Homebrew humidifier
November 16, 2005 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Help me humidify my place on the cheap.

I have a small apartment, and heat is via a little gas heater with an electric blower. I'd like to up the indoor humidity a little for winter. The plan is to simply place a pot of water on top of the heater and let it evaporate. Who here does this sort of thing? Pointers, tips, suggestions and opinions welcome.

Should I use: a) my cheap stainless steel stock pot; b) my cheap aluminum (?) pot with even cheaper non-stick coating; or c) something else?

I think the non-stick coating is probably a bad idea - I don't think the water would ever get up to boiling, and I'll monitor it so as not to run it dry, but there remains the possibility of the stuff cooking off and out into the air. Any foreseeable issues with stainless?

I'll no longer use the humidifier vessel for cooking. What else do I need to consider?
posted by attercoppe to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Real humidifiers are not overly expensive.
posted by mcwetboy at 8:28 PM on November 16, 2005

Get a 20 gallon fish tank, it did the trick in my apartment.

The minerals in the water will be deposited on the side of the evaporating vessel no matter what you do. Don't buy a non-stick, just a cheap stainless steel pot will work.
posted by 517 at 8:32 PM on November 16, 2005

Best answer: Done it here, both for cooking (Major state-paralyzing blizzard), and humidifying.

I'd suggest stainless steel. Your heater shouldn't get hot enough to cause any issues with it. Don't fill the pot entirely, I suggest half to two thirds. Monitor the pot carefully at first to make sure it doesn't boil over. A real humidifier may be cheap, but I like this method. It doesn't leave a wet spot, saves energy by using already used heat, and it usually humidifies pretty evenly for me.

Issues to consider- Pets, children, space on top of the heater. Make sure this pot won't be knocked over, the water can easily scald. Start off with half a pot at most, to get a feel for how humid you want the apartment to be.

Good call on saving some money and energy.
posted by Saydur at 8:45 PM on November 16, 2005

Also, when you do laundry hang it up in your apartment to dry, don't use the dryer. Take hot showers with the windows closed. Breath heavy.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:17 PM on November 16, 2005

I don't see there is any real problem with what you plan to do, the only possible snag is if it is in a location where you're apt to bump it (say hitting the bathroom in the middle of the night) and dump a bunch of water into your electrical heater... But I do wonder if it will increase the humidity enough to be worth it.

If not, I would second taking a glance at inexpensive evaporative humidifiers, like Holmes, that are sold at any department store. They are what I use and with a very small amount of attention they are cheap to operate. A lot is available for around 30-50 dollars.
posted by nanojath at 10:07 PM on November 16, 2005

Re: materials, my folks use a cast iron pot on a woodstove to good effect. The only issue is some dramatic noise from boilovers, but it seems you've got that issue covered. AFAIK, non-stick is not good for anything except not sticking to things (obviously), and if you can avoid the possibility of potentially vaporizing bad stuff in the coating and either jeopardizing your health or the continued viability of your pot, go for it. I have no idea if this is actually possible or a non-trivial issue for your health or that of the pot, but it could be. :/
posted by moift at 10:16 PM on November 16, 2005

Buy a ten dollar vaporizer. If your apartment is as small as you say it is, it'll only take a couple hours to reach 50% humidity (having a hygrometer will help). Turn off and on as needed.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 10:25 PM on November 16, 2005

Funny to say that heating a pot of water on the heater doesn't use any additional energy, because it does: the energy of converting water from liquid to gas.
posted by knave at 3:02 AM on November 17, 2005

The type of "real" humidifiers sold these days are not effective, in my experience (and therefore a complete waste of money no matter what the cost.) However, the "old fashioned" kind that I grew up with -- not sleek tower units, but glorified pans of water with fans atop -- can sometimes be found at Goodwill for cheap, and they DO work.
posted by desuetude at 6:17 AM on November 17, 2005

Best answer: The problem with most hot or warm-water humidifier systems is that they are the perfect temperature for breeding bacteria. These then aerosolize with with water and you end up breathing a higher bacterial load than normal. It doesn't mean you'll get sick, but it does mean that your immune system will be stressed.

The cold-vapour humidifiers avoid this problem.
posted by bonehead at 6:44 AM on November 17, 2005

I agree with those who say you should just bite the bullet and get a real humidifier. I have a vaporizer I bought at Target for $30, and it's great. I forgot to turn it on last night for the first time since I bought it, and my face shriveled into a little prune, proving to me what a good investment it was.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:16 AM on November 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

We have a giant tropical fish tank (55 gallons) and it keeps our 900 sq. ft. apartment nicely humidified and warm too!
posted by chiababe at 8:40 AM on November 17, 2005

Knave, the energy used to convert the water to steam stays in the apartment. There may be some loss, but it's negligible. And humidity will make the place feel more comfortable at lower heat. niggle, niggle
posted by theora55 at 9:14 AM on November 17, 2005

I used to do this when had radiators, just to combat the natural drying effect they had.

I used a pot I bought at a flea market, because I can't keep track of time, and it often ended being hot and dry atop the heater.

Tips? Depending on your disposition, you could put aromatherapy oils or something in it I guess.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 9:39 AM on November 17, 2005

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