Humidifier Recommendation for NYC apartment
January 3, 2013 5:02 AM   Subscribe

I need a humidifier Recommendation for NYC apartment. Cool/Warm? Both? I've tried putting a bowl on the heater, but that's not working.
posted by chirico to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My girlfriend just got us a small plug-in one that shoots out cool mist and it is awesome. No more 3 A.M. nosebleeds and/or waking up with screaming dehydration headaches.
posted by griphus at 5:07 AM on January 3, 2013

Seek out the cheap, simple boiling water-types that used to be everywhere in the 70s and 80s, if you can find them. Maybe it's just me, but I don't find I get what I'm looking for at all from a room filled with cold, atomized water.

Vicks calls this "warm steam" as opposed to "warm mist" or "cool mist," so be careful when buying.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 5:09 AM on January 3, 2013

After years of mucking around with expensive Honeywells and such, and getting leaks and premature component failures for my trouble, we got an el cheapo Vicks Vaporizer from CVS:

One benefit over the Honeywells: the water reservoir is solid plastic, as opposed to some sort of gravity fed thing that requires a valve, i.e., you're not going to leak water unless you somehow puncture the plastic.

One drawback: no measure of humidity in the room. Pick up a $10 hygrometer from Amazon.

The amount of steam it puts out is dependent on how much salt you put into the water. I find a half teaspoon of salt will bring the humidity up to 65% in my bedroom with the door closed. Use less salt to generate less steam. You'll need a few nights to figure out how much salt to put in.

There's some black flakes in the reservoir after a night's use. This is the carbon elements in the heat unit flaking off. We just dump out any remaining water, fill it again, put in the little bit of salt, and run it again the next night. This actually works out better than the more expensive units, as you tend not to clean the expensive as often as recommended, meaning there's mineral/iron build-up that's difficult to remove.

Since the Vick's is around $30, I figure I can get a new one every season if necessary, and still come out ahead after 3 years compared to my last Honeywell that failed at around the 3-year mark with the water leakage. So far, this Vick's has lasted a season and a half without any problems.
posted by chengjih at 5:15 AM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

We enjoy our adorable elephant cool mist humidifier.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:22 AM on January 3, 2013

Also, if your apartment is like just about every other NYC apartment, I can't imagine you'd want a warm-air humidifier. Unless you want to live in an autoclave instead of an oven, I guess.
posted by griphus at 6:08 AM on January 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

I bought the most popular one on Amazon after posting here and am happy with it.
posted by valeries at 6:12 AM on January 3, 2013

We've had two of these Adorable Penguin Humidifiers in our NYC apartment (one fell to its untimely death thanks to our cats). No complaints other than it's kind of hard to fill. I like the cool mist but I think it's just a matter of preference.
posted by xiaolongbao at 6:13 AM on January 3, 2013

We just got this Crane humidifier (pretty teardrop shape!) and have been very happy with it.
posted by brilliantine at 6:18 AM on January 3, 2013

Hello, Jersey City apartment with blown air heaters here. We use the Vicks UV Germ Free Humidifier.

Pros: We run it at max setting and only have to fill up the water jugs once every two days. This was a big plus for me, as I find it kind of annoying to have to keep refilling them constantly. Generates warm steam instead of cool mist, and not too noisy.

Cons: with our water I have to de-mineralize it frequently even when I use humidifier mineral absorption pads. And it makes some noise, especially in the first 15 minutes that you turn it on. I've come to find the sound rather soothing, and given that we have a city apartment it's generally not even the loudest thing that we can hear overnight.
posted by lyra4 at 6:35 AM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all these responses. I've been considering the Crane teardrop one, and as griphus points out, I don't think a warm mist one would be the wise choice in our place.
posted by chirico at 7:36 AM on January 3, 2013

If I can tack on my own question here, can you guys add how difficult any of these are to clean?

My significant other just bought an expensive Honeywell model, and the thing is a huge, expensive pain in the butt to maintain. If you don't run it constantly, the filter gets moldy in a few days -- if you do run it constantly, it gets moldy in a few weeks.

Oh, and for whatever it's worth, virtually every humidifier sold in the US, regardless of brand name, is actually made by Kaz.
posted by schmod at 8:04 AM on January 3, 2013

Nthing the cheap vaporizers everyone else has. I also live in New York and know exactly why you're doing this.

(Schmod - the vaporizers like chengjih recommended do have carbon flakes building up in the inside, but I try running white vinegar through them once in a blue moon and that seems to keep that in check. Even when I don't it doesn't really impact the functionality; it does look a tiny bit alarming, though.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 AM on January 3, 2013

Yeah, I'd love to know the answer to schmod's question. We just realized that the filterless cool mist one we have running in the baby's room is a foul cesspit of mold, and enormously difficult to clean.
posted by kestrel251 at 8:44 AM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: I would like to know as well. Any word on how hard the teardrop ones are to clean and how often?
posted by chirico at 8:51 AM on January 3, 2013

I have an ultar-sonic one (which I believe is more or less the same as the tear-drop), and have lots of mineral build up in/around the reservoir (ie NOT the tank). I rinse out every few days and if it's really scaly, will soak in vinegar. I dish-soap wash the tank usually end-of-season, though we don't run it all winter, so if it's off for a few days, everything gets rinsed/cleaned/vinegar'd.
posted by k5.user at 8:56 AM on January 3, 2013

Unless you're using distilled water, the water will contain impurities and will condense out onto the humidifier components as you evaporate water. A lot of humidifiers will have some sort of filter/absorption pad to mitigate this (which means that you will spend money on filters/pads), but I've found these to be imperfect: you still are going to do some cleanup with vinegar, perhaps frequently. Depending on the type of humidifier, performance may decrease as the filters become saturated with deposits or there's a mineral buildup that creates an insulating layer between the water and the heating element (in warm mist models).

That's sort of the reason I like that cheapo Vick's vaporizer. The black carbon flakes look alarming (though they're harmless) so you toss out the water every day or two. I think the mineral impurities never get concentrated enough to participate out onto the mechanism (and if they do, the thing is cheap and I'll get a new one). Basically, I change the water, and every couple of weeks, I'll wipe down the inside with a paper towel to pick up any residual carbon.
posted by chengjih at 9:46 AM on January 3, 2013

We too have an animal Crane humidifier and adore it--the owl if you must know, and it is not hard to clean.

I would warn against teardrop shaped humidifiers based on my experience with a boss' humidifier. I don't think it was Crane but I can't be sure. Anyway, the way you refilled it was upside down, and the relatively narrow top became a relatively narrow, slippery base that made it awful to refill. In contrast, the one I have has a wide almost flat base with a big handle so it's easy to keep a good grip on while I'm refilling it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:03 AM on January 3, 2013

We have this Crane Warm Mist. It runs all night on a tank, doesn't leak, and is fairly quiet other than occasionally gurgling. It requires a vinegar rinse once in awhile. The warm mist ones do not grow mold or anything inside like the cold ones do, since the water is boiled.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2013

Mine has never had mold on it (the UV light it comes with/ boiling for warm mist prevents that from happening). What I do get is mineral build up, which a vinegar soak will clear up. Super easy. All the removable pieces are dishwasher safe, so I also do that every so often.

As the young rope-rider notes, pay attention to how you refill it. I loooove the soft padded rubber handles & flat top of the one we've got. Refill is easy: use handle to lift one "jug" out of the base. Flip upside down. Unscrew cap, put under kitchen faucet filter. Fill up- doesn't need to be held while filling. Replace cap, use handle to carry back to base, flip & put in. Done.
posted by lyra4 at 12:06 PM on January 3, 2013

Response by poster: For those who have tried both warm and cool, what advantages/disadvantages do you see/feel?
posted by chirico at 12:16 PM on January 3, 2013

I chose cold because with a child, warm or hot water seemed potentially unsafe. That might still be a consideration depending where you want to place it or if you have animals or vulnerable people around.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:28 PM on January 3, 2013

Yeah, same deal. I keep mine on the nightstand next to my side of the bed and god forbid I flail while sleeping or the dog knocks it over or something and it is full of boiling water.
posted by griphus at 12:32 PM on January 3, 2013

For those who have tried both warm and cool, what advantages/disadvantages do you see/feel?
Many years ago I had a cold mist and it didn't seem to put much water into the air, but they may have improved since then. However the ultrasonic release white powder, and you can't use the cold ones with aromatic cold medicines. They tend to use less power than the hot, however I prefer to have one that heats water and kills germs before atomizing them. Ours is right next to the bed on a low stand. It's got a pretty heavy base and a shutoff switch if it is tipped over. We don't flail while sleeping (nor does our dog) and even so it would take serious flailing to tip this thing over. The water would hardly even spill as the container must be seated for the valve to open. It's not full of boiling water anyway, there's just a small heating element that heats water as it goes down and through.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:15 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, someone where I work sent an email recommending that teardrop one on Amazon, and approximately everybody at the company replied saying they had it and it was the one to get.

I've only had mine for a month or so, but I just rinse it out with a vinegar and water solution every couple of days as recommended by the manual. I can't say if this will be enough in the long run of course, but so far it's fine.

My understanding is that with ultrasonic (cold) humidifiers, since you're not boiling the water, the minerals in the water will come out into the air dissolved in the water (the water is just a fine mist, like a spray bottle but finer.) Pro: no minerals in your humidifer. Con: minerals everywhere else. According to what I read, this will never be a problem as long as your humidifier isn't cranked, because the water dissolves into the air instead of settling somewhere where it can evaporate and leave minerals behind.
posted by !Jim at 7:56 PM on January 3, 2013

Chiming in to say I LOVE Ask. I have had a frustrating weekend looking for a humidifier and finding lots of bad reviews when I googled the models I found on shelves. I thought about asking here & found this wonderful thread. Thank you all for your input and experience. This is the first NYC apartment I've needed one - thank you for actually being heated!
posted by TravellingCari at 1:41 PM on January 6, 2013

Ultrasonic humidifiers are infinitely better than the gross ones with filters. I have the Crane teardrop and love it to bits. It fits in my sink and is kind of cradled by the sides, so it hasn't been too annoying to fill it. One of those weird life-changing little gadgets.
posted by barnone at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2013

Oh, and I haven't encountered the white powder. We set it about 1/2 way around the dial (i.e. not at full speed), so maybe that's helped?
posted by barnone at 3:05 PM on January 14, 2013

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