a humidifier that will balance the humidity in your living space so it's neither too dry nor too moist. The BestReviews team was created to help you find a solution for such needs. We have the facilities to test a wide range of products, and because we never accept manufacturer samples, you can trust our independent results.
The three humidifiers above are those that meet or surpass the criteria we set. We have no hesitation in recommending them. For readers who would like to know more about how humidifiers work and the parameters we used for evaluating them, we developed the following report.
Types of Humidifiers
If you have a furnace or other form of forced-air heating, it is possible to add a humidification system that will cover your whole house. However, installation is the province of professional HVAC engineers. For the purposes of this review, we're covering portable home humidifiers that are designed to work in single rooms or adjoining spaces.
Room humidifiers can be divided into two main types: warm-mist humidifiers and cool-mist humidifiers.
A warm-mist humidifier works a lot like a kettle. First, it boils water; then, it emits steam. Ultrasonics may be used to create finer, more easily dispersed particles.
Warm-Mist Humidifier Pros
● Boiling the water kills many microorganisms and bacteria.
● If you live in a cool climate, a warm-mist humidifier can help warm the room.
Warm-Mist Humidifier Cons
● There is a risk of burns, so warm-mist humidifiers are not recommended for homes with children.
● Warm-mist humidifiers require more energy to run than cool-mist humidifiers, which could result in higher energy bills.
There are three types of cool-mist humidifiers: ultrasonic, evaporative, and impeller. Whichever type you use, the results are similar.
● Ultrasonic humidifiers use a nebulizer (a rapidly vibrating diaphragm) to create fine water vapor.
● Evaporative humidifiers create vapor by blowing air across a damp wick.
● Impeller humidifiers produce vapor using a rotating disk.
Cool-Mist Humidifier Pros
● Cool-mist humidifiers don't use heat, so there is no risk of burns.
● Cool-mist humidifiers consume less energy than warm-mist humidifiers.
● If you live in a hot climate, a cool-mist humidifier can help cool the room.
● Cool-mist humidifiers are usually cheaper than warm-mist humidifiers.
● Although evaporative models may put out a little fan noise, cool-mist humidifiers are often quieter than warm-mist humidifiers.
Cool-Mist Humidifier Cons
● An ultrasonic humidifier can leave a fine mineral powder on surfaces. (Using distilled water or demineralization cartridges will prevent this.)
● The water should be changed daily, which some people find a hassle.
● The filters also need to be changed regularly.
It's important to note that both types of humidifiers need regular cleaning to guarantee peak performance and prevent fungus from taking hold.
Combination humidifiers—those that offer both cold-mist and warm-mist humidification—are available. These units initially seem to offer the best of both worlds. However, most are expensive, and our consumer research turned up more complaints about these units than we like to see. Combination humidifiers are worth investigating if you have particular needs, but our conclusion is that single-function machines perform better in most cases.
Feature Checklist for the Best Home Humidifiers
Size: What size humidifier should you get? There are several considerations here. First, each machine is rated for a square footage of space. Make sure you buy a humidifier that can handle the square footage of the room you want to put it in.
Second, make sure that the machine's steam output and tank size would work for you. For example, a humidifier that can vaporize five gallons of water per day but only holds two gallons in its tank would require frequent refills. For some people, this chore could get frustrating.
Humidistat: A humidistat gauges the amount of humidity in a room. The humidistat on a humidifier prompts the unit to turn on and off as needed. For example, when the correct level of humidity is reached, the humidistat prompts the humidifier to turn off. When the room's humidity becomes imbalanced, the humidistat prompts the humidifier to turn back on.
Filters: A humidifier may come with no filter, or it might have a certain type of filter that would (or would not) meet your needs. Some humidifier filters trap dust and pollen. Others are antimicrobial, filtering mold and fungus spores.
Auto Shutoff: Auto shutoff is a common humidifier feature that prevents the humidifier from running when the tank is empty.
Timer: Some humidifiers have a timer that allows you to preprogram when the humidifier will run. For example, if you want to make sure your room is comfortable when you return from work, you can program the humidifier to start at a certain time before you get home.
Portability: If you expect to move your humidifier frequently, we suggest that you consider models that are lightweight and/or have wheels. Frequent travelers who have a need for perfectly balanced humidity may wish to consider a fully portable humidifier.
Noise Output: Room humidifiers aren't particularly loud, but warm-mist humidifiers do gurgle from time to time, and evaporative cool-mist models put out a bit of fan noise. If you're sensitive to noise or worry that the noise output would disturb your sleep, check the decibel rating before purchasing a home humidifier.
Refilling and Cleaning: Several factors affect how often you will need to refill your humidifier, but potential buyers need to know that cool-mist models should always be emptied and refilled once a day.
Humidifier filter life varies, as does the longevity of demineralization cartridges (if used). Wicks in evaporative humidifiers require periodic replacement, and all humidifiers should be cleaned regularly, following manufacturer recommendations.
How Much Does a Home Humidifier Cost?
At BestReviews, we usually shy away from cheap humidifiers because of quality and reliability issues. But that doesn't mean you should spend a fortune on a good home humidifier.
Cool-mist humidifiers for rooms of up to 200 square feet can be found for around $50. This type of unit is an ideal solution for bedrooms; some models even incorporate a night-light.
Good-quality cool-mist humidifiers that cover an area of up to 2,000 square feet can be found for around $100.
Warm-mist humidifiers that cover an area of up to 2,000 square feet usually cost a little more than cool-mist humidifiers of the same capacity. During our research, we noted that warm-mist humidifiers tend to cost about 20 percent more than cool-mist humidifiers of the same capacity.
Granted, the variation in humidifier prices is large. But, the greater the coverage and the more features a humidifier offers, the more it will cost.
As mentioned earlier in this article, combination humidifiers that put out both warm and cool steam tend to cost more overall. This is largely due to their greater complexity. For example, you might find a quality combination humidifier that covers 600 square feet of space for about $150.
Q. Which is better for humidification purposes, warm mist or cool mist?
A. There is no easy answer to this question. Warm mist is excellent for clearing congestion, but there's a potential burn hazard with warm-mist humidifiers, especially if young children live in the home. Cool-mist humidifiers are safer, and they're usually quite inexpensive. In exchange for these benefits, however, cool-mist humidifiers have slightly higher maintenance requirements.
Q. Should I always use distilled water in my humidifier?
A. Not necessarily. The makers of some cool-mist humidifiers recommend that you use distilled water, but other cool-mist humidifiers have filters, so you can just use tap water. The golden rule is to always read the manufacturer's instructions.
Q. Many humidifiers are adjustable. Is there a recommended humidity level?
A. Numerous professional and medical bodies give figures about ideal home humidity, but they don't all agree. In general, it's thought that relative humidity (RH) should sit somewhere between 30 and 50 percent. The challenge here is that RH varies with temperature because warm air can hold more moisture than cold air.
Humidifier manufacturers usually give sensible guidance about ideal RH, but if you are buying a humidifier to treat a medical condition, you should consult your physician.