If you're not interested in a model that can produce both warm and cold mist -- or you don't want to spend $200 or more -- a cool-mist humidifier could be a reasonable alternative. Once again, the top-rated models all use ultrasonic technology.
Among inexpensive cool-mist humidifiers, the Crane EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier (Est. $50) gets the best feedback. This small tabletop ultrasonic humidifier has a 2.3-gallon output and can humidify a 250-square-foot room. It has variable mist output, an automatic shut-off feature and a rotating nozzle to direct the mist. It is sometimes referred to as the Crane Drop because of its unique drop-shaped profile. It's available in a spectrum of colors, including blue/white, aqua, black, green, orange, pink, red and white.
The Crane EE-5301 earns a recommended rating in one expert review. Convenience is a relative shortcoming, something that shows up in user reviews as well, but output, efficiency and noise levels are all rated as excellent.
Speaking of user reviews, most say that this Crane humidifier performs well and is very quiet. Ratings vary widely, depending on the site, but are generally better than average when compared to other humidifiers. The most common complaint among owners concerns the small, 1-gallontank, which needs to be refilled frequently and may leak when it's removed for filling. Like many cool-mist humidifiers, the Crane may emit fine white particles that settle on furniture and fixtures. The dust is residue from minerals found in tap water; it's harmless, experts say, but annoying nevertheless. Using distilled water can help mitigate this issue, but adds to maintenance costs. A demineralization cartridge is not offered.
Crane also produces a line of animal-shaped ultrasonic humidifiers that are mechanically similar to the EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier and that are well-rated by both experts and owners. They are an especially terrific choice for a child's bedroom.
The Crane Adorable Ultrasonic Humidifier (Est. $40) collection is available in a number of fun shapes. One version, the Crane Adorable Owl -- dubbed whimsically as Oscar the Owl by Crane, and officially as the model EE-8189 -- earns a Best Buy rating from the same reviewer that bestows a recommended rating on the Crain EE-5301. It rates identically to the EE-5301 in output, efficiency and noise, and rates a level better in convenience and how it handles hard water. Aside from their shell, other versions are identical; shapes include a frog, duck, tiger, elephant, pig, cow, pig, panda, dragon, dog, penguin, monkey, and hippo. Other adorable but non-animal models include a train engine and Hello Kitty.
User reviews again vary a little by site, but most seem pleased with all versions of this humidifier. As with the Crane EE-5301, the Crane Adorable humidifier is only rated to be effective in a 250-square-foot space, and a few owners seem disappointed with that. Also like the Crane EE-5301, some owners had problems with leaking from the tank. Unlike the Crane Drop, the company does offer a demineralization filter (Est. $9) for the Adorable Animal series. Most say that it helps keep down dust for those with hard water, but that it might not eliminate it completely and that they don't last very long.
The Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 (Est. $30) is another popular choice among reviewers. It earns a Best Buy recommendation in one expert review that we spotted, with output (for its class), energy efficiency and noise levels all top rated. This small humidifier offers adjustable output, with two rotating nozzles to direct the mist, and it can humidify an area up to 330 square feet. Users say this humidifier produces good mist output and is very quiet. They also like the auto shut-off feature and say the analog controls are easy to use. Like other humidifiers, however, some users complain that the Ultrasonic 360 isn't very durable, while others say it's prone to leakage. A few owners also complain that the humidifier can be knocked over easily.
Elsewhere in this Issue:
Best Humidifiers: Ultrasonic humidifiers get the lion's share of attention and positive feedback from experts, but how do they stack up in owners' eyes. We look at the feedback and name top choices.
Best Whole House Humidifiers: Is your whole house as dry as a tent in the desert? These whole house humidifiers will get things moist in a hurry.
Best Warm Mist Humidifiers: We look at the pros and cons of warm-mist humidifiers, and make our recommendations for those who find warm moisture preferable to cool.
Buying Guide: Need more information before deciding on a type and model of humidifier? You can find the answers to many common questions regarding humidifiers in our helpful Buying Guide.
Our Sources: These are the sources of expert and user reviews we used to prepare this report on humidifiers. We rank them in order of timeliness and helpfulness.