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 may be a better choice. And among inexpensive cool-mist humidifiers, the Crane EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier (*Est. $50) is top-rated. This small tabletop humidifier has a 2.3-gallon output and can humidify a 250-square-foot room, but it has only a 1-gallon tank. It has variable mist output, an automatic shut-off feature and a rotating nozzle to direct the mist. This model gets strong recommendations from more than 1,000 users posting reviews to Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com and Viewpoints.com, earning an average score of 4 out of 5 stars at each site.
Users say this Crane humidifier performs well and is very quiet. The most common complaint among owners concerns the small tank, 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 can add more maintenance cost. Unlike the Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic 7144, the Crane does not require pricey filters or cartridges.
Crane also produces a line of whimsical, animal-shaped humidifiers that are mechanically similar to the EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier and nearly as well rated. The Crane Adorable Animals (*Est. $40) are available in a number of fun animal shapes (pig, frog, dog, owl, etc.). While popular, a number of consumers reviewing them at Amazon.com and Viewpoints.com say their units arrived broken. Others note that the humidifier's output is minimal and ideal only for smaller spaces. As with its sister model, the Crane EE-5301, some consumers had problems with leaking from the tank.
The Safety 1st Ultrasonic 360 (*Est. $30) is another popular choice among reviewers. 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 consumers 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.