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How Does A Humidifier Work? Find Out Here!

Many times, I have heard people ask how does a humidifier work, and what does it do.

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You see, a dehumidifier is more popular with Americans than a humidifier. After all, many of them live in places that require one to have a dehumidifier rather than a humidifier.

If you live in Denver, Tucson, Minneapolis, Colorado Springs and Salt Lake city to name but just a few of the driest cities in the USA, you will need a humidifier.

Humidifier benefits are quite invaluable especially during the winter season because even in a warm setting, low humidity can be quite uncomfortable. Usually, humidifiers find a lot of use in winter.

There needs to be certain level of humidity for people to be comfortable. During the winter, the dry air parches the skin as well as the mucus membranes in the nasal cavity. As a result, when there is low humidity, it tends to feel colder that it actually is.

Dry air will also dry out the wood in the house, and this includes wood on the floors and walls. When the drying wood shrinks, it causes creaks in the floors and at times, cracks on plaster and dry walls.

Dry indoor air can cause serious damage and losses

In this article, I will show you how humidifiers work. You will also see how a humidifier will make your life more comfortable during winter. By knowing all the humidifier benefits and how it works, you will be able to save quite a lot on wear tear in your house.

You will see just what adding a little moisture to your house can do. A little water in your house can make quite a huge difference.

Air with too little moisture might cause irreversible damages to the valuable items in your house such as fine art and musical instruments. Humidifiers also come in handy to relieve or even treat ongoing sinuses or any other respiratory conditions.

When your baby or anyone else in the house has a congested chest, a humidifier helps them breathe easily. It makes the air soft enough for the swollen airways.


How does a humidifier work? Relative and absolute humidity

Humidity is the amount of moisture in the air. Relative humidity is the number one determinant of comfort when we are breathing.

After taking a hot shower, there is steam hanging in the air. We can say you are in a high humidity area at that time. If you are standing in the middle of the Sahara Desert or if you are scuba diving and you are breathing from a scuba tank, then you are in a low humidity area.

Air contains a certain percentage of water vapor. The amount of water vapor in a mass of air depends on the temperature of that air. If the air is warm, it holds more water. An area with low relative humidity shows that the air is dry and it is capable of holding more moisture at that same temperature.

If relative humidity is equal in cold and warm air, then the absolute humidity is higher in the cold air because warm air is able to hold more humidity.

Absolute humidity is the amount of water vapor or moisture in the air regardless of whether it is warm or cold. It is expressed as grams of water vapor per cubic meters of air (g/m3).

What affects the humidity levels?

Changing seasons means changing humidity levels. During the winter, doors and windows are shut to keep the cold air out and the house heating is always on.

When these two combine, it means the indoors air is dry and it can lead to the onset of symptoms of respiratory diseases symptoms. For example, asthma attacks increase when the air is either too dry or when there’s too much moisture. Thus, the level of cold affects the humidity level.

Having too much moisture in the air is also not recommended because dust mites thrive in moist conditions. Over-humid areas increase chances of you or your family members having allergic reactions.

How does a humidifier work to your benefit? It ensures that there is no dry air in your house and not too much moisture in the house.

How does a humidifier work? Different types of humidifiers

Humidifiers add moisture to the air in your house but not all of them work the same way. The recent years have seen many advances in technology. This is why humidifiers come in different styles and with varying features.

The different types of humidifiers in the market are:

  • Cool mist humidifiers – evaporative and impeller
  • Warm mist humidifiers – steam and vaporizer
  • Ultrasonic humidifiers


Cool mist humidifiers

This one is the best humidifier because it covers a bigger area when it is dispersing the cool mist. With cool mist humidifiers, you need not buy many of them because even a small number is able to serve a huge area. These humidifiers also use less electricity and they tend to be safer to use since there is no heating element.

Cool mist humidifiers also have a number of downsides, with one of them being that they are quite noisy.

They tend to be noisier as compared to warm mist models because they use a fan to operate. Cool mist humidifiers have more moving parts and so there is a higher risk of going wrong.

Evaporative humidifiers

Evaporative humidifiers use a wick filter and a fan to disperse the moisture. The water can be drawn from the reservoir through a cloth or paper sheet, and it is blown towards the wick filter by the fan.

The wick allows the water to evaporate thus releasing vapor into the air and as a result, the temperature in the air reduces.

The wick filter will trap any impurities thus improving the air quality in the house.

The wick filter should be replaced after every two months but if you decide to clean it, it should be thoroughly dried before returning it.


Impeller mist humidifiers

Impeller mist humidifiers use a rotating disc to dispel water into the air in the room. The rotating disc sends water to the reservoir through a diffuser.

When the disc throws water to the diffuser, the water is broken down into smaller drops that are then emitted in the air as droplets.

An impeller mist humidifier is one of the cleanest ways to keep the humidity level in your house at optimum level. Impeller humidifiers also cover quite a significant area in the house.

There is a downside though … these impeller humidifiers can be quite noisy and they need to be cleaned or replaced regularly, to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Please note that impeller humidifiers are also called cold mist humidifiers in general.

Warm mist humidifiers

Warm mist humidifiers help in reducing the impurities in the water since they boil it first. This kills all the harmful bacteria.

With a warm mist humidifier, you do not need a filter, which reduces the cleaning time as well as the cost of buying filters.

The best thing about these warm mist humidifiers is that the air feels warmer since the water is heated. They come in handily especially when one has a cold. One can feel the change almost immediately.

When using these warm mist humidifiers, you need to be careful to avoid accidents and burns. The water in the reservoir boils hot and it can be quite dangerous to the kids and pets.

The other downside to these warm humidifiers is that the vapor can only be emitted to a smaller area. However, you may buy a big humidifier for a bigger room and vice versa.

Warm mist humidifiers come in two types:

  • Steam
  • Vaporizer

Warm mist steam humidifiers

Warm mist steam humidifiers are the best for killing bacteria. The water is heated, which means it retains most of the minerals.

You do not get to inhale them. As for savings in running costs, you do not need filters in warm mist steam humidifiers and neither do you need to clean it often.

Warm mist steam humidifiers are quieter as compared to cool mist humidifiers since they do not use a fan to whip the water around.

These humidifiers are also handy in cooler climates since they warm the indoor air. As compared to other humidifiers, steamers can be a little expensive to run because of the heating element.

One downside to this warm mist humidifier is that it only covers a small area. Thus, you need quite a number of them to cover your whole house.

Warm mist vaporizer humidifiers

Warm mist vaporizer humidifiers are similar to steam humidifiers. The electrodes heat the water in the reservoir to boiling point and then the moisture is emitted to the air.

Vaporizers are helpful to people who suffer from breathing ailments like COPD or asthma.

These vaporizers also work well with plant extracts such as herbs, menthol and other medicinal inhalants.

Since the humidifier boils water, there are less bacteria or mold buildups. Do not use these humidifiers in kids’ rooms because the boiling water in the reservoir is hazardous.


Ultrasonic Humidifiers

These cool mist humidifiers are the best for killing bacteria. The boiled water retains the minerals and you do not end up breathing them. Ultrasonic humidifiers operate without the need for filters, which reduces operating costs significantly.

Since it is a steam humidifier, it needs less cleaning and maintenance. This ultrasonic humidifier is quieter as compared to the cool mist humidifiers since it does not need a fan to run.

The air emitted to the atmosphere is warm, so this appliance would be good for colder climates. The moisture dispersed only covers a small area, which means you need quite a number of them in the house.


Humidifier benefits that you will enjoy

Now that I have answered your question of how does a humidifier work, it is time to see the benefits of using humidifiers in your home.

Here are just a few benefits of humidifiers:

Allergy relief

Humidifiers help in regulating the amount of moisture in your house, which in turn offers relief to ailments like hay-fever. Indoor and outdoor allergens can be quite unbearable especially to people who suffer from breathing ailments.

Home warmth

Warm mist humidifiers are best for raising the room temperature when it is cold. They help take the winter chill out of the house.

Prevent dry skin and eyes

The cold winter air is notorious for taking a toll on our eyes, lips and skin. Warm mist humidifiers add moisture to the room, which helps preventing itchy eyes and throat, chapped lips and dry skin.

You should take care of yourself during the winter season because winter brings a number of health issues along.

Great for indoor plants

Just like animals and human beings, plants need moisture to survive. Having a cool or a warm mist humidifier in your house during the winter season also helps your houseplants stay healthy.

Wooden furniture preservation

With the wrong atmospheric conditions, wood furniture is bound to dry out. For your furniture to stay in topnotch shape all the time, keep optimum humidity in your house. During winter or summer, your furniture will remain in good shape and it will live for longer.

Flu and colds relief

Congested and blocked nasal passages can be treated naturally using humidifiers. Just add medicinal inhalants in the humidifier for example menthol extracts and leave them running the whole night.

These inhalants will help you inhale better and without struggling. If you just love having beautiful scents in your house, you can add other plants of your choice, for example, lavender.

Static prevention

When the air is dry, there is static buildup, which can be a little hazardous. Adding moisture to the atmosphere helps in preventing potential risky situations like the occurrence of sparks.


Disadvantages of using humidifiers

High humidity levels: Increased levels of humidity in the room’s atmosphere might lead to breathing problems thus negating the whole purpose of having them in the house. Too much humidity in the atmosphere makes it hard for people to breathe.

Bacterial growth: If humidifiers, especially the cool mist humidifiers are not well maintained, there is a chance they will start harboring bacteria and mold. Mold and bacteria spores can lead to breathing problems. It is important to keep the humidifiers clean at all times.

White dust: We all know tap water has quite a number of minerals, which manifest as white dust in the house. The white dust causes to health problems like lung problems, which can be serious.

To prevent the buildup of white dust, the humidifiers should be filled with distilled water instead of tap water. Distilled water reduces the risk of bacteria and harmful minerals getting into your indoor air.

It also helps to keep your humidifier functional for longer. When using distilled water, you do not keep on cleaning the humidifier.


Here are the questions that most people ask frequently regarding how humidifiers work. Dry air can make you ill. You should always maintain the right humidity level indoors.


How does a humidifier work? You have seen how it works in this guide. Now, the only thing remaining is for you to buy one and make life more comfortable in your home. The quality of your indoor air matters quite a lot, all the time.

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