I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Of course I’d have an opinion on humidifiers

If you live somewhere with cold, dry winters, like the U.S. midwest or east coast, you probably need a humidifer. Without one, your air is probably too dry for comfort and can cause little annoyances and health issues that I’m nowhere near qualified to discuss.

Almost nobody buys a humidifer that they’re happy with and that effectively humidifies the air. Below is what I’ve learned in my experience. First, a myth and a placebo:

Remove the voodoo element: you should have something in your house that contains a hygrometer (a humidity meter) so you can tell when you need to use a humidifier and whether it’s working well enough. Many humidifiers have built-in hygrometers, as do some high-end thermostats and most digital indoor thermometers.

I suggest humidifying at least your bedroom, but ideally, you should humidify your entire house or apartment. Size matters: small humidifiers can’t humidify large areas. Humidity travels well between rooms, so one large unit can serve multiple rooms as long as the doors are kept open.

Now, the types:

I’ve owned at least one of each, and the only ones I’ve ever been happy with were evaporative.

For the last two months, I’ve used this huge Honeywell HCM-6009 to humidify the entire first floor of my house, and the highly regarded but very expensive Venta Airwasher LW25 in the bedroom.

The Honeywell is the workhorse: on recent dry days of about 20 degrees (F), it has evaporated up to 6 gallons per day (two full tank pairs). It’s not quiet enough for most bedrooms, but it’s quiet enough for the living room. I use one of these in the base (replaced monthly) and a capful of this in each tank of water to greatly reduce crap buildup in the base and filter. (The first month, I didn’t use them — they make a big difference.)

The Venta is very different. Rather than blowing air through a wick-filter, its fan blows down through a spinning multi-surface disk onto the water’s surface. This removes a lot of dust from the air, but the disk is difficult to clean, and you can’t dump the dirty water too often without wasting a lot of the required additive. The Venta is extremely quiet, though — this is by far its best feature. Unfortunately, with both humidifiers on their “medium” settings and all doors open, the Venta only evaporates 1-2 gallons on the same days that the big Honeywell is able to evaporate 6. The Venta doesn’t claim to be a high-output humidifier, but its low output and high price make it very difficult to recommend for anything but the smallest rooms with the most noise-sensitive occupants. It’s also disappointing that, at this price, it doesn’t have a hygrometer or an auto-shutoff feature to maintain a maximum humidity level.

If you need a humidifier, I highly suggest a basic evaporative model like the Honeywell HCM-6009. Just plan to buy some water additives and replace the filter once or twice per season, and it will humidify a hell of a lot more than a pot of water on the radiator.