Humidifier or diffuser? Or do you need a dehumidifier? They all sort of sound the same, but what they actually do is quite different. Let’s look at what each of them actually does, what they’re best for, and what else you’ll need to know to make the best choice for your home.
What they do
First of all, let’s talk about what a humidifier, diffuser, and dehumidifier have in common: they each deal with moisture. What each does with it makes the big difference.
A humidifier, also sometimes known as a vaporizer, adds moisture to the air. The amount of moisture in the air is measured by the percentage of humidity. For optimum health, home humidity levels should be somewhere between 35-45%.
This range will be important as we continue our discussion on what type of appliance is best for your home, so keep it in mind.
What’s magical about this range of humidity? Not only does it keep your skin feeling nice, this is where sinuses and nasal passages are happiest. If you or someone in your family has been dealing with sinus congestion, runny noses, or discomfort, and you live in a drier part of the world, you may well benefit from running a humidifier in your home.
A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air. Let’s go back to the healthy humidity range for your home: 35-45%. If the humidity climbs above that, the environment encourages mold and mildew to grow.
Mold and mildew are something to avoid at all costs. It’s not just that they are unsightly and can ruin paint, clothes, furniture and any other solid surface. Mold is not healthy for anyone in your family.
Other than the visible signs of mold or mildew, your family could be exhibiting the symptoms of mold exposure, such as breathing problems, allergies, or asthma.
Diffusers add minimal moisture to the air. They are mainly engineered to add essential oils to your environment via a mist. Generally, they will have little effect on the overall humidity levels of your home.
The primary benefit of diffusers is through aromatherapy. If you have not experienced the sensations of smelling scents from lavender, rosemary, or other essential oils in a room, you’re in for a treat. Likewise, if you are already a fan of essential oils, diffusers will provide an effective way to add them to your environment.
All About Dehumidifiers
Dehumidifiers come in a whole range of sizes and styles. Let’s look at the types and how they work.
Dehumidifiers pull moisture out of the air in much the same way a cold drink does on a hot day. Yes, your glass of iced tea is demonstrating the principles of this process, every time it gets beaded up with moisture.
Colder air loses its ability to hold moisture – when that cold drink arrives, it begins to pull moisture out of the warmer air around it. On a larger scale, this is how your dehumidifier works.
- First, there will be a fan to pull the air into the unit.
- It will have some refrigerated coils that will pull the moisture out of the air and onto the coils, just the way that cold drink does.
- The moisture on the coils will then drip down into a holding tank, or reservoir.
- The unit will then heat the air up and use the fans to blow the dry air back into the room. Dehumidifiers will come in a range of sizes that are designed to work in small rooms up to whole houses. They can be portable, or made to work with your house’s central heating and cooling unit.
- Their output is measured in the number of pints per day that they pull out of the air. Models will vary in the way that they deal with that water, once it’s been extracted.
- Some units will have a reservoir that will need to be emptied periodically. These are more portable. On these units, a float valve will indicate to the unit that the water tank is full, and the unit will shut itself off.
- Another type of unit will have a place where tubing is connected, and then routed to a spot where the water will drain out, such as a drain or sink. These units are limited to the range that their hose or tubing will reach the drainage area.
- The last type of unit will have an internal pump that can move the water up a tube or hose to a height that is taller than the unit itself. This configuration can be used to send the water out a window or up to a sink drain. These are also limited in their portability, dependent on the length of hose that is used.
To select a dehumidifier for your home, you’ll need to consider the amount of space that you’re treating. You’ll need to determine the square footage of the area, and assess how much air moisture you need to remove. Here is a helpful calculator: https://goo.gl/images/t6Uxmx
Once you’ve decided on the size of the dehumidifier, you can also explore features such as washable filters, energy saving mode, and humidity settings.
All About Humidifiers
Humidifiers have a less complicated task – they put moisture into the air. Here’s how the process goes on:
- In evaporative style humidifiers, water is pulled up from a reservoir tank by a wicking filter. A fan blows across the filter, and is pushed out into the room, taking the moisture-laden air with it.
- In steam humidifiers, (aka: “vaporizers”) water is heated to boiling temperature in the reservoir, and the resulting vapor is pushed out into the air by a fan.
- In impeller-style humidifiers, the water is spun off a rotating disc, and onto a diffuser that releases the moist air into the air.
- In ultrasonic humidifiers, a vibrating disc bounces the water at an ultrasonic speed, breaks it into tiny droplets, and then releases it into the room.
Selecting the proper humidifier for your home depends on the area you wish to treat. Humidifiers are available in sizes that will treat small rooms, or whole houses.
If you are treating your dry air one room at a time, you can rely on a smaller unit. The difference will be in the size of the water reservoir.
- Console type humidifiers can treat a whole house – up to approximately 3000 square feet. These units hold up to several gallons of water when full, and are usually placed in a central area of the home. The moist air can then disperse throughout the entire space.
- Portable humidifiers can be placed on a tabletop, countertop, or floor. Smaller models hold about .5 to 1 gallons of water, and can treat up to 400 square feet or so. Larger models hold up to around 2.5 gallons, and can treat up to 2000 square feet.
Once you’ve determined the size and type of your unit, you can consider features like cool or heated vapor, humidistats, and timers. If you choose a basic unit that does not measure humidity, you can monitor the air in your space by using a hygrometer, and by looking for problem signs like condensation on windows. Remember, the healthiest range for your home humidity is between 35-45%.
All About Diffusers
If your home’s humidity is adjusted to a healthy range, and you just want to add some of the pleasant effects of scents and essential oils into your household, a diffuser is a simple and effective way to do just that.
Much like humidifiers, diffusers push microscopic droplets out into the air. The difference is in the amount of water used. Whereas humidifiers are actively working to raise the amount of moisture in the air of your home, diffusers are only using to water to effectively disperse the essential oil scents into your environment. Some diffuser types don’t use water at all.
- Ultrasonic diffusers vibrate a small disc under the water at a very high speed.
- The essential oils are added directly to the water, and is mixed into the microscopic droplets that are then blown out into the air.
- No heat is used, and a fine mist is produced. These units can be very small – tiny enough to run on a USB connection. They don’t cover as large of an area as some other diffuser types.
- Nebulizing diffusers don’t use water. They work by vibrating a tube that holds the essential oil, and then blowing the fine mist of the oil outwards into the room.
- Since nebulizers work with pure oils, they produce more fragrance, faster.
- They usually aren’t left on for long periods.
- Evaporative diffusers also don’t use water. Instead, they use a pad or filter to hold the essential oils.
- The most efficient styles use a fan to move the fragrance out into the room. The fan blows across the pad filter, and the scent is carried out into the room.
- The size of the unit, and the strength of the fan will determine how quickly and how far the fragrance will carry.
- They can be operated by a battery or electric, and are usually small in size- easy to use on a desk or tabletop.
Choosing the best diffuser for your home will depend on how much fragrance you want in the air, and the amount of area you wish to treat with aromatherapy. Once you’ve made that decision, you have a range of looks you can choose from – diffusers are available in all shapes and sizes, and types of materials – from glass to plastic to ceramic.
Humidifiers, Dehumidifiers, and Diffusers have completely different functions, and each can contribute to a healthier home environment. It’s quite possible that you will need one of each, depending on the season and your own personal preferences.
It’s not unusual for a home’s humidity to range from 20-65% at any time. With the proper use of dehumidifiers and humidifiers, you can control this range to the optimal 35-45% that is healthiest for your skin and respiratory system. Proper humidity control can also minimize problems in your home such as sticking doors, static electricity, and mildew.
Once you’re happy with the humidity range in your home, you can also enjoy the pleasant fragrances and mood-enhancing qualities of essential oils in your diffuser. Your diffuser won’t significantly alter the humidity in your home, but it can certainly improve the quality of your life through its ability to scent a room.