While all humidifiers add moisture into the air and can serve great benefits for your health and your home, they may do so in different ways. There are four main types of humidifiers: ultrasonic humidifier, evaporative humidifier, steam vaporizer, and whole-home humidifier.
So if you're looking into buying an air humidifier and are confused about all the different types and names... Well, we're here to help.
In this series, we'll overview the different kinds of humidifiers, and in this article, we'll cover the steam vaporizer, also commonly known as a warm-mist humidifier.
How It Works
A steam vaporizer relies on electricity and internal heating to produce a warm mist of moisture, which can slightly increase a room's temperature in the process. The device boils water in the reservoir to create hot steam, which is cooled down before being released into the air.
Vaporizer humidifiers are commonly used and work well with medical inhalants, which can provide relief for allergy sufferers as well as those dealing with common cold and flu symptoms such as coughing and nasal congestion.
Steam vaporizers are typically known to be more hygienic than cool-mist humidifiers, since the boiling process kills harmful bacteria and mold in the water. (An evaporative humidifier requires a filter, which can be teeming with germs if not cleaned regularly and properly. And an ultrasonic humidifier doesn't even have a filter, so any contaminants in the water tank may be carried into the air.)
Warm steam humidifiers can also help soothe nasal passages, providing much-needed relief for springtime stuffy nose or simply allowing for a better night's sleep. Many portable models are small and sleek in design, fitting perfectly on a nightstand or small table in your bedroom.
They're also the quietest type, unlike the ultrasonic humidifier, which produces a vibrational hum, and the evaporative humidifier, whose internal fan makes a fairly loud stirring noise.
Finally, the warm mist from a steam vaporizer could provide some extra heating for the cold winter months. Add in the fact that moist air naturally feels warmer than dry air, and you might not need to crank up the thermostat too high, which could potentially save some money on your energy bill.
Of course, steam vaporizers do pose a risk of burn to children and pets — so be sure to keep them away from hot water. And since warm-mist devices use a heating element to boil water, they require more energy usage than other kinds of humidifiers. In fact, the electricity consumption for a this type of humidifier is similar to that of a wall-mounted air conditioning system — approximately 300 W or more.
As a result of this significant energy expenditure, steam vaporizers turn out to be very powerful and effective at producing moisture, so remember to monitor and regulate the humidity level from time to time in order avoid to excessive dampness in the environment, which can promote the growth of mold and bacteria. And during the summer, especially if you live in a hot, humid climate, the increase in temperature due to additional warm water vapor could make things a bit uncomfortable indoors. In fact, if you have both a warm-mist and cool-mist humidifier in the house, it's best to use the former in the winter and the latter during the summer.
While the process of boiling is highly sanitary and kills almost all biological contaminants in the vaporized water, the insides of the machine may collect bio films - bacterial colonies that stick to surfaces and build up over time. And since steam vaporizers typically can't be disassembled, these growths can be nearly impossible to clean.
How To Clean And Maintain
Since the water in a warm steam vaporizer is boiled before it exits the device, using tap water should be fine. But always feel free to use purified or distilled water if you have it. Remember to replace this water daily — empty out and dry the tank, then refill with new clean water.
While the risk of bacteria growth or mineral buildup is fairly low with a steam vaporizer, still be sure to thoroughly sanitize the inside of your humidifier every three days. The cleaning process is fairly simple: "Empty the tank and use a brush or other scrubber to clean it," the EPA recommends. "Remove any scale, deposits, or film that has formed on the sides of the tank or on interior surfaces" One common cleaning method is to rinse the inside with lukewarm water and use white vinegar or bleach as a disinfectant. However, avoid using detergents or other abrasive cleaning agents, which can damage the inside of the device.
- How do I tell if my steam vaporizer is working?
There should be a visible stream of warm mist and perhaps a very faint sound coming from the device. If you suspect that the humidifier is broken, turn it off and try to fix the issue before continuing to use it.
- When should I turn on my humidifier?
Any time, day or night, when you're at home is fine. Turn off the humidifier when you're away from the house and when the humidity level reaches close to 60%, as between 30% and 50% is the ideal humidity range for indoor settings.
- What are the benefits of using a humidifier?
Excessive dryness in your home can cause all kinds of problems. By adding moisture into the surroundings, air humidifiers may be able to help with health issues such as dry skin, congested nasal passages, eyes/nose/throat irritation, and other common cold and allergy symptoms. Humidifiers can also improve your overall indoor environment, serving benefits for your plants, pets, and furniture.
At the end of the day, the best type of humidifier is the one that best suits your needs and preferences.
To summarize, steam vaporizers work by boiling water from a reservoir to create steam, which is then released into the air to provide humidity. These warm-mist devices are quiet in operation, compact in design, extremely hygienic, and provide additional heat to your surroundings. They're also commonly used in conjunction with inhalants, which can provide indoor allergy relief and help with respiratory symptoms such as dry nose, sore throat, and irritated airways. However, unlike cool-mist humidifiers, steam vaporizers are not the most energy-efficient and do pose a burn hazard.
In the end, if maintained properly through the years, an steam vaporizer could be a great investment that provides tremendous benefits for your personal health and overall well-being, as well as that of your family and home.