Humidifiers are very useful, popular home appliances in the winter. The moisture they produce can lessen cold symptoms, let you breathe easier, lower your risk of infection, and prevent your skin and lips from cracking due to dryness. And that’s just the health benefits. They can also prevent wood furniture, floors and beams from cracking.
The benefits of humidifiers are most pronounced when it's especially cold and furnaces are running high, drying out your household, and contributing to sicknesses, illnesses and infections. While there are many humidifiers on the market, warm-mist, or steam vaporizer, humidifiers can cause burns if people (especially grandchildren) get too close. That’s why most consumer advocacy groups recommend cool-mist models.
There are three types of cool-mist humidifiers on the market today, though evaporative humidifiers tend to give buyers the most bang for their buck. That is, of course, if the buyer is an informed consumer who knows what to look for...
What to Look For in a Humidifier:
I. Antibacterial Reservoir and Filtration System
Humidifiers are notorious harbors of bacteria because of the internal condensation they produce. This bacteria can be dispersed once the unit’s turned on, thereby eliminating the health benefits of a humidifier to begin with. Whether your immune system is suppressed or not, no one wants to bring something into their home that ‘s going to make them sick.
Without an antibacterial filtration system the humidifier must be cleaned constantly, sometimes as often as three times a week. Save yourself the time, energy and hassle — especially if you’re low on energy to begin with — and buy a system that prevents these germs from building up.
What to Look For in a Humidifier:
SPT SF-608R Portable Evaporative Air Cooler
This device actually acts as an air cooler, fan and humidifier. It contains an antibacterial water tank and water circulation system.
II. High-Capacity Tank
The tank, or reservoir, holds the water that will be released as water vapor. The reach of a humidifier is measured in both gallons and square feet, with a 10-gallon humidifier, for example, covering about a 2,100-square-foot house.
While this gallon number is important to gauge the reach of your humidifier, it’s arguably not as important as another feature that’s also measured in gallons: the size of the tank. Your 10-gallon humidifier may be able to reach all rooms in your home, but if it only contains a two-gallon tank then you’ll constantly have to refill it.
This means turning the machine off, removing the reservoir, refilling it and inserting it back into the humidifier without spilling the contents, which will just make another refill all the more eminent. A reasonably sized tank should hold at least one gallon for every 500 square feet it covers.
Hunter 33222 Care-Free 2.2-gallon HumidifierPlus with Exclusive NiteGlo Night Light
This humidifier abides by the one-gallon-per-1,000-square-feet rule nearly perfectly. It can cover up to 1,225 square feet and contains a 2.2-gallon tank.
III. Adjustable Humidistat
An adjustable humidistat takes the guesswork out of humidifiers. It measures the level of humidity in a room and adjust its output or power function accordingly. This is ideal for anyone who ever turns a humidifier on only to realize in a few hours that it feels like Key West in there (in a bad way).
This setting should be easy to adjust with up and down buttons or a knob, like a regular thermostat. Read your owner’s manual and try out the factory settings. If those don’t work try a higher or lower humidity percentage until you come up with your perfect number. Note that most homes' humidity levels stay between 35 percent and 40 percent.
Lasko 1128 9-Gallon Evaporative Recirculating Humidifier
This unit has adjustable knobs that let you set your optimal humidity level before the machine does the rest. It also has an on/off indicator light, which allows you to control the machine’s power yourself or will alert you when the humidifier has automatically turned on or off.
IV. Multiple Fan Speeds
The speed of the humidifier’s fan affects three things: how fast the humidity is released, how long the tank will remain full and how loud the unit will become. These factors are all correlated, with the humidifier depleting the tank quicker as it humidifies the air at a higher rate, causing the unit to become louder as the fan works harder.
All three of these conditions can be controlled by adjusting the fan’s speed. This is a great feature if you have company over and want to reach your optimal humidity level quicker, don’t want to worry about refilling the tank or want the unit to quietly do its job in the background. This feature doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Three speeds should cover all the bases.
Essick Air H12-300 3-Speed Evaporative Console Humidifier, Light Oak
The Essick has three speeds, as well as an ultra-quiet setting for nighttime. This is great for those with sick spouses or grandchildren who will benefit from the humid air, but also from a good, quiet night's sleep.
V. Permanent Filter
Most evaporative humidifiers need to have their filters changed every two months or so. This can be costly and time consuming, especially if you suffer from arthritis or other hand or finger problems. Remove this chore altogether by purchasing a humidifier with a permanent filter that never needs to be replaced.
Hunter 34357 3-1/2-Gallon CareFree Plus Humidifier with PermaWick Filter
The permanent filter in this Hunter never needs to be replaced. It will need cleaning, but even this is significantly reduced compared to humidifiers with temporary filters. Permanent filters only need to be cleaned at the end of the cold season, and perhaps a light dusting at the beginning of the season if it’s sat in the closest for half a year or more.
VI. Water Level Indicator Lights and Automatic Shutoff
If you’re prone to forgetfulness, or if you’re not used to the way a humidifier operates, you’ll want a unit that reminds you to refill the tank. If the water level happens to get too low anyway the automatic shutoff feature will cut the unit's power, preventing any damage or risk of fire.
Essick Air Products MA0800 Humidifier
This humidifier has "check filter" and "refill tank" indicator lights, as well as an automatic shut off option.
VII. Compact Design
Many people like their humidifiers in hallways where the units will have access to a large part of the house, including the bedrooms. While a hallway can be a strategic location for maximum coverage, it can also serve as an obstacle course if your unit is large.
If you are prone to falls or if you have trouble navigating the home, especially at night, you want a unit that is compact so it stays out of the way while still doing its job. One option is a thin stand-up humidifier. Another is a boxy model, which fits nicely into corners
SPT SF-610 Portable Evaporative Air Cooler with Ionizer
This model is 12 inches wide and less than 10 inches long. It wouldn’t do well in the middle of the hallway, but should do fine near a corner. The wheels are an added plus, allowing the humidifier to be easily placed in one of the bedrooms should someone need to use it exclusively.
VIII. Easy to Operate Remote Control
It’s always easier to control an appliance with a remote than without one. Humidifiers are no exception — if their remotes are easy to use. Look for one with color contrasts and large buttons and text. This is an especially nice feature if you find that you’re constantly tinkering with the machine’s settings.
SPT SF-613 LED Evaporative Air Cooler with Ionizer
Though you can’t see it in this picture, we can assure you that we’ve seen the SF-613’s remote. It’s large and black with big white buttons and legible text.