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The ideal relative home humidity level is approximately 45%. Achieving this ideal in your living quarters can help you feel more comfortable and healthy, but it’s a tricky balancing act that often calls for a home humidifier.
But with so many home humidifiers on the market, how do you select the perfect machine to fit your needs?
At BestReviews, we're dedicated to the development of honest, unbiased product reviews and helpful shopping guides. Our mission is to lead consumers toward products that maximize their hard-earned money. We do not accept samples or other incentives from manufacturers. Instead, we buy products off of store shelves, evaluate them in our labs, talk with experts, and examine feedback from people who have owned the products themselves.
To find the best home humidifiers, each product on our test list was put through its paces in a controlled laboratory environment. If you need to humidify a room for health or climate-related reasons, all of these models are clearly up to the task.
So, read on for our full guide to home humidifiers, or see the product matrix above for our top five recommendations.
A home humidifier is an appliance that keeps a room at the optimum humidity level by adding moisture to the air.
Modern humidifiers use one of four methods to deliver moisture to a room.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
The Honeywell HCM-350 is an evaporative humidifier that uses wicking action to draw pure water from the tank. Most dissolved solids cannot evaporate, so there is less of a chance for a white powdery buildup on exposed surfaces with this type of humidifier. But the Honeywell HCM-350 goes one step further by using a UV light source to destroy over 99% of the harmful bacteria, mold spores, viruses, and fungi commonly found in standing water. As if that's not enough, it also includes a cartridge filter to strain out any solids found in tap, hard, or well water.
An impeller smashes water into mist-sized droplets that take flight in the air, saturating it. Notably, this type of unit sometimes creates an excess of moisture and residue.
Ultrasonic humidifiers use powerful sound waves to generate a layer of fine mist that helps moisten the air. However, the output of an ultrasonic humidifier can be limited.
Never leave your humidifier’s tank full when it’s turned off. Bacteria and fungi can start to grow in the water.
Evaporation: Evaporative humidifiers use wicking action to evaporate water into the air. A fan helps disperse the resulting vapor.
In this review, we will focus on ultrasonic and evaporative humidifiers only.
We eliminated impeller-styled humidifiers from our equation because they just don't perform as well as their ultrasonic and evaporative counterparts.
We eliminated steam humidifiers because they're best-suited for purposes other than room humidification.
If you’re looking to use a humidifier year round, an evaporative model is your best bet. Otherwise, a small, ultrasonic humidifier may be all you need.
At our testing facility, we created a cube out of industrial plastic to simulate the conditions of an average room. Our lab techs used a heavy-duty dehumidifier to lower the cube's relative humidity. Then, we systematically allowed each of our test products to restore the humidity to a comfortable range.
We measured the amount of time each unit took to humidify the space. Along the way, we noted other performance issues such as noise generation and quality of water vapor.
You will find our findings throughout this article.
When it comes to humidification, different consumers have different needs. And, what's a good value for one user might be overkill for another.
For some people, dry air during the colder months aggravates respiratory conditions or makes the home uncomfortable. A small, ultrasonic humidifier might be best in this situation.
For those who live in a dry climate year-round, an evaporative model that can humidify the entire house may be more appropriate.
Of course, you'd probably pay more for the latter, but it may offer you better value for your money.
Don't set the humidity level on your home humidifier too high. Humidity of 50% encourages dust mites; levels higher than that encourage mold spore growth, too.
Humidifiers have a few natural enemies, including mold, bacteria, and fungus. Standing water in the tank can become very hazardous, and excessive humidity in a room can promote mold and fungal growth.
Many manufacturers address these issues by including anti-microbial filters and chemical water treatments.
Even so, it's up to the user to keep the humidifier clean and dry between uses.
We reviewed the maintenance and care sections of each product manual and performed our own maintenance routines whenever possible.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Pure Enrichment Ultrasonic
The Pure Enrichment Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier is a tabletop unit with a multi-directional spout meant for small- to medium-sized rooms. Two settings – High and Low – control how much vapor is released. On Low, one 1.5-liter tank of water can deliver up to 16 hours of continuous mist. This humidifier is comparable to the others in terms of performance, but one issue that concerns us is ease of maintenance. There are internal areas of this product that are difficult to access. Those places could become a breeding ground for mildew and bacteria if left unchecked.
Some home humidifiers are commercial-grade workhorses capable of delivering enough vapor to rehydrate hundreds of square feet of dry air.
Others are designed to humidify much smaller spaces, such as a child's room or office cubicle.
Some models have large-capacity tanks that deliver humidified air for hours at a time.
Others have small tanks that require frequent refilling throughout the day.
We looked closely at each contender's power consumption and average run time.
If you suffer from respiratory problems, a humidifier may be able to solve some of your issues. Moist air is much easier to breath than dry air.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a home humidifier. To get the most out of your investment, you’ll want to find out more about any given appliance’s filter, size/capacity, and coverage area before you buy it.
The noise emitted by ultrasonic humidifiers is usually less than 30 decibels – the equivalent of the ambient sound in a quiet rural area. Powerful evaporation models can emit 60+ decibels – the equivalent of background conversation in a busy restaurant or office.
Some home humidifiers are quite loud when running, whereas others are nearly silent. Ultrasonic humidifiers emit high-frequency noises that, for the most part, cannot be heard by human ears. Therefore, they're ideal for use in areas where noise is of concern, such as the bedroom.
Home humidifiers have water tanks from which they emit moisture into the room. These fine water droplets are in the air you breathe, so you want to make sure they don't contain germs and bacteria.
If you use your humidifier only occasionally, this is a particular concern, as a tankful of standing water will breed and multiply germs over time. You certainly don’t want to be inhaling those germs.
One solution is to use distilled water only. But this can become costly, not to mention inconvenient. Another solution is to buy a humidifier with a built-in water filter that removes bacteria from the water. Some home humidifiers even have UV filters that help remove additional bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.
If you’re worried about mold buildup in your home, look for a model that has a filter and/or other preventative measures to address the concern. Some even include UV rays to destroy harmful spores.
The humidifier size and capacity you require depends on how much space you want to humidify.
Small, portable humidifiers are great for small to medium rooms. For instance, you could use one in your bedroom at night.
If you want to humidify a larger space – your whole apartment, for example – you'll need a humidifier that packs more of a punch.
The physical size of a home humidifier and the capacity of its water tank are good indicators of how powerful it is, but they're not the only factors you should consider.
A portable humidifier is a great choice if you travel frequently or live in a small space, like a dorm or apartment. However, their capability will be restricted to a small area.
If you want to discover how much space your chosen home humidifier can tackle, look at the coverage area.
Most manufacturers give you an approximate coverage area in square feet, which is the amount of space the unit can effectively humidify.
If you know the size of the room or rooms you want to humidify, the coverage area will tell you whether or not the model you're considering is up to the job.
If you see condensation on your windows, your humidifier may be turned up too high. Humidity between 30% and 50% is ideal.
You can find home humidifiers at a range of price points to suit budgets large and small.
Basic home humidifiers start at $15 to $30. These models are usually best-suited for smaller areas.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
The Honeywell HCM-6009 is a true workhorse among home humidifiers. It's possible to reach a relative humidity level of 80% or higher with this unit. As a large, evaporative-style humidifier, the Honeywell delivers mist in significant quantities. Most of this ultra-fine mist evaporates before settling onto exposed surfaces, minimizing the chance of unsightly residue. The trade-off for the Honeywell's enhanced coverage area and ultra-fine vapor, however, is increased noise. In the BestReviews lab, we measured the decibel level at 61.4, which is quite noticeable.
These cost roughly $40 to $80.
They may be suitable for larger rooms, but they’re not usually effective for whole apartments.
When shopping for a humidifier, do not judge a model by its total capacity. Instead, look at its estimated coverage area, which is generally measured in square feet.
These should cost in the vicinity of $90 to $150.
They're usually suitable for multi-room use; some can even humidify an entire apartment or level of a house, depending on size.
Q. Why do I need a home humidifier?
A. Some people find dry air causes a range of issues for them, including irritated skin, nose bleeds, an itchy or sore throat, breathing difficulties, and flare-ups of asthma or allergies. A home humidifier can help alleviate these problems.
Q. How do I keep my home humidifier clean?
A. It's vital that you keep your home humidifier clean so the moisture it emits is safe to breathe. This involves daily rinsing of the water tank and a thorough weekly cleaning and disinfecting session. Consult the manufacturer's instructions for details.
Q. At what percent humidity should I keep my room?
A. The ideal humidity is often cited as 45%, but some people may prefer a slightly more or less humid environment. It can take a bit of trial and error to find the perfect setting for your humidifier.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.