Increase indoor air moisture and lower your heating bills with a humidifier.
Dry winter air can batter your home and health. Boost moisture with a humidifier. Mek22, Flickr
Suffering from cracked skin and dryness in your nose and throat? Blame your environment.
Winter air holds less moisture than the warm air of spring and summer. Increasing the temperature on your thermostat
may feel like the wise move to stay toasty, but it's actually making already dry air worse by sucking out any existing moisture.
Dry, scratchy throats in the winter can be caused low humidity in the air. Photo: Corbis
Dry air causes a lot of things we associate with winter: static electricity
, chapped lips, sore throats, dry skin, increased susceptibility to colds and irritation to those who suffer from asthma. Also, wood floors
, indoor paint and electronics can sustain damage from low humidity levels. So if you find yourself doubling up on lotion and lip balm, using an inordinate amount of Static Guard and popping throat lozenges like candy, it's time to replace the lost humidity in your home by adding a humidifier
Humidifiers are devices that use water vapor to increase moisture levels in the air and remove airborne allergens and dust. And because humidity holds heat, using humidifiers in your home can increase the temperature inside by as much as 15 degrees.
There are two major types of humidifiers on the market: warm mist
and cool mist
. Read on to know which kind is right for you.
Warm Mist Humidifiers
Warm mist humidifiers use electricity to boil water and produce steam. These humidifiers are very effective, but if you use them for too long the air can become stale and feel a bit muggy. Also, these devices can get hot to the touch, so take precautions when using them around small children.
(Left) Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier. Photo: Amazon; (Right) Vicks Warm Steam Vaporizer. Photo: Walgreens
There are two main types of warm mist humidifiers: warm mist and steam vaporizers.
- Warm mist:
These units use a heating element that heats the water before evaporating it into the air. Before it's released, the humidifier cools the steam slightly so that it doesn't come out extremely hot.
- Steam vaporizers:
These devices boil the water, which is sent out into the air as hot steam. The boiling process helps kill any mold or bacteria. You can add medicine
or aromatherapy to these humidifiers, and create a warm, humid environment to keep noses and chests clear at night. Steam vaporizers do not cool the air at all before it is released, so they can become extremely hot.
Cool Mist Humidifiers
Vapor from the machine is not heated, so there is no risk for burning, making them ideal for use children's rooms. There are three different types of cool mist humidifiers: evaporation wick/evaporative, impeller and ultrasonic.
- Evaporative wick/evaporative:
(Clockwise from left) Multi-room Cool Mist Evaporative Humidifier. Photo: Humidifiers.com; Sunbeam Health Impeller Humidifier. Photo: Sears; Crane Cool Mist Ultrasonic Humidifier. Photo: Bed Bath & Beyond
These humidifiers use a fan to blow out cool evaporated water that gets absorbed through a wick or filter. These humidifiers self-regulate -- when the moisture in the air increases, the rate at which the humidifier releases more mist is slowed. A drawback to cool-mist humidifiers is that the fan can become noisy and make it difficult to sleep when running it through the night. Evaporative humidifiers are fairly affordable.
Impellers use a rotating disk in the water to create mist, which is slightly less noisy than the evaporative fan.
These humidifiers use sound waves or vibrations to create water droplets, so they are the quietest of the three cool mist options. These tend to be the most expensive of the three.
Concerns about Humidifiers
There is such a thing as too much humidity, which can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. Keep indoor humidity levels in the range of 35 to 55 percent or so; anything above 60 percent is to high and anything under 30 percent is too dry. Opt for a humidifier that has a built-in humidistat, which is basically a thermostat for humidity. Alternatively, you can buy one for your home
. Also, don't keep your humidifiers running all day and night. Turn them down or off, and use a dehumidifier if levels get too high, especially during the summer.
And finally, it is very important to clean humidifier frequently to prevent dormant water from turning into a pool of bacteria, mold and mildew. Therefore, while a tad inconvenient, to follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning which usually entails washing on a daily basis with soap and water.
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