Air Purifier vs Humidifier: Which One Do You Need?

Do you ever find yourself coughing and sneezing at home and wondering if there’s anything you can do about it? Are you always reaching for your lotion or chapstick? Have you ever wondered if it would be worth getting a humidifier or an air purifier but not been sure what the difference is?

Humidifiers and air purifiers can both be helpful in making your home more comfortable and healthy. Read on to learn the differences between a humidifier vs. an air purifier and what benefits each can bring. 

What Is a Humidifier?

A humidifier is a device that’s designed to add moisture to the air in your home. You may find that your home’s air becomes too arid if you live someplace dry, especially in the winter. This can have a number of detrimental impacts on your health and your home, as we’ll discuss more later.

A humidifier expels a mist, either steam or a form of cool mist, to raise your home’s humidity. You can get travel-size humidifiers all the way up to full-house humidifiers that hook into your HVAC system. There are also several different types of humidifiers, which we’ll discuss more in a minute. 

What Is an Air Purifier?

An air purifier is a device designed to remove pollutants and allergens from your home’s air. This can be especially important for those with severe allergies and those who live in cities where air pollution is higher. Having an air purifier in your home can protect you from some of the dangers of smog and pollution.

However, an air purifier does not add anything to your home’s air, unlike a humidifier. These devices usually use a fan and filtering system to pull contaminants out of your air and trap them. The level and variety of filtering can vary from model to model and even brand to brand.

How Does a Humidifier Work? 

There are two basic forms of humidifiers: cool-operating and warm-operating. Warm-operating humidifiers heat water to form steam that then travels into your air. These can be used in conjunction with essential oils to act as a combo humidifier and oil diffuser, depending on the model. They also tend to be less energy efficient. 

Cool-operating humidifiers breakwater into droplets using movement or vibrations. This mist will then diffuse into the air with no heat involved whatsoever. These models usually use a fan to help send the mist into your room, and they’re great for kids’ rooms since they carry no risk of burns, and may even have an LED light that can serve as a nightlight.

hand covers steam from humidifier

How Does an Air Purifier Work?

Whereas humidifiers send mist out into your home, an air purifier is designed to pull things in. The two basic components include a fan and a filter. The fan pulls air from the room down through the filter, where various unwanted particles are trapped in the filter, and the clean air passes back out into the room.

There are different levels and styles of filtration you can choose from with your air filter. HEPA filters are common, though those may be hard to get hands-on during the current COVID crisis. Ionizers and photoelectrochemical oxidation are also popular methods of cleaning the air.

Humidifier Models

There are a few different models of humidifiers that you can choose from depending on your needs. The most common hot-operating model is a steam humidifier. This model boils water to create steam, which then disperses out into your room.

On the cool-operating side of things, you have impellers, ultrasonic humidifiers, and evaporative humidifiers. An evaporative humidifier is the simplest of these models. It has a wicking filter that sits in a tank of water and pulls the moisture up through the filter and out into your room through evaporation.

Impellers use a more mechanical approach to creating a cool mist. A disk spins at very high speeds, breaking water into fine droplets through mechanical disruption. These droplets are flung up into a fan, which pushes them out into the room.

An ultrasonic humidifier is one of the most sophisticated models. It has a diaphragm that vibrates at a very high frequency, similar to high-powered speakers. This vibration breaks up the water into small droplets, and those droplets are pulled out into the room by a fan.

Air Purifier Models

There are seven different types of air purifiers, all of which use different methods of cleansing the air in your home. These types include ultrasonic, HEPA, activated carbon, ionic, electronic, central, and air-to-air exchangers.

An ultraviolet air purifier uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens lurking in your home’s air. The ultraviolet light breaks the molecular bonds that hold these organisms together, effectively neutralizing them.

A HEPA air purifier uses an advanced filter to remove any particles larger than 0.2 microns – about 0.000008 inches – from your air. Some HEPA filter purifiers also use activated carbon components to remove smoke, fumes, and odors from your home. 

An ionic air purifier is silent and works by emitting negative ions into your air. These bind with positively charged particles like dust and contaminants and make them heavy enough to fall out of the air. An electric purifier works similarly, using static electricity to attract and bind these particles.

A central air purifier connects to your home’s HVAC system to filter your entire home’s air supply at once. And an air-to-air exchanger manages all of the airflows in your home, including regulation of temperature and humidity. 

Benefits of a Humidifier 

Having a humidifier around can bring a number of benefits to your health and home. On the health front, you may find that you suffer fewer colds and nosebleeds thanks to some extra moisture in the air. Higher humidity can also be helpful for those dealing with eczema or sensitive skin.

As for your home, too little moisture in the air can cause wood floors and furniture to shrink. This can lead to gaps and cracks, leaving these pieces susceptible to damage. Wallpaper can also start to peel away from the walls, leaving the sheetrock behind vulnerable to mold and mildew.

Benefits of an Air Purifier 

An air purifier can carry a number of benefits, especially for those dealing with severe asthma and allergies. Having even the smallest amount of pollen, bacteria, or dust in the home can be disruptive and even dangerous for people fighting these problems. An air purifier removes these triggers, helping sufferers to breathe easier at home.

Having an air purifier around can also help those with weaker immune systems avoid getting sick as frequently. With COVID sweeping the world, we’ve all become much more aware of how germs travel through the air. Imagine if you had a system that actively removed everything from coronavirus to the common cold from your home and neutralized that threat.

How to Use a Humidifier Safely

When it comes to humidifiers, the key to safe use is regular cleaning. If you neglect your humidifier for too long, mold, mildew, and bacteria can start to build up in the water tank. From there, those substances get blasted out into your home, negating the benefits of having the humidifier in the first place.

You should also be careful to avoid burns when it comes to steam humidifiers and other hot-operating models. Make sure to allow the unit to cool off fully before you refill or clean the water tank. And never keep these units in children’s rooms or within reach of small children or animals, as they may burn themselves.

How to Use an Air Purifier Safely

In general, as long as you maintain your air purifier properly, it should be safe to use. It’s important to clean or replace the filter on a regular basis to ensure that none of the trapped particles leech back into your home’s air. And since air purifiers run all the time, you need to make sure your home’s electrical system is equipped to handle the load the purifier requires.

But one of the biggest risks of using an air purifier comes in selecting the right model. Some companies market machines that generate ozone as air purifiers. However, studies have shown that even small amounts of ozone can be very damaging to the lungs; be sure to avoid these models when you’re shopping for an air purifier.

Maintaining a Humidifier

The most crucial piece of humidifier maintenance is to clean your device about once a week. If you have a hot-operating model, allow it to cool fully, and then remove the water tank. Empty it out and wash it thoroughly with soap and water, using extra care if you’ve added essential oils to the tank. You should also be sure to check your water level so that you don't accidentally damage your machine by running it when there is no water left. Some models have an automatic shut off for this purpose.

You may also want to run a vinegar-water mixture in a 1:1 ratio or a small amount of bleach diluted in water through the humidifier every so often. This will help to clear the dispersal mechanism and keep your air clean. However, you should never use bleach and vinegar together or right after each other; when mixed, they form toxic chlorine gas

Maintaining an Air Purifier

With an air purifier, you want to make sure you’re cleaning your filter on a regular basis, ideally about once a month. If you live somewhere polluted or you have a lot of animals in the home, you may want to clean the filter more often, perhaps closer to once a week. You should also plan to clean the unit entirely at least once every six months.

Follow your unit’s instructions for how to clean and/or replace the filter. Once every few months, wipe down the outside of the unit with a damp cloth. You should always unplug the air purifier before you clean it to avoid any accidents or electric shocks.

Using Both at Once

You may be wondering what to do if you want to get the benefits of both a humidifier and an air purifier. The good news is that you can use both of these devices in the same space. They perform entirely different functions, and neither will interfere with the operations of the other, so they’re safe to use in the same room.

If you plan to use whole-house models of either an air purifier or a humidifier, it is a good idea to talk to an HVAC specialist. For one thing, these models are expensive and you want to make sure they’re wired in and working properly. But for another, you need to make sure these systems are properly placed on your HVAC system to keep your air clean and properly humidified. Systems like these usually come with a remote control.

Which You Should Use

Whether you choose to use a humidifier or an air purifier is up to you and your needs. Depending on your situation, you may want to use both. If you live somewhere where there is a lot of pollution and severe winters or not a lot of humidity, these devices can both make your home more comfortable.

humidifier stands in a bright room, outside the window is winter

If you want to choose one or the other, look at your area and what your complaints are in your home. If you’re concerned about respiratory problems or odors, an air purifier will serve you better. If you’re trying to manage skin sensitivities, go for the humidifier.

Learn More About a Humidifier vs. an Air Purifier

If you’re trying to improve the air quality of your home, humidifiers and air purifiers are excellent tools to do that. Knowing the difference between a humidifier vs. an air purifier can help you make the right choice for your home. With the right tools at your disposal, you can make your home more comfortable and healthy than ever. 

If you’d like to explore other ways to make your home more comfortable, check out the rest of our site at Everlasting Comfort. We have everything from essential oil diffusers to memory foam cushions to keep you living well all the time. Shop our products today and start finding the comfort level you deserve.

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