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Where Should I Put a Humidifier?

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: September 03, 2022

Dry air can affect everything from your skin to your hair and nasal passages. Humidifiers put moisturizing water vapor into the air to soothe your throat and quench your dry skin. But there’s always the lingering question of where to place it. An ill-positioned humidifier may not do you any good and could actually harm you and your home.

Warm Mist Humidifiers versus Cool Mist Humidifiers

The first place to start is with the type of humidifier you want and how you plan to use it. The two broadest humidifier categories are warm-mist and cool-mist humidifiers. They function slightly differently, and each has its pros and cons.

Warm-Mist Humidifiers

Warm-mist units have a heating element that causes the water to steam. That steam cools slightly before it enters the home’s environment. But once there, it adds humidity to break up a stiff cough or soothe the skin. The heat from these models reduces the risk of bacteria or mold growth in the humidifier. Warm-mist models also take up less room because they don’t require an air intake. They can be placed near a wall or in a corner, though that may not be the most ideal location based on the layout of your home.

A shortlist of the advantages of a warm-mist humidifier include:

  • Killing more bacteria and mold
  • Maintaining warm temperatures in the winter
  • Running quieter than cool-mist humidifiers
  • Requiring less clearance space

The Cons: These humidifiers are not recommended for homes with young children or pets. If the humidifier gets knocked over, the spilled water is hot enough to scald.

Cool-Mist Humidifiers

There’s more variety in the design with cool-mist humidifiers. Through various methods (ultrasonic vibrations or an impeller), they release water vapor or droplets into the room. They can relieve sinus congestion and low humidity levels just like a warm-mist unit, and they’re often less expensive.

The advantages shortlist includes:

  • A lower price tag
  • Safer because there’s no risk of scalding
  • More types to choose from

The Cons: On the downside, these models are more prone to bacteria and mold growth. If they’re not properly maintained, that bacteria and mold gets spread throughout your home. It can cause flu symptoms, producing more of the very symptoms you’re trying to relieve. These models also need more clearance space than a warm mist humidifier. All cool mist models have some kind of intake fan, so they can blow the mist droplets out of the humidifier. If they’re placed next to a wall or a piece of furniture, the intake may get blocked, and the humidifier won’t function efficiently.

Humidifier Placement Tips

As you’re deciding on where to place the humidifier, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Match the Humidifier’s Recommended Square Footage to the Room Size

Humidifiers are designed to be used in a specific square footage space. That square footage should match the room size where the humidifier is used. A small room doesn’t need nor should it have a large humidifier. Too much humidity can cause water droplets to form on furniture, walls, the ceiling, or the floor, promoting mold, mildew, or water damage. At the same time, a small humidifier in a large room won’t make enough of a difference in the humidity for you to get the full health benefits from the humidifier.

Track the Humidity

Humidifiers aren’t necessarily a set-it-and-forget-it device. Safe humidity levels fall between 30 to 50 percent. Hygrometers measure humidity levels and are the best way to keep track of them. And you need to keep an eye on those levels because relative humidity changes as the temperatures change. Cold air holds less moisture than warm air. If the temperatures rise in a room with a humidifier going, the humidity levels may get too high. If it’s running at the same speed when the temperatures are cold, humidity levels may not stay in that healthy range.

Some humidifiers have a built-in hygrometer. Others have a built-in hygrometer and an auto setting that slows down the humidifier or shuts it off to help maintain a preset humidity level. So whether the hygrometer is built-in or bought separately, it’s an integral part of monitoring the safety of your home environment.

Room Occupancy

In some conditions, extra people in a room soak up and breathe in moisture that causes low moisture levels, the more people you have in the room. If that’s the case, there may be times you need to turn up the humidifier to maintain healthy humidity. For example, if you have house guests for several days or plan a get-together. Check that hygrometer and adjust the humidifier’s output to meet the demands of the room.

Use Distilled Water

The type of water you use matters. Tap water often has minerals that leave white rings or mineral deposits in the humidifier. Over time, they can clog the humidifier and reduce its efficiency. Distilled water goes through a purification process that removes many of these minerals. It’s generally easier on the humidifier and reduces the need for you to remove mineral deposits.

Distilled water also prevents the water vapor from the humidifier from leaving powdery white dust on the floor, furniture, or you.

Humidifier Room Placement

It’s not just the room size that affects a humidifier’s effectiveness. It’s where the humidifier is placed in the room and how that room is used. We’ve put together tips for the rooms in which you’re most likely to need a humidifier.

Living Room

As one of the most used rooms in the house, there’s a good chance you’ll use your humidifier in the living room. The best location is centrally located with the humidifier off of the floor so that the mist droplets go into the breathable air space. A small table at the end of the sofa is a good option. You may want to use a wood resistant cover on wooden surfaces or upholstery to prevent excess moisture from damaging the wood or fabric.

A few places to avoid in the living room include over heating vents or near a window. The air coming from either one is low in humidity. Humidifiers with built-in hygrometers may over humidify the room because in that specific location, moisture levels are low. The skewed readings could create an unhealthy environment.

Bedroom

Humidifiers are a great addition to the bedroom because they treat nighttime congestion and dryness that may come with snoring or sleeping with an open mouth. The humidifier needs to be near the sleeper for the sleeper to get the full benefits. A nightstand or dresser that’s within two or three feet of the bed offers ideal placement.

However, warm-mist humidifiers aren’t recommended in the bedroom. If you trip on the cord or knock the humidifier over, the hot water could burn you. These models are best used in daylight.

Baby’s Room

A baby’s tiny airways are easily clogged with a simple cold. Humidifiers can help them breathe easier and sleep better. But the humidifier should be far enough away from the baby to not cover them in mist. The dampness could lower their body temperature, working against the benefits you’re trying to give your baby. And, warm mist humidifiers aren’t recommended in a baby’s room either. If the baby were to pull it over, the water could scald the baby’s skin.

Whole-House Humidifiers

If you live in a dry climate or have severe allergies or asthma, you may be a prime candidate for a whole-house humidifier. The best place for these models depends on their design. Some connect directly to your HVAC, while others are standalone. HVAC models will include specific instructions on how to tap into your home’s ventilation system, so placement isn’t really an issue.

On the other hand, standalone models can function from a corner or the middle of the room but should be placed where the air can circulate through most of the house. Most people don’t want a large humidifier as the focal point of any room. So a corner usually makes the best spot. Some aren’t very attractive, while others are designed with faux paneling to blend in with cupboards or general home decor.

FAQs

Can I run my humidifier at night?

You can run a cool-mist humidifier at night. In fact, it’s one of the best times to run a humidifier. It’s easy for the lips, nose, and mouth to dry out while you sleep, and congestion often gets worse when you’re lying down. A humidifier keeps your nasal passages lubricated and can prevent morning sore throats.

Is it safe to use a humidifier in a baby’s room?

Humidifiers can be safely used in a baby’s room. They should be placed far enough from the baby that the mist doesn’t land directly on them. The electrical cord should not be within reach of the crib, and don’t use warm-mist models. Their heating element and hot water pose a burn hazard if your baby or you happens to tip the humidifier over.

How often should I clean my humidifier?

Regular cleaning and maintenance are key to the safe use of a humidifier. If the humidifier is used on a daily basis, the water tank and reservoir should be emptied and wiped clean every day. Every week, a mix of white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and water should be used as a light disinfectant and a way to remove mineral deposits. Disinfection with bleach and water should take place about once a month. If the humidifier is only used occasionally, it should be cleaned after every use and disinfected before it’s put into storage.

Conclusion

Good placement can mean the difference between healthy air and a wet, messy disaster in your home. The environment and circumstances in your house, from the number of people who live there to the size of the rooms and the indoor and outdoor temperatures, will influence your decision. Finally, think about how you want the humidifier to function in your everyday life. From there, you can find a place that lets you and your family breathe easier.

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