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Humidifier sitting on a table

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Who knew there would be so many options when picking out a humidifier? About a year ago, I found myself tired of waking up with sore throats caused by the dryness of my bedroom. So I went to my favorite home-goods store to purchase one for myself. I ended up panicking from the abundance of choices and frantically Googled “What humidifier should I buy?” as I paced the aisle.

Ideally, your home’s humidity level should never drop below 30%. However, because cold air tends to be very dry, humidity levels can easily dip well below that in the winter months, drying your body inside and out, from your skin to your nasal passages. A humidifier can help remedy these problems by introducing moisture into the air.

While a humidifier isn’t one of the biggest purchases you’ll make, it will likely become a regular part of your daily life, so it pays to know what you’re looking for. So you don’t have to end up like me, overwhelmed and trying to make a snap decision while in the store, here’s our guide to finding the right humidifier for your needs.

Cold Mist vs. Warm Mist

The first decision you’ll have to make is whether you want a warm-mist or cool-mist humidifier. These options are exactly what they sound like: a warm-mist humidifier boils the water before dispersing it, while one with cool mist simply sprays room-temperature water into the room. There are pros and cons to each type, and ultimately, it will come down to your own personal preferences.

Warm Mist

Depending on the size of the unit and the size of the room it’s in, a warm-mist humidifier may be good for people who frequently find themselves feeling chilly. While a warm-mist unit won’t significantly heat up a room on its own, it can add enough warmth to the air to make it comfortable.

These types of humidifiers tend to be a little quieter than some of the cool-mist ones, because the hot steam doesn’t need a fan to be dispersed into a room. They won’t be completely silent, however, and may make a light bubbling or hissing noise while operating. This can be soothing or annoying, depending on what you prefer.

Warm-mist units aren’t great if small children have the run of your house, as the steam from them can be fairly hot. And while they are safe to use, those concerned about the heating element might prefer a cool mist.

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Cool Mist

If you’d prefer not to have the added heat of a warm-mist humidifier or want a model that you can comfortably use year-round, a cool-mist unit may be a better fit for you.

When you start shopping around, you may notice that there are a few types of cool-mist humidifiers. The differences refer to the mechanism used to disperse mist into the air. The most popular types are evaporative and ultrasonic.

Evaporative humidifiers use a fan to blow mist into the air. These are more traditional cool-mist humidifiers, while ultrasonic ones are newer. They tend to be less expensive than ultrasonic units; however, most will come with filters that need to be changed regularly, so factor that into your costs.

Evaporative units will also be noisier because they have a built-in fan. This can be a pro or a con; some people like sleeping with the hum of a fan; others need complete silence. So, if you plan to have the humidifier running while you sleep, you should stop to consider your personal preferences before you buy.

What Kind of Humidifier Should You Get? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: Amazon.com

By contrast, ultrasonic humidifiers have a high-speed vibrating mechanism that emits water as a mist. This allows them to operate very quietly.

These types tend not to come with filters, so you won’t have to factor in that expense. However, they can cost more up-front than an evaporative model.

If you get an ultrasonic model without a filter, be aware that it can emit a white “dust” along with the mist that can end up lightly coating surfaces around the room. This “dust” is just harmless mineral scale from the water, but it can be annoying to clean up.

What Kind of Humidifier Should You Get? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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If you truly can’t decide, you can also find models that boast both warm and cool settings, so you can have the option of either.

What Kind of Humidifier Should You Get? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

Image: BedBathandBeyond.com

Filter vs. No Filter

An unfiltered humidifier may cost more up-front, but you’ll be able to avoid the cost of having to purchase new filters regularly. This can be a real plus for those who don’t want to deal with this added cost or those who simply don’t want to have to remember to go to the store to buy a new filter when the current one gets old.

However, because the unit doesn’t have a filter, you should take extra care when cleaning, as there’s less of a barrier to prevent the humidifier from spraying allergens and bacteria into the air.

What Kind of Humidifier Should You Get? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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A filtered unit will reduce the particles that get emitted into the air. If you’re more sensitive to changes in air quality or are worried about mineral scale getting deposited on your furniture, you may want to opt for a model with a filter.

With or without a filter, you still have to clean your humidifier regularly and thoroughly. Not cleaning it correctly can cause problems with your home’s air quality. If bacteria or mold begins to grow in the unit, you’ll be dispersing that into the air, potentially causing respiratory issues for and triggering the allergies of your home’s occupants.

Room Size

You should also consider the size of the room you plan to keep the humidifier in. The product’s description will specify the square footage the humidifier will cover. If you have a very large room you want to use your humidifier in, be sure to find one that is suited for its size.

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However, if you just want a humidifier you can keep near you while you sleep to soothe throat and nasal dryness, a smaller model that can fit on your nightstand will work just as well, regardless of the size of your room.

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Do you want a humidifier that comes with a lot of options and settings that allow you to choose exactly what you want? Or do you not need a lot of control and prefer something that has little more than an “On/Off” switch?

If you want to go high-tech, there are plenty of options to suit your needs. You can find humidifiers that allow you to control the level of mist output with a remote control or ones that display the current humidity level of your home, so you can adjust accordingly. Some will even let you program them to automatically adjust output based on humidity levels.

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Fashionable or Functional

There are numerous humidifiers on the market that aren’t just good for fighting dryness – they’re also stylish. From desk-size humidifiers that come in pretty colors to diffusers that allow you to add essential oils for an aromatic mist, there are plenty of options if you want to dress up your office space or nightstand with something that has a little more character to it.

What Kind of Humidifier Should You Get? - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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The trade-off is that these humidifiers tend to be smaller and might come with fewer controls. So, if you want a big tank that you won’t have to refill as often or need a lot of high-tech mist options, you might have to go with a larger model or something a little less sleek.

Which type of humidifier is best? Share your opinions in the comments!

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Thank you for the information. I learned much by reading this, and have decided which type I prefer. Had recently bought a used one, cleaned, and put together. I may get a new one once I see how this works. I have cats and plants, will have to research as I’m hoping they may also benefit.

  2. There’s a new vent cover for floor vents called the Ecoflap that’ll make your humidifier run much longer before refills if you’re using it in a room with floor vents. It works by opening and closing a floor vent with the flow of air through the vent. It prevents humidified air in the room from draining down into the ductwork through the vent which happens quickly since humidified air is heavier than dry furnace air. If your humidifier has a low setting or a humidistat it’ll cut your water use almost in half and enable your humidifier to run much longer before having to refill it. Makes humidifier use easier and cheaper since you’ll be using much less water to humidify. It’s a must for distilled or purified water users.

  3. The article leaves out an entire category – whole house humidifiers. These are installed next to your heating unit (typically basement) and are connected to house water. A dial is also installed to allow you to control relative humidity.
    Ours has an airflow bypass for the summer months (when you don’t want extra humidity!), but it is simple to start running. Ours gets turned on in fall and off in spring, depending on our heat usage. No table unit to eventually fill with mold, no hot steam.
    Won’t be an option for renters but great when you need to humidify more than one room of a house. Extremely low humidity isn’t just bad for you and your skin, it’s not good for your wood furniture either.

  4. in my childhood the kitchen was right in the house, and the water warmed on the stove, she used millet stood there and seethed while burning oven that was forgotten, that was all Windows in drops and not have anything to breathe.

  5. I prefer a cool mist humidifier in my living room and warm mist for my baby room 🙂 And it’s work well 🙂

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