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 MA1201 Whole-House Console-Style Humidifier
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Pure Enrichment MistAire Eva Evaporative Humidifier
- UPGRADE PICK: Venta Airwasher 2-in-1 Humidifier and Air Purifier
- BEST FOR LARGE SPACE: Vornado Evap40 4-Gallon Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST FOR EXTRA-LARGE SPACE: Aprilaire 700 Whole Home Humidifier
- BEST TOWER: AIRCARE D46 720 Tower Evaporative Humidifier
- BEST WOOD: AIRCARE H12600 Digital Whole-House Humidifier
- BEST MODERN: AIRCARE Digital Whole-House 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.
With an output that can cover an entire home and intuitive controls that make running it easier, this model from Aircare boasts an impressive 3,600-square-foot capacity, which is suitable for larger homes. And, this unit includes a digital humidistat that automatically shuts off the unit when the home reaches the proper humidity.
Adjusting the humidity level is precise via the digital display. Its 3.6-gallon tank enables up to 36 hours of continuous run time before a refill. Four fan modes add versatility, while an auto fan mode automatically adjusts speed to suit the home’s humidity level. Refill and check filter indicators help with maintenance, while casters allow the unit to be maneuvered around a room. This model uses 80 watts on high, which is about twice as much as smaller humidifiers.
This affordable model from MistAire can humidify rooms of up to 500 square feet. It features four fan speeds and an auto-off timer that shuts down the unit after two, four, or 8 hours.
This unit has a tank capacity of 2.8 liters, which gives it about 9 hours of run time on high. It includes an antimicrobial filter that helps allergy sufferers by removing pollen, dust, and other airborne allergens from the air. At just 9 inches in diameter and 13 inches tall, this unit consumes a small space in the home. Three night-light settings and three light color choices make it a good pick for kids’ rooms.
This humidifier from Venta looks like a large box. It houses a fan and filtration system to treat spaces up to 600 square feet. In addition to raising the humidity to a comfortable 40 to 60 percent, the Venta also purifies the air to 10 microns, eliminating dust and pollen from the air.
Thanks to a removable housing and motor that allows for easy access to the basin, periodical cleaning is relatively easy. Venta also makes a water treatment additive that helps prevent mold growth, extending the time between cleanings. When combined with Venta’s scented water treatment, this humidifier also becomes an aromatherapy machine. The Venta humidifier uses 40 watts of electricity on its highest setting.
Thanks to a three-speed fan that moves air at a rate of up to 1,600 rpm, this Vornado can cover a large space. It distributes enough humid air to fill up to 1,000 square feet. The basin has a 4-gallon capacity, which allows the unit to run for up to 24 hours on high before a refill.
With its intelligent humidification technology, this humidifier can automatically sense the humidity levels in the room, which allows it to set itself to the optimum output to maintain an ideal humidity level. The unit’s two basins are easy to remove for periodic cleaning. It uses about 40 watts of electricity on high.
Capable of humidifying up to 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. The unit comes equipped with an automatic sensor that monitors the home’s humidity and adjusts the humidifier’s settings accordingly.
The unit’s built-in fan connects to the home’s furnace via the ductwork to pull warm air directly into the unit’s water panel evaporator. The evaporator turns the water into vapor, which then circulates through the home’s existing ductwork. Mounts its digital thermostat to a wall in the house to set the unit.
This low-profile AIRCARE humidifier 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 up to 50 hours of run time before a refill.
Controls feature 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 the user know when it needs maintenance. Its two water tanks are removable for easy cleaning. This humidifier uses about 40 watts on high.
This model from AIRCARE features a wood panel design that allows it to blend with furniture. It’s also powerful, with a max output of 12 gallons per day, which is 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.
It features four fan settings to control distribution and sits on sturdy casters for easy maneuvering from room to room. A comfort sensor automatically adjusts the unit to maintain optimal humidity. This model comes in three faux wood patterns, including copper night, light oak, and oak burl.
This AIRCARE humidifier can humidify enough air to cover 3,000 square feet. The evaporative humidifier features a digital humidistat that automatically senses the air’s humidity, which it uses to maintain the desired settings. The unit automatically shuts off when it reaches the set humidity level or when the basin is empty, preventing it from overheating. The control panel allows for easy adjustments to set the humidity level and fan speed while displaying the current humidity level. Two plastic basins hold 2.5 gallons each, giving the humidifier a long run time of up to 45 hours. It’s available in finish options that range from matte gray to brushed nickel to faux wood.
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.