Humidifier problem
February 14, 2021 3:22 AM   Subscribe

Our two room humidifiers have suddenly stopped doing much humidifying. They’re cool-mist units made by different companies, and they have new filters.

One of these is in the living room. It’s set for 50% humidity, and we’re only getting 34%. The other is in my bedroom. I usually get a good 40% humidity out of it; right now, I’m getting a sinus-drying 24%. The water in the reservoirs is disappearing only very slowly, as though the filters aren’t taking up the water. I can’t think what common problem would simultaneously affect such different units, though.

This began about the same time as the deep cold snap in the US heartland. The house is not tightly sealed, but neither do we have drafts, and we’re keeping the temperature constant. So what’s working against us here?
posted by bryon to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Temperature . Cold air is drier air. However you heat your house is dealing with drier air. The humidifers are having to do extra work because the ambient humidity is lower.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:54 AM on February 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

What kind of water are you using? Tap water will eventually clog any kind of wick from which water is evaporating with mineral crusts. If you're in an area with hard water, this can happen quite quickly.

So if tap water is what you've been using, try giving the filters a vinegar clean or replacing them, then using distilled or RO filtered water instead.
posted by flabdablet at 4:56 AM on February 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yep I learned this the hard way too and now put RO water in the humidifiers.

But it could just be your humidifiers can’t keep up with the heating and low ambient RH. I’ve found cool mist humidifiers work great in tightly enclosed spaces. For whole rooms or houses they are usually overmatched.

Check it out by putting a plastic tent over one or both and seeing whether you get significant condensate.
posted by spitbull at 5:01 AM on February 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding AlexiaSky. I'm in the midwest too, it's -5F here, forced-air heating, and my whole-house humidifier struggles to get to 35%.

If the problem is the filter and you happen to get more output from the unit, be careful about too much inside humidity in ultracold weather. Your first symptom will be condensation and ice on your windows. That's not good if you have wood frames.

After that water will accumulate behind walls and in areas of the frame exposed to cold air. A friend thought he had a water leak or burst pipe in his ceiling during the 2019 Vortex - it was a cold water supply pipe too close to the outside (plus misplaced insulation) that kept gathering condensate into the drywall until the light fixtures started to drip.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:14 AM on February 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Are they ultrasonic? If so, the little needle that vibrates is prone to getting crusted up with water deposits and reducing mist output. I wrap mine in vinegar-soaked paper towel for a couple of hours - you can damage it trying to chip it off, so be careful with any mechanical removal.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:57 PM on February 14, 2021

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