Do your eyes and skin feel dry? Is your throat scratchy? Are your sinuses irritated and congested? The problem may not be an illness. It may be the dry air in your home. The solution. Buy a humidifier.
Do You Need a Humidifier?
Low humidity can cause a lot of problems. It inflames the mucus membranes in your nose, leading to nasal obstructions and increasing your risk of cold and flu. It causes tears to evaporate too quickly, drying out your eyes. It also dehydrates your skin, making it scaly and cracked – a condition known as “winter itch.” Low humidity levels can also cause static electricity, and even damage sensitive electronics. If you experience these symptoms on a seasonal basis in your home (absolute humidity tends to drop during winter), you may benefit from a cool mist humidifier.
How do Humidifiers Help?
Humidifiers raise humidity levels by emitting water vapor or mist into the air, either by heating it or breaking it up into mist with an ultrasonic plate. Humans feel most comfortable in environments with 40-60% relative humidity. Relative humidity is the ratio between the amount of water vapor in the air and the maximum amount of water the air can hold.
Though some humidifiers are powerful enough to cover large areas (up to 2500 sq ft.) most are designed to control humidity in a single room. The water vapor they emit also reduces excess dust and dander in the air. It saturates the particles, which makes them heavy and causes them to settle on the ground.
Features to Look For
Before buying a humidifier, there are four main considerations: noise, efficiency, convenience, and cost.
- Noise. Humidifiers as a rule, are not very noisy, but they’re often used in bedrooms and nurseries, where even low level noise can be disruptive. Ultrasonic humidifiers like the Luma Comfort HC12B are the quietest models. The vibrating plates they use to create mist only generate about 35 decibels of sound, barely more than a whisper. Because of their heating components, warm mist humidifiers tend to be a little noisier and whole house humidifiers use fans to circulate air, making them the noisiest of all.
- Efficiency. The efficiency of a humidifier is measured by the amount of gallons of water it releases into the air over a 24-hour period and the size of its coverage area. A whole house humidifier should be able to release 10-20 gallons into your home over 24 hours, while a single room humidifier should release 2-4 gallons.
- Convenience. Humidifiers should be easy to operate and require minimal maintenance. Console and countertop units are the easiest to clean, because their components are small enough to fit under a faucet. If you live in an area with hard water, a demineralization cartridge will help prevent lime and scale buildup. Also look for adjustable settings, so you can customize the amount of mist being released.
- Cost. The cost of a humidifier depends on its size. Large, whole house humidifiers cost $350-$650 on average, while single room humidifiers can be purchased for $50-$150. Keep in mind the area you want to humidify before deciding your price point and remember the most expensive option may not be the best.