Handy GuideHumidifiers: Drying up?

November 22, 2011

Humidifier season has arrived. Outdoor temperatures are dipping, furnaces are cycling on and that feeling of dryness is descending across the land: dry skin, dry lips, dry cough and static electricity. A humidifier can help.

Portable room-size models are a popular choice for bedrooms or living rooms; larger consoles can humidify an entire house. More expensive central units, which usually cost $300 to $850 installed, are attached directly to a furnace so they add moisture to air in the ducts.

People with allergies or colds often find comfort in using a humidifier; many then realize it’s much more comfortable to leave it running throughout the winter months to alleviate the effects of dry air. Want to know exactly what the humidity in your house is? Put a hygrometer on your Christmas list so you can measure it.

WHAT’S NEW?

More choices. Choose from ultrasonic (cool mist), evaporative (air is blown through a moistened wick), warm mist (heating elements boil water) or steam vaporizers.

Filling options. Better-designed tanks let you pour water directly into the humidifier much like watering a plant. This is an improvement over having to pick up a unit, lug it to a sink to fill and then reattaching it upside down.

Germ control. Some models use ultraviolet to help prevent the buildup of most bacteria and germs.

OPERATING TIPS

Empty and refill daily. Standing water can encourage growth of mold and mildew. Change filters regularly.

Don’t over-humidify. If your windows develop condensation, turn the humidity level down.

Follow directions. Carefully read owner’s manual. Keep units out of the reach of children.

LOW, MIDDLE, HIGH

Kmart’s home buyer JJ Klinkert selected three humidifiers from the assortment at Kmart.

Honeywell Easy to Care Cool Mist Humidifier

Two moisture control settings, antimicrobial treated filter, dishwasher-safe parts. Model HCM 710, recommended room size 100 to 200 square feet, $39.99.

Holmes Ultrasonic Humidifier (Cool Mist)

Very quiet operation, runs up to 24 hours per filling, filter free. Model HM 495 UC, recommended room size 200 square feet, $49.99.

Kenmore 8 Gallon Humidifier

Evaporative humidifier and console unit, LED display of humidity readouts, outputs eight gallons of water in a 24-hour period, empty tank indicator.

Model 15048, suitable for an area up to 1,700 square feet based on an 8-foot ceiling height, $109.99.

SHOP SMART

1. Explore whether you want cool mist or warm mist. In very cold climates, using a humidifier with warm mist can actually make a room feel warmer. Vaporizers, which are less expensive humidifiers usually sold in drug stores, are the most basic warm-mist humidifiers for small rooms and can dispense a medicated inhalant into a room to help with coughing.

2. Measure your space. Most humidifiers are labeled with a room size recommendation. This is the amount of space that a particular unit is designed to humidify under optimum conditions.

3. Turn on the unit and see how loud it is when working at full speed. Some models offer lower, quieter settings for night use. Ultrasonic units are known for their quiet operation.

BY THE NUMBERS
40

Percent of homes that have a tabletop humidifier.

5
Top Reasons people use a humidifier

1. Cough and congestion

2. Dry nose and throat

3. Better night’s sleep

4. General dry air discomfort

5. Dry skin

Source: Honeywell

35-45%

Ideal humidity range for most households.

Sources: Stuart Babb/Kaz, Honeywell, JJ Klinkert/Kmart

WANT MORE HANDY GUIDES? Pick your appliance:

Ceiling Fans | Vacuums | Dishwashers | Dehumidifiers | Refrigerators | Toasters | Blenders | Irons | Washers and dryers | Microwaves

Follow @JuraKoncius on Twitter for home and design news, observations and photos.

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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