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Elusive Humidity

19 Nov 2003 by Jason Fried

It’s that time of year again. Time to buy a new humidifier. I swear, no matter how much research I do, how much money I spend, which brand I buy, my humidifiers barely work and never last me more than one season. I’ve bought the kind that create that magicical white mist. The kind that wick water with huge sponge-like inserts. And the kind that boil (?) the water and steam it out. Any recommendations? Moisturize me.

15 comments so far (Post a Comment)

19 Nov 2003 | Don Schenck said...

I know my cigar humidifiers insist on distilled water. Would that, perhaps, keep your humidifier working better and longer?

Mmmmmm ... cigars. Time to head home, Hoyo De Monterrey for my commute!

19 Nov 2003 | asdf said...

Been down that road. My only conclusion is humidifiers don't work - they are a waste of money.

19 Nov 2003 | Brad Hurley said...

I've had the same bad experiences. And Consumer Reports hasn't done an evaluation of humidifiers for almost 10 years, so it's hard to find out what's good.

I usually manage to maintain the humidity at a reasonable level by keeping the heat down (usually no higher than 66F during the day while I'm working; I just wear a sweater, and down to 55-60 at night), and hanging my laundry to dry on drying racks inside (I've never owned a dryer in my life). I also have lots of houseplants, which help keep the air humid.

19 Nov 2003 | Chris said...

Humidifiers are great. They do work. I too, however, have been searching for the right one. I currently have 3 humidifiers in my house. I only use one of course, but family and friends have lent me some to try.

The best, for me at least, is the cool mist vaporizer. Distilled water is a must. You'll ruin any humidifier if you're using tap water.

I had one last year that "boiled" the water. It left a brown burn on the linoleum. Scary.

Try out a cool mist humidifier, there are many on the market, and only ever use distilled water.

19 Nov 2003 | JF said...

Only distilled? Doesn't that get really expensive and cumbersome? I could easily go through 1-2 gallons a day.

19 Nov 2003 | Benjy said...

I bought the cheapest one Target had last winter and it's still alive but very loud. In Walgreens I saw this ultrasonic cool mist one for about the same price, and it was pretty quiet. Wishing I'd done some research on the various technologies...

As for the distilled water suggestion, if a humidifier costs $30 and distilled water is say $1/gallon then so long as it last more than a month I'd come out ahead by replacing the humidifier. Or am I missing something?

19 Nov 2003 | Dr_God said...

I have purchased several humidifiers over the years, and without fail, the next year they are discontinued, and you can't get the filters anymore.

How that I have my own house, I'm installing a humidifier in the furnace. It only costs $200-$300, and you never have to refill it with water. Well worth the price.

If you don't have access to your furnace (or don't have a furnace), I can recommend a goofy little gadget I bought last year called Mr. Misty. It screws onto the end of your shower head and produces tiny mist bubbles all day long. It worked quite well for the areas surrounding the bathroom.

19 Nov 2003 | JF said...

I have purchased several humidifiers over the years, and without fail, the next year they are discontinued, and you can't get the filters anymore.

That's the one really nice thing about Vornado. All their humidifiers use the same filter.

19 Nov 2003 | Chris said...

I put a whole house humidifer in last year. It works great, keeps the house at 40% no matter how much I crank the heat up. It's got a 5 year warrenty too.

20 Nov 2003 | Berto said...

Fill a big stew pot with water and bring it to a slow boil on the stove. Of course, I live in a studio and that fills the whole apartment.

20 Nov 2003 | steve, another steve said...

My wife has a humidifer that puts out that white dust on everything in our bedroom. So I kept the door closed and it jacked up my Xbox. Stopped working. Had to take it back.

But all's good, got version 2 of the Xbox and I think is has a clearer picture.

20 Nov 2003 | Derek Woolverton said...

I have one from Hunter fans. It basically just blows air across a filter that water is dripping down, but the "filter" is metal with anti-mold treatment. Has lasted three years so far (with pretty much year round operation) and is still going. About every 18 mo I have to open it up and clean out the sediment collecting on the impeller and hose. (we run it on tap water) My wife also occationally changes out the water that sits in the base.

During the winter I also keep water in kettles on top of the wood stove, that's fun to watch.

20 Nov 2003 | Darrel said...

I've gone through a humidifier a year too. The tap water definitely kills them, but I agree that buying gallon upon gallon of distilled water isn't to appealing.

The best solution, if you have a green thumb, is just lots of well-watered plants. But I don't have a green thumb.

The other solution I've seen is for those with the old, large radiators, just sticking a pan of water on top seems to help.

The problem with boiling water on the stove/running the shower is that it dumps a LOT of moisture into the air all at once...not always good for the house.

Derek...have a link for that humidifier you use? Sounds like a good one.

26 Nov 2003 | ~bc said...

I have a Hunter with a "lifetime, no maintenance filter." Bought it last year, worked. Using it again this year, still works. Humidguide says the moisture content goes up when it on, down when its off, so it's apparently working. It's cold moisture, which you can't see (no mist). I found it by searching allergy sites, and ordered it from Has worked out well. Sorry for the late comment, hopefully it'll add something to the discussion.

16 Jan 2004 | Tobias said...

This topic is one we will tackle later in this article, but it refers to making sure that your application and the dock aren't fighting it out for supremacy of the screen.

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