A humidifier is a household appliance that increases humidity in single rooms or the entire house. There are portable humidifiers, which are used to humidify single rooms, and whole house humidifiers that humidify a much larger area. Also available are “forced air” furnace humidifiers that integrate with your home’s HVAC system to provide humidity throughout the house. When shopping for the right humidifier for your home, you need to decide which of these types will work best for you and your pocketbook. Keep the size of your home in mind when weighing the options.
Take into account how airtight your house is. Newer homes are usually the tightest, equipped with modern weatherization, vapor barriers and snug windows and doors. Older homes (especially pre-WWII) are usually considered “loose” because they were built without the technology that is available now. Of course, if your home is older, most likely there has been some retrofitting done to make the home more efficient. Evaluate your home to estimate how tight or loose it might be. This will aid you when trying to decide what specific device will humidify your home the best. A loose home may need a bit more humidity output than one that is almost airtight.
Humidifier capacity is measured in gallons of water used per day. For example, on the lower end, if you want to humidify 500-sq.-ft. of space or smaller, a 2-gallon capacity humidifier is ideal. Larger spaces and whole-house units usually require a 10-gallon-plus capacity.
There are a number of humidifier types that are all effective but work in different ways:
- Evaporative – These humidifiers usually consist of a reservoir, wick and fan. The wick sucks up water like a sponge from the reservoir and the fan blows air over the wick creating moist air. That air is then expelled as a vapor to create comfortable humidity.
- Vaporizer – These models boil water and release moisture into the air. One benefit of this type is that medicated inhalants can be added to aid in better breathing for those who might have the flu or a cough. Also, they are less likely to pass along impurities that may exist in a humidifier’s reservoir. And, the boiling of the water destroys mold.
- Impeller – These expel a cool mist, produced by a rotating disc that throws water into a diffuser, which turns the water into tiny drops that are expelled.
- Ultrasonic – may exist in its reservoir. This can be resolved for any humidifier model, though, by periodically cleaning the device to remove any contaminants or mineral buildup. Using distilled water can also cut down on unwanted mineral residue from being released into the air.
- Whole-house – These can be a stand-alone unit or model that is integrated into the ductwork of your HVAC system. This type of humidifier does exactly what you would expect, adding moisture to the air throughout your home. While whole-house systems are more expensive and more difficult to implement (suggestion: hire a HVAC professional), they do have their benefits — the most obvious of which is controlled and consistent humidity throughout the house. Constant humidity levels are easier on household items and help decrease the effects of structural expansion and contraction during the cold season. Also, humid air feels warmer so you will likely turn down the heat which can save you money on energy costs during the winter. Most come with a humidistat so that you can set the exact level of humidity that you need.