Have you been told to get a humidifier but you have no idea what it is? If yes, you have come to the right place. Humidifiers are important because they come with a lot of benefits. In this guide, we’ll talk about what a humidifier is, and why you need it.
What Is a Humidifier?
A humidifier is a device that increases humidity or moisture levels in the air by discharging water vapor or steam. You might be thinking: Is this the same as an air purifier? The answer is no— while an air purifier’s job is to clean the air, a humidifier is all about adding moisture to the air. A humidifier might help improve your air quality, but it isn’t designed to clean or purify your air through humidity alone.
How Humidifiers Work
Humidifiers differ in their methods of evaporation and dispersion, but all of them perform this basic function to increase the moisture in the air.
How Do You Measure Humidity And Why Is It Important?
Scientists measure humidity as a percentage called relative humidity.
Air holds different amounts of water at different temperatures. Relative humidity describes the amount of water currently held in the air compared to the maximum amount of water the air could hold at that temperature.
Using relative humidity as a measurement of water vapor makes it easy to compare humidity levels in rooms at different temperatures.
- Air Temperature Affects Humidity Levels
Air temperature has a major effect on humidity levels. Cold air holds much less water than warmer air. This is why humidifiers are so popular during the cold season.
Since cold air holds less moisture, the water in our bodies evaporates more quickly, resulting in chapped lips and dry skin. Low humidity can also cause higher levels of static electricity, increasing the chances that you’ll get a slight shock when you touch the doorknob.
When you crank up your home’s heaters to battle the cold outside, the heaters pull in outdoor air and warm it. But since that outdoor air is cold, it’s also very dry. When your heater blows it into your house as hot air, it’s still the same dry air. Further, because the air is now warmer and can hold more moisture, the relative humidity level becomes even lower.
It’s no surprise that dry air symptoms seem to become especially noticeable during the cold season.
Who Can Benefit From a Humidifier?
Humidifiers can benefit many people. According to our experts, you might benefit from using a humidifier if you experience any of the following:
- Dry sinuses
- Dry throat
- Nose bleeds
- Dry skin
Engelman says that “A lot of people aren’t aware of just how much their environment directly affects their skin and general health—air that has a less-than-optimal humidity level, below 40-60 percent, can pull moisture from the skin and dehydrate it, making it appear older and duller.”
Benefits of a Humidifier
Better Hydrated Skin
A humidifier can help keep your skin refreshed and hydrated, which is key when it comes to skin health. “When the skin is properly hydrated, it appears more youthful and even-textured, and is less prone to breakouts,” Engelman says. Overall, humidifiers are a great way to give your immune system and skin an extra boost to stay healthy all year round, no matter the weather outside.
Clearer Nasal Passages
In the winter months—or really any time if you live in a dry climate—mucous membranes tend to dry out and get thicker, which can make it harder to filter what enters through your airways. “Running a humidifier in addition to using a saline spray two to three times daily will help to keep your nose moist, clean, and clear,” Nasseri says.
Eased Cold and Allergy Symptoms
“Using a high-quality humidifier will improve your environment by keeping the air at an optimal humidity level, which helps ease allergy and cold symptoms and makes it easier to breathe,” Engelman says. Studies also show that in environments where humidity is maintained somewhere between 40 and 60 percent, viruses like the flu are less likely to be transmitted, compared to drier environments, she adds.
Types of humidifiers
The type of humidifier you choose depends on your preferences, budget, and the size of the area you want to add moisture to. There are five types of humidifiers:
- Central humidifiers
- impeller humidifiers
- steam vaporizers
- ultrasonic humidifiers
Humidifiers are often classified as a console or portable/personal.
Console units are meant to add moisture to the entire house. They’re often very large, but usually have wheels so you can easily move them around. Console units are meant to add moisture to one room.
Personal (or portable) humidifiers are the smallest and are the best choice if you need a humidifier while traveling.
Central humidifiers are built directly into your home’s air conditioning or heating unit. These are the most expensive types of humidifiers, but they’re the best choice if you want to add humidity throughout the entire house.
Traditional humidifiers carry a potential risk of burns from the steam they emit. Central humidifiers don’t emit steam.
Evaporators blow moisture through a moistened filter. Fans power the unit and expel the humidity into
These are more affordable than central humidifiers, but the downside is that they only work in one room at a time. They may also expel too much moisture into the air. This can be problematic for people with asthma, as it raises the likelihood of mold growth.
Impeller humidifiers work with the help of rotating disks that run at high speeds. These units are often less expensive. They’re also among the most child-friendly devices because they create cool mist and carry no risk of burns.
The downside is, like evaporators, they only work in single rooms. They can potentially cause breathing difficulties for people with allergies and asthma when they’re overused.
Steam vaporizers are electrically powered. They heat water and then cool it before expelling it into the air. These are the most inexpensive and portable humidifiers. You can purchase them at drugstores.
This type can cause burns, so it’s not the most kid-friendly.
Ultrasonic humidifiers produce a cool mist with the help of ultrasonic vibration. The units vary in price, depending on the size you need for your home. Both cool and warm mist versions are available.
An ultrasonic humidifier — especially the cool-mist version — is a good choice if you have children.
How to safely use a humidifier
Before operating a humidifier in your home, you should be aware of some of the risks and safety precautions of these devices to avoid adverse health reactions.
Don’t add too much moisture to a room. You don’t want the humidity in a room to be at more than 50 percent. When the humidity exceeds this percentage, bacteria and mold can grow. This can trigger respiratory conditions like allergies and asthma.
Ideally, the humidity of a room should be between 30 and 50 percent. You can purchase a hygrometer to measure the moisture in your home.
Only run your humidifier when you need it, not all of the time, to keep humidity levels down.
Use distilled water
Another health risk when operating a humidifier relates to the particles other than water emitted into the air. Unhealthy mineral particles can be released by a humidifier, particularly with cool mist machines.
Distilled water has fewer minerals in it and can be purchased for use in your humidifier.
Keep your machine clean
You should always clean your humidifier after every use and make sure the water tank gets completely dried before using it again.
Rinse and replace the water in your humidifier’s tank each night to avoid using old standing water that may contain molds or other bacteria or fungi.
You may notice white buildup within the humidifier. This is known as scale and could be emitted into the air and cause particles to enter the lungs, leading to health problems.
To avoid or remove scale or mold, clean your humidifier out every few days with a water and vinegar or hydrogen peroxide mixture or with another cleaning solution recommended by the manufacturer.
You should consider replacing an older humidifier if it hasn’t been cleaned regularly.
Replace filters regularly
Some humidifiers require filters or have other parts that need to be cleaned or replaced. For example, replace the filter in your central humidifier regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Keep interior doors open
To avoid over-humidifying a room, make sure to keep the room’s door open to allow air to flow in and out of the space.
Humidifier risks and precautions
Safe use of a humidifier should reduce risks, but keep the following in mind:
- Too much humidity in a room can be dangerous.
- Unclean humidifiers can emit harmful elements that can lead to respiratory problems.
- Warm mist humidifiers may burn children if touched.
- Cool mist humidifiers may disperse hazardous minerals and other particles that irritate the lungs.
- Distilled water is the safest type of water to use with a humidifier.
- An older humidifier may contain harmful bacteria or mold that you can’t clean or remove.
In conclusion, Humidifiers are beneficial to people with skin problems or respiratory problems that live in areas with low humidity.
It is important to remember that humidifiers do not treat underlying conditions, such as asthma. They may be beneficial, but they should not replace medical treatment.