Humidifier Buying Guide

Top Ten Things To Look For When Buying A Humidifier

Very dry summers and winter heat can remove moisture from the air, making it too dry and causing sore throats and dry skin. A good humidifier adds moisture to the air, making it more comfortable and healthier to breathe. Humidifiers are also excellent for soothing and fighting colds, congestion, allergies and other similar conditions. There are several different types of humidifiers and numerous features available for each type - picking the right one is important. Here are the ten most important things to consider when deciding which humidifier to add to your home.

1. Humidification Method

Humidifiers today use one of several humidification methods to produce the mist that adds humidity to the room. The three most popular methods are: evaporative, ultrasonic and heat. Heat is generally very quiet, but units employing this humidification method take a while to get going once turned on, and are a bit more expensive on the electric bill. Evaporative technology tends to be a bit noisy and units employing this technology require a wick that needs to be replaced regularly; however, evaporative humidifiers almost never over humidify, which is a huge bonus. Ultrasonic humidification is very quiet; however, it has the disadvantage of over humidifying at times and leaving puddles of water. It also has the tendency to leave a fine white dust in the room.

2. Warm Or Cool Mist

Some humidifiers offer just a cool mist, some offer just a warm mist, while others offer both a cool and warm mist. What temperature of mist you need depends on what you plan on using the humidifier for and when you plan on using it. A cool mist tends to decrease the temperature in the room making it best suited for hot weather use, while a warm mist warms the warm slightly so is best used during cold weather. Another thing to consider with warm or cool mist is that warm mist is often steamed, so it has a burn potential. For children and pets, cool mist is safer than warm mist is. Warm mist humidifiers are also more expensive to run than cool mist humidifiers.

3. Medicated Vapor Therapy

Inhaling warm vapor has been proven to help sooth sore throats, and chest and sinus congestion. Some humidifiers offer medicine cups and other special areas to add medicated oils and creams to help increase the healing effects of the steam. Vicks offer numerous vapor therapy units and so do a few other brands. If you would like to be able to add essential oils and other healing oils to your humidifier's steam then look for one that states it can be safely used with them. In addition, look for a unit that has bacteria and mold killing features; inhaling bacteria filled water will obviously not help fight illness.

4. Room Coverage

Humidifiers range from 400 square foot room coverage to 4200 square foot room coverage, and there are also some personal humidifiers that only offer around 20 square foot coverage.  Generally, the more room coverage a humidifier offers, the bigger the water tank is, the more quickly it will go through water and the more energy it will use. However, getting a unit that is too small will simply result in inferior humidification and will require the unit to work harder, resulting in extra energy use and possible premature burn out of the unit.

5. Noise

Humidifiers really vary in their noise level. Some are exceptionally quiet, while others are surprisingly noisy. Humidifiers that use ultrasonic technology tend to be the quietest. Humidifiers that just heat also tend to be quiet, other than the light sound of water gently boiling. Evaporative technology is generally the noisiest as it has a fan that makes a fair amount of noise. For noise sensitive people, ultrasonic is by far the best.

6. Filter vs No Filter

Some humidifiers have filters that need to be replaced every few weeks, while other humidifiers feature a filter-less design. Humidifiers with filters are more expensive to run as there is the added expense of buying filters. However, humidifiers with filters are generally a little more easy to clean and usually offer cleaner germ free humidity than humidifiers without filters do.

7. Water Tank Size

The size of water tank varies from half a gallon to three gallons. The larger the water tank generally the more daily humidity output the humidifier will have and the less often you will need to fill it. However, a larger water tank also means that the unit will be much heavier when full and the water tank itself will be harder to carry back from being filled. In addition, some very large tanks do not fit in the kitchen sink, and have to be filled in the bathtub. A smaller water tank means filling it more often, but is much easier to carry and fill. There are also a few humidifiers that can be filled with a pitcher. When considering which humidifier to buy, keep in mind how much you can easily carry and how long you need the humidifier to run nonstop. In addition, look for a water tank with a water level indicator so you can easily tell when it needs refilling or get one with a transparent water tank. You should also get a humidifier with an auto shut off when the water tank runs low to prevent accidents.

8. Special Features

Some humidifiers are very simple and offer very few features, while other humidifiers are packed full of special features. Some normal humidifier features are things like sleep mode, timer, and a built in hygrometer. Several humidifiers also feature the ability to adjust humidity levels by themselves to help ensure the best humidification possible. Generally the more features a humidifier has the more expensive it is. Features can be really nice and can make running a humidifier far easier. However, if you are simply going to use it periodically, then a simple less expensive unit may be sufficient. Of course, if you are going to be using the humidifier all the time, extra features may be well worth the extra money.

9. Maintenance

Most humidifiers require weekly cleaning to keep them mold and bacteria free, and running at their best. Look for a humidifier that is easy to clean, and has mold and bacteria fighting features; some employ UV light, filters, heat, etc. to help stop bacteria and mold build up. Some water tanks can be washed in the dishwasher which makes them far easier to maintain. A poorly maintained humidifier will often leak, produce a bad smell, send out unhealthy humidity and break down prematurely. Consider carefully how much time you have each week to clean and maintain your humidifier, and buy one that fits your needs and time best.

10. Price

Humidifiers range in price from $15-$400. Humidifiers with large water tanks, lots of features, good room coverage, and ones that offer both warm and cold mist options, tend to cost more. Buying a humidifier that is too small to offer proper room coverage is simply a waste of money; it is better to spend more and get one that actually does the job properly. Features you are going to use are worth the extra money, but don't pay for something you will not use. There are some energy saving models on the market also that tend to be a bit more expensive, but save you money on your electric bill. Consider your needs carefully and buy the best humidifier you can afford that does the job you need.

What’s the best humidifier?  Here are what we found to be the three top rated models.

Top 3 Humidifiers For 2015

#1 Overall Best Humidfier - Air-O-Swiss U700

The U700 is one of the premiere humidifiers on the market today. It is Air-O-Swiss' newest and most advanced model, and it comes packed with just about every feature available for an ultrasonic humidifier. It has a bigger than average water tank with handles and is powerful enough to cover up to 1000 square feet. It has a hygrostat and has Intelligent Temperature Compensation, and adjusts its moisture output to fit the conditions in the room. It also offers cool or warm mist at just a push of a button. In addition, this unit is programmable, has a sleep mode and a self clean mode, low water indicator, plus automatically shuts off when it runs low on water. The Air-O-Swiss U700 uses whisper quiet ultrasonic technology making it perfect for the bedroom. It is exceptionally well built and made to last for years. It retails for around $300.

Air-O-Swiss U700 Full Review

#2 Overall Best Humidfier - Air-O-Swiss AOS 7135 Ultrasonic Humidifier - 7135

With cool and warm mist, Intelligent Temperature Compensation, 650 square foot room coverage, and quiet ultrasonic humidification, this Air-O-Swiss humidifier is sure to please. It has an easy to read LED display, water tank level and clean indicators, adjustable mist output, programmable timer, and a sleep mode. It is very clean and hygienic with its demineralization filter and Hydro Cell. This humidifier is simple to use and with its ITC technology it does most of the work for you, adjusting itself appropriately for the conditions in the room. It also has an auto shut when the tank runs low on water and a large 1.5 gallon tank that is easy to fill and clean. On low, it can run all night without being refilled. The Air-O-Swiss 7135 Ultrasonic Humidifier retails for around $180-$200.

Air-O-Swiss AOS 7135 Ultrasonic Humidifier Full Review

#3 Overall Best Humidfier - Air-O-Swiss AOS 7147 Ultrasonic Humidifier 

Featuring both ITC and ultrasonic technology, a replaceable demineralization cartridge and numerous other features, the Air-O-Swiss AOS 7147 is hard to beat. This humidifier comes with a large transparent 1.5 gallon water tank,  warm or cool mist, automatic shut off when empty, and easy to use surface touch controls. It has a small attractive design that fits well in any room, and is very lightweight. It has pre-set and sleep mode, and is whisper silent making it excellent for use in a bedroom. The Air-O-Swiss AOS 7147 is powerful enough to be used in rooms up to 600 square feet. This intuitive humidifier independently adjusts when needed to keep the humidity in the room at a comfortable level and lets you know when it needs to be cleaned. Perfect for any room in the house, this excellent humidifier retails for around $170.

Air-O-Swiss AOS 7147 Ultrasonic Humidifier Full Review

Top 2 Humidifiers Under $50

#1 Best Budget Humidfier - Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 Humidifier

The Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 is a very affordable reliable humidifier that is perfect for the nursery or any room of the house. It is quiet enough not to disturb sleep; one tank of water lasts an entire night. It has adjustable mist levels, and has two rotating mist outlets for full room coverage. Not only is this excellent humidifier simple to use, it saves money with its filter-less easy to clean design; no more filters to buy! It also features an auto shut off for when it runs out of water. The Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 is a solid no fuss or headaches humidifier. It is sturdy, long lasting, does the job well, comes with a year warranty, and sells for a very affordable price of $25-$40.

Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 Humidifier Full Review

#2 Best Budget Humidfier - Crane Drop Shape Cool Mist Humidifier

Simple, powerful, attractive and available in nine fashionable colors, the Crane Drop Shape Humidifier fits well into any room in the house. It uses whisper quiet ultrasonic technology, has a cool mist, and has a 0.9 gallon water tank that is easy to fill. When run on low, one tank of water lasts about 10 hours. This excellent little unit is an energy saver; using less electricity to run than the average light bulb uses. It is filterless, has an auto shut off safety sensor, has a 360 degree mist nozzle, and offers 250 square foot room coverage. It also features variable humidity and mist output controls. The Crane Drop Shape humidifier comes with a full year limited warranty and retails for around $40- $50.

Crane Drop Shape Cool Mist Humidifier Full Review

Top Whole House Humidifier

#1 Best Whole House Humidfier - Aprilaire 700 Whole-House Powered Humidifier

A highly rated whole house system, the Aprilaire features built-in blowers that activate automatically when a certain lack of humidity is sensed by the system; it also features flow-through fan technology and a compact frontpiece that can be set anywhere in the home.   The water runs through the system via gravity, and the unit can humidify a home of over 4000 square feet; installed vertically on ductwork, it is consider one of the best performing whole house units on the market today, and is usually available in most stores at a bargain price of less than $250.  

Aprilaire 700 Full Review

More Thoughts On Buying A Dehumidifier

So, what’s the best humidifier for the needs of your home? 

The answer to this question depends on what kind of home you have, and what kind of needs that home has.  Since there is no single “best humidifier” for every house, you might want to consider which of the five basic types of humidifiers are your own “personal best”;  then we’ll show you the most popular and economic brands (in other words, the ones with the best humidifier ratings). 

Hopefully our humidifier review overview will help you select the “best humidifier” for your particular home need and situation. 

What’s the best humidifier for your home?

In short, it would depend on what you wanted the humidifier to do.  For example, a cool mist model, according to consumer reviews of top rated humidifiers, is the best humidifier for dry skin, because it sooths and moisturizes the epidermis without the possibility of scalding.  This makes a cool mist model a preferred humidifier for a baby’s or child’s room as well, and the best room humidifier overall for these specific circumstances.  However, equally well reviewed and recommended are the warm mist humidifiers, which are the best rated humidifiers for congestive diseases, coughs, colds, flu and similar respiratory conditions.  Warm mist is also the best humidifier for allergies, according to the majority of consumer websites, and is an excellent room humidifier if heat and temperature are not a consideration (as in a greenhouse or adult’s sick room).  

If you spend a few minutes on any website with reviews for consumer humidifiers, you’ll be confronted with an embarrassment of riches in terms of models, makes and price ranges, but you’ll seldom find a consensus about the “best humidifier” anywhere; at the very least, however, you’ll get an idea of a good humidifier to use in most circumstances. 

The only real point of debate in humidifiers seems to rest with the customers prone to allergies, as they cannot appear to reach a consensus either in website reviews or in product reviews on Amazon or similar websites.   A model that comes highly recommended by a sufferer of asthma, a skin condition or a similar medical condition will be roundly blasted by another who complains that it was ineffectual, left the room too damp, too dry, too sticky, and so on. 

With that in mind, we herein present several models that can be called the top rated humidifiers for particular circumstances, and wish you a good and enjoyable hunt as you pick the best for your situation. 

Types of Humidifiers

Looking through and analyzing humidifier ratings can quickly become a headache if you aren’t familiar with the various types of humidifiers available.  Good humidifier reviews for an evaporative model, for example, would not be indicative of quality for someone who needed a forced-air system or whole home system.   So, it’s best to consider the type of humidifier first. 

In general terms, a humidifier increases humidity and moisture, either to 1. an entire house or 2. a single room (the latter are known as point-of-use humidifiers).   The former are entire systems that connect to a house’s HVAC system to humidify the entire dwelling.   The majority of our humidifier reviews, however, are focused on point-of-use single room units.

Ultrasonic Humidifiers

The most technologically advanced of the humidifiers under review, the water for steam in an ultrasonic humidifier is produced by a metal or plastic “diaphragm” that vibrates ultrasonically (hence the model’s name) and creates water in the form of a cooling mist.  Piezo-electric transducers create the high frequency movement, also known as oscillation, that produces this steam from the reservoir, and the mist produced is very fine.  

Ultrasonic humidifiers are now the norm in commercial businesses such as hospital diagnostic centers, storages for food, electronics manufacturers and photo labs.   Expensive as they undoubtedly are, the ultrasonic humidifier is nevertheless the most modern and efficiently humidifying product on the market.   If you are willing to pay a little bit extra for increased functionality and reliability the ultrasonic humidifier is unequivocally our recommendation as the best type of all around humidifier available.

#1 Rated Ultrasonic Humidifier

Air-O-Swiss U700

Cool Mist - Evaporative Humidifiers

The most common point-of-use model, and one of the best humidifiers for single rooms, is the Evaporative model.  Also known as the “wick” form of humidifier or the “cool mist” (as opposed to warm mist) model, the evaporative model has a wick (a filter that sucks water from a tank or reservoir) and a fan.  The water on the wick dries (the filter provides a more capacious surface for the water’s evaporation) and the fan blows the evaporated moisture into the room.   The adjustment in humidity allows the evaporative model to self-regulate; the more humid the room, the less the humidifier will produce in terms of evaporated moisture. 

Cool Mist – Impeller Humidifiers

A cool mist humidifier, much like the evaporative model, the impeller literally flings water from its reservoir (via a disc that rotates inside the model) to a diffuser; this mechanism further humidifies the room by breaking the water into droplets which permeate the air with moisture. Often used in homes where the moisture level is readily checked and the reservoir readily topped, the impeller can overdo its own bounds, and, if unattended, cause small amounts of water damage. The impeller is most often used in situations where actual damp conditions are regularly needed, such as a tropical or house plant greenhouse.  

Warm Mist Humidifiers

A warm mist humidifier operates on the same principle as the evaporative, but there is a heating element included in the humidifier’s base, or in its reservoir.  This heating element facilitates quicker evaporation of the water in the reservoir (one reason that the warm mist model must be checked and topped off more often) and the mist produced is particularly soothing and invigorating.  Warm mist humidifiers are often used in spas for skin conditioning, in hospitals (it is a particularly good humidifier for patients with congestion and tubercular infections) and in the home (it is frequently used for home-dwellers with colds, flu and similar congestive infections, as well as some skin problems).  

Warm Mist – Vaporizer Humidifiers

A warm mist humidifier, this model boils the water in its reservoir via its built-in heating element, and the unit thus releases hot steam into the air.  The vaporizer is actually the best room humidifier for patients with a need for medicated steam (for congestive illnesses and the like), since the vaporizer allows for the addition of medication (in the form of inhalants), either directly to the water or passing through a filter, tray or diffuser (one simply “lubricates” the tray or diffuser with the medication, and the steam is thus infused with the healing element).   This is the humidifier that uses the most energy in boiling its water to produce steam. 

In Summary

  • Warm mist – for those looking for a humidifier that not only humidifies but also produces warm humid air. The humidifier of choice for those with colds, allergies, or for infants.
  • Cool mist – a no frill humidifier. For those looking for increased humidity via cool air. Also safer for pets and young children compared to warm mist humidifiers.
  • Ultrasonic – the most versatile and technologically advanced humidifier. Can be cold or warm mist.

Good luck and have fun as you find the perfect humidifier for your home! Below we've listed last year's rankings for your reference.  

2014 Rankings

#1 Overall - Air-O-Swiss AOS Ultrasonic Humidifier - 7135

The Air-O-Swiss is one of the most highly rated warm mist humidifiers on the market, and one of the most technologically advanced; it uses the high-frequency ultrasonic vibration to generate its mist, which is extra fine and thin, and permeates the air with relative speed and efficiency.  It also features a built-in hygrostat (for regulating moisture) and output regulation (for convenient operation), as well as automatic and sleeping modes, and customer-endorsed hygienically pure emissions.  It remains one of the top rated humidifiers in Consumer’s Reports website, and can be modified (usually with a simple flick of a switch) to cool mist if desired.

Air-O-Swiss 7135 Full Review

#2 Overall - Honeywell HCM-6009

The Honeywell is solidly rated by Amazon customers (4 out of 5 stars) and features a large reservoir (9 gallon per 24 hours output); it is designed for larger rooms up and beyond 2200 square feet.  It also features three settings for moisture and output, has been endorsed by numerous customers as far quieter than models they previously owned, and has an exclusive antimicrobial filter to prevent bacteria and mold growing in the reservoir or mechanism.   It is highly recommended by consumers with dry skin problems, and reduces both nasal congestion and (added bonus) static electricity build-up in the home.

Honeywell HCM-6009 Full Review

#3 Overall - Venta Ultrasonic Humidifier

The Venta ultrasonic is the best room humidifier for smaller areas according to consumers, as it creates both warm and cool mist (and is adjustable to both) in rooms over 550 square feet but not above 600.  It is also recommended, in cool mist mode, as an ideal baby’s and child’s humidifier.  Its capacity is over a gallon, and it is endorsed by consumers as very quiet (particularly for children) and easy-maintenance.  More economical than the other models (under $100 at most locations), the Venta is an excellent model for individuals needed different levels of humidity in more than one room of the house, and it usually runs 24 hours and more on a single filling in its tank.

Venta Ultrasonic Humidifier Full Review

Top 2 Humidifiers Under $50

#1 Best Budget - Crane Drop Shape Cool Mist Humidifier

An allergists’ dream and an excellent budget model (priced at under $50 in most stores), the Crane Drop Shape (so named because it resembles a tear drop—it comes in white or orange, and in a “frog-costume” mode for the kids) produces a stream of mist into a smaller area (around 500 square feet or less).  It gives relief from allergy, cold and flu symptoms, asthma and congestive illnesses, dry skin and sinus irritations, at least according to the numerous allergy sufferers who recommend this compact, excellent fog-producing marvel.   Its simplistic and modern design makes it an unobtrusive visitor to any room, and on medium setting it will humidify for a day without refilling.

Crane Drop Shape Humidifier Full Review

#2 Best Budget - Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier

Vicks is the company that first began humidifying to augment the effects of their VapoRub; it’s not surprising that their humidifiers are efficient, easy running and highly recommended.  The warm mist model is less than $50 in most stores, and produces a nearly bacteria free stream of soothing fog that relieves cold and flu symptoms as well as respiratory ailments and some forms of dry skin.  Ideal for a smaller room (although it may get too warm for a child’s or baby’s room), it boasts an automatic shut-off feature (if it senses too much heat, or if it is set to shut off at a certain time via its timer). 

Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier Full Review