Are all Humidifiers the Same?

A humidifier with plants in the background.

After experiencing chronic sinus infections as a kid, my pediatrician suggested I sleep with a humidifier in my room every night. After a while of using it every night, my sinus infections truly did go away. As a result, I declare myself an unofficial humidifier aficionado. I have had many styles over the years, and some have worked better than others, so how does one choose which to buy? Are all humidifiers the same? This article will explore just that topic and will act as a guide to buying a home humidifier.

Why Do we Need Humidifiers?

My first humidifier was a means to solve chronic sinus infections, but they can improve a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Nose bleeds
  • Excessive dryness in nose and sinus
  • Colds, allergy, and asthma
  • Snoring
Humidifiers are also thought to improve the overall healing of the body.

Basic Types of Humidifiers

Warm Mist: True to its name, a “warm mist” humidifier boils water and uses steam to moisten the air. A wonderful aspect about this style of machine is that the steam inside the unit has the ability to sanitize, so while other models harvest bacteria and therefore require constant care and cleaning, this system is thought to be more self-sufficient than other models.

Cool Mist: This humidifier boasts a similar concept to a warm mist model, except for the manner in which it creates moisture vapors. Done without heat, a fan blows air over a sponge-like material known as a “wet wick,” creating the cool effect.

Air Washers: This style of humidifier does two things: it moisturizes and also cleans a room's air. Utilizing water and rotating internal disks, air flows through the unit to create the advanced effect. Its functions are ideal for those with multiple airborne allergies.

Evaporating: Combining elements of the cool mist and air washing machines, this style of humidifier uses a fan to blow air across a common "wet wick," but uses the created airflow to cause evaporation. While most other systems rely solely on mist to add moisture to the air, this approach lets water heat and cool naturally after emission, manipulating room humidity in its wake.

Sizes of Humidifiers

House Size: Whole-house humidifiers are designed to moisturize large spaces with little effort. As long as interior doors are left open, areas between 1700 to 2700 square feet can be covered.

Room Size: This humidifier size is ideal for a medium-sized bedroom, both in its ability to moisten the space and also in the size of the unit itself. Ideal to place on the floor near a bedside or even on top of a dresser, a room-sized humidifier can cover 650 to 1200 square feet.

Portable Size: This size is ideal for travelers or those who need a little extra moisture in a work or office space. While it's the least expensive, the attached tank requires frequent fillings, which may be annoying if the user is accustomed to a unit that holds more water.

Which Is Best for You?

Clearly not all humidifiers are created equally, and the type and make of your purchase greatly depends on your specific needs. On a recent trip to Walmart while doing research for this article, the pharmacy section had seven different models all claiming to do very similar things. I recommend acknowledging the many types and do research online before making a purchase.