Whether you have sick children, allergies or live in a dry climate, the moist air from a humidifier can help alleviate a multitude of health problems, including symptoms of colds and flu. It also reduces the levels of dust and annoying static electricity in your home. Our top three picks for the best humidifiers are the Air-O-Swiss 7135, the Stadler Form William and the Winix AW107 FresHome Air Washer. To learn more, you can also read our articles on humidifiers.
The most impressive humidifiers raise the moisture content of your room quickly and efficiently, while keeping germs at bay. Newer models also offer features like humidistats and LCD display screens. You will pay more for these extras, but they often add functionality and convenience to your humidifier. We reviewed humidifiers in the following areas:
Most humidifiers state their humidity output in gallons of water expelled every 24 hours. Another way humidifiers are rated is by how many square feet they are intended to humidify. It's important that you buy a humidifier appropriate to your space. If your air becomes too humid (levels of over 60 percent) it can encourage the growth of bacteria and mold.
There are three types of humidifiers: ultrasonic, evaporative and units that boil water to produce steam.
Ultrasonic units operate by using vibrations to pulverize water into fine mist. With this method, mineral-laden hard water produces a fine white dust that settles on your furniture and floors. If you purchase an ultrasonic humidifier, look for a unit with a demineralization cartridge that removes such impurities. Ultrasonic humidifiers are almost silent and consume very little electricity compared to other humidifiers.
Evaporative coolers humidify by moving air through a wick sitting in water. Water is then blown through this large, wet surface and sent into the room as mist. Many impurities are removed during this process, but vigilant cleaning is needed to ensure you are trapping, not spreading, germs.
Steam units work by boiling water and directing the resulting steam into the room. Steam units destroy germs and mold as they humidify, but they are a known scalding hazard for small children and are not featured in our humidifier review.
Some ultrasonic humidifiers offer both cold and warm mist output. In these units, water is passed over a heating element and warmed. While warmed mist typically leaves an ultrasonic unit at a safe 104 degrees Fahrenheit, a child could tip the unit and burn themselves on the water inside. Evaporative warm-mist humidifiers frequently do heat the water to near boiling temperatures and the steam leaving these units may exit at much higher temperatures. To be safe, always use cool-mist humidification around children or infants.
The best humidifiers have built-in hygrostats or humidistats that measure the amount of moisture in the air. This helps you get exactly the humidity level you want in your room instead of guessing at the unit’s output.
You’ll also want to look for units that shut off automatically when the tank runs out of water. This protects the motor from overheating and lowers the risk of an electrical fire. If the unit you’re considering does not have an automatic shut-off, make sure it has a transparent reservoir so you can see when it needs refilling.
The humidifier you choose should be light enough for you to carry it to the sink and have built-in tank handles that are easy to grip when the tank is wet. If you have a particular place you plan to place your humidifier, check the unit’s measurements to be sure its size is a good fit for your space.
Help & Support
All of the humidifiers we reviewed come with at least a one-year warranty. The best manufacturers will back their products for even longer. Look for companies that offer a toll-free number or a live-chat support option so that you can reach a customer support agent for assistance.
Inexpensive and versatile humidifiers provide a multitude of benefits. If you are sick, you will appreciate the comfort that moist air brings to your lungs. If you are healthy, this same moist air can help you ward off colds and flu, improve skin tone, protect your fine wood furnishings and keep allergies at bay.