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Humidifiers Indoor Air Quality

How to Select a Humidifier — Which Humidifier Type is Best?

Posted March 8, 2013

There are a large selection of mist humidifiers available on the market and figuring out the differences between the types can be quite confusing. Mist humidifiers utilize primarily four different mechanisms for delivery of the water mist: wicking, steam, cool mist, and ultrasonic. For best use, mist humidifiers that produce obvious steam or mist should be placed on a high surface. This allows for an adequate distance to permit the steam or mist to become absorbed into the ambient air. Any cold surfaces will cause the steam or mist to condense quickly instead of being soaked up into the air.

Wicking Humidifiers

There are several drawbacks to wicking humidifiers:

Some systems are touted as having permanent washable filters. If you have ever attempted drying clothes indoors, you know that it requires a while for the them to dry even if a fan is blowing on them. Similarly, wicking mist humidifiers can take a while to transfer humidity into the air. To be effective, wicking humidifiers depend on fans and water running down a honeycomb or webbed filter. The fan and running water can produce a lot of noise.

Steam Humidifiers

There are also many drawbacks to steam humidifiers:

If not cleaned constantly, steam mist humidifiers can develop deposits of slime in the water reservoir. The collected dust along with heat, moisture, and darkness become the ultimate breading ground for bacteria, mold and fungus. Steam tends to consist of fairly large particles of water. There's no such thing as "kind of boiling". Water is either boiling or it is not. This is like what happens to a cloud when rain starts falling. Boiling water needs sufficient electricity to heat the water.

Cool Mist Humidifiers

As the shaft turns, a mist is made and then blown by a fan into the room. Because these humidifiers don't boil water, they're cooler and safer to touch.

This produces considerable moisture and wetness on surfaces instead of humidity in the air. Combining a high speed shaft in water with a fan mechanism produces a big quantity of noise.

Ultrasonic Humidifiers

Ultrasonic humidifiers use a very fast vibrator in a shallow water reservoir to generate a mist that naturally rises upward.

Because the vapor created by these units is so fine, it is quickly soaked up into the air instead of leading to wetness and moisture on surfaces.

Because these units need no wicking fabric or boiling water, they’re fairly clean in operation. Because the water vapor is taken quickly into the air, any particulates in the water that are left in the dust will be obvious on surfaces.

It is logical to think this fine powder also makes it into a person's lungs. Because lungs typically don't respond well to fine powdered substances, it is reasonable to decide that ultrasonic humidifiers might be harmful. This is not true. Mineral dust itself is not a hazard.

White dust is an aftereffect of minerals found characteristically in water. This white mineral dust can sometimes be released into the air during the process of humidification. White dust will not hurt you. However it may settle on the surface of items near the humidifier. It easily cleans up just as any other dust. Some ultrasonic humidifiers come with a demineralization cartridge. Its purpose is to trap minerals before they get in the air. This reduces or can eliminate white dust altogether.

Additionally you can also use ultrasonic humidifier water treatment to decrease white dust output. The amount of white dust produced will vary depending on the mineral content of your tap water.

You can also use distilled water instead of tap water. Distilled water has minimal mineral content and thus will not produce white mineral dust.

We hope this cleared up any confusion you may have had about the different types of humidifiers. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.