Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic 7144
Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic 7144

Best humidifier

The Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic 7144 can produce warm or cool mist, so it's useful year round. It puts out up to 3.5 gallons of moisture per day, which the manufacturer says will humidify a 650-square-foot room (although some users disagree). Its digital humidistat maintains a preset target humidity level. Users praise this machine's quiet operation and sleek design, and they say its ultrafine mist is very effective. However, like most ultrasonic models, it can release minerals dissolved in the water, producing a white dust; some recommend using filtered water to control the problem. Also, some users find the 1.5-gallon tank tricky to refill.
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*Est. $ 200 Estimated Price
Crane EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier
Crane EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier

Best cool-mist humidifier

The Crane EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier is an ultrasonic tabletop humidifier with an output of 2.3 gallons per day, enough to humidify 250 square feet of space. However, the tank holds just 1 gallon of water, so it needs to be refilled often. This humidifier has variable mist output and shuts off automatically when the water tank runs dry. Users say it does its job efficiently and quietly. However, like all humidifiers, it must be cleaned regularly, a job some say is hard to do. Filling the tank can also be awkward, according to some users.
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Kenmore 15412
Kenmore 15412

Best whole house humidifier

The Kenmore 15412 is an evaporative humidifier that can put out 12 gallons of moisture per day, enough to humidify 2,500 square feet of space. Its humidistat allows you to adjust the humidity in 5-percent increments, and its double-fill tank system reduces the number of trips you must make to the sink. Professional tests indicate that the Kenmore 15412 produces very good moisture output, although it is much louder than most humidifiers. Users say this machine is easy to fill, but the ongoing cost of replacement filters (*Est. $18) is a minus.
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Vicks  Warm Mist V745A
Vicks Warm Mist V745A

Best warm-mist humidifier

Although experts generally say cool-mist humidifiers are better for most purposes, the Vicks V745A warm-mist humidifier is an option if you want to make a room feel warmer during the winter. The Vicks V745A has two vapor settings; users say the machine runs quietly on the low setting, but some find it too noisy on high. Some users also find this humidifier difficult to clean. The V745A has an automatic safety shut-off (though some say this feature can be unreliable) and a nightlight. One caution: We read several reports of leaks with this model.
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

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Types of Humidifiers

Humidifiers can help restore the balance of moisture found in your home, particularly in dry climates and in winter. They also can alleviate discomfort and symptoms associated with colds, asthma and other ailments by keeping the air moist.

There are two basic kinds of humidifiers: cool-mist humidifiers and warm-mist humidifiers. There are three types of cool-mist humidifiers. Most popular are ultrasonic humidifiers, which use high-frequency sound waves to vaporize water. They are also the quietest type. Some ultrasonic humidifiers also can emit warm mist. Evaporative humidifiers soak up water into a wick and use a fan to expel the moisture. As a result, these models can be noisy. Although the humidifiers themselves can be inexpensive, replacing their wicks or filters is an ongoing cost. Impellers force (impel) water into the air as a fine mist; however, we found no positive reviews for humidifiers of this type.

Less common are warm-mist humidifiers (sometimes called vaporizers), which boil the water before expelling it as steam. This can eliminate bacteria that's present in the water if it's heated to a true boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but it also means that minerals can build up in the tank and on the heating element over time. Some people prefer warm-mist humidifiers, saying the heated vapor is easier to breathe (especially if you're congested) and gently raises room temperature. But experts say the difference between the two is minimal, and doctors caution that warm-mist humidifiers pose a safety hazard because they can be tipped over by young children, scalding them.

In selecting the best humidifiers in each category, we considered the following: ease of use, noise level, refilling and maintenance convenience, and moisture output. The best of each category excelled in these areas. We also considered budget.

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