How to Choose and Use a Portable Humidifier
By Darcy Logan
Maintaining the proper humidity levels in your home is important. When the temperature drops, the air is not able to hold as much water vapor and the humidity level drops. Low humidity levels can cause physical discomforts like dry nose, throat, lips, and skin. Since bacteria and virus thrive in drier air, people are more likely to catch a cold in a drier environment. Indoor humidity levels should be between 30 to 50 percent, with about 45 percent being the ideal level.
Raising the humidity levels is easy to do with the use of a humidifier. But with so many to choose from, how can one decide? Well, in order to make a decision, it is important to understand the different types. The types can be categorized by the type of mist they produce, cool or warm. Cool Mist Humidifiers
Cool mist humidifiers are either impeller, ultrasonic, or evaporative. Impeller humidifiers produce a cool mist by using a high-speed rotating disk that breaks the water into fine droplets. The moist vapor floats up into the air and is dispersed at room temperature. Ultrasonic humidifiers also produce a cool mist, but they use a metal diaphragm that produces ultrasonic sound vibrations instead of fan. Ultrasonic humidifiers are usually the quietest to run. Evaporative humidifiers use a fan to blow air through a damp wick or filter. They are the most popular and usually produce the most amount of mist, up to thirteen gallons a day. It is important to choose an evaporative humidifier with a tank housing and wick that are antibacterial.
Impeller and ultrasonic humidifiers use less electricity than other types of humidifiers. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have shown that ultrasonic and impeller humidifiers can raise the level of airborne particles in the home beyond acceptable levels, especially if tap water is used.
Minerals in tap water can cause a crust deposit, or scale, to form in the humidifiers that are breeding grounds for microorganisms. As the humidifiers are used, microorganisms and minerals are dispersed into the air, which can cause a white dust to appear on surfaces. To combat this problem, you can use distilled water, although many brands now have filters that reduce this problem. Evaporative filters do not appear to raise the level of mineral levels in the air, although they were not tested by the EPA.
Demineralization cartridges, cassettes, or filters might also be available for use with your humidifier. However, their ability to remove minerals has never been tested to see exactly how well or for how long these devices work. If a white dust begins to appear on surfaces, the minerals are no longer being removed. Bacteriostatic chemicals are also available that will prevent microorganism growth. Warm Mist Humidifiers
Warm mist humidifiers create steam by heating the water. They are also known as steam vaporizers. They are usually a little more expensive to buy and use more electricity than the other types of vaporizers. However, they do not disperse minerals into the air like ultrasonic and cold mist humidifiers. Also, because the water is heated, it kills most microorganisms that would otherwise be dispersed. Care must be taken when using it around children or pets.