What Does a Humidifier Do?

You’ve probably heard of humidifiers before, and there’s a very high chance that you’ve seen dozens of them without realizing what they actually were. Unlike a lot of iconic appliances, like radiators or fan-based ventilators, there’s not really a single unified design or style for humidifiers, and they’re something that you’ll often forget to consider if you ever move into a new home or workplace. We at Best of Machinery can help clear it up once and for all answering one simple question that many people end up asking at some point in their lives: “what does a humidifier do?”

In General

Humidifiers have quite a simple reason for existing – we had ways to take moisture out of a room, but there wasn’t any easy ways to put it back in, meaning that a lot of homes would feel dry in warm weather or heavy snow. Low humidity can make nearly everything you do more uncomfortable, and humidifiers were the solution.

Most of them create water vapor that in a room or building keep the humidity levels stable, often being designed with safety measures to shut themselves off if the air is already too humid. There’s a wide range of different designs and variations, but they’re all meant to do roughly the same thing.

Industrial Humidifiers

Industrial models are usually used to keep equipment safe first and foremost, rather than keeping workers comfortable (although that’s usually a side effect anyway). They’re meant to prevent build-ups off static electricity and stop important materials from drying out, things that could jeopardize entire production lines and machines if left unchecked: they’ll also be seen in packaging rooms to made adhesives work, cold storage areas to keep food fresh and manufacturing lines to ensure that the production process goes smoothly.

An average industrial humidifier is much bigger than a commercial one, sometimes being mounted into a rolling cart and fed with tanks of water. Others will be mounted onto a wall and connected to the water mains, allowing them to create water vapor in large quantities without needing to be restocked when they run out. A notable sign of an industrial-level humidifier is the smoke-like clouds it creates.

Commercial Humidifiers

The most common humidifiers are the ones you’ll find in a regular house, and there’s such a wide variety that no single design stands out from the rest. Many of them will be wall-mounted, since this allows the water vapor to start at the top of the room and drift downwards, but others might be bolted directly to the ceiling. The amount of vapor they produce is fairly low compared to industrial models, so you won’t usually be able to see the clouds unless it’s a very dry day, but they can make a very noticeable difference to an enclosed room.

Aside from making your home comfortable, these humidifiers are also supposed to help keep your skin from becoming dry and fight off certain illnesses or weather-based conditions. While this won’t matter as much in wet weather, it can make a big difference during the summer or dry winter days.

Medical Humidifiers

Humidifiers are also used in quite a few medical procedures and tools, including ventilators and sterilization systems. Low humidity helps prevent viruses and germs from spreading, while higher humidity keeps patients comfortable and relieves pressure on dry skin. Since they can improve the breathing of people in the same room, they’re also used alongside other therapy methods to help asthmatic patients or those with serious allergies.

What Types of Humidifiers are There?

There are a few distinct “types” of humidifier that you could end up buying, and all of them operate in slightly different ways. The most affordable are evaporators: an average evaporator will contain a supply of evaporating water and slowly filter the vapor into the air and is generally limited to a smaller area like a single room rather than an entire house. Steam vaporizers, on the other hand, use electricity to forcibly create large amounts of vapor, acting like a more powerful evaporator.

Impellers are another extremely common type that use a spinning disk to launch tiny water droplets into the air, making them wear out faster but allowing them to be used around children safely. Ultrasonic mist humidifiers are similarly safe, using vibrations instead of rotating parts.

Although they’re not seen often, larger buildings often use central humidifiers, which work like a central heating system by spreading humidity into every room evenly. In situations where there’s too much humidity in the air, you can also use a dehumidifier to suck some of it out.

How do Humidifiers Work?

Despite all these different types, humidifiers have one simple goal – add more water vapor to the air. Regardless of how they do it, they produce vapor and/or steam that mixes into the air, altering the average humidity levels and usually reducing the temperature slightly. They all have their own quirks and differences, such as some need to be powered or connected to the water supply, but the end result is usually the same between all types.

The specifics of how to operate, refill and power a humidifier comes down to the design and the manufacturer’s manual, but choosing a good spot for it can be tricky. Some types work better up high while others are best used at ground level, and others still might have special settings for different locations and weather conditions.

About the Author

Bob Robinson has been a tool enthusiast and lawn care expert for the past 11 years. First working with John Deere to reduce their impact on the environment, whilst building his love for writing in his spare time. Now, Bob runs the editorial team at BestofMachinery and tends to his garden in his spare time.

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