If you're finding humidifier information confusing, you're not alone. From capacity to warm or cool mist functions, I'll clear the air and give you straight basic humidifier facts that you need to know. It will help you to make good humidifier buying decisions and also give you a better understanding of the care you'll need to give this air quality appliance. If you're not sure what a humidifier is or what it does, review my humidifier definition to learn why this is an important household appliance.
Your physician may recommend that you to buy a humidifier to help you breathe better, remedy dry skin or help a certain medical problem. In this case, you should also inquire as to what type - warm or cool mist, he or she would recommend.
But consumers often make a humidifier buying decision simply based on how they feel or what they see happening in their home. A home that is too dry can cause some health problems, but it can also damage furniture and musical stringed instruments (wooden).
A hygrometer is the best measure of humidity levels, but you can also learn the signs that your home may need more moisture. Then find a humidifier that meets your preferences when it comes to convenience, maintenance and price.
You'll find many humidifiers sporting a 'quiet' or 'whisper quiet' product description. One humidifier may be quieter than another by design, such as an ultrasonic model which is known to be quieter than some other types, but there are no totally silent humidifiers. Having at least two speed levels allows you to pick the lowest (quietest), or a nighttime setting. As you would adapt to an air conditioner or fan's operating noise in order to benefit from the improved comfort level in a bedroom, you have to do the same with a humidifier - get used to the noise level. It can have its good points - a low operating hum can drown out irritating household noises and it can remind you to fill the unit or turn it off.
Also see: Ultrasonic vs Evaporative Humidifiers
Humidifiers are sold by capacity but this does not refer to the water tank size. It relates to the amount of moisture output over a 24-hour period. To achieve the stated output, the humidifier may have to be filled more than once (the water tank will be smaller) and the unit may also need to be operated on high.
Evaporative is the most common (and basic) type of humidifying process and it's usually the cheapest. An ultrasonic model produces moisture differently, often in a very fine or invisible mist and usually costs more. Some find ultrasonic humidifiers quieter to operate. Learn more about what an ultrasonic humidifier is and how it works.
A built-in humidistat is certainly a nice feature but don't trust it fully. How it works: You set the preferred moisture level and it controls operation to maintain that humidity level. However, some find that these features generally have some flaws - some do not reach the designated level. While they help to a point, for your own peace of mind to avoid over-humidifying your home and creating an improper moisture balance, buy an inexpensive hygrometer and monitor your humidity levels, then adjust the humidistat to ensure that the humidifier is working as it should. Learn the difference between a hygrometer and humidistat.
If you don't want to take the time to maintain a humidifier, you're better off not having one. That's because you'll negate any moisture relieving benefits by spreading bacteria around the room, from a humidifier that is not cleaned on a regular basis. Some recommend cleaning the humidifier with vinegar and disinfecting with bleach monthly, but most find they have to do this every week. How often depends on various factors including mineral content in your water, room air quality, how long water has been standing and how fast particles build up in the filter. And warm water breeds bacterial growth more quickly than cool. Even though you do not need to change a permanent filter, you'll need to clean it and disinfect the unit just the same.
Some humidifiers have built-in bacterial control features to prevent or reduce the risk of bacteria forming in the water tank or at the point of moisture output. These and other features such as nano or silver eon technology are excellent for helping to keep bacterial growth down. You'll pay more for these features but they are worth having. But keep in mind that these do not eliminate cleaning the humidifier. You still need to be diligent and do a good routine cleaning and disinfecting of your humidifier. There are some humidifiers that use silver sticks for bacterial protection and these have to be purchased and replaced occasionally.
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