Humidifiers - Warm Mist or Cool Mist?
Humidifiers are often categorized as either Warm Mist (Warm Moisture) or Cool Moisture (Cool Moisture). While they each work in different ways, the end result is the same - that is, they both add moisture to the air. Ultimately, the choice between warm or cool comes down to a matter of personal preference.
How they work:
Warm mist humidifiers use a heating element to heat up the water inside the humidifier, causing a warm steam to rise into the room. Some warm mist humidifiers also add an optional mineral absorption pad, which sits inside the heating element and collects mineral deposits left behind from the heated water. The level of mineral deposits will vary depending on how hard your water is. Other than this very inexpensive and optional replacement pad, there are no other filters that need replacing with a warm mist humidifier. The heating element uses more electricity than a cool mist humidifier, but overall the long term costs are low. Some pediatricians caution against using a warm mist humidifier in a baby's room, as the water inside the humidifier is very hot, and could become a burn risk if the humidifier were to be accidentally tipped over during use. It is always advisable to place any humidifier out of reach of a baby or toddler.
Cool mist humidifiers can be broken down into two subcategories: Evaporative Humidifiers and Ultrasonic Humidifiers.
- Evaporative Humidifiers use a fan to blow dry room air through an evaporative wick filter, usually made of a special absorbent paper-based material. This wick filter sits inside the base of the humidifier, absorbing the water inside. When the fan blows air through the wick filter, the water in the wick filter evaporates and is distributed into the room in the form of humidified air. While this method uses no heating element, and therefore uses very little electricity to run, it does require regular replacement of the wick filters. There is also a possibility of mold, bacteria and fungi to grow on the paper-based wick as it sits in the water. There are bacteria treatments and antibacterial cartridges available which can be added to the water tanks to help prevent the growth of bacteria, but eventually the wick needs to be replaced with a new one. How often you need to replace the wick filter depends on many factors, including water hardness and frequency of use, but in general wick filters should be replaced at least every two months.
- Ultrasonic Humidifiers are another form of cool mist humidifier, but instead of using a fan to blow air through a wick filter, a small metal diaphragm vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency, which breaks the water down into tiny water droplets and becomes a fine vapor mist. Ultrasonic humidifiers are the quietest humidifiers around, and they use very little electricity. They can release minerals that are present in the water into the air with the mist. These minerals sometimes take the form of a fine dust, called "white dust", which can settle on furniture near the humidifier. White dust, while not harmful, can be reduced with the use of demineralization cartridges, or by using distilled water. Other than these cartridges, ultrasonic humidifiers require no other replacement filters. Some higher end ultrasonic models have a warm mist option in addition to cool mist. By using the warm mist option, the water in the humidifier is preheated to help prevent the growth of bacteria inside the humidifier.
So, which humidifier is best for me?
For the most part, it comes down to personal preference. But here are some additional pros and cons to help you decide:
- Warm mist humidifiers tend to make the surrounding room air feel a bit warmer due to the warm steam they release into the air. In contrast, cool mist humidifiers generally have the opposite effect, causing the air to feel cooler due to the fan blowing air over an evaporative wick filter. Therefore, if you live in a warm climate, you may prefer a cool mist humidifier, while those who live in colder climates may prefer a warm mist humidifier.
- Warm mist humidifiers operate with very little noise (you will hear some boiling sounds as the water is heating, and the occasional gurgling sound as new water empties into the heating element and is boiled). Therefore, these may be preferable when used in a bedroom at night. Ultrasonic humidifiers are even quieter than warm mist humidifiers, as you will not even hear any boiling sounds. On the other hand, cool mist evaporative humidifiers use fans which do make noise. The noise level varies depending on which fan speed you set the humidifier on (most have 2-3 fan speeds - the more fan speeds the better). Generally, at night when you are sleeping, the lowest fan speed is recommended. Some people prefer cool mist evaporative humidifiers because they like having a "white background noise", which helps them while they are sleeping.
- Finally, while this is not always the case, most warm mist humidifiers and ultrasonic humidifiers are best suited for smaller rooms, as they often cannot produce enough moisture output to cover a large area. Look for a cool mist evaporative humidifier with a large output when looking to humidify large areas.
More Humidifier Features:
In addition to choosing between warm, cool, or ultrasonic humidifiers, there are some additional features to consider when selecting your humidifier.:
Shop by Type of Humidifier below:
- UV Germ-Free Humidifiers: Some humidifiers now feature UV Germ-Free technology, which uses ultraviolet light to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria, germs, and viruses present inside the water of your humidifier. This type of humidifier may appeal to those with babies or small children, as well as anyone concerned about limiting the spread of germs, bacteria, and viruses.
- Top-Fill Easy Pour-In Design: While most humidifiers use removable water tanks or bottles that are carried to and filled at a sink or bathtub, there are a few models which bypass the tank entirely and allow you to pour water directly into the humidifier using your own water container. You can even use a small cup if you have difficulty lifting or carrying heavy water bottles. This feature may be critical for those with arthritis or any difficulty lifting or carrying.