In the heat of summer, or in certain geographic regions that are hot and dry, there are days or even weeks when the humidity level drops very low — which leaves the amount of moisture in your home’s air even lower.
There are a lot of issues associated with low humidity: an increase in static electricity, negative effects on your skin and hair, and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses and other microbe-born infections — just to name a few of the problems that come with a less humid environment. Humidifying your home with humidifiers is a good way to avoid these issues and benefit from increased moisture in the air.
What Are Humidifiers?
Humidity is the overall amount of moisture in the air contained in the form of water vapor, and humidifiers are household devices that increase indoor humidity by emitting steam or cooled water vapor, leading to increased moisture levels in the air.
There are several different types of humidifiers, including whole-house units and smaller, single-room devices. The main types of humidifiers are:
- Central humidifiers: These humidify your entire home. They are built directly into air conditioning and heating systems.
- Cool mist ultrasonic humidifiers: These use ultrasonic vibrations to produce a filter-free cool mist that humidifies the air without creating hot water vapor.
- Impeller humidifiers: These use a rotating disk to produce a cool mist.
- Evaporative humidifiers: Also known as vaporators, these blow air through a belt or filter using a fan system.
- Steam vaporizers: These are different from other humidifiers — they are more like diffusers, creating steam using electricity. The water inside these humidifiers is extremely hot and can cause burns if spilled.
Some of the best humidifiers are made by brands like Honeywell, Vicks, Dyson, and Crane. You can purchase them from Amazon or almost any home improvement store.
How Do Humidifiers Work?
Humidifiers remedy dry air in your home. They do this by creating and releasing water vapor, which increases humidity – the amount of moisture in the air. This helps alleviate some health problems that come with dry air, such as bloody noses, cracked and dry skin, dried-out sinuses, and respiratory issues.
Different humidifiers work in different ways with most creating a warm water vapor from steam, and others producing a cool mist that does not warm the air. Some humidifiers even use ultrasonic vibrations rather than fans, which creates extremely small droplets of water vapor.
The type or design of humidifier that’s right for you depends on the moisture needs of yourself and your home.
Why Use a Humidifier?
It’s common for people to make changes in their environment to benefit their bodies — humidifiers are a perfect example of doing this. Many people decide to use a humidifier in their home for the health benefits they offer, and they often place portable humidifiers in the rooms they frequent most. However, on top of the health benefits, humidifiers can be beneficial for your home as well.
How Can a Humidifier Benefit Your Home?
There are several ways that humidifiers benefit your home. Increased moisture in the air is good for houseplants allowing them to better survive and thrive. Dry air can cause plants to shrivel up no matter how much you water them.
Increased humidity can also warm the air in your home, especially if you use a steam or warm mist humidifier. More humid homes feel warmer — saving you money on heating utilities in the process. Humid air also helps to reduce static electricity, which can range from being minorly annoying to interfering with electronics.
Humidifiers may also directly help protect the furniture in your home. Any wood chairs, tables, or structural components, like wood beams, can shrink, split, or crack in dry air conditions.
What Is the Ideal Humidity Level?
The ideal amount of humidity typically varies with each season, and personal preference plays a role in the perfect level as well. But for all intents and purposes, the ideal humidity level in your home should stay somewhere between 30% and 50% relative humidity. If the level falls outside of this range, it can cause problems — with your health and with your home.
When humidity levels are too low, it can lead to dryness of the skin, irritated nasal passages, and even itchy eyes. High humidity, on the other hand, can create a stuffy feeling in the home. It can also lead to condensation on surfaces and contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria, dust mites, and mold, which can cause respiratory problems and lead to illness.
Humidifiers and Health
Humidifiers help ease health problems caused by dry air, but without regular maintenance they can actually become a health hazard. It is absolutely crucial to ensure your humidifiers are cleaned regularly to eliminate the growth of harmful microbes that thrive in the warm humid environment these devices create.
Are Humidifiers Good for You?
Like many things, humidifiers can be good for your health if used properly — and harmful to your health if used improperly. While the point of having a humidifier is usually to improve physical symptoms caused by dry air, these benefits can be lessened if humidifier maintenance is not upkept.
Humidifiers in Dry Climates
Generally, humidifiers are best utilized during cold winter months. However, in dryer climates, they can be useful year-round, helping your skin to feel better and helping nasal passages that are often damaged in dry geographical regions.
Humidifiers in Humid Climates
Even in humid climates, the average American spends over 90% of their life indoors, according to the EPA. Humidity for indoor areas is different from outdoor areas — and since more humid areas tend to be hotter, that means that time spent in an office or sleeping in your home is accompanied by air conditioners, which lessen humidity as they cool the indoor air. This is why humidifiers are still a good idea in most humid climates, especially in the heat of summer.
What Are Some Humidifier Health Benefits?
There are several health benefits associated with using humidifiers, which is one of the main reasons people purchase these devices in the first place. Below are the five most common and impactful health benefits that accompany humidifier usage in your home.
1. Humidifiers Help Prevent Airborne Microbe Spread
When indoor humidity levels are above 40%, it renders nearly 90% of airborne microbes virtually ineffective, including viruses. This is because moisture in the air slows the movement of microbes, making them too heavy to stay afloat. This decreases the spread of microbes and makes the environment more hospitable for people.
2. Humidifiers Help Prevent Snoring
Breathing through your nose helps moisten the air that you breathe in, which means that people who breathe through their mouth when sleeping are drying out their airways. Using a humidifier helps create a better environment for your breathing and helps soothe airway tissue, which benefits airways no matter how you breathe. This leads to a more comfortable sleep and possibly a reduction in snoring, which is more common when airways are dried and air cannot flow through moistened nasal and esophageal passages.
3. Humidifiers Help Prevent Dry Skin
In a similar way to how essential oils work to alleviate dry skin by adding moisture, humidifiers do this through the air, rather than through direct contact with the skin.
4. Humidifiers Help Warm Your Home in Winter
Humidifiers provide a useful heating element that space heaters cannot. Increasing humidity can increase the temperature during winter without you having to turn up the heat, which can help save you money and limit your impact on the environment.
5. Humidifiers Help Relieve Allergy Symptoms
Much like aromatherapy, humidifiers improve air quality and can keep allergens from circulating as efficiently as they do in drier areas.
Can Humidifiers Make You Sick?
Even though humidifiers have numerous health benefits, they can still make you sick if they are not properly cleaned and maintained — or if they increase the indoor humidity levels above 50% for too long. Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid the health problems caused by humidifiers. Simply make sure you monitor humidity levels on a regular basis and keep your humidifier clean. You can do this by emptying, rinsing, and then drying your humidifier tank daily or every couple of days — and you should clear out mineral buildup and disinfect your humidifier with manufacturer-specific solutions weekly.
Dirty humidifiers can breed microbes, which are then spewed into the air with the vaporized water droplets. This not only makes the air more humid, it also fills the air with microorganisms that thrive in warm, humid environments. This is why it’s absolutely essential to ensure your humidifier is properly cleaned and cared for, otherwise all the health benefits it provides will be nullified by the harmful effects.
How Close Should You Sleep to a Humidifier?
Sleeping with your humidifier too close to your bed has the potential to cause harmful effects, with warm mist humidifiers causing the biggest threat to your safety.
Humidifiers should be kept at least three feet from your bed to avoid direct exposure to too much moisture and to allow for even distribution of moisture around your room. Additionally, if your humidifier is on the floor, try to ensure it sits two feet above your flooring in addition to three feet away from your bed. This is to ensure that the area directly around and below your humidifier does not become moist and lead to damaged carpeting or wood floors by promoting mildew and mold growth.
Energy usage for humidifiers depends on the type — with each one consuming different amounts of electricity. While some designs use more energy than others, ultimately how often you have it turned on will determine total energy usage. When it comes to the impact that humidifier energy usage has, that depends on your electricity provider, with companies such as Tara Energy helping to minimize their impact by offering more sustainable electricity sources.
How Much Energy Does a Humidifier Use?
Humidifiers account for about 0.1% of electricity consumption in U.S. households, according to the EPA. However, the type of humidifier you have determines the amount of energy it consumes, with a cool mist humidifier consuming 136% more energy than a typical ultrasonic humidifier, as one stark example.
Should You Constantly Run Humidifiers?
As long as you are monitoring mist output and mist levels in your home, it should be safe to constantly run your humidifier. However, just because it’s safe doesn’t mean it’s necessary. To conserve energy, it’s best to have a regular run time and shut off time (or an automatic shut off) and to only cover the amount of square feet that needs to be covered. You should also make sure not to leave anything running while you’re out of the house.
What Else Should You Know About Humidifiers?
While we have covered all the basics of humidifiers above, you should still do your research before deciding which humidifier to purchase. In some cases, depending on where you live, you might need a dehumidifier or different humidifiers for different rooms in your home.
Regardless of the type of humidifier you choose, you need to keep the device thoroughly clean to avoid harmful microbe growth — and make sure your home does not become too humid, which can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, causing respiratory problems.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you should not use a humidifier as a band-aid solution — if there are other issues with your home that are affecting humidity levels, such as leakage from damaged insulation seals. Make sure to fix them first. Humidifiers are a supplement, not a mainstay to fix moisture leakage and other issues in your home.
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