What do I need to know about buying a humidifier?


Treat your humidifier purchase seriously.  I always have, and the success of my many humidifiers account for not only my quasi-superpowers of orchid rehabilitation, but probably also have something to do with my cat-like reflexes and charming eccentricity.

Warm mist versus cool mist – the eternal question.

I like warm mist humidifiers for several reasons:

  1. I use humidifiers only during the winter, and I appreciate the extra warmth.
  2. I use them to prevent cold and flu and/or to soothe cold and flu symptoms such as runny nose, cough, congestion, etc.
  3. I feel like warm mist is cleaner than cold mist.
  4. I don’t feel hydrated or “humidified” at all when I am around a cool mist humidifier.

Here is a good list of the plusses and minuses of cool mist versus warm mist humidifiers.

If, like me, you also like warm-mist humidifiers, here are some things you might want to look for / investigate:

  1. Does the humidifier use a filter?  If it does, consider the cost, duration* of use, and anticipated future availability (does the company often discontinue products?  does the filter fit many different models of humidifier or is it unique to just one?).  Personally, I do not like humidifiers with filters because I have never had a humidifier where the filter worked as it was supposed to.  However, I do like clean humidifiers (see point 2).
  2. How do you clean the humidifier?  The most important thing to consider is can you fit your entire hand inside the humidifier such that you can clean the interior side of the tank opposite from where you stick your hand in?  This is very important, since the cleanliness of your humidifier will determine if it helps you stay healthy or actually makes you sick.  Does the humidifier come apart enough to let all of the elements be cleaned / dry out?  Count on cleaning your humidifier once a week to once every two weeks.  UNLESS (and here is the big caveat)… unless you are using distilled water in your humidifier.  NOTE: I did not say “filtered,” “bottled” or “spring” water.  I said “distilled.”  There’s a big difference.  Do not drink distilled water, and do not use it on your plants.  However, it’s wonderful in a humidifier!  Why?  Because you will not have to clean your humidifier more than once a season if you solely use distilled water in it!  Trust me, I am on the upper-middle end of germphobia and I can tell you – there is no scale build up, no germ build up (as long as you change the water once weekly and let it all dry out once every few weeks).  It’s a pain in the ass to get enough distilled water when you are using about a gallon a day, but oh, it is worth it!  I purchased my own distiller (read through “What’s in my sick kit,” for more info).
  3. Capacity – I don’t know what your usage will be like, but I use my humidifier on high overnight when I use it, and I go through a gallon of water a night.  Because of that, I prefer a humidifier with at least a gallon capacity (2.5 gallon capacity is better for me, so I don’t have to refill it every day).
  4. Maintenance – Other than filling, cleaning and drying out, the other things you might have to do to maintain your humidifier are change filters (if you have them) and get it repaired.  There are pretty much four things that are most likely to go wrong or break on your humidifier.  a.) It will leak.  I sit mine in a rubbermaid tub with plenty of clearance around the humidifier as a precaution.  b.)  The heating element will break.  I know this does happen, but it has never happened to me, in the decade-plus that I have owned and operated humidifiers.  c.)  The switch will break.  This has happened to me.  If you find a humidifier you absolutely LOVE, then buy two and scavenge one for parts.  It was very easy to take the switch out of one and install it in the other for a mechanical failure (the tab broke off on one).  It is more difficult to replace circuit boards or items that are soldered.  d.) The spring gasket (I don’t know if I am calling this the right name) will break.  That’s the thing that allows the water to flow from the tank to the heating element.  You can see what I’m talking about in this picture.  It’s the black thing on the inside bottom of the tank.  If this spring is on the tank itself, it usually cannot be fixed or replaced, but if it is on the removable cap like it is in the the picture I referenced two sentences ago, I would guess (though I don’t know for sure) that it would be easy to replace.
  5. Medicine cup – I am a HUGE fan of the medicine cup (the little area where you would put stuff like eucalyptus essential oil and stuff like that — NEVER pour it into the humidifier water or vent or anything like that).  Personally, I would want a humidifier that included one and I would avoid using some sort of strange insert or packet of gross chemicals/fake essential oils.

The Bottom Line

Based on all of this, my recommendation for a warm mist humidifier would be:

  • The Duracraft DWM-250 2.5 Gallon Warm Mist Humidifier – because it is reasonably priced, Duracraft is a good company, it uses no filter (at least that’s what it looks like, you should confirm this) and it appears to have a tank cap that is large enough so that your hand could get in there.  Also, it has my beloved medicine cup.
    Disclaimer
    I do not own this humidifier and have not seen it in person, so check it out for yourself.  Of the humidifiers I own, the one I like best is an old, discontinued Bionaire model.  And yes, I’m glad I bought two, because I had to replace the switch, and gaskets.

Endnote

* Regarding duration of water filters in general (whether they be for drinking water, showering, for use in a humidifier, etc.), the rule that I follow is whatever the manufacturer says for the duration / capacity of the filter, use half of that in practice.  For example, if the manufacturer says to change your drinking water filter every 12 months, change it every 6 months.

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7 Responses to What do I need to know about buying a humidifier?

  1. […] warm mist humidifier, using distilled water, so you don’t have to clean it that much.  I use several humidifiers […]

  2. Woody says:

    Just bought this shit, SIGHT UNSEEN! That is the Chak Confidence.

  3. […] Get a good humidifier.  Here are my recommendations on what to look for in a humidifier. […]

  4. Alexander says:

    Is already march in New York, I diden’t buy the humidifiter.
    My nose is congested.
    Is worth buy a humidifiter still?
    I don’t know if the winter will end soon.
    Thank you!

    • syntk says:

      I would definitely buy the humidifier if you need it. New York City (I’m assuming that’s what you mean by “New York”) will still have dry spells up until June. During extreme congestion, I’ve sat with my face over my humidifier, even on rainy nights. I just wouldn’t run it overnight if it’s moist out. Plus, you can probably find some on sale now, and you’ll have it for next year! I say do it. But remember, I’m just some person with a lot of opinions. I don’t really *know* anything.

  5. […]  A humidifier is also a great idea (my buying guide), but only if you use it and keep it very clean.  If you need to steam yourself in a pinch, Boil […]

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