Getting Started

Humidifiers: How do they work?

February 29, 2016 • By

Humidifiers: How do they work?

Humidifiers are units that provide air with more moisture. Though there are various different models, the essential principle is the same: to increase the level of humidity in a room, home or building in order for those inside to feel more comfortable and be healthier. This has numerous benefits, including keeping your skin healthy, helping with dust allergies, helping with sinus infections, keeping warm air circulating through your home (potentially leading to lower heating bills) and much more – humidifiers can even help your furniture!

As winter approaches and it starts to get cold outside a humidifier can be an invaluable purchase. Thousands of people have invested in a humidifier for their home, leading them to be happier, healthier and more comfortable during the winter period.

Humidifiers reduce many of the nasty effects of cold weather. A humidifier can help you feel much more comfortable around the house during the bitter months of winter and even after winter ends the conditions in your home can be greatly improved by introducing a humidifier into your home.

In hotter climates, too, a humidifier can help your home since the heat can cause air to be dry.

There are many different benefits of having a humidifier, and many different types of humidifier to suit your needs. But how exactly does a humidifier work, and how can they help you? Read on to find out.

What does a humidifier do?

A humidifier increases the level of humidity inside a building or just a single room. For most people, a humidifier will be focused on one room in their house, but it is possible to install furnace humidifiers which humidify entire houses. In large buildings, industrial humidifiers are often installed as a part of the HVAC system.

Humidifiers help alleviate many troubles associated with cold, dry weather and can improve your health drastically during the winter months. Some of the symptoms that humidifiers help with include reducing the risk of infections, clearing your sinuses, reducing snoring and much more.

Not only that, but having a humidifier in your home can bring down your monthly bills by making your room feel warmer! A dry room feels much colder than one with moisture in it, and so with your humidifier you’ll be using less energy heating your house but still feeling the same amount of cozy warmth.

When should you use a humidifier?

You should use a humidifier whenever excessively low humidity occurs in order to achieve a healthier balance of moisture in a room or building. Moisture in a room is essential for staying healthy and can help alleviate dry skin, chapped lips, cough symptoms and more. Most homes will suffer from an imbalance of moisture, especially during winter months, and so most people can benefit from purchasing a humidifier for their home.

These kind of low humidity conditions are also prevalent in hot and desert climates, so if you live somewhere that is hot all year round, or somewhere that gets particularly hot in summer, a humidifier could be a great option for your home.

Equally, in artificially heated spaces where the air is recycled and generally dry, a humidifier is useful to make people more comfortable. In fact, many large buildings come with humidifiers installed in their HVAC to ensure the comfort of those inside.

In winter, having a humidifier is almost a no brainer. Most people find that winter is the time of year they most rely on their humidifier. When cold air is heated indoors, humidity levels can drop drastically below the required level, which is usually 30% – 50%, to around 10%.

Low humidity brings with it a series of unwanted health effects such as a dry mouth and throat, which can exasperate symptoms that are already troubling you such as cold and allergies. The lack of humidity in the air can also affect your furniture by shrinking the wood or creating cracks. By restoring the balance of humidity, you’ll feel much more comfortable around the house.

How does a humidifier work?

Different humidifiers work in slightly different ways and with different technology, but all basically work in the same essential way. A humidifier pushes moisture into the air, increasing the levels of humidity in the air and improving the conditions in rooms and buildings for those people in them.

Different types of humidifiers work with different levels of sophistication, and each type comes with its own advantages and disadvantages – it’s up to you to decide which one will work best for you. Fortunately, thanks to the range of humidifiers on the market you’re certain to find one that meets your needs, whether it is a  humidifier that is designed to be used in a household with children, one that you can take with you while you are traveling, or one to help with eczema and psoriasis.  

Here we lay out the different kinds of humidifiers, how their technologies work and the various advantages of each type.

Evaporative Humidifier

How does an evaporative humidifier work?

The simplest type of humidifier is an evaporative humidifier (also known as a wick humidifier). This type of humidifier consists of just three major parts: a fan, a wick and a reservoir.

An evaporative humidifier will suck air into the unit using its internal fan. This air will then pass along a water-saturated wick filter which has absorbed water from the reservoir. Once this process has taken place and the air is moist, it will then be pushed back out into the room to circulate and give the room a better balance of humidity in the air.

The process itself is somewhat self-regulating, since the evaporation from the wick depends on the humidity of the room. A room with low humidity will have a higher evaporation rate from the wick and therefore more moisture will be pushed into the air.

Try these evaporative humidifier:

Vornado Ultra3 Ultrasonic Humidifier    

The Vornado Evap2 is an evaporative humidifier that operates by pulling dry air into the device, moving the air through a large, wet, porous wick and then using a powerful fan to expel the resulting moisturized air. The Evap2 can convert two gallons of water into mist every 24 hours and works well in rooms up to 600 square feet.


EssickAir® 13 Gallon Evaporative Console Humidifier

The EssickAir 4DTS-300 Humidifier boasts a dual 2.75 gallon water tank and a strong 9 speed fan. The unit can put out 13 gallons of moisture per day. It boasts easy to use, digital controls and lights that signal to you when you should refill the tank and check the filter for cleaning. Both very useful features. There is also an auto off feature that means when the tank runs out the unit will turn off.


Advantages of an evaporative humidifier

The big advantage of an evaporative humidifier is its cost. Evaporative humidifiers are inexpensive, easy to use and can cover large areas relatively easily.

Ultrasonic Humidifier

How does an ultrasonic humidifier work?

Ultrasonic humidifiers forgo the use of a fan in favor of an ultrasonic vibrating diaphragm. This diaphragm vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency. The water that is stored in the unit is then disrupted and broken up by the fans powerful, supersonic movements. This then creates extremely fine water droplets that leave the humidifier (usually by a tiny fan) as an invisible mist. The humid air is then pushed around the room to create a much healthier balance of humidity.

Ultrasonic humidifiers usually have a greater level of sophistication, and you can adjust the settings of it more easily to suit your needs.

Try these ultrasonic humidifiers:

PuraSense Ultrasonic Humidifier

The PuraSense Ultrasonic Humidifier is not just a simple humidifier; it also features an essential oil tray which was one of the main selling points for me. Not all humidifiers have this feature, especially in such a low price bracket. Due to it not being one of the main features of the humidifier, it can easily be overlooked. At the bottom of the humidifier there is a little tray which slips out and allows you to place your chosen essential oil onto the sponge.


Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

The modern, simplistic design of the Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier makes it a tasteful addition to any room in your home. As a finalist in the 2011 International Housewares Design Awards, this humidifier seemed like the perfect fit for my home.


Advantages of an ultrasonic humidifier

Ultrasonic humidifiers are very quiet and use very little electricity. Unlike evaporative humidifiers, they do not need replacement filters, providing you use distilled water. This humidifier needs cleaning properly over regular periods.

Warm Mist Humidifier

How does a warm mist humidifier work?

Another type of humidifier is the warm mist humidifier (also know as a vaporizer or a steam humidifier). A warm mist humidifier is useful when you want to stay warm during cold months. They heat the water in the reservoir to boiling until it vaporizes. The heat moves the moisturized air around the room, meaning the warmth of the room is maintained and the level of moisture improved. On top of this, if you’re feeling under the weather you can add a medicated inhalant to the steam vapor in order to help reduce the impact of your cough.

Try these warm mist humidifiers:

Honeywell Filter Free Warm Moisture Humidifier

Having built a name for themselves as one of the most reputable brands in electronics, Honeywell have recently released a filter-free warm moisture humidifier.  The sleek, modern design available in black is the perfect humidifier for a medium sized room. Its small size makes it easy to transport and place on a desk at home or in the office.


Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier with Auto Shut–Off

The Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier with Auto Shut–Off comes with two comfort settings which can be changed according to the level of moisture you need in the room or the strength at which the Vicks VapoRub needs to be released. The mist which is released is up to 95% bacteria-free which is ideal for those who are recovering from a cold and hoping to keep all harmful bacteria at bay.

Vicks-Warm-Mist-Humidifier-with-Auto-Shut-OffAdvantages of a warm mist humidifier

Warm mist humidifiers are durable and great for colder months. Unlike other types of humidifier, there is no problem with mineral build up.

Warm mist humidifiers do come with potential risks for children thanks to the risk of burning themselves on the device, and the change in atmosphere could cause some unexpected discomfort for a child.

Cold Mist Humidifier

How does a cold mist humidifier work?

A cold mist humidifier (also known as an impeller humidifier) gives out room temperature air, meaning unlike the warm mist humidifier, it can be used all-year round. This humidifier has a rotating disc that shoots water at a diffuser. This diffuser then breaks the water into miniscule droplets that will float into the air.

Try these cold mist humidifiers:

ReMEDies Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

If durability, versatility and design are anything to go by, then the ReMEDies Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier rightfully holds its position as one of the better humidifiers in its price range. If you are willing to spend just a bit more for this three-in-one humidifier, you will not be disappointed by the quality of this product.

61ySg9tzC9L._SY355_The Honeywell Cool Moisture Console Humidifier

Designed to humidify much larger spaces, The Honeywell Cool Moisture Console Humidifier provides relief for the discomfort caused by dry air conditions. It can service an area of up to 1,900 square feet and is perfect for areas such as the lounge, dining room or larger bedrooms.  As with most Honeywell products, this humidifier has lasted for a number of years and has a commendable client relations service.

p_1000407197Advantages of a cold mist humidifier

Cold mist humidifiers are generally safer for children and a little more cost efficient as there is less energy used. In addition, the cold mist humidifier can be used all year round.

What are the disadvantages of humidifiers?

Humidifiers themselves carry no real disadvantages or dangers. Without careful maintenance and care, however, humidifiers can circulate unwanted air around the room.

Ultrasonic humidifiers are particularly susceptible to this and so it is essential to ensure you keep it clean.

There are also problems with keeping your home too humid, since condensation, mold and insects could become a problem. The ideal level of humidity for a living space is between 30% and 50%, so try to keep in between those levels.

Useful tips for your humidifier

Clean your humidifier once a week. Without regular cleaning, a humidifier can promote levels of bacteria in the air and gather mold which can be harmful.

Use distilled water. Normal tap water has minerals that will create a build up in your humidifier. Again, this can lead to mould and bacterial growth, so using distilled water (or demineralized) is highly beneficial as the minerals will not build up so frequently. This will save you cleaning it as frequently.

Change the filters of your humidifier regularly. Consult the manual to find out how frequently you should change the filter for your model.

Use a hygrometer. Too much humidity can be a bad thing, and a hygrometer will help you regulate the levels of moisture in your home. The ideal amount is between 30% and 50%.

Humidifiers and Children

If you are looking to purchase a humidifier and you have children it is recommended to purchase a cold mist humidifier, since children may burn themselves on the unit or air of a warm mist humidifier.

Generally speaking, humidifiers are great for when you have a family. When your child gets his or her first cold you will reap the benefits of having a humidifier. Humidifiers can help ease out the mucus that builds up when your child has a blocked nose, allowing them to sleep easy. It will also help with dry skin, alleviating chapped lips and giving you and your child a healthy glow.

Health benefits of a humidifier

Reduce The Risk Of Infection

By having a humidifier in your home you can reduce the risk of infection greatly. Dry air allows bacteria to spread, but a humidifier will fill the air with the correct amount of humidity and filter out the viruses and bacteria that can cause the problems.

Studies have shown that by raising the indoor humidity in your home to at least 43 percent, approximately 85 percent of airborne bacteria and viruses will cease to affect you. How does that sound for a cozy winter!

Improved Skin

We all suffer a little more from dry skin in the winter, but with a humidifier this could be greatly improved. If your skin is dry or chapped, the moisture brought into your room or home from a humidifier can breathe life back into it.

Dry air, of course, lessens the moisture in your skin, which is what causes you problems. The heating you are using in the winter can add to this problem and leave your skin feeling dry and itchy. With a humidifier on, these effects of dryness will be greatly lessened and your skin will feel much healthier.

Faster Healing

Everyone gets sick during winter, and a humidifier can help speed up the healing process and make you feel much better much quicker.

Colds, viruses, allergies and sinus infections can all flare up during winter, and a humidifier in your home will add moisture to the air which can sooth the irritation of nasal passages, and help you breathe easy when you have chest, nose and throat infections.

Improved Sleep

Getting a good sleep is extremely important to your health. Sleep deprivation causes many problems in life and so when you do get to sleep, you should ensure you have the best sleep possible. If you snore or your partner snores, this can greatly disrupt your sleep and so buying a humidifier could help you avoid having to get the peg out to clip on someone’s nose! Snoring is caused by low moisture levels in your nose, so a humidifier will help to fight off the dryness that causes snoring.

As a bonus, moist air tends to make the air feel warmer which makes a good night’s sleep more easily achievable.

Prevents Nose Bleeds

If you are suffering from nosebleeds, it’s probably because your nasal passages are dry. A humidifier, as you may have already guessed, can help to alleviate this by adding moisture to the air which subsequently lubricates your nasal passages, making breathing easier and helping immeasurably with nosebleeds. No more late night trips to the bathroom holding your nose!