| September 24, 2012

Cold weather means drier air, especially indoors once the thermostat is cranked up. That dry air can be blamed for spreading colds, cracked skin, itchy eyes, hacking coughs, and irritated sinuses.

iAllergy.com points out that a humidifier can remedy these symptoms by adding moisture into the air, but if not maintained properly, it can do more harm than good. Here are some important things to take into consideration before investing in one.

Monitor Humidity Levels:

A humidifier may help you breathe easier, but too much moisture isn't healthy either. Mold, dust mites, mildew and bacteria thrive in moist environments. 

Consider purchasing a hygrometer, a device used to monitor humidity levels. According to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, the proper levels should be between 30% and 50% humidity. Hygrometers are inexpensive and available at your local hardware store and some humidifiers even have them built-in.

Choosing a Humidifier:

The are several things to consider when it comes to finding the right unit for you. Home Depot suggests thinking about:

  • Location of the unit. Decide where the humidifier will be most effective. There are built-in central, floor, and even table-top units.
  • Unit type. There are several types of humidifiers on the market: warm and cool mist, vaporizers, ultrasonic, and impeller.
  • Number of rooms. Check to see how much mist a humidifier can create within a 24-hour period. This will tell you how many rooms it can humidify.

Caring For Your Humidifier:

Regardless of which type of humidifier you choose, the Mayo Clinic also stresses that if a humidifier is not properly maintained, it can make you sick. Water left unchanged can breed mold and bacteria, which is emitted into the air when using the device. To combat this, experts advise you to:

  • Clean your humidifier every three days. Empty the water, completely dry the humidifier, and then refill. 
  • Use distilled or demineralized water, instead of tap water. Mist created from tap water leaves behind a white residue, because of its high mineral content.
  • Change the filters as your humidifier's instructions suggest, or more often if need be.
  • Clean humidifiers before and after storage. Don't give mold, dust and other bacteria a chance to grow.

While there are many brands of humidifiers to choose from, here are five models which received some of the best reviews on the web: 

Essick Air 4D7-800 Whole House Digital Humidifier

HomeDepot.com, $1,499


  • Circulates air at up to 5000 CFM
  • Cools up to 1650 sq. ft. for whole-house cooling
  • Comes with a ¾ hp, 2 speed, 115V motor, pump, rigid media, pulley, purge system, and deluxe thermostat
  • Uses high performance 12 in. rigid media
  • Exterior surfaces electrostatically coated for weather and impact resistance
  • Unique perforated air inlet screen provides more air flow than the competition
  • Thermoplastic water reservoir prevents corrosion
  • Up to 75% energy savings over traditional air conditioning
  • Single inlet design for maximum cooling
  • Engineered for easy access and maintenance
  • UL Classified for safe operation
  • Ideal for dry, arid climates
Crane Crane Ee-5301W Drop Shape Cool Mist Humidifier

BedBathandBeyond.com, $49.99


  • Cool mist humidifier features variable mist output control and a variable humidity control feature.
  • It has whisper-quiet operation and an auto-off function when water tank is empty.
  • The removable water tank holds 0.9 gallons, and the running time is 11 hours.
  • Suitable for room size measuring approximately 250 square feet.
AIR-O-SWISS Ultrasonic Humidifier

Target.com, $179.99


  • Ultrasonic technology uses high-frequency vibrations to generate a micro-fine mist
  • Fan blows mist into the room where it immediately evaporates adding to overall comfort
  • Automatic shutoff
  • Comes with a Hydro Stick installed
  • For rooms up to 650 sq. ft.
Graco 4 Gallon Cool Mist Humidifier

Amazon.com, $66.58


  • Tank and tray are dishwasher safe
  • EasyFill tank for fast easy refills
  • Humidifier runs on three settings
  • Up to 24 hours of operation and covers 1200 square feet
  • Approximately 2.5 gallon tank with 4 gallon output per day


Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier with Auto Shut-Off

Amazon.com, $31.49


  • Automatic Shut-off
  • 1-gallon capacity; operates up to 12 hours on a single filling
  • Quiet operation. Soft glowing nightlight.
  • 2 Comfort settings
  • Medicine cup allows the use of Vicks Vaposteam or Kaz Inhalent to produce a medicated vapor that sooths