Humidifiers infuse moisture back into the air

At about this time of the year, you halfheartedly crank up the heat in your home. You welcome the warmth but cringe at the prospect of feeling your body reaching the dehydration level of a potato chip.

A humidifier can infuse moisture back into the air and bringing relief to chapped lips, flaky skin and even flu-like symptoms.

Think square-foot coverage. The size of your appliance should match the size of the room. A voluminous humidifier in your child’s room, for instance, might cause more harm than good. “When it comes to humidity, the sweet spot is between 40 and 60 percent,” says Lynne Hammell, at Kaz, maker of Honeywell humidifiers. “If it’s higher, you’ll notice it: condensation on the windows, the wallpaper peeling a bit for those who have it.”

Convenience factor. While portable humidifiers with water filters solve the problem of over-humidification, most people don’t want to deal with the hassle of replacing that filter. Enter the ultrasonic models, which expel fine water mist using high-frequency sound vibrations. No extra steps required. These units are ideal for a single room, such as a bedroom. 

Go big or go home. When you decide to extend that sense of coziness throughout your entire home, invest in a whole-house appliance.

Some whole-house appliances mount directly to your furnace. Behind their whopping price tag — up to $700 for some brands — there are several boons. For one, they can prevent the wood floor you paid a fortune for from drying and cracking. The warming effect also allows you to lower the temperature on the thermostat.

Cool mist versus warm mist. Both humidifiers will get the job done, says Hammell. The first type boils the water to emit a cooled steam, while the second one uses a fan to blow moisture. “It’s just a matter of personal preferences.” 

When it comes to kids, most experts favor the cool mist. On the flip side, though, cool-mist humidifiers can disperse white dust calcium deposits from hard water. The United States Department of Labor says “the main hazard of exposure to mineral dust is pneumoconiosis, a general term for disease of the lungs caused by dusts,” but there are simple ways to counteract this issue. Regularly clean the tank and use distilled or purified water.

Anti-microbial features. Want to up your germ-fighting game? Opt for a humidifier with anti-microbial features like the Honeywell Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports ranked this model second out of 34 tested for their efficiency at inhibiting bacterial growth in the tank and for not emitting bacteria into the air.

Keeping the humidity in check might help shield you from the germs in your house or office. “It actually helps reduce the survival of the flu virus on surfaces and in the air,” says Hammell.

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