Humidifiers and Waterless Vaporizers – Advantages and Disadvantages

July 29, 2013

When air becomes very dry, it can facilitate the onset of cracked skin, chapped lips, nosebleeds, allergy or asthmatic symptoms, and respiratory tract illnesses. Furniture and house structure can also become damaged, particularly wooden materials that are susceptible to crack or shrink. Consequently, many houses employ the use of a humidifier or waterless vaporizer, most often during the wintertime when the atmosphere is particularly dry. Learn more about uses and how to buy one here.

humidifierHumidifiers are popular devices that raise moisture in a home through mechanically breaking up and propagating water droplets or mist. There are two main models: Steam vaporizers and cool mist humidifiers.
Steam vaporizers heat water until it becomes steam, and then eject the vapor into the air. They are the only type of humidifiers that emit warm mist. As a result, these models carry less a risk of interior bacterial and mineral build-up because the boiling process kills many of the germs. Medicinal, herbal, or aromatic remedies can also be mixed into the water to help with cold symptoms, relieve breathing problems, or simply add a fresh scent. Because of the simplicity of the device, vaporizers are among the cheapest models; prices vary from as low as 10 to as high as 100 dollars. However, families with small children tend to hesitate in purchasing them because of the risk with the boiled water. Should children accidentally run into or knock over the device, they can be severely burned and injured. The costs to run vaporizers are also a bit higher because of the energy requirements.
Cool mist humidifiers are also popular models because they are considered more efficient in regulating humidity levels. They are also safer around children and pets because the water is cool. However, these models tend to be more expensive, typically between 20 to 200 dollars, and involve more care because the cool water has a risk of becoming stagnant and developing bacteria and mold if left alone for long periods of time. Thus, the evaporator needs to be cleaned consistently, about once a week with soap and water. It is also important to use distilled instead of tap water, as the minerals in unrefined water can clog the machine and present as dust particles in the air when emitted. When considering cool mist humidifiers, it is important to note the different types: evaporators, impeller humidifiers, and ultrasonic humidifiers.
Evaporators are the most common and are generally the least expensive of cool mist humidifiers. Devices consist of two main parts: a moistened wick and a fan, which blows onto the wet barrier to push water droplets into the air. The main advantage of the device is its ability to self-regulate: The more moisture there is in the surroundings, the less moisture, i.e. water droplets, the fan blows out of the wick. In other words, the evaporator weans off ejecting mist once the humidity in the room is stable.
Impeller humidifiers consist of a rotating disc that propels water into a diffuser. The diffuser then breaks up the water and sprays it into air as a mist. These models typically do not require much energy to run.
Ultrasonic humidifiers break up water into droplets through ultrasonic vibration. These devices are quiet and low in energy-maintenance. Some of the more expensive models come with antibacterial features and a demineralization filter to lower the risk of bacterial and mineral build-up.

waterless vaporizerWaterless vaporizers, on the other hand, involve the flow of air through scented pads. The pads contain oils that alleviate cold or flu symptoms and can last up to eight hours. These devices are also quieter and more compact than humidifiers. Because no water is used, there is no risk of spillage or bacterial build-up in the device. Maintenance is thus much simpler, requiring only a replacement of pads when needed. However, each pad can only be used once and costs at least 8 dollars; thus, the expenses of a waterless vaporizer may build up significantly over time. Moreover, it’s been questioned whether these are truly effective in aiding those with respiratory illnesses. The scents emitted physiologically induce people to breathe through their nose, which does not provide efficient relief for nasal congestion. Hot or cool mist, on the other hand, is proven to help loosen mucus and clear sinus cavities. It is also not recommended to use waterless vaporizers for children under 2 years old, as the scents and oils contain chemicals that may induce allergic reactions.

In general, humidity levels should be consistently monitored to avoid not only too little, but too much moisture in the air. High humidity levels can ruin paint on walls, breed mold and mildew, and exacerbate health issues like asthma and allergies. Ideally, the humidity level should remain between 30 and 50 percent. Look into purchasing a hygrometer for your home if you do not already have a humidity measuring device. When deciding between the type of humidifier or vaporizer to use in a home, it is important to remember that each model has its advantages and disadvantages in safety, efficiency, health, energy, and cost. Weigh each option carefully, and be sure to consult the doctor before buying one if someone in your family suffers from a respiratory condition.