According to experts, the ideal home humidity level should be between 30 and 50 percent. In the winter, however, humidity levels can drop to a low 10 percent, making it important to add moisture to the air in your home.
Adding moisture to your home in the winter can help:
- Prevent static electricity
- Keep your family free of sore throats, dry skin, and dry coughs, and possibly even ease snoring
- Keep your houseplants healthier
- Keep wood furniture from drying out and cracking
- Prevent wallpaper from peeling and cracking
- Help the air feel warmer, so that you can turn down the heat slightly
Buying a humidifier
There are many options, including floor (console), tabletop, and whole-house units (in-duct) types. The whole-house units are the easiest to use, as they humidify through the home’s duct system and are hooked to a water source. Of course, these are the most expensive, may require professional installation and servicing, and may not work with all HVAC systems.
Smaller units may only humidify one room and will need to be refilled and cleaned frequently. However, they are considerably less expensive and are versatile, allowing you to move them from room to room as needed.
Whichever type you determine is best for your home, be sure to check ratings and reviews for features.
Some features to consider before buying a console or tabletop unit include:
- Size of tank. The larger the tank, the less frequently you’ll have to add water.
- Noise levels. A quiet unit may be particularly critical in a unit used in a bedroom.
- A built-in hygrometer. When an ideal humidity level is reached, the unit will shut down, which will save energy.
- A low-water light will let you know it’s time to refill the water well.
- An auto shut-off will turn the unit off if it runs out of water.
- Multiple settings allow you to choose high, low, and maybe even points between.
- Mold and mildew protection. You may not have to clean and sanitize as frequently if the unit has some basic protection built in. Many manufacturers suggest changing water daily and sanitizing once a week. Consumer Reports notes that antibacterial features do slow down bacterial growth. The Mayo Clinic recommends these cleaning tips to keep the unit free of mold, bacteria, and fungi.
- If you have hard water, look for a model that slows down mineral buildup.
- Check added costs, such as filters or cartridges that need to be replaced periodically.
For more information on buying humidifiers, check out Consumer Reports.