Along with the cold, the ice, and the snow, Minnesota winters also bring dry air — indoors and out. When it comes to a dry home, there’s help: a home humidifier. But there are different kinds out there, so what’s going to be the best humidifier for your home? This article will help you decide.
Types of Humidifiers
There are two basic types of humidifiers, evaporative and atomizing, and both refer to how they convert moisture to vapor.
Water coming into our homes, whether from a municipal source or a well, contains minerals in addition to pure H2O. In fact, the term “hard water” refers to that mineral content. What happens to those minerals in the process of converting water to vapor is what sets the two types of humidifiers apart.
In the process of converting liquid water to vapor, evaporative humidifiers leave behind the mineral content as a residue. By contrast, atomizing humidifiers send the water as a mist into the surrounding air and rely on the heat in the air to complete the process of evaporation to vapor. The minerals in the water are ejected into the surrounding air along with the vapor, resulting in a fine mineral “fallout” or “dust.”
Pros and Cons
With any home appliance, choosing what’s right for you is a matter of comparing the pros and cons of your options, and the same holds true for selecting a humidifier. Here are some factors to consider when deciding between an evaporative or atomizing humidifier.
Evaporative humidifiers require regular maintenance due to the mineral residue that’s left behind. The need to clean, flush, and replace evaporative media is all due to mineral buildup. By contrast, atomizing humidifiers require little maintenance since the minerals are ejected into the room along with the water.
While the dust left behind by evaporative humidifiers is very fine, it can remain airborne for some time, settling throughout the house. The health effects of this are unclear, but anyone with respiratory issues should probably avoid using an atomizing humidifier. At the same time, residential atomizing units are usually small and require the water tank be filled manually. That means you can use distilled or demineralized water — instead of tap water — which will limit the mineral output.
Duct Mounted vs Portable
Evaporative humidifiers are available in portable or duct mounted versions. Portable models require manual filling and can be more difficult to clean and maintain. However, they are attractive from a cost standpoint. While the humidifier itself costs about the same as the duct mounted unit, there is no added installation cost.
Duct mounted units have several advantages, however. They circulate the humidity throughout the home, are filled automatically, and are easily controlled with most modern thermostats (most of the newer thermostats are also humidistats). And, they’re easy to maintain.
There are several duct-mounted options:
- Bypass type — Where the furnace air power drives the air through the evaporative media using a bypass duct
- Fan powered — Which has a small, built-in fan to drive the air across the evaporative media
- Insertion or under duct mount — With the media inserted into the warm air duct for air flow and heat to evaporate the water
All of these require maintenance as the minerals build up on the evaporative media. Some have flushing systems built in to greatly reduce the required maintenance, but these use more water for the flushing process.