Humidifier Types and Maintenance
A humidifier is a device that emits water vapor or steam to increase moisture levels in the air (i.e., humidity). There are two basic types of humidifiers: cool mist and warm mist. However, between the two, there are actually five types available to purchase:
Central: built into home heating and air conditioning systems and designed to humidify the whole house.
Ultrasonic: uses ultrasonic vibration to produce a cool mist.
Impeller: uses a rotating disk to produce a cool mist.
Evaporator: uses a fan to blow air through a wet wick, filter, or belt to produce a cool mist.
Steam vaporizer: uses electricity to create steam that then cools before leaving the machine (note: avoid this type of humidifier if you have children as the hot water inside may cause burns if spilled).
All humidifiers require regular cleaning to reduce the risk of bacteria. Some models are equipped with a filter, which requires regular changing. Wiping down the humidifier daily with a 10 percent bleach solution — 9 parts water to 1 part bleach — is one way to safely keep it clean.
Humidifiers are great if you suffer from sinus problems, a dry cough, dry skin, or chapped lips. Additionally, a house that is too dry will cause static electricity to form as well as cause wooden furniture and the wood in musical instruments to crack and mar their finish.
Dry indoor air can cause dry sinuses, bloody noses, and cracked lips, so increasing indoor humidity can help to eliminate these problems as well as ease symptoms of a cold and other respiratory conditions. Be cautious, though! Humidifiers can actually make you sick if they are not maintained properly or if humidity levels stay too high. Ideally, you want to maintain a 30-50% humidity level in your home (musical instruments require a humidity level of around 40% to reduce the risk of crazing or cracking the finish). If you have allergies or asthma, humidifiers may ease your breathing, but it is still always a good idea to talk to your doctor first.
Cool Mist Humidifiers: tend to be slightly noisier than their warm mist counterparts, though some models do come with a “silent” feature. There are three types of cool mist humidifiers – evaporative, impeller, and ultrasonic. Evaporative humidifiers are the most economical and basic in design (see definition above).
Warm Mist Humidifiers: tend to be slightly quieter than their cool mist counterparts, though they require more frequent cleaning due to the warm water encouraging bacterial growth. Warm mist humidifiers, also called steam vaporizers (see definition above), usually have a small compartment where medication can be added for a soothing vapor. This type of humidifier has a higher risk of injury because of the heating element and hot water.
First, determine whether the humidifier will be around children or adults only. For their safety, do not use warm mist humidifiers around children as the hot water or steam can burn a child if he or she gets too close.
Both cool mist and warm mist humidifiers add moisture to the air, which eases coughing and congestion. In fact, they are equally effective in humidifying the air. As far as children are concerned, by the time the water vapor reaches their lower airways, it is the same temperature regardless of whether it started out cool or warm, so there is no need to risk potential burns from a warm mist humidifier.
Additionally, cool mist humidifiers are less expensive than warm mist ones. Warm mist humidifiers generally cost more because they include a heating element. Also due to the lack of a heating element, cool mist humidifiers use less energy, thus saving you additional money.
If you find it hard to breathe in a sauna, a cool mist humidifier would probably be better for you. On the other hand, if a sauna makes it easier for you to breathe, a warm mist humidifier is likely the best choice.
However, there are advantages to using a warm mist humidifier that cannot be obtained from a cool mist humidifier. In addition to emitting less noise than cool mist humidifiers, warm mist humidifiers can make you more comfortable in the winter if you live in a cold climate. Many models of warm mist humidifiers have a medicine cup to disperse inhalants, respiratory medicines, or essential oils; this is not available in cool mist humidifiers. And, perhaps most importantly, the mist or steam coming out of a warm mist humidifier is cleaner than the mist coming out of a cool mist humidifier.