Why opt for a steam humidifier?
A steam or warm mist humidifier is the best choice for the winter months. The water inside is boiled to create the steam sent through the output, so the mist is warmer than that of other types of humidifiers. This helps keep the air in the room warmer while it is hydrated, plus the heating method kills any germs or bacteria in the water, so only a sterile mist is dispersed into the air. The warmer mist also adds moisture much faster than cooler mist.
Another benefit of the steam humidifiers is that some of them, like the Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier V745A
, allow the use of medicated liquids, so they can be used when you’re sick to relieve the coughing and stuffy noses of cold sufferers. Essential oils can also be added to many models, adding a fresh scent to the air.
Features to consider while choosing a steam humidifier
When you’re choosing a steam humidifier, there are a few features to look for, regardless of whether you’re in search of a room or a whole home model.
Water tank capacity
The water tank capacity determines how long the humidifier can run between fillings. The larger the tank, the longer the humidifier can create the mist. Smaller tanks are fine for those who can’t lift a heavy tank to fill it, but will likely need to be refilled at least once a day, depending on how long your humidifier is running. A larger tank may only need to be filled once every day or two but will be much heavier to carry to the sink and back when you do need to add water. Whole home models can plumb right into your water supply, so filling them won’t be an issue, but they do need to stop and fill themselves now and then.
Mist time/maximum output
The best room steam humidifier usually has a mist time listed in its features. This shows you the maximum amount of mist the humidifier can create in one day. This timeframe will be for the lowest mist setting since higher mist levels require less time to humidify the air. The size of the room also factors into the mist time, as a room at the maximum coverage area will take more time to hydrate than a smaller space.
The maximum output is for a whole home steam humidifier. It tells you how many gallons of water will be added to the air in your entire home over the course of the day. For instance, the Aprilaire 800 Residential Steam Humidifier has an output of up to 34.6 gallons of water in a home up to 6,200 square feet each day.
No matter which type of steam humidifier you choose, the coverage area tells you the largest size the room or home should be for the humidifier to work at its optimal level. The small portable ones may not have an actual number, though they will have a room size recommendation. The whole home ones have a much larger coverage area since they are humidifying your entire house.
The larger the area you want to humidify, the higher the coverage area on the model you choose should be.
Since a humidifier is likely going to be running quite often to maintain the proper humidity levels, you likely won’t want a noisy model. Luckily, the steam humidifiers we’ve reviewed are all exceptionally quiet. The portable ones are almost silent, making them great options for your bedroom or other living spaces. The whole house models may click as they turn on or off, plus may make some noise as the tank fills, but since they will be located in a basement, you probably won’t even notice this bit of noise.
Essential oils compatibility
Though this likely isn’t an option with a whole home steam humidifier, the small portable models sometimes come with the option of adding essential oils for a lovely fresh-scented mist. The Levoit LV600HH is one of these options, with a separate aroma box for using with essential oils. Keep in mind, if you do use essential oils with your humidifier, do not put them directly into the water tank, as this could damage the heating system or other internal parts.
The dimensions of your chosen steam humidifier are essential to ensure it will fit nicely in the space you have to put it in. In small rooms, you don’t want a huge bulky humidifier. Smaller room models fit nicely in a corner or on a counter if needed. The whole home models are bigger, so you may need to measure the space near your furnace to ensure it will fit nicely. If it has multiple fitting options, like the Emerson HSP2000 Whole House Steam Humidifier, then it may be easier to find a place for it.
The main features are the reason you buy a steam humidifier, but the extras make them a bit more convenient. One of these extras is an auto shut-off, which turns the humidifier off if the tank is empty or if the set humidity level is reached. A timer allows you to run the humidifier for a specific amount of time. A remote control allows you to change the settings from anywhere in the house. If it comes with filters, this helps clean the water before it is heated up and misted, keeping the purifier cleaner. A sleep mode turns down the lights and switches to cool mist for a safer, more comfortable sleep. The warranty is also something to look at, so you know what is covered and for how long in the event of an issue with the humidifier.
How to prolong your humidifier’s life
- Add white vinegar to the tank to prevent bacteria
- Avoid tap water
- Follow cleaning instructions closely
- Clean it often
- If it has a filter, rinse it regularly
Whole house models
- Check components regularly for scaling
- Use a chemical de-scaling solution for cleaning
- If it has a replaceable cartridge with electrodes, change it at least once a year
- Use softened water unless otherwise specified
Flush it regularly