Nothing quite compares to stepping into an air-conditioned room after walking around outside in the sweltering summer heat, but did you know that air-conditioned air can actually cause excessive dryness in your sinuses and nose? Dry air can aggravate your nose, lungs, and existing respiratory conditions (Cleveland Clinic). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, humidity levels between 30 and 50% are optimal. Sometimes, it seems like summertime is a constant battle between excess moisture and sweating and the too-dry air of air conditioners.

If you’re looking for a solution to balance out the moisture levels in your home, you may need a humidifier. But how do you know if you need a humidifier or a dehumidifier, and should you opt for a warm mist or cool mist humidifier?

Humidifiers vs. Dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers are typically used to remove excess moisture from the air. If you live in a humid Southern state like Florida, you might find that your home is overly moist. This can cater to mold growth and bugs. Not all homes need a dehumidifier in the summer, though. Air conditioners do a great job of cooling down our homes, but they unfortunately also remove important moisture from the air. Some air conditioning and heating systems come equipped with a central humidifier, but if you don’t have one built in, you’ll need to find one to keep the humidity at an appropriate level.

If you have been suffering from dry skin, nose, throat, or lips, or have noticed more nose bleeds and sinus congestion, a lack of humidity in your home could be the cause. If you have seasonal allergies or asthma, your symptoms could also be worsened by a lack of moisture in the air. When proper air moisture is maintained, it can also help ensure the quality of certain sentimental items, such as old papers and photographs. When exposed to too much or not enough moisture, materials such as wood and paper can fade and crack.

Warm Mist vs. Cool Mist Humidifier

Both warm and cool mist humidifiers put moisture in the air, but their varying temperatures are suited to different seasons. The warm steam that is generated by warm mist humidifiers can be cozy during the colder months. Warm mist humidifiers don’t have an internal fan so they tend to be quieter to operate. Instead, the water is heated and then turned into a vapor. This process of boiling the water reduces bacteria and germs in the air, making it safer to breathe. However, warm mist humidifiers tend to use more electricity because of their heating element. They may also aggravate skin conditions such as eczema.

A cool mist humidifier, on the other hand, is energy efficient. Some cool mist humidifiers use a fan that evaporates water while others, known as ultrasonic humidifiers, use a vibrating plate. These tend to be even quieter than evaporative humidifiers and can be very small and compact. Cool mist humidifiers are refreshing and safe to use year-round—especially in the summer when you might not want warm steam heating up your home.

What To Look For In A Warm Mist Humidifier

Warm mist humidifiers can be great options for soothing nose and throat irritation and for opening up your nasal passages. If you intend to use your warm mist humidifier while you’re asleep, you might want to look for one that doesn’t have a light and can run for a few hours without needing a refill. Warm mist humidifiers can also have essential oil trays and built-in timers if you’re looking for some extra features.

What To Look For In A Cool Mist Humidifier

If you purchase an ultrasonic cool mist humidifier, it’s very important to clean it regularly, especially if you fill it with tap water. Tap water can contain minerals that you might not want floating around in your air. In general, when you fill your ultrasonic cool mist humidifier, do so with filtered water or tap water that is also safe to drink. Some humidifiers even come with filters that remove pollutants from hard water with high mineral content.

Because of the fan mechanism, evaporative cool mist humidifiers can only hold water. Some ultrasonic cool mist humidifiers, however, also feature an essential oil tray so you can breathe in calming scents like eucalyptus and lavender. If you want a humidifier that adds moisture to your home and functions as a two-in-one essential oil diffuser, then an ultrasonic cool mist humidifier is probably the way to go. Just make sure your humidifier has a special essential oil tray—putting essential oils directly in the water can damage some humidifiers.

When choosing a cool mist humidifier, you may want a more compact one if you live in a small apartment. If your room has tall ceilings or poor insulation, a larger humidifier will probably be more appropriate.

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