In-room humidifier experiences?
December 13, 2011 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about your in-room humidifiers...

I've had it up to here with dry skin and the rest brought on by the forced air heat in my house, and I've decided that I want an in-room humidifier. I'll start with one in the bedroom for now.

I've resisted up to now because of the apparent need for daily maintenance, but I'm willing to deal with that as long as it is relatively easy and quick to accomplish. I've considered an in-duct humidifier but I'm a little afraid of having white dust all over my house from any minerals in the water.

The rooms in my house are quite small, and all of the rooms upstairs (where the humidifier will be) are carpeted, if that makes any difference.

Things that I won't like: fiddly parts or any user-unfriendly design; a weight of more than 15 pounds; tendency to leak; white mineral dust all over the place; stuff that breaks down after a few months.

Do you have an in-room humidifier? What kind? For how long? Anything that you don't like about it? Overall, are you happy that you have it?
posted by Currer Belfry to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I have had a Vicks Vaporizer for about 2 years now. I haven't had a problem with it at all. I usually fill it up in my bathtub every night and just carry it over a few feet into my room. It doesn't put it too much steam on its own, but I find just adding a bit of salt into the water helps it to billow steam like crazy. It's great that it has a little green light on it so I won't trip over it if I get up in the middle of the night. I've used it in both carpeted and wood floored rooms and it seems to work equally well in both.
posted by astapasta24 at 10:26 AM on December 13, 2011

I live in the desert where the RH is frequently in the single digit range and needed to humidify the air for my recently deceased grandmother who died just short of her 106th birthday.

I tried several models by various manufacturers and didn't like any of them until I came across the Germguardian H4500. The H4500 was perfect for our needs. It's ultrasonic so it's completely silent and has no wick. The wicked models were a total bitch to clean and wicks were expensive to replace. The H4500 is very simple to maintain and you have the option of either cold humidity or a warm vapor. I stuck with the unwarmed humidity and it made Grandma's room such a nice little oasis that I wound up buying 3 more for the rest of the house. Costco has them for just under 90 bucks.

I've been using these 24/7 year-round (except on the rare rainy days) for up to 3.5 years now and they've performed flawlessly.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:42 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I see that astapasta just said exactly what I was going to say about the Vicks' Vaporizer. So I will just add that "it's also way cheap."

The only thing I don't like about it is that the central steam-makey-thing looks kind of dirty, and I'm not sure how to clean it -- I'm not worried about anything other than it being residual minerals that have boiled out of the tap water, it just looks unsightly. Once in a blue moon I've cleaned it by taking the central steam-makey-thing into a small bucket of vinegar and letting it run that way, like how you run vinegar through your coffee maker to clean that. That seemed to work fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:51 AM on December 13, 2011

We recently got a generic version of the Vicks previously linked - pretty much the same thing, just not branded. I think it cost ten bucks. It's very simple and lightweight, and seems to be working very well. Ditto the addition of salt to help up the steam output.
posted by attercoppe at 10:55 AM on December 13, 2011

We always have a humidifier in our bedroom in the winter. I dont' know what brand we have at the moment, but we bought it at a WalMart-type store, so it's nothing exotic or terribly expensive. We've never had a humidifier leak and the only daily maintenance is slipping out the water tank each evening to fill it at the sink. No muss, no fuss.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2011

We have gone through countless humidifiers in our lives! Once we had a baby, we got one of those cute animal ones for his nursery. We loved it so much that we replaced our other 2 humidifiers with the animal ones. The elephant works the best, IMO. Crane brand. Cheap and easy to maintain, and whisper quiet!
posted by katypickle at 11:08 AM on December 13, 2011

I was at Sears yesterday looking at humidifiers and the sales guy told me that the white powder is a result of a warm mist humidifier. I don't know if there is any truth to that though. I have 2 of these that I have used for 2 years. Easy peasy.
posted by futz at 11:10 AM on December 13, 2011

I loved my Vicks vaporizer for the 3 years that I had it. Over time its output slowed to the point that it was no longer effective at humidifying the room, I think because minerals built up inside of it. We did soak it in vinegar every year or so, but never tried running vinegar through it the way EmpressCallipygos suggested -- doesn't that put smelly vinegar steam into your house?

Anyway, I think it was $15, maybe? So even if we had bought another one after 3 years, the price was awesome.

Now we have a Vicks V5100 ultrasonic humidifier, which we also love. One caveat is that it's a lot more humidifying than the vaporizer, and even on the lowest setting overnight we wake up to a near jungle in our small (10x10) bedroom. Definitely check the box to see how big of a space the unit is meant for, and don't get something that's overkill for the room.
posted by vytae at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2011

We did soak it in vinegar every year or so, but never tried running vinegar through it the way EmpressCallipygos suggested -- doesn't that put smelly vinegar steam into your house?

Yeah, there is that drawback. But the same happens when you run vinegar through your coffeemaker, so eh.

(Reiterating that I was putting the steam-makey thing into a much smaller bucket -- just big enough to house the steam-makey thing, really -- and putting the vinegar into that, so it used less. That helped. This was also a "do it on a spring afternoon next to an open window before putting it away for the year" thing.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:22 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have the budget a whole house humidifier is completely turn it on and forget it - no maintenance at all beyond changing the filter once per year. The impact on my water bill is negligible.
posted by COD at 11:24 AM on December 13, 2011

I just bought this small portable humidifier at Walgreens last week and completely love it. It uses a drinking water bottle as the reservoir. I use a Fiji water bottle with it and keep it on my desk at work, pointed toward me. Sometimes I add a few drops of essential oils to the water. It goes through much less water than a full-size humidifier, but because it's small enough to place really close to me, its output is more than adequate to help me breathe. Was worth every penny. For the past 5 years or so I've also been using a few of these animal humidifiers around the house and they work well, but they have to be cleaned every few days or they get musty smelling. I've found that using these ProTec humidifier treatment balls make a big difference in delaying bacterial growth in the tank though (they are less expensive in stores than on Amazon).
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:26 AM on December 13, 2011

A note on the whole-house humidifiers: The previous owners of our house had one installed, and it's only a few years old. We've been warned by our home inspector, plumbers, and furnace people to never use a whole-house humidifier because they will get moisture and condensation into the furnace and dramatically reduce the life of your heating system. The moistuere also causes accumulation of toxic molds & mildew in the ductwork of the house. Basic research online seemed to confirm this, so we avoid using the whole-house humidifier.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2011

I use filterless ultrasonic humidifiers only, which can go a week or two without needing hardcore care (hardcore: wipe off the ultrasonic needle, wipe out the base, maybe give it a weak bleach swish if it's getting funky).

I have a small bedroom primarily occupied by a king size bed, and just got this little one that runs on my nightstand and does not get anything wet (I do put it on a large plate because it'll drip when you take the top off) and keeps the local air breathable.

Last time I looked at those Crane animals on Amazon, it seemed like all the reviews said they broke in 2 months.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:33 AM on December 13, 2011

I've had the Crane penguin, frog, and elephant humidifiers. The penguin started leaking from the edges of the tank within a couple of months, but ran for about a year before the ultrasonic thingy died (I would just stuff paper towels under it to catch drips). The frog worked great for 2 years until husband dropped it on the garage floor. The elephant is still going strong in our bedroom at 3 years with no signs of problems, except for having to clean out the hard water deposits now & then.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 11:37 AM on December 13, 2011

Oh, I do like my little travel humidifier from Walgreens as well, but (at least the one I got) has a helpful "night light" that is like sleeping next to a small nova. The whole thing glows, it's not just one annoying light I can put electrical tape over (as I have done with the new "teapot" model).
posted by Lyn Never at 11:39 AM on December 13, 2011

I'm another one with a Crane humidifer--the hello kitty one (because i'm an adult and you should take me seriously). Easy to use, very cheap, and did not need much cleaning. The only downside is that you cannot not "aim" the vapor like you can with the larger more expensive models, but that was not such a big deal to me.
posted by inertia at 11:49 AM on December 13, 2011

Oh dear, there's a Hello Kitty humidifier? Why have I waited so long??

I'm glad to hear that so many people are pleased with what they have; that's different from what I've been hearing on Amazon et al.

cuddles.mcsnuggy - I've heard similar reports about the whole-house humidifier and especially since my house is small and old, it's probably best for me to stay low-tech.

Thanks to all who responded - and please feel free to respond if you haven't already.
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:05 PM on December 13, 2011

I bought the Vick's Vaporizer (warm mist) thanks to metafilter recommendations (you should have searched before wasting a question on it :P)

I thought it wouldn't work since it's a vaporizer, not an humidifier, but it works really great! Just keep the bedroom door almost closed so the moisture stays in the room.

It's very simple to use. It does have an annoying light night (I mean, I worked so hard to make sure my bedroom was dark, and now I have to deal with this stupid light?), but I just covered it, so it's OK now.

It's a bit loud, but bearable.
Like you I don't want maintenance. I keep a big water pitcher in the bedroom. When I wake up, I bring the pitcher with me to the bathroom, fill it up, and bring it back to the bedroom. At night time, I fill the vaporizer with said water. Easy peasy :-)
posted by midnightmoonlight at 12:07 PM on December 13, 2011

We bought this largish Kenmore humidifier from Sears around 3 years ago having previously tried a small unit (I forget the brand) that needed constant refilling. We're very happy with it: it's parked in our bedroom next to the air return and set to keep the house around 55%. In Denver in winter I have to refill the detachable reservoir--which is very easy--about once every couple of days.

It has a "whisper mode" which is very quiet indeed. You need to change the paper evaporative wick once a year or so. Very easy too.
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:53 PM on December 13, 2011

Pet Peeve triggered: This is water-vapor, liquid water droplets light enough to be carried by air, such as by evaporation or more energetic vaporization, and not steam, which is gaseous water, which, in the conditions of a home, would necessarily be a hot gas.

It's cool to use steam in reasonable amounts, such as to cook, relax wrinkles or hair, kill mold, strip paint, etc. But if you want it in your lungs and respiratory system, water vapor is your humidity agent of choice. Unless you are using heat, water vapor is what you have.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:03 PM on December 13, 2011

FWIW, I've been thinking about getting a humidifier also, since the dry, cold air is beating the hell out of my skin. However, my allergist recommends against them, saying that they cause more problems than they solve (what with mold, dust mites, etc.) YMMV.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 1:23 PM on December 13, 2011

Seconding the recommendation of the Vicks ultrasonic (cool mist). We've had a few different kinds over the years - evaporative, warm mist, other ultrasonics, and the Vicks is the easiest to clean and puts out a ton of moisture. You can actually reach all the internal surfaces to clean them, unlike some others we've had. The antibacterial and filter cartridges are worth the few extra dollars, since our hard water deposits can be tough to get off of things once theyve deposited.
posted by fixer at 4:52 PM on December 13, 2011

The ultrasonic ones are the ones that create the white dust, if your water has enough minerals in it. Because all they do is vibrate the water so little droplets of it leap up and are then swept into the air. When the droplet evaporates, the minerals are left as dust.

Sunburnt: I think what's getting you mixed up is that water vapor is the same thing as steam. Which is soluble in air up to the dew point. Humidity is just water dissolved in air, the same way salt can remain dissolved in water even though the water is below the melting temperature of salt.
posted by gjc at 5:14 PM on December 13, 2011

I have this Crane Drop Shape Humidifier. (I wanted the Hello Kitty one but share a bedroom with my husband, so.) We have only had it for a week, but it's great so far! It's very quiet, and the steam flow rate has a wide range. I also like that the flow can be directed.
posted by apricot at 6:44 PM on December 13, 2011

I have a one room, warm mist humidifier from Sunbeam. It's quiet-ish; there's a definite white noise with it, but not as loud as a fan, for example.

I find that it does help with the crusty, scabby boogery nose I would wake up with otherwise in winter. On the other hand, I do find it makes me feel more stuffed up. That generally dissipates, say after a hot shower, but it's noticeable when I wake up. It makes no appreciable difference in how dry my skin feels. It does help with static electricity!
posted by looli at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2011

We've purchased 4 of the Vicks Ultrasonic humidifiers over the years and love them. Originally we did get the white dust from using tap water but we switched to distilled water only and now can run it weeks at a time without having to clean it, and no white dust. The only downside is having to buy several gallons of distilled water every few days.
posted by popaopee at 8:07 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone - exactly the kind of info I was looking for. I'm going to opt for the non-ultrasonic Vicks for now, but if that doesn't work out, at least I have some vetted alternatives.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:28 AM on December 17, 2011

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