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If you or anyone in your household complains of itchy skin, sore throats, chapped lips, or frequent static shock, your home probably has low humidity. Running a humidifier can help. Learn more about the benefits of adding moisture to the air and how to choose the right humidifier for your needs.

What Is a Humidifier?

A humidifier is a piece of equipment that increases humidity. While different types of humidifiers work slightly differently, they all convert water into vapor to help combat dry indoor air.

Humidifiers come in two primary forms—portable and whole-house. Portable units are small enough to place on a table or countertop. They feature a reservoir that you must refill every few hours to keep the humidifier running. While portable units can only humidify one room at a time, whole-house units work in tandem with the HVAC system, delivering water vapor evenly throughout your entire home.

When to Run a Humidifier

The goal is to keep your home’s relative humidity between 30% and 50% at all times. In the summer, you may actually need to run a dehumidifier alongside your air conditioner to bring the relative humidity below 50%.

However, things are different in the winter. Cold outdoor air can’t hold as much moisture, and the furnace dries out whatever humidity may be present. Look for symptoms of low humidity—including dry skin, chapped lips, and static shock—or purchase a handheld hygrometer for an official relative humidity reading. If it’s below 30%, you could benefit from running a humidifier.

Types of Humidifiers

Many different brands, sizes, and styles of humidifiers are available. Here are the five primary types to choose from:

  • Ultrasonic humidifiers produce a cool or warm mist via ultrasonic vibration. They operate nearly silently, making them a good choice for humidifying your bedroom as you sleep.
  • Evaporative humidifiers, or evaporators, feature a cold-water reservoir and a water-wicking filter. A fan blows over the moistened filter, evaporating the moisture and expelling it into the room.

Impeller humidifiers feature rotating disks that spin at high speeds. A comb-like diffuser splits the water into tiny droplets, which waft into the room as a cool mist.

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