How Do Humidifiers Work

How Do Humidifiers Work?

Are you entertaining the idea of adding a humidifier to your living room or bedroom? Did you read about how effective humidifiers are for babies but want to do your own research? Or, did you purchase a humidifier on a whim and feel like you need a little more information on how exactly humidifiers work?

Regardless of where you are on your humidifier journey, welcome. In this blog, we will discuss:

  • What are humidifiers? (function, types, optimal humidity levels)
  • How do humidifiers actually work?
  • What are the benefits of humidifiers?

  • What Are Humidifiers?

    How do humidifiers work?

    A humidifier is an electrical device that disperses moisture into the air to increase relative humidity (RH).

    Sounds cool and all, but why would I need to increase the humidity of a particular space?” 

    Glad you asked! 

    Humidity is the total amount of water vapor present in the air at any given time. Humidity is responsible for the wet, sticky feeling you get on a tropical vacation and lack of humidity is responsible for the frigid, nose-biting cold of the winter months. 

    Humidity is a relatively finicky phenomenon… A Goldilocks scenario, if you will. 

    Too little humidity, and you can experience the following symptoms: 

    • Dry and itchy throat
    • Dry skin
    • Dry and flaky scalp
    • Bloody nose
    • Watery eyes, and more. 

    Too much humidity, and it becomes a breeding ground for mold, dust mites, vermin, and other things that go *bump* in the night. 

    You can rely on a humidifier to regulate humidity levels in your home creating a comfortable and healthy environment for you and your family regardless of seasonality. 

    The Types of Humidifiers

    There are three primary categories of humidifiers: cool mist humidifiers, vaporizers, and whole house humidifiers. While cool mist humidifiers, vaporizers, and whole house humidifiers raise RH levels of a designated space, each humidifier category offers a unique set of benefits and potential drawbacks based on your personal preferences. 

    Cool Mist Humidifiers

    There are two types of cool mist humidifiers, which include ultrasonic humidifiers and evaporative humidifiers. Both types of cool mist humidifiers deliver a fine, cooled mist into the surrounding space through varying delivery mechanisms. We will discuss how cool mist humidifiers operate in the next section “How Do Humidifiers Work?” 

    For more information about cool mist humidifiers, you can read “What is a Cool Mist Humidifier?” 


    Vaporizers or “Steam-Based Humidifiers” release slightly warmed moisture into the air. Vaporizers can slightly elevate the temperatures of a given space, which makes them a cold season favorite. 

    For more detail specifically related to vaporizers, you can read “Humidifiers vs. Vaporizers.” 

    Whole House Humidifiers

    Whole house humidifiers are also known as “central humidifiers.” This type of humidifier connects to your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning) system and elevates RH in your entire home. Whole house humidifiers can humidify 1,000 square feet or more depending on the device output; in comparison, portable humidifiers can humidify 300 to 600 square feet on average. 

    The “Perfect” Humidity Level

    The perfect humidity level for your home is between 40% and 60%

    Optimal humidity levels for your home environment are between 40% and 60%. The “perfect” humidity level on this scale is based on your personal preference; some like it less humid, some like it more humid, and some like it moderately humid. There is no “right” answer on this scale. 

    How Do Humidifiers Work?

    Now that you know the different types of humidifiers and their function, we can take a look at how they work. Each type of humidifier boasts a unique delivery system that dispels a fine mist into the surrounding environment for elevated moisture and increased comfortability. 

    Ultrasonic Humidifiers

    An ultrasonic humidifier operates by vibrating a small, metal diaphragm at the bottom of the water tank at ultrasonic speed. The resulting vibration creates water droplets that are fanned into the air in the form of a fine mist. 

    Evaporative Humidifiers

    Evaporative humidifiers operate like a pedestal fan. This type of humidifier draws in air from the room and pushes it through a moistened wick. The wick adds micro-fine water droplets to the air, which is then pushed back into the room with an internal fan.


    A vaporizer or a steam based humidifier works by boiling water in the water tank to create steam or vapor. The vapor is fanned into the room raising both humidity levels and room temperature. 

    Central Humidifiers

    Central humidifiers attach directly to your HVAC system and connect to your water supply. When your central humidifier is in the “on” position, air flows into the humidifier passing through a wick moistened by the water supply. The air then flows through the vents providing moisture throughout your entire home. 

    What Are the Benefits of Humidifiers?

    Regulating your home humidity levels with the aid of a humidifier can provide a vast array of health and wellness benefits. Simply pressing the “on” button of your humidifier, and taking a survey of RH in your home every now and again can keep you and your family healthy, happy, and extremely comfortable. 

    Humidifiers combat the flu, colds and COVID 19, improve allergy and asthma symptoms, improve congestion and dry throat, help with dry skin, chapped lips and dry scalp, and much more. 

    Humidifiers Combat the Flu, Colds & COVID-19

    Humidifiers help to combat COVID 19

    A recent study in the Annual Review of Virology relayed the importance of humidity in the body’s response to viral infections. The study found that lower levels of humidity improved the survival rate of airborne pathogens, reduced the efficacy of cilia (little hairlike structures in the airways) to protect against foreign particles, and weakened the body’s immune response. 

    Makes you want to crank the humidifier, huh? Regular use of a humidifier to regulate humidity levels in your home can help your body respond to extraneous invaders like the flu, the common cold, and COVID-19.

    Humidifiers Improve Allergy Symptoms

    If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you are in luck! Humidifiers can help to reduce the severity of allergy symptoms including: congestion, sore throats, watery eyes, sinus pain, and inflammation as a result of allergy triggers. 

    Learn more about how humidifiers help to improve allergy symptoms here

    Humidifiers Improve Congestion

    The fall and winter months notoriously bring with them colds, stuffy noses, sore throats, chronic cough, and countless other dry air aggravations. Dry air eliminates the lubrication in your airways, which causes irritation and inflammation in your airways. 

    Regular use of a humidifier in your home will improve congestion, sore throat, or dry cough making the fall and winter months less bothersome and more enjoyable. 

    Humidifiers Help with Dry Skin, Lips & Scalp

    Dry skin known as “xerosis” is the result of the skin losing water content faster than it can be replaced. In the dry, winter months, the skin loses heaps of moisture to the environment; the lower levels of humidity do little to nothing to replace this lost moisture. The result is dry, itchy, flaky, and inflamed skin. 

    Low humidity levels can also lead to chapped lips, dry, flaky scalp, and severely dry or cracked hands. Adding a humidifier to your home will help to replenish necessary moisture (and comfort!) to your skin, lips, scalp, and hands.