Humidifiers can help maintain the ideal humidity level of 30%-50% for your home by emitting a fine, sometimes invisible, mist into the air. The proper humidity level protects your health from the effects of dry air like dry sinuses, itchy eyes, sore throats, and cracked skin or lips. They also can protect your home by preventing wood furnishings from warping or cracking. The ideal humidity level also helps prevent static electricity shocks.
When shopping for a new humidifier the first thing you should consider is the size of the space you want to humidify. The size of the area will help determine if you need a single-room table top unit, a console or whole-house model, or a whole house unit that attaches to your HVAC system. Secondly, you will want to consider how the humidifier adds moisture to the air – they use two main technologies that are ultrasonic and evaporative.
Ultrasonic units are quieter, however they can generate white dust from the minerals in tap water. Many buyers complain about the white dust problem on specific models, but the problem is actually with the water and not the humidifier. They will work better with distilled or soft water. Evaporative models use a wick filter and a fan to evaporate and blow the water vapor out. They are noisier, don’t have a white dust problem, but have filters that need to be replaced.
Some models output cool mist, which disperses at room temperature, while others output warm mist which boils the water before dispersing the moisture. Other things to consider include the noise level, maintenance and price of cleaning and changing filters, the size of the water tank, and advanced features like a humidistat.
We looked at many models ranging in size and cost to come up with our list of the top 10 best humidifiers which we review below. At the bottom of this article we also have a humidifier comparison chart so you can easily compare one humidifier versus another.
The MH-701B has a couple of really nice features. First it has a ceramic filter which never needs to be replaced, just cleaned occasionally. It also has a digital humidistat and programmable timer which makes it easy to set and use. One negative, however, is that you can’t see the water level in the reservoir, so you can run out unexpectedly.
Overall we highly recommend the Air Innovations MH-701B if you need to use a humidifier in a room up to 178 square feet.
Drawbacks to this unit include being more complicated to install and you will have to replace the filter at least once per year which adds to the expense.
We highly recommend the Aprilaire 700 for whole house applications with very dry air. For smaller homes and spaces without central air then there are less expensive alternatives.
There are no filters to replace and it can be used with regular tap water, but be aware you can get some fine white dust if you have hard water. The water reservoir is also the smallest of any model on this list at just 0.4 gallons, which means you will have to refill it often.
Overall the Pure Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier might just be the best cheap humidifier you can buy for small rooms.
The LV600HH has a lot of great features as well. The one we like best is that it lets you choose between warm or cool mist which is rare for a model in this price range. Also included are an intelligent auto mode, remote control and timer, auto shut-off, and an aroma diffuser.
Since it is an ultrasonic humidifier it does make a slight humming noise, but it is very quiet. It also needs to sit on a shelf or table so the mist won’t puddle on the floor and it might create the fine mineral dust layer as well.
Overall the Levoit LV600HH is a great choice for rooms or spaces up to 600 square feet or slightly larger.
The HCM-350 puts out up to 2.3 gallons of moisture per day using evaporative technology. Another main feature is the mineral-absorbing wick filter that removes impurities and cuts down on annoying white dust. You will have to replace this filter every 4-6 months at a cost of about $10. It also is very easy to clean.
On the downside the HCM-350 does not have an indicator light when the tank is empty, nor does it shut off automatically. It also lacks some of the controls of other units like a humidistat and only outputs cool mist, but it does have a unique germ killing ability from UV light which gives it antimicrobial properties.
The bottom line is if you are looking for a cheap humidifier that will work well in room sizes from about 300 to 500 square feet then the Honeywell HCM-350 is the perfect choice for you.
The VUL520 has a simple dial control and does not have a humidistat or any programmable settings. It only has a 0.5 gallon tank so you might need to refill it often.
Overall the Vicks VUL520 is an excellent choice for a simple to use humidifier in a bedroom or baby’s nursery of less than 250 square feet.
The SPT SU-9210 could almost be called a smart humidifier thanks to its accurate humidistat and timer. It performs very similarily to the Honeywell HCM-350 and like that model it is very easy to clean.
The SU-9210 might not be the best choice for a bedroom, however, because it has a very bright display and annoying beeping buttons.
Four rolling casters help you move the MA1201 to any room effortlessly. It also uses a mineral-absorbing wicking filter that needs to be replaced every 3-6 months at a cost of about $15.
One main drawback is that it is the loudest humidifier on our list with a max noise of 77.5 dB which is quite noisy.
Simply put the Aircare MA1201 is our choice for the best whole home humidifier that does not hook into your central air.
You should be aware that some users have complained about the longevity of this unit or receiving defective models that do not work properly. Having said that, plenty of people love this personal humidifier including the leading consumer magazine which gave it their highest grade in the category.
For your home you should consider one of the other models on our list, but for traveling the Hunter QLS-03 is a great option due to its compact size and water bottle option.
On the downside each filling will only last about 12 hours and it only emits warm mist as it does not have a cool setting.
Overall the Vicks V745A is for those of you looking for a cheap warm mist humidifier for small rooms.
Best Humidifier Comparison Chart
Size (Sq Ft)
|Air Innovations MH-701B
|< 40 dB
|Aprilaire Model 700
|Pure Ultrasonic Cool Mist
|< 40 dB
|< 40 dB
|up to 20 oz
|< 40 dB