The dry winter air leaves us with cracked lips, bloody noses, and clogged sinuses that make the cold season feel miserable. Humidifiers improve indoor air quality so that we breathe more comfortably and can get through the dry season with ease. How does a humidifier work?
That can only be answered if you understand the different types of humidifiers and how they adjust indoor humidity. Do humidifiers work as well as advertised? And what is the best way to keep humidifiers clean? These questions deserve answers.
The humidification process is slightly complex, but we made this simple guide that provides you everything you need to know about different humidifiers and how the amount of moisture in the air plays a role in our overall health.
You may be surprised how many adverse effects there are from breathing dry air.
Do Humidifiers Work Differently from One Another?
Although there are many different types of humidifiers, they all work to accomplish the same goal of raising relative humidity, which is the moisture level in the air compared to the amount of moisture that the air is capable of holding.
The ideal humidity level is between 30 and 50 percent. A hygrometer measures the relative humidity. These are similar to a thermometer, but they measure water droplets in the air instead.
There are various humidifiers to choose from, and finding a way to keep humidifiers clean is equally important.
Types of Humidifiers
The first types of humidifiers are steam vaporizers. Steam humidifiers boil a tank of water and release the steam into a room. These are often the least expensive. They are best for adding medication to the water to help reduce coughs and congestion.
Impeller humidifiers contain rotating discs, which fling water at a comb-shaped diffuser. The diffuser on the machine breaks the water into small droplets.
The water vapor fills the air and produces a chilly fog. These machines are called a cool mist humidifier, but there are warm mist humidifiers, too.
An ultrasonic humidifier has a metal diaphragm that vibrates at an ultrasonic frequency. The high frequencies humidify the water into the air and also produce cold fog.
An evaporative humidifier uses a wick system with a soft wick that draws water out of a reservoir. A fan blows over the wick, and the air absorbs the moisture.
These types of humidifiers are self-regulating because the atmosphere absorbs less water vapor as humidity increases.
Central humidifiers are built into your home’s heating and air conditioning unit and work on the whole house. There are also console humidifiers larger than portable humidifiers but aren’t built into home systems.
Lastly, there is a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier works in opposition to a humidifier because it sucks water vapor out of the air and empties it into a basin that must be drained as it fills.
How Does a Humidifier Work?
Humidifiers aren’t as complicated as they may seem. There are various types, but they all try to accomplish the same goal through the humidification process.
All humidifiers contain a reservoir that gets filled with cold water. The machine changes liquid water into a gas through varying methods. The water vapor moves through an air filter and evaporates to increase humidity levels.
Pros and Cons of Humidifiers
There are many disadvantages to low humidity levels and high humidity levels. When humidity drops, the air becomes dry, and the risk of cold, flu and other illnesses increases. We get dry skin that looks scaly and red eyes from lack of moisture.
Our skin flakes and leaves thin, white dust over all our belongings. Static electricity builds more quickly, our wooden flooring and furniture expand and contract, which makes it crack, and we have more overall inflammation in our bodies.
Too high humidity is equally dangerous. High humidity levels encourage mold growth and an increase in dust mites, which is a bad combination for people with allergens.
As bacterial growth quickens, we become prone to more infections and diseases, and people with asthma suffer most.
How to Rectify Poor Humidity Levels
A humidifier uses water to increase water in the air, but an air conditioner can lower the humidity levels if you don’t have a dehumidifier.
If you don’t have central air, window unit conditioners are a cheaper option if you find your house is a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria, fungi, and mold.
The Best Way to Keep Humidifiers Clean
Do humidifiers work if they aren’t cleaned? Cleaning your humidifier is a critical step in keeping yourself healthy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, humidifiers must be cleaned every three days of use.
Hard water creates mineral deposits and bacterial build up. Cleaning the humidifiers regularly ensures you’re only breathing in clean, healthy air.
To remove mineral deposits from your humidifier, start by using only distilled water to avoid as much build up as possible. After that, try a few different ways to clean it to work best for you.
How to Descale a Humidifier
Descaling the calcium deposits off a humidifier takes a little bit of elbow grease, but the process is well worth the work. Always unplug the machine before cleaning it and before you run vinegar through humidifier parts.
Put two cups of distilled white vinegar into the reservoir tank and slosh it around to cover all sides of the tank. Put the tank back on its base so the vinegar drains into the basin.
Allow the humidifier to sit for 20 minutes before draining out the vinegar. Use an old toothbrush to scrub all small crevices inside the machine. Rinse the entire thing with cold water until it no longer smells like vinegar.
To eliminate oil residue, vinegar is also the best way to clean an essential oil diffuser.
How to Disinfect a Humidifier
It is as important to disinfect your humidifier as it is to descale it. While you can use rubbing alcohol to clean humidifier, bleach is another strong product to use. Ensure you thoroughly wash your machine at the end, so there is no bleach remaining in the reservoir for the next time you use it.
For cleaning a vaporizer or humidifier, fill a clean plastic bucket with a gallon of distilled water. Add the liquid bleach and use a wooden stick to mix it. Pour the bleach water into the water tank and put the tank on its base to drain into the basin.
Let the bleach water sit inside the machine for 20 minutes before emptying it. Rinse the entire machine with clean, running water until you no longer smell bleach coming from the humidifier.
Wipe the device dry with paper towels and reassemble it so it’s ready for another use.
Humidifiers have become an essential product to have around the home. When your kids or other loved ones get sick, humidifiers are the superhero of the day.
You’d be amazed at how big of a role the humidity levels play on our health and how it makes us feel.
Always try to keep the relative humidity between 30 and 50 percent so that you’re always at your best and know the difference between being genuinely sick and just not living in ideal conditions.
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