Two important things about a portable humidifier and you purchasing one are, do I need one and if so, what kind should I get? I hope this information helps with those decisions.

In the cold months if you experience:

1. Frequent colds or sinus infections
2. Dry mouth and snoring
3. Dry and cracking skin
4. Trouble regulating temperature, keeping warm in your home
5. Symptoms of allergy
6. Annoying static electricity
7. Cracking woodwork

If so, you may be suffering the effects of excessively dry air or low humidity and could benefit from adding a portable humidifier to your apartment. You may have recently moved from a longtime home that was spacious and had an automatic humidifier on the furnace. Now living in a smaller space with dry forced air heat could mean you are experiencing the effects of extremely low humidity for the first time.

A solution to excessively dry air is available and can be obtained at a relatively low cost. Humidifiers suitable for use in a small room or a larger area can be purchased for $25.00 or as much as $100.00 or more depending on the type and features.

There are three main classes of humidifiers. These are ultrasonic, evaporative, and steam mist which is also considered evaporative but uses an entirely different mechanism.

The ultrasonic humidifier uses vibration turning water into a moisture laden mist that escapes into the air. The unit is simple to operate. Fill the tank and turn it on. A translucent mist will flow in a moisture laden fog from a vent on top.

The evaporative humidifier works with a fan blowing air through a water filled wick; This produces moisture laden air that flows out.

The steam humidifier boils water producing steam that escapes through a vent. This hot steam adds moisture to the air and raises the temperature.

What do these devices have in common: 1) Any can be purchased for under $40.00; 2) Each raises humidity producing a health benefit; 3) All suffer from the adverse effects of hard water.

Now for my opinions.

Ultrasonic mist humidifier

I have owned all three types of portable humidifier. All are effective. Each comes in a size suitable for a “small”, “medium”, or “large “room. There are characteristics of each that should be considered.

The ultrasonic humidifier is quiet, and the visible stream of fog has a positive psychological effect. It looks like it is working. These are immediate impressions. The downside of his type of humidifier is the white calcium dust that accumulates after weeks or months. This fine dust, obvious on flat surfaces, can be wiped off easily, but it is also present but less obvious in upholstery, rugs and draperies. The only way to eliminate this is to use distilled water, an expensive solution.

The evaporative humidifier has a fan which can be noisy. The calcium problem also exists with this type of machine. In this case the wick is encased with calcified debris which renders it ineffective. A short-term solution is to decalcify the wick with white vinegar, but eventually it must be replaced. They are relatively expensive and can be hard to find.

Steam mist humidifier

The steam humidifier is quiet. It has no wick, but the water reservoir and boiling surfaces will experience calcium build up that requires regular treatment with white vinegar. These machines raise the humidity quickly and can produce humidity above the ideal range. Because of the heat these should not be used where children have access.


My choices for a portable home humidifier are the following:

For summer, I prefer the ultrasonic cool mist humidifier.

For the winter, I prefer the steam humidifier.

Evaporative humidifier

The wick problems occurring with the evaporative humidifier are more than I want to put up with so this would be my least favorite.

When it comes to purchasing a humidifier, I believe less is more. Although I have spent slightly more in the past to get bells and whistles I never used, I would advise anyone to keep the price they pay between $25.00 and $40.00 for the basic unit. These are low priced electrical appliances and after a while they all quit. Better to buy an inexpensive one and replace it when necessary than fret about how to fix a more expensive unit. In our culture, these should be considered almost in the disposable category.

And one other thing to consider. For those who like to “keep score” you might want to purchase a hygrometer. This will register the humidity although you can probably tell when it goes up because you will feel warmer and probably breathe easier. In the winter, if your windows begin to steam up it is a sign the humidity is high. Humidity below 30% is low. That above 60% is high and from 30% to 60% is ideal.


By Savvy Senior

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