Bloody noses from dry sinuses, annoying shocks from metal doorknobs, dust and pollen allergy symptoms, and even high heating bills are all issues that an evaporative humidifier can help remedy. Evaporative humidifiers are box-shaped units that feature a large basin of water with a wick filter that draws water from the basin. A fan blows air across the filter, causing the water to evaporate and circulate throughout the air, increasing the room’s humidity while removing impurities such as pollen and dust.
These devices range from smaller units that can boost the humidity in a bedroom or living area to whole-home units that can cover 4,000 square feet or more. Evaporative humidifier models include humidistats that sense the conditions in the room to control the humidity output.
This guide examines the important features to consider when shopping for the best evaporative humidifier and reviews some of the best models on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: AIRCARE Digital Whole-House Evaporative Humidifier
- RUNNER UP: Vornado Evap40 4-Gallon Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Pure Enrichment MistAire Eva Evaporative Humidifier
- UPGRADE PICK: VENTA Original Airwasher
- BEST COVERAGE: Aprilaire 700 Whole Home Humidifier
- BEST TOWER: AIRCARE D46 720 Tower Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST DESIGN: AIRCARE Copper Night Digital Evaporative Humidifier
- ALSO CONSIDER: AIRCARE Digital Console-Style Evaporative Humidifier
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Evaporative Humidifier
The first consideration when buying a humidifier is to find one that can produce enough humid air to cover the desired area. Also look at operating time and maintenance, among other features.
Evaporative humidifiers generally have a greater output than their cool mist cousins. Most manufacturers list coverage by square feet, which can vary significantly from 500 to 4,000 square feet. Many factors can affect a humidifier’s coverage area, including open doors, windows, and ceiling height. Many consumers look for a humidifier with a larger capacity than the space to ensure it can meet demand.
Humidifiers use a built-in basin to provide the water that creates water vapor. This is a significant factor, especially if the humidifier will be running through the night. Most humidifiers can run for at least 8 hours before running out of water, while larger models can last for up to 48 hours or more on a single tank. Running time also depends on other factors, such as the humidifier’s output setting. And, naturally, running a humidifier on low makes the water last longer than a humidifier on high.
Room-size evaporative humidifiers use between 3 and 4 watts, while large whole-home models might use as much as 8 watts of energy. Although this is relatively insignificant compared to other appliances in the home—refrigerators use around 200 watts—it’s important to consider since humidifiers will run for many hours at a time. Evaporative humidifiers with auto sensors that shut down the unit when the room has reached the desired humidity level help save energy by cutting off the unit when it’s not needed.
Humidifiers have wick filters that collect water from the basin. The fan blows warm air through these filters, converting the water into vapor. The fan then blows the humidified air into the room. The size of the filter typically determines how much humidity the humidifier can produce. Most filters have a coating that slows mold growth on the filter; however, these filters will not eliminate fungal growth. The filter should be replaced every few months depending on use to prevent the humidifier from releasing dangerous mold spores into the air.
Noise level can vary significantly from model to model; however, all evaporative humidifiers produce a noticeable amount of noise because of their fan. The average humidifier creates around 40 to 45 decibels, similar to the sound level of a refrigerator. Some ultraquiet models run at between 28 and 35 decibels, about the same as a whisper.
Many humidifiers include an auto-shutoff feature that prevents the unit from running dry, which could damage the machine. Some include timers that turn off the humidifier after running for a designated amount of time, while others have humidistats that automatically shut off the humidifier when the room reaches the desired percentage of humidity. While most evaporative humidifiers are too large to be portable, humidifiers with casters allow the owner to maneuver it around a room. Other handy features include water level and filter change indicators.
Evaporative humidifiers require occasional cleaning to keep them in good working order and ensure they don’t foster mold growth. Routine maintenance involves changing the water every day or two to prevent mold, cleaning the basin once a week, and soaking the wick filter in clean water to remove mineral deposits.
Our Top Picks
The following list takes into account all these considerations to trim the field to some of the best humidifiers on today’s market. The list includes some of the top models by capacity, but any of these humidifiers will help improve the humidity in a home.
Boasting whole-home output and intuitive control, this model from AIRCARE can humidify up to 2,600 square feet. Adjusting the humidity level is easy to do via the onboard digital display. Meanwhile, the unit’s 2.5-gallon tank enables up to 36 hours of continuous run time before a refill.
Four fan modes add versatility, while an auto mode automatically adjusts the fan speed to suit the home’s humidification needs. Refill and check filter indicators help with maintenance, while casters allow the unit to be maneuvered around a room.
Thanks to a three-speed fan that can move air at a rate of up to 1,600 rpm, this Vornado can humidify large areas (up to 1,000 square feet) efficiently and effectively. It runs for up to 24 hours on its highest setting before needing to be refilled, thanks to its generous 4-gallon capacity.
Like others on this list, Vornado’s evaporative humidifier senses and automatically responds to the humidity level in your space. In effect, the unit operates itself. Another pro: periodic cleaning can be performed easily, because the Vornado’s twin water basins are both removable.
This affordable option can humidify individual rooms measuring up to 500 square feet in area. The unit features four fan speeds, an auto-off timer, and an antimicrobial filter that helps allergy sufferers by removing pollen, dust, and other airborne allergens from the air.
With a tank capacity of 2.8 liters, this humidifier delivers about 9 hours of run time on its highest setting. It’s also space-saving, being on 13 inches tall and 9 inches in diameter.
Three night-light settings and three light color choices make this model a particularly good pick for kids’ rooms.
From VENTA, this evaporative humidifier boasts a fan and filtration system designed for use in spaces up to 600 square feet in size. Not only can it raise the humidity by 40 to 60 percent, but it can also purify the air, virtually eliminating the presence of dust and pollen. Plus, because multiple parts within the VENTA are removable, cleaning the unit is a cinch.
Capable of humidifying up to a whopping 4,200 square feet, this model from Aprilaire can add up to 18 gallons of water to the air per day. It connects directly to a water line, eliminating the need for refilling a basin, though requiring home installation.
The unit’s built-in fan connects to the home’s furnace to pull warm air directly into the unit’s water panel evaporator. The evaporator then turns the water into vapor, circulating it through the home’s existing ductwork.
Operated by a digital thermostat that mounts to the wall, the Aprilaire comes with an automatic sensor that monitors the home’s humidity and adjusts its output accordingly. All you have to do to operate the humidifier is set your desired humidity level. The Aprilaire does the rest.
This low-profile AIRCARE model has enough output to humidify multiple rooms while not taking up much space. It boasts a maximum capacity of 1,200 square feet, and its 2-gallon basin provides enough water for an impressive 50 hours of runtime.
The AIRCARE’s control panel features four fan speeds and an adjustable humidistat that automatically turns the unit off and on, depending on the conditions in the room. An auto shutoff keeps the humidifier from running dry, while filter and check water indicators let you know when the unit needs maintenance or cleaning.
From AIRCARE, this model’s unobtrusive, wood-paneled design enables it to blend in with furniture and look at home in your space. This AIRCARE is also powerful, with a max output of 12 gallons per day—enough to humidify up to 3,700 square feet. A refillable basin holds up to 5.4 gallons and can last up to 24 hours.
The unit features four fan settings to control distribution and sits on sturdy casters that allow for the unit to be moved easily between placements. All the while, a comfort sensor automatically adjusts the unit to maintain optimal humidity.
Able to humidify up to 3,000 square feet, this AIRCARE unit’s digital humidistat senses the ambient humidity level and automatically adjusts its output to maintain a comfortable, pre-set moisture level. When the desired humidity level is reached, or when the water basins are empty, the AIRCARE automatically shuts off to avoid overheating. That said, this AIRCARE boasts uncommonly high capacity, with two plastic basins that hold 2.5 gallons each. This gives the humidifier an extra-long runtime of up to 45 hours.
The Advantages of Owning an Evaporative Humidifier
When used correctly, an evaporative humidifier has a wide range of benefits, from easing cold and allergy symptoms to extending the life of your home’s furnishings. Evaporative humidifiers:
- Provide comfort in dry weather. Low humidity can lead to a variety of ailments, from dry sinuses to dry skin. Low humidity also can exacerbate allergy and cold symptoms. A humidifier alleviates those problems by adding soothing moisture to the air.
- Decrease static electricity in the home. Static electricity that causes clingy clothing and uncomfortable shocks when touching metal doorknobs thrives in a dry environment. By adding moisture to the air, evaporative humidifiers help eliminate static electricity.
- Extend the life of furnishings. Wood, paint, leather, and other materials benefit from humidity levels that range between 40 percent and 60 percent. Dry conditions can shorten the lives of furnishing and wall coverings, causing paint to peel, wood to dry out, and leather to crack.
- Filter out dust and pollen. An evaporative humidifier helps filter dust and pollen from the air, which can help alleviate allergy symptoms.
- Promote plant growth. Plants love a humid environment. By adding humidity to the air, an evaporative humidifier can help improve the health of a home’s flora as well as its fauna.
FAQs About Evaporative Humidifiers
If you’re still wondering what size humidifier is right for your home or how long a humidifier should run, keep reading to find answers to these and other commonly asked questions about these appliances.
Q. What size humidifier do I need?
Size depends on the space you plan to humidify. Humidifying a room or two may require a humidifier with an output for 500 to 700 square feet. Humidifying an entire home requires a model with a capacity of 3,000 square feet or more, depending on the size of the house.
Q. Where should I put my evaporative humidifier?
Place the humidifier in a place in the room that’s out of the way of traffic but far enough from furniture and walls to promote optimal airflow. Doing so allows the humidifier to circulate air throughout the room to treat the entire space.
Q. When should I run a humidifier?
The best time of year to run a humidifier is during dryer months, which typically occur in the winter when the outside humidity is generally low and heaters are on that dry the air.
Humidifiers with auto sensors that monitor the humidity in the room and turn the humidifier on and off are safe to run both day and night. Models without these features should be run only during daytime hours when the user can monitor them.
Q. How often should I change the water in my humidifier?
Change the water in a humidifier every day or two to prevent mold from growing in the basin. If possible, use distilled water, which prevents the buildup of minerals in the humidifier.