As global concerns around air quality grow, it’s not surprising that people want to know how best to keep their indoor air clean and their loved ones safe.
There is quite a broad and diverse range of devices available on the market today, all of which aim to help improve air quality in your home or office. Humidifiers and air purifiers are two devices specifically designed to enhance breathing spaces.
Can you use a humidifier and air purifier in the same room? Yes, you can safely and effectively use a humidifier and an air purifier at the same time and even in the same room without any major issues. While one affects the level of moisture in the air, the other affects the quality of the air.
In this article, we will explain the roles of each and what options might be best for you and your specific needs.
What Does a Humidifier Do?
If you’ve ever lived near the coast or traveled around South East Asia during the summer months, you are probably no stranger to humidity.
Even if you have never experienced such extremely high levels of humidity, you are still probably familiar with that balmy, uncomfortable feeling that you sometimes get in the summer.
Humidity is merely the amount of moisture in the air. While humid conditions can be quite uncomfortable, the absence of moisture can be equally so.
In the winter months, as it gets colder, the air tends to get drier. This, along with factors such as indoor-heating and reduced ventilation, can leave your house with very low moisture levels (source).
This aridity is where a humidifier comes into play. This device helps to dispel dry air by adding moisture to a room.
So if you do find that the air in your home gets too dry, then you may consider investing in a humidifier.
Humidifiers and Health Benefits
Humidifiers have a number of health benefits that can counter the adverse reactions brought on by dry air.
A lack of moisture in the air invariably leads to a lack of moisture in your body, which can cause symptoms such as a sore, scratchy throat, nose bleeds, and itchy eyes.
Humidifiers can help keep airways in the body functioning correctly. When our airways dry out, their functions are compromised, as the mucus membranes need to remain moist.
A decline in moisture can affect both the hair and the skin. As our skin is over 60% water and needs to absorb moisture from the air, excessive aridity can cause the skin to crack and hair follicles to break (source).
In addition to helping keep our airways moist and our skin hydrated, humidifiers can aid with the following conditions:
- Sinus-related issues such as congestion and runny nose.
- Dry skin and itching.
- Allergy-related symptoms: hay fever, sneezing, & itchy sinus passages.
- Nose bleeds caused by dry air.
- Sore and dry throat.
- Ease the symptoms of colds and flu.
How Do I Know if I Need a Humidifier?
Your decision to invest in a humidifier or not will depend on the humidity levels in your home, as well as your body’s response to moisture decline.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends that you keep the humidity levels between 30%-50% (source).
If you live in a frigid, dry area, you may struggle to maintain this level of moisture without a humidifier, especially in the winter months.
One way of checking the humidity levels in your home is to buy a hygrometer, which is a specially-designed device for measuring the moisture in a room (source).
Some humidifiers come with a built-in hygrometer. A hygrometer is something to look out for when purchasing a humidifier because you don’t want to let a room get too humid. High humidity can cause problems such as mold, bacteria, and dampness.
On a separate note, if you do have problems with high humidity levels, you can look into a dehumidifier, which reduces moisture.
If you don’t feel the need to invest in a hygrometer, then you can look out for other signs. The presence of static electricity and peeling wallpaper are both indications that the humidity levels in your home may be too low.
Humidifiers and Health Concerns
Both the EPA and the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) have conducted studies on the health concerns of humidifiers.
As humidifiers do increase moisture in a room, they can also encourage the presence of microscopic organisms, which include things such as mold, bacteria, minerals, and allergens.
The EPA and CPSC have found that while all types of humidifiers have the potential to emit harmful particles into the air, two kinds of humidifiers are more likely to do so: namely, the ultrasonic humidifier and impeller humidifier.
Ultrasonic humidifiers generate a mist by releasing ultrasonic sound vibrations. While impeller humidifiers, also known as “cool mist” humidifiers, create a cool mist utilizing fast rotating disks.
These humidifiers are more of a risk because of how they create the “cool mist.” The mechanisms essentially pound the water into mist. However, these same mechanisms cannot discern between water and particles such as minerals, mold, and bacteria (source).
While the water is aerosolized to create a fine mist that we breathe in, so are the harmful pollutants, resulting in potential respiratory problems.
If you do own a humidifier, you may have noticed a fine white powder in your home. The minerals in the water cause this, and that’s why it’s important to be mindful of the water you are using in your humidifier.
If you are concerned about the risks of running a humidifier in your home, there are a few things that you can do to help ensure that you don’t experience any health problems.
- Only use your humidifier when absolutely necessary
- Do this by keeping a watchful eye on the humidity levels in the room
- Try to only use distilled and demineralized water in your humidifier
- Boiled water is also safer than plain tap water
- Change the water in your humidifier frequently
- Clean your humidifier twice a week with natural detergents
- Use the manufacturer’s guide to install and maintain the device
What Does an Air Purifier Do?
Unlike humidifiers, which control the level of moisture in the air, an air purifier controls the quality of the air. They can clean the air of any unwanted substances that may be polluting your home.
They work in two ways, either by purifying the air through the use of a filter system or by using another method such as ionization, UV, or ozone (source).
Air purifiers help to eliminate contagions such as mold, dust, spores, and other harmful particles that are circulating in the air. Purifiers that use filter systems simply filter the pollutants out while the methods are a bit more complicated.
Do I Need an Air Purifier?
There are several reasons you may wish to invest in an air purifier. One reason may be that you have a high level of pollutants in your home.
Other reasons you may be considering an air purifier is if you have indoor pets, if your house is poorly ventilated, or if you are in the vicinity of paints/chemicals.
It’s important to remember that the reach of an air purifier does not extend further than the space in which you place them. Hence, it’s a good idea to consider several units throughout the house or to place them strategically in the common areas.
Humidifier or Air Purifier: Do I Have to Choose?
As you can have a humidifier and an air purifier working in the same room at the same time, you don’t really have to make the hard choice. However, it may be prudent to consider whether you need them both.
Unlike humidifiers, air purifiers can be used all year round. It is only when the air in your home is dry that you really need a humidifier.
However, based on the potential health risks of having a humidifier, the addition of an air purifier may help to ensure that the humidified air gets cleaner and any pollutants are removed.
While they both have very different functions, they make quite a good team. Air purifiers filter the humidified air and can help to remove the aerosolized pollutants that were released by the humidifier.
What Type of Humidifier Do I Need?
If you’ve decided in favor of a humidifier, here are the options available to you. We can largely divide these into two categories: central humidifiers and console/portable humidifiers.
A central humidifier system is a fancier and pricier option. It is very convenient as HVAC technicians build these into your home’s central system.
As such, you can have total control over the humidity level in your home without worrying about separate units for each room. They also pose a lower risk of harmful contaminants such as molds and also require less cleaning (source).
Consol and Portable Humidifiers
Consol and portable humidifiers are a more practical option if the cost is an issue for you. Unlike a central system, console and portable humidifiers require that you move them around from room to room.
They can be cumbersome if they are large; however, with a portable humidifier, you don’t have to worry about humidity levels in a room where you don’t want any extra humidity, such as the bathroom.
You can break the types of humidifiers down even further into four sub-categories.
This system works by pushing air through a wet filter or belt. People in the market for a humidifier frequently seek out this model because they are more affordable.
Evaporators are only available as consol/portable models and so have to be moved from room to room.
As discussed, this humidifier produces a “cool mist” by rotating disks. Like the evaporator models, impeller humidifiers are popular because they are reasonably priced.
Impeller humidifiers come as console/portables, and you can also use them in a single room at a time.
This humidifier system uses electricity to generate steam, which then cools down before it dispels it into the air. These humidifiers are affordable and run a low chance of producing mold.
You should always use stem humidifiers, if bought as a portable or console device, with caution. The hot water inside, which makes the steam, can be dangerous for pets and small children (source).
Also, because it uses steam, it runs the risk of over-humidifying a room and requires more frequent cleaning.
This humidifier generates a cool mist through ultrasonic sound waves. They are affordable and safe for households with pets and children.
However, they do require frequent cleaning and run a higher risk of dispersing pollutants into the air.
All of these humidifier options have their pros and cons. It really depends on your budget, time, and household situation.
If you’d like to know more about humidifiers in today’s market, Consumer Reports has put together a convenient guide to buying a humidifier.
What Type of Air Purifier Do I Need?
If you live in an area with high humidity and do not require a humidifier, then you may only want to invest in an air purifier.
In addition to the two main methods of air purification, there are five other models available on the market today.
Filter Air Purifier
Filter air purifiers use HEPA filter technology. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters. The standards define these filters by their ability to filter out 99.97% of particles bigger than 0.3 microns (source).
The filter can last up to 4 years before you have to replace it, and it is a very effective air purifying system. However, it is quite heavy on energy.
If you are interested in the various types of air filters and their abilities, you may like to read about the benefits of a MERV 8 filter.
Carbon Air Purifier
A carbon air purifier uses a carbon filter to purify the air, and activated carbon has a long history of use for purification purposes.
Carbon filters do their best work when it comes to foul odors, cigarette smoke, and unfavorable gases. The downside of the carbon air filter is that they aren’t very effective at filtering out allergens and other microorganisms.
Ionic Air Purifier
The ionic method of air purification is a bit more scientific. It involves a negatively charged ion that uses a kind of magnetism to attract particles such as dust and spores (source).
However, ionic air purification cannot eliminate germs or foul smells, and they run the risk of re-contaminating a room. As such, this method is a less effective method of air purification.
Ozone Air Purifier
The ozone air purifier method of air purification involves the production of a chemical called ozone. Ozone air purifiers are very good at removing odors.
However there is some debate around the safety of ozone air purifiers as ozone, in large quantities, can be quite dangerous to human health.
It may cause adverse reactions such as coughing and also aggravates asthma. Some countries have even gone so far as to ban the use of ozone air purifiers (source).
Ultraviolet Light Air Purifier
UV light works to kill bacteria and other germs. However, these air purifiers work best in conjunction with another method, preferably filter, as UV light cannot target odors or allergens.
Air purifiers all have their strengths and weaknesses. It really just depends on what you are looking for and what kinds of pollutants you want to target.
If you’d like to see which air purifiers are available on the market right now, Consumer Reports has made a list of the Best and Worst Air Purifiers of 2020.
Humidifier/Air Purifier Combos
Since the demand for humidifiers and air purifiers has grown, a recent development on the market has been a humidifier/air purifier combo device. If you are looking to invest in both, then why not consider getting them in one convenient unit?
Choosing to buy a combination system can help save on cost, space, and energy usage (source). It can also help ease respiratory issues and make your living space a lot more comfortable.
One further point in favor of the combination option is that their separate parts perform together cohesively.
If you do decide to have two separate units, you need to make sure that one doesn’t negatively impact the function of the other. For example, you wouldn’t want the air filter to get damp because it is too close to the humidifier.
What Factors to Consider When Buying a Humidifier or an Air Purifier?
We’ve discussed the various options available on the market concerning the different kinds of humidifiers and air purifiers. Now let’s look at some of the factors to take into consideration before going out and buying one.
As with most things in life, the cost is often a significant factor. If you are looking to install both devices, then it may be a smart idea to invest in a combo system as it will most likely work out to be cheaper.
You also need to consider which devices use more energy. Air purifiers that use a HEPA system can draw quite a bit of power. Consider looking at energy-efficient models that will save you money in the long run.
We’ve discussed the health benefits and possible side effects of both humidifiers and air purifiers. In the end, it may be wise to forgo cost in terms of the healthy options for you and your family.
Noise is a significant consideration, especially if you have a baby or small child who is sensitive to sound.
Make sure that the system you decide to buy isn’t too noisy; white noise can be pleasant, but something that wakes up a sleeping baby is a definite no-no.
As with health, safety should be a priority. If you purchase a portable system, make sure that it is in a secure place and cannot be knocked over by an animal or child.
Also, be aware of factors, such as hot water, concerning humidifiers, and even electrical cable. Make sure you take all the proper precautions and ensure you install the units properly.
We are all busy, so you may not want to add another job to the already long list. It may be tempting to look for a machine that doesn’t require too much maintenance/cleaning.
However, bear in mind that these machines do need regular cleaning to work correctly and not cause any adverse effects. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you clean the system frequently and adequately.
All units require frequent cleaning; however, you may be able to purchase a model that is easier to clean, thus saving you time.
If a central-system isn’t in your budget, you need to consider the kind of coverage that you will get from a console/portable device.
This means factoring in the size of the room as well as how many rooms in your house you think would require a humidifier and air purifier.
Humidifiers and air purifiers can work alone or together to improve the overall quality of the air inside your home.
While they do work well as individuals, together, they can act to improve respiratory problems, eliminate harmful pollutants, and make your living space much more comfortable.