Home Humidifier Buying Guide: Top Features

The market is virtually flooded with home humidifiers, and if you’re shopping solely by brand or price, you’re likely to miss an important feature. Instead of basing your decision on whatever is cheapest, pay attention to what you’re getting for your money. Keep the following desirable key features in mind as you shop for your next home humidifier:

Technology Type

There are four main types of home humidifiers: steamer/vaporizer, impeller, evaporative/wick, and ultrasonic. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and depending on your needs, a $30 steam vaporizer won’t deliver the same value as a $30 ultrasonic humidifier. Read through our articles on each type of humidifier so you know the difference.

Ease of Use

As a design aspect, usability won’t affect the price. Look for a humidifier that is portable, has a removable tank for easy refilling and digital controls (if desired). Some humidifiers do not have removable tanks and others have tanks that are too tall to fit beneath a bathroom or kitchen faucet. Keep this in mind as you shop.


This is an important feature. Humidistats, like thermostats, will raise the humidity to a certain level and then automatically shut off. Without a humidistat, the humidifier may raise the humidity level to an excessive level, which can damage furniture, promote mold and bacteria growth, and cause discomfort.


This is key and difficult to gauge from the box. But as a rule of thumb, steam humidifiers are almost always quieter than cool mist humidifiers. Read reviews or better yet, plug it in before buying it. If you’re buying online, also look for humidifiers that have adjustable fan settings. These allow you to have the humidifier on high during the day and then turn it to low at night for quieter operation while you sleep.


Some humidifiers come equipped with timers. These allow you to set your humidifier to begin operating before you arrive home and shut off automatically when you leave so that your home is always the right humidity.

Additional Features

These are the core features that make a humidifier a good buy. You may also see humidifiers advertised with antibacterial materials, ultraviolet lights, medicine chambers, and other added features. The merits of these extras, however, are not as pivotal as the ones mentioned above, as studies measuring the effectiveness and value of antibacterial and UV systems are as of yet inconclusive.

Evaporative Home Humidifiers

Evaporative home humidifiers are the most popular types of home humidifier systems. These systems are available in tabletop portable models, as central humidifier systems, or as units that can be added to a normal blower vent in any room. Evaporative home humidifiers also tend to be less expensive than other costly systems, such as ultrasonic humidifiers and spray mist systems.

How Evaporative Home Humidifiers Work

The mechanism that drives evaporative humidifiers is simple. Air is passed through a wet medium, such as a fabric, foam or aluminum wick filter, grille, or pad. The air picks up moisture from the pad or filter through evaporation and carries it into the room. Evaporative humidifiers can come outfitted with their own fans or they can use forced air from an HVAC system.

Advantages of an Evaporative Home Humidifier System

Evaporative systems are very reliable, as the only moving part required is a fan. The filter system also helps remove minerals and impurities present in hard water, which helps prevent the notorious “white dust.” White dust, as described by the EPA, is particulate mineral and microorganism matter that is dispersed by humidifiers and settles on surfaces. White dust can be harmful if inhaled. Evaporative humidifiers also use very little electricity.

Disadvantages of an Evaporative Home Humidifier Systems

Evaporative home humidifier systems are more susceptible to mold growth and mildew buildup on the wet medium, particularly when it is kept moist around the clock or has standing water in the system. Because of this, wick filters must be changed regularly and the system must be cleaned to prevent bacteria growth. This adds cost and upkeep. In general, wick filters must be replaced once every two months. However, this varies depending on water hardness and other circumstances.

Other Considerations

Evaporative humidifiers are referred to as “cool mist” humidifiers. Unlike warm mist humidifiers, evaporative units do not have a heating element. An evaporative humidifier may make the room feel cooler because of this. The fan in an evaporative humidifier can also be noisy, so look for a humidifier with an adjustable fan setting. You can keep the fan on high during the day and then turn it to a lower setting when you are trying to sleep. In general, evaporative humidifiers also have higher outputs than warm mist humidifiers, but check the specifications on the box to compare models.

Overall, evaporative humidifiers are affordable, portable, reliable, and relatively safe. As one of the top cool-mist humidifier types, evaporative humidifiers are one of the most common types of humidifiers you’ll find.

Home Humidifiers

When the winter weather blows in, the furnace kicks on, and our homes are kept nice and toasty. However, as an unavoidable side effect of all home heating systems, the air becomes dry and uncomfortable. If you experience dry nasal passages, nosebleeds, itchy skin, and exacerbated allergies, colds, and other symptoms in the colder months, then it’s likely that you need a home humidifier system.

Home humidifiers are necessary for so many households it’s a wonder that they aren’t a standard installation in all modern homes. The climate in most parts of the world requires that a home humidifier system is running at least part, if not all of the year, in order to maintain a comfortable and healthy environment for pets, children, and adults.

Recognizing this need for controlling humidity in the home, retailers, department stores, big-box stores, manufacturers and home appliance sellers have scrambled into the market. The result: hundreds of types, models, and makes of home humidifier on the shelf. As consumers, we are led to believe that choice is a good thing. But when it comes to home humidifiers, it’s clear that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. With humidifiers ranging in price from $10 all the way up to $200 (or even more for a whole-house humidifier) and confusing terms such as impeller, evaporative, hygrometer, RH, GPD, ultrasonic, ultraviolet and so on, it can be hard to figure out whether or not you’re getting a good deal.

That’s what we’re here for. Consider us your consumer guide to home humidifiers. We’ve built this website as a comprehensive resource for anyone who is looking to buy, upgrade, or replace their home humidifier and wants to get the most for their money. Throughout these pages, you’ll find straightforward and useful explanations of all the terms you’ll come across when shopping for a home humidifier as well as unbiased analysis of how they factor into the value of the unit. After perusing our website, we’re confident that you’ll have the facts and knowledge to make a smart investment in the air quality of your home.

Browse through our home humidifier resources to get familiarized with the key topics. We think you’ll find everything you need is already here. But if you have any additional questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are here to give you advice, recommendations or clarifications on all things home humidifier.

Steam Humidifiers

Steam humidifiers, also known as steam vaporizer humidifiers, are a type of warm mist humidifier. Warm mist humidifiers differ from cool mist humidifiers both in how they operate and how they perform. While choosing between a steam humidifier and another type of humidifier is often a matter of preference, there are some considerations that may make a steam humidifier a better choice for you.

How Steam Humidifiers Work

Steam humidifiers use simple technology—all it is a reservoir with a heating element. Water is

boiled and turned into steam, which is dispersed into the air as warm water vapor.

Advantages of Steam Humidifiers

Vaporizers and steam humidifiers are very inexpensive, especially when compared to ultrasonic humidifiers. Furthermore, since there are no moving parts or fans, they are extremely quiet. Depending on your preference, you may also enjoy the warm mist over the cool mist. Warm mist may help relieve congestion or other respiratory ailments. Some warm mist humidifiers allow you to add a medicinal inhalant to the unit which further helps relieve colds, flu, and sinus problems. Lastly, because steam humidifiers boil the water before dispersing it, they effectively

eliminate most of the bacteria that may have been present in the water.

Disadvantages of Steam Humidifiers

Steam humidifiers may pose a safety hazard due to the heating element. Use caution when operating steam humidifiers around small children and shop for a steam humidifier that has an anti-scalding device. Also, while steam humidifiers are effective in reducing microorganisms, they do not remove minerals from the water. You may still have some scaling or calcium deposits in your humidifier. Regular cleaning and maintenance will remedy this. Lastly, steam humidifiers have significantly less output than comparably priced cool mist humidifiers. For larger rooms, an impeller, ultrasonic, or evaporative wick humidifier is recommended.

Other Considerations

Steam humidifiers have shelf appeal due to the promise of warm mist—but the differences between a warm mist humidifier and cool mist humidifier go deeper than the temperature of the water vapor. For this reason, we recommend reading through all of our articles on the different types of humidifiers. Steam humidifiers are perfect for small rooms and for combating seasonal colds and flu. However, you should also note that raising the humidity in a room—regardless of whether it’s via cool or warm mist—will have the net effect of making the room feel warmer due to the higher humidity.

Ultrasonic Humidifiers

Ultrasonic humidifiers are a type of cool mist humidifier and are the newest of the established humidifier technologies. Ultrasonic humidifiers are often touted for their quiet operations and low energy consumption. But before you decide an ultrasonic humidifier is right for you, it’s best to learn a bit more about how they work.

How Ultrasonic Humidifiers Work

Ultrasonic humidifiers create water vapor by sending high-frequency vibrations into the reservoir via a vibrating diaphragm. While this sounds like it may be a very noisy mechanism, most ultrasonic humidifiers are advertised as virtually silent, since the vibrations are beyond the range of human perception. Ultrasonic humidifiers are most similar to impeller humidifiers.

Advantages of an Ultrasonic Humidifier

Ultrasonic humidifiers are very quiet and use very little electricity. Furthermore, since there is no heating element, there is no danger of scalding. Ultrasonic humidifiers are also relatively easy to clean and maintain, as there are few moving parts to remove or disassemble.

Disadvantages of an Ultrasonic Humidifier

Like an impeller humidifier, ultrasonic humidifiers do not selectively vaporizer water. That is, any impurities, minerals, pathogens, or microorganisms present in the reservoir water will also be dispersed into the air. This may pose health risks, as noted by the EPA, since these substances may be harmful if inhaled. Furthermore, ultrasonic humidifiers sometimes leave a “white dust” on surfaces, which consists of accumulated mineral and microorganism material.


Ultrasonic humidifiers have some inherent drawbacks, but they can be mitigated through a few optional features. The principal concern is the potential for pathogens being dispersed along with the water vapor. For this reason, many higher-end ultrasonic humidifiers include ultraviolet lights that eliminate bacteria in the reservoir. Alternately, you can clean the tank periodically to prevent contamination. Also, some ultrasonic humidifiers use cartridges or filters to remove minerals. In lieu of these features, you can use distilled water to prevent issues that arise from using hard tap water in your humidifier.

Ultrasonic humidifiers are often touted as the latest and greatest humidifier technology on the market. However, due to the issues arising from microorganisms and mineral matter in the water vapor, it’s important to look for the key features mentioned above to ensure that your humidifier is safe and effective for everyday use. In spite of these potential drawbacks, ultrasonic humidifiers are very reliable and operate very quietly, making them a good choice for a basic home humidifier.

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