How To Tell If You Need A Humidifier: A Helpful Guide

How to tell if you need a humidifier featured image

If you’ve ever been where the weather is dry, cold, or both, then you’ll know just how harsh the effects of dry air can be.

Because dry air pulls moisture out of your body, it can affect you with constant nosebleeds, a dry throat, coughing, and much more. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, then dry air will be one more thing that will make you feel absolutely miserable!

But don’t fret too much! There’s a great – and affordable – solution. Dry air and the symptoms you’ve been feeling may be a sign it’s time for a humidifier.

Read on as I’ll explain what humidity is, how you can tell if you need a humidifier, and how they work.

Contents

Infographic – How to know if you need a humidifier

do-you-need-a-humidifier-infographic

The quick answer

Just want the basic answer? There are 2 simple ways to know if you need a humidifier:

2 Ways To Check If You Need A Humidifier
  1. By recognizing the effects of low humidity (dry air) using related symptoms
  2. Measuring your air’s dryness using a humidity gauge

If you recognize low humidity by the signs or if your humidity gauge shows 30% (or less), you need a humidifier.

Why do I strongly recommend using a humidity gauge? Because we can’t always rely on how our bodies feel at any given time to know the air condition. It’s not a reliable or consistent way to know.

Don’t rely on your senses only

For many reasons, our bodies fluctuate in sensitivity and at times the air is actually warmer, colder, or drier than we think it is. It’s better to have a reliable and easy-to-use way to check the air instead.

I strongly recommend picking up an inexpensive humidity gauge which I go into more detail about below. I’ll also list the symptoms you can use to recognize when a humidifier is needed.

What is humidity?

Example of condensation on a glass window due to humidity

Condensation on cooler items (in this example a glass window) is simply a buildup of moisture – or “humidity” – in the air. When cooled, airborne moisture often collects as you see here. It’s one reason windows fog up after a rain or its foggy outdoors following bad weather.

In the simplest terms, humidity is the amount of water vapor that is present in the air given the current temperature conditions.  

There’s actually a lot more science involved when it comes to humidity and how it relates to air temperature, but for our purposes, I’ll keep it fairly simple.

Humidity examples

Have you ever been driving home and come across a dense fog that makes it hard for you to see? That’s a great example of what happens when there’s a lot of water vapor in the air: the humidity has increased a lot.

As you may remember, after heavy rains there’s a lot more moisture in the air, causing your windows to fog up and the environment feels a bit “muggy.” It’s because the humidity is higher than normal.

Some geographical areas like Arizona or California have dry climates and there’s almost never much humidity. This is why wildfires are so hard to put out in those areas.

Similarly, wintertime and heavy indoor heating use are 2 of the largest causes of low humidity. Although you may have never known, using a heater indoors commonly lowers the humidity to levels that are hard on your body.

Air is already dry during wintertime as the moisture is pulled from the air due to the cold temperatures. Using a heater inside to keep warm makes it even worse!

Dry air (low humidity) signs to know

Here’s a brief list of some of the most common – and reliable – ways to know if you are is too dry and a humidifier can give relief. While some may seem obvious, not everyone understands why they happen.

Symptom/ConditionNotes and description
Static electricityStatic electricity increases greatly when the humidity is too low, as static charges are no longer blocked by normal moisture levels. Static electricity is potentially destructive as the charge built up can be several hundred volts and is enough to destroy electronics.
Dry skin, nose, eyes, throatInternal passageways dry up as mucous membranes cannot support healthy moisture levels. This leaves the body susceptible to sickness and irritants. Additionally, during colds or flu the body cannot recover as quickly. Eyes may lose moisture and cause discomfort. Skin becomes susceptible to cracking due to dryness and skin problems may appear.
NosebleedsNosebleeds are also due to insufficient moisture and mucous levels in your nose. This leaves blood vessels more susceptible to bleeding due to skin breakage. Random nosebleeds are often a sure sign of exposure to excessively dry air for extended periods.
Increased allergiesDry air allows allergens in your home to move more freely. Increased allergy symptoms may appear. Sneezing and coughing also tend to increase as well as more difficulty sleeping.
Plants become dryIf indoor humidity is too low this causes problems for plants, too. When the air is too dry, soil can lose moisture more rapidly and leaves are subject to drying out. Plants have a harder time remaining healthy and growing, similar to cold extremes outdoors.
Pet problemsLow humidity indoors can cause sneezing and skin problems for pets. Wheezing, sneezing, and extreme thirst are some signs the humidity is too low and needs attention.
Home material damageLow humidity extremes can cause damage in your home’s materials indoors such as wallpaper peeling or wood floors that warp. Some furniture can dry out and need a moderate moisture level for best preservation.

Physical signs such as frequent nosebleeds or a cold that just doesn’t seem to get better can also mean that your house is too dry.

Do you have a lot of static electricity around your home? If your paint or wallpaper is peeling or your wood floors are warped, that could also be a sign too much dry air in your home.

How dry air affects you

Image of dry hand skin cracking due to dry air

One of the most common effects of dry air is dry skin, resulting in many different problems. As your skin loses moisture and remains in dry air it will become easier to damage, skin conditions may begin to appear, and cracking can occur.

The human body is very sensitive to humidity. Our skin needs a moderate & comfortable humidity level to get rid of moisture when we’re warm in order to be able to cool off.

Likewise, our skin and internal breathing passageways need more moisture (we need to increase the humidity level) when the air’s too dry.

The effects of dry air

When humidity approaches lower levels, causing dry air, you’ll feel colder than it actually is.

Not only that but your skin may become get itchy and flaky. Other skin problems may occur as well because when the epidermis (outer layer of skin) loses its healthy level of moisture it’s much more vulnerable to problems.

Your eyes will also become irritated and dry. People using contact lenses or who have eye problems may become more and more uncomfortable. For people with asthma and other health problems, this can become particularly bothersome.

Without a better solution, you’ll be left to temporary, and annoying, remedies like constantly applying lotion. Using a humidifier is a far better way to deal with it when you’re indoors.

Low humidity and sickness

Did you know? Your chances of becoming sick with a cold, flu, bronchitis, increase in dry air. Your mucus that normally traps infections finds it harder to catch things and prevent entry into your body.

If you’re already sick, dry air will cause even more havoc in your nose, throat, and lungs. Colds and sore throat conditions take longer to recover from as well.

Dry air conditions will also make you more susceptible to getting sick by others. Think about the virus that was going around your workplace or how when one of your family members got sick it seemed to be passed to everyone.

Effects on babies and children

Image of a little girl coughing from sickness, with her mother

Dry air is especially tough on children, as their young lungs, throat, and nose aren’t as developed as adults. Babies also breathe in more air per volume for their size than adults do! That means, unfortunately, they’re more likely to get sick or suffer when conditions around them are poor – like very dry air.

Your baby will likely be even more affected by exposed constantly to dry air. Of course, the biggest risk is their increased likelihood of getting sick. And we all know how easily kids spread germs to each other at day and school.

Symptoms like coughing, nosebleeds, and stuffy nose are some of the most common.

Dry air causes children to take longer recovering from sickness and can even cause them to experience respiratory problems.

When a baby is experiencing physical discomfort due to a sore throat or dry nose, that means they’ll have an even harder time sleeping, too. If they aren’t sleeping, then neither are you!

Some other signs to recognize if you need a humidifier for your child’s room is newly dry skin and an increase in rashes becoming worse.

How to know what humidity level is best

Relative humidity comfort scale image diagram

Above: A relative humidity chart showing the general range of moisture in air and what’s considered good for humans and animals. When the humidity falls below the comfort range (about 30%) you’ll need a humidifier to bring comfort back.

When you’re talking about humidity in your home, you may often hear it called relative humidityThis is a more scientific term used to describe how humidity has a close relationship to temperature.

In case you weren’t aware, temperature affects how much moisture the air can “hold.” It’s normally expressed as a percentage. The higher the temperature, the more humidity that is possible, much as you may have experienced in tropical regions.

Recommended Humidity Levels

A relative humidity range between 30 and 50 percent is ideal for your home, although what feels comfortable can vary a bit from one person to the next.

As a general rule, 50% humidity is right for nearly everyone and is a good target. When the humidity is lower than 30 percent, that means that your home is too dry and you need a humidifier.

Note that these are general ranges. You don’t have to get it perfectly matched to one particular number, just close.

(Note: If the humidity is over 50 percent than your home is ideal for mold, bacteria, and even dust mites. That’s not exactly ideal for you and your family! A dehumidifier is your best defense in this case.)

Why using a humidity gauge is smart

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gaugeA digital humidity gauge like this popular and inexpensive ThermoPro TP50 from Amazon is an excellent way to check your air. With a digital meter there’s no guessing. Simply glance at it and if it reads around 30% or below it’s time for a humidifier.

You can measure the humidity in your home with a humidity gauge (sometimes called a hygrometer). Even very good ones that are fairly accurate are inexpensive. When the displayed reading falls to around 30% and below you need to use a humidifier.

Most models also display a readout of the temperature in addition to the humidity, making them even more ideal for knowing what kind of air situation you have.

With a digital humidity gauge, you’ll be able to know with confidence the air condition in your home.

Just put it in you or your baby’s room and check it occasionally. It measures the humidity level in real-time, so you always know whether you need to turn on the air conditioner (should the humidity be too high) or set up the humidifier for the night.

In my experience, most are very accurate, despite being low-cost. 2%-5% accuracy is pretty typical and just fine for all homes, offices, and even cigar storage.

highly recommend picking one up for several reasons:

  • They’re very cheap ($10-$20 for a great one as shown)
  • Takes the guessing out of knowing when your air is too dry
  • Lets you know immediately when you should turn your humidifier on or off
  • They’re very battery-efficient and don’t need external power

How do humidifiers work?

Image of infant girl next to humidifier releasing mist vapor

Humidifiers use one of several methods to increase the moisture level in a room. Most products sold today fall into one of 2 main categories: warm mist or cool mist.

Still unsure about what a humidifier is exactly?

The purpose of a humidifier is to change liquid water to fine mist water vapor. It then releases this mist or steam into the air, raising the humidity level as it does so.

This causes an immediate level of relief from the dry air in a room and increases your comfort. Honestly, in my experience (when using a good one like I own and recommend) it doesn’t take very long to start feeling an improvement.

Warm mist vs cool mist humidifiers

Warm mist vs cool mist humidifiers exmapleWhile there are a few other types still sold today, the most common (and most popular) humidifiers include two types: Warm mist and cool mist.

While they often look very similar, there are pros and cons to each depending on what your needs are. Therefore it’s important to know the differences.

Warm mist humidifiers

Vicks V745 warm mist humidifier product example image

Warm mist humidifiers often look extremely similar to cool mist. However, there are some differences to know about. For example, warm mist models like this super-popular Vicks warm mist product produce water vapor using steam. Unlike cook mist products, some models also support cold relief additives like drop-in medicated liquids or medicated pads to distribute sinus & cold relief in the air.

Warm mist humidifiers use electricity to produce heat and generate heated water vapor which rises into the air.

Clean water stored in the tank gradually moves through a heating element and which vaporizes it. The water is then in a steam-like state and can rise into the air, increasing the humidity.

You can add scent pads or other vapor liquids to some of these types as well. If you’re having cold or flu-like symptoms, asthma, or allergies, you can get extra relief with these steam medications.

Since they produce a warm mist, they can also make your room feel warmer. They’re great for winter or moderate temperature environments and can really help with congestion during sickness.

However, they’re not a good match for warmer climates due to the small amount of heat they add.

Warm mist humidifiers do offer selectable mist levels like low or high. However, unlike cool mist, they don’t typically offer a finely adjustable output using a dial control. Instead, most have a few selectable fixed levels such as low or high modes.

Like cool mist models, when the water is completely used most are designed to shut off automatically. You’ll need to refill the humidifier once it runs out.

They’re fairly quiet during operation also, but cool mist models are even quieter.

Cool Mist Humidifiers

Pure Enrichment MistAire cool mist humidifier featured image

Cool mist humidifiers release vapor using electronic or electro-mechanical devices instead of heat as warm mist models do. A great example is this best-selling PureEnrichment MistAire model. It releases super-fine water vapor into the room at room temperature.

Cool mist humidifiers create moisture in the air without the need to use heat or warming the water.

This typically makes them more affordable than their warm mist counterparts. A cool mist humidifier will spray cool mist into the air.

You can find two types of cool mist humidifiers. The first, and most commonly sold type, is an ultrasonic design. These work by rapidly oscillating the water, turning it into an ultra-fine mist that rises into the air.

Ultrasonic humidifiers have another characteristic aside from not producing heat: they’re nearly completely silent during operation.Impeller humidifier example imageAn example of an “impeller” type. It’s a bit of an outdated technology these days but some are still popular with buyers. These types use an electric motor to turn blades in the water and produce a fine mist.

The other type of cool mist design is the impeller type. These use a motor-driven fan with blades that rapidly stirs water to produce mist. Impellers aren’t very common today and they produce more noise than their counterpart.

Another added benefit of cool mist models is that they use less electricity than warm mist models. Additionally, they don’t add heat to a room, so they’re ideal for year-round use, especially in areas with dry, warm climates.

However, they’re not as effective in helping to relieve congestion during cold and flu season.

Summary – Key points to remember

Just remember there are 2 main ways to know if you need a humidifier:

  1. Paying attention to the dry air symptoms I listed earlier and recognizing why they’re happening
  2. By using a humidity gauge to monitor the humidity level around you

If the symptoms you see match some of those I’ve listed, it’s time to use a humidifier. If you’re using a digital meter, use a humidifier when it reads 30% and below.

Remember that 40-60% or so is the ideal range of humidity for comfort, with 50% being a great rule of thumb for most people.

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gaugeAgain, I recommend you pick up a high-quality but inexpensive digital humidity gauge like this fantastic little ThermoPro TP50 that's pretty cheap at Amazon. I use digital meters at home and work and I absolutely love them!

Additional information

Need help finding a great but affordable humidifier? Check out my great list of the best humidifiers here.

You can also find out more about the differences between a humidifier and an air purifier.

What Does A Humidifier Do For Babies? How They Can Help Your Child

What do humidifiers do for babies featured image

Ever wonder what “humidity” is all about? Do you have children? It’s definitely no fun having a little one who’s sick and suffering.

The great news is that a humidifier may be able to help your baby. But what exactly does a humidifier do for babies? Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that buying a good humidifier was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

During times of dry air (like during cold months), it dramatically improved my comfort level and helped me overcome my colds & sickness.

Read on to learn more about how much of a difference they can make for your little one.

Contents

Infographic – What does a humidifier do for babies?

What does a humidifier do for babies infographic image

Understanding humidity and how it affects babies

Relative humidity comfort scale image diagram

Every wondered what humidity is all about? In this image of a relative humidity scale, you can see the general range comfortable for people and babies. It’s just a way of expressing how much moisture is present in the air at a given temperature compared to air that is dry. If the moisture in the air is too high babies become hot and can’t cool off normally. If the humidity is very low (too little moisture), coughing, noise & breathing problems and difficulty sleeping are common.

Humidity (often expressed as a percentage and called relative humidity) is a way of describing how much moisture is in the air around you.

Generally speaking people, including babies, are most comfortable in the middle 40-60% range. Like many other things, though, it varies exactly from person to person.

However, the great thing is that once you understand the effects of too much (and especially too little) humidity it all makes sense.

The effects of high humidity

In some climates like those in areas near coastal regions, or foreign countries with a humid climate, the air feels exceptionally “hot” even though it’s not.

The reason is that high humidity prevents the body from being able to cool properly. For babies this means very they’ll have a very difficult time sleeping, will sweat much more, and generally will be irritable and uncomfortable.

A humidifier doesn’t help with high humidity conditions. For that, you’ll need a product that removes humidity from the air around you, which is what a dehumidifier does.

Optionally, you can use your indoor air conditioning as it has a similar effect – the cold air causes moisture to condense and will help relieve high humidity in your child’s room.

That’s especially helpful after a very hard rain when the wet ground begins evaporating and makes indoor conditions uncomfortable for some time.

How low humidity affects babies

Image of a baby coughing. Humidifier vs air purifier for baby

The average cold and other sicknesses are especially hard on babies. When the humidity in your home is low, it’s even more difficult for them! To relieve this, you’ll need to raise the moisture level in your child’s room. That’s where humidifiers come in. Keep your baby comfortable by being sure the moisture is at a healthy level so they’ll feel their best.

Low humidity has several effects on babies that cause a variety of types of discomfort.

One of the most important reasons for this is not only does excessively low moisture air dry out the nose & throat in children, but babies are more susceptible to sickness and respiratory problems than adults.

Some of the most common symptoms of dry air that babies suffer from are:

  • Dry skin
  • Drying and stuffy nose & sinuses
  • Rashes can become worse
  • Increased susceptibility to sickness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sensitivity to the dry air: coughing and symptoms that resemble allergies
  • Nosebleeds
  • Static electricity increasing and static cling
  • Recovery from sickness takes longer
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty sleeping due to discomfort

At normal humidity levels (between 40 to 60% or so) the human body produces mucous in the linings of the throat, nose, and sinuses. When the moisture is excessively low these membranes in your child’s body dry out, introducing pain and making them more susceptible to sickness.

Indoor heating systems are a major contributing factor – especially if you use a wood stove. Even electric or gas heating systems in your home cause the humidity in a home to drop to very low levels when in use.

I’ve seen humidity levels fall to well below 25%…or more! That’s a very uncomfortable level, and every time I could definitely feel the side effects.

How does a humidifier help?

Humidifiers relieve the problems listed above by increasing the moisture (humidity) level where your baby is.

By doing so, they reduce the number of symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and dry skin your baby may be suffering from. During seasonal conditions (or due to other factors) when the humidity drops, they can prevent sickness and reduce germs in the air.

Low humidity levels allow germs and microbes to travel more easily throughout the air. Additionally, when internal mucous membranes dry out during those conditions the body is more susceptible to sickness.

All in all, humidifiers bring the moisture level in a room back to a healthy, comfortable level and improve your baby’s quality of life.

What humidity level is good for my baby?

The humidity level in your baby’s room doesn’t have to be perfect. Ideally, you’ll just need to use a humidifier to keep it in the general range I recommend here. I highly recommend purchasing a good temperature gauge with humidity display as it will help tremendously and take the guesswork out of maintaining your child’s air quality.

Ideally, just like with adults, the general range of 40-60% humidity is ideal. This is the best range in which most children and adults feel good, have better health, and can recover from sickness more quickly.

Keep the level at 30% minimal to avoid the effects I listed above for your child.

However, just as a convenient rule of thumb, aim for 50% humidity. This makes sure it’s a great midpoint not just for your children but for anyone else living in your home.

When the humidity level begins to approach 60% the room starts to feel uncomfortable and too warm and your child may become irritable and have difficulty sleeping. It’s very similar to what you feel after running a hot shower for a long time – the adjacent room feel a bit hot and “muggy.”

Either way, as long as you maintain 40% and above your baby should be comfortable and will feel fewer consequences of dry air.

If you’re using the heat quite often or live in a dry climate, you’ll need a humidifier that can produce enough water vapor for the room it’s in. I don’t recommend the smallest models for this reason. You’ll minimally need a model with a “high” setting in that case. Otherwise, it won’t be able to supply enough moisture to maintain a good humidity level. (See my recommendations at the bottom of this post)

How to check the humidity in your child’s room

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gauge

A good quality, inexpensive temperature and humidity gauge is a fantastic and extremely simple way to keep track of the comfort level where your baby stays. The problem with guessing is that it’s often hard for us to judge as our body’s sensitivity to temperature and moisture can change at times. This takes the guess-work out. I use one regularly myself year-round.

In my opinion, the best, easiest, and least expensive way to check the humidity level for your child is to use a simple and cheap digital temperature and humidity gauge.

The biggest problem I’ve run into at times was often, depending on the current state of my body, I would incorrectly guess the temperature or other air quality conditions at home.

This takes the guess-work out of it – and lets me know exactly what kind of comfort level I have at any given time. It’s also great for the summertime when I arrive home and I can right away if I need to run the air conditioning for a while.

Just put one in your baby’s room and check it periodically. When running a humidifier, you’ll be able to see the humidity level rise in real-time and you can set it to low if the humidity isn’t be dropped constantly by outside factors.

How do humidifiers work?

Vicks V745A humidifier image

Commonly sold humidifiers like this Vicks warm mist model work by taking water, stored in a container, and changing it into water vapor. The vapor is a super-fine mist or steam released into the room’s air which in turn raises the humidity level. Although evaporative models don’t need electricity, products like this one can offer almost immediate relief and have more features. Expect to spend about $35 and above for a good model.

So what exactly is a humidifier?

A humidifier is a device that changes liquid water into a fine mist or steam and releases it into the air to raise the humidity level. As the humidifier operates it simply adds to the moisture in the room and therefore improves your baby’s comfort level.

Types of humidifiers

There 4 basic types of humidifiers, although I’ll cover the most practical and popular ones in this post:

  1. Warm mist
  2. Cool mist
  3. Electromechanical
  4. Evaporative

Evaporative

Example of evaporative humidifier

These are simply products that work by being filled with water which evaporates slowly in the room. They’re silent and need no power to work, but as you might have guessed they’re very slow.

I don’t recommend these for your baby as they also can’t produce fast relief or high moisture output. The advantages of the others listed below are so much better that it doesn’t really make sense to buy these for your child.

Electromechanical

Impeller humidifier example imageElectromechanical humidifiers like this Vicks 400R cool mist model are based on older technology used years ago. They work similarly to others in that they produce water vapor. However, they do so by using an electric motor with an attachment to physically disturb the water and produce fine droplets. They’re also limited in their features.

Electromechanical humidifiers are what were some of the main products available many years ago but they’ve become a bit outdated. However, they’re still an option if the price is right. Not my first recommendation, but they do contribute “cool mist” (unheated) water vapor into a room fairly well.

The most significant drawback is their lack of features. Whereas today you can find electrical models with various power levels, timers, and other convenient features, electromechanical models don’t normally have those options.

For that reason, they’re mainly a lower-tier product choice.

Warm mist & cool mist

Vicks V745A humidifier image

Pure MistAire ultrasonic cool mist humidifier

Warm and cool mist humidifiers are essentially the most popular types sold today and offer fast relief in your child’s room. Some examples are a warm mist humidifier (left): that I own myself and a cool mist humidifier (right): the Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic humidifier.

Warm and cool mist humidifiers work similarly but use different methods to raise the humidity in your home.

Warm mist: uses a heating element or similar device, powered by electricity, to turn water into warm steam or vapor

Cool mist: often uses an ultrasonic device to rapidly change liquid water into a vapor, and doesn’t heat the water

Both types are effective at improving your baby’s health and comfort.

The main difference is that the warm mist type of product (which I own, and very much enjoy!) has the advantage of helping reduce cold symptoms and easing sinus & other nose-related or throat problems.

While cool mist humidifiers still improve your humidity levels at home, they do have the disadvantage in that they’re not as comforting for your child’s sickness as a warm mist model is.

On the other hand, ultrasonic models can offer near-silent operation which the warm mist models cannot. That’s something to think about when shopping.

Note that warm mist models require you to clean the water tank periodically to avoid germ, contaminant, and mold build-up during use.

Summary – What does a humidifier do for babies?

To recap here are the fundamental things to know:

  • Humidifiers help babies by improving their air quality – they relieve the effects of dry air and can also help reduce and relieve sickness along with improving their sleep comfort
  • Warm mist and cool mist are the most common types sold today
  • Warm mist humidifiers additionally are helpful for relieving sinus & other cold symptoms your child may have

If you’re wondering what the differences are between an air purifier and a humidifier for your baby, check out my helpful post here.

Looking for a good recommendation for a humidifier? I own and can personally recommend the Vicks V745R warm mist model which features 2 power settings, isn’t expensive, and is very easy to use. It even shuts off by itself when the water is all gone!

Choosing A Humidifier Vs Air Purifier For Your Baby – Which One?

Humidifier vs air purifier for baby image

The quality of air where you live can have a big impact on the well-being of your baby. Air purifiers and humidifiers are two very different products for different purposes.

In some ways, they’re a complement to each other. I understand how it could be confusing which is right for your little one. Perhaps you’re trying to decide on a humidifier vs air purifier for your baby.

I’ve written this post to help explain what each does as well as compare the two. Your baby’s health and comfort is important and I’d love to help you make the best decision.

Contents

Humidity and the effects of dry air on your baby

Image of a baby coughing. Humidifier vs air purifier for baby

Common colds and other sicknesses are actually more difficult when the humidity in your home is low. For the best recovery from colds and sinus problems, a comfortable humidity level is recommended. Babies and children are more susceptible to air quality than adults. Keep your baby comfortable and healthy especially in dry climates and during the winter when humidity is very low.

The humidity level in your home can greatly influence how you feel and has a big influence on respiratory problems. It’s a numerical percentage used to express the amount of moisture content in the air around you.

For reference, a typical home should have a recommended humidity level of about 30%-50%.

Dry air sources & symptoms

Much like the outdoors during wintertime, homes that heat cold air using indoor heating (especially a wood-burning fireplace) may see a significant drop in humidity and the effects of dryness on your baby will become clear.

A level of 10%-20% is typical. If you live in an area with a dry climate the same effects can be seen depending upon your environment.

Very dry air dries out mucous membranes in your child’s nose, eyes, and throat. Your little one can become very uncomfortable. Sleep becomes more difficult and a baby’s breathing can become difficult as well as babies are more sensitive to environmental air quality than adults.

What does a humidifier do for babies?

Dry air consequences for small children can include:

  • Dry skin
  • Drying and stuffy nose & sinuses
  • Rashes can become worse
  • Increased susceptibility to sickness
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sensitivity to the dry air: coughing and symptoms that resemble allergies
  • Nosebleeds
  • Static electricity increasing and static cling
  • Recovery from sickness takes longer
  • A baby’s sleep may become difficult from coughing or nose & throat discomfort

Unlike an air purifier, humidity-related symptoms that resemble allergies aren’t due to increased irritants in the air.

They’re triggered by more particulates becoming active due to no longer being slowed due to moisture. Much like how a very dry room can show more dust, a room with lower moisture allows allergens to move more freely and enter a child’s lungs.

A humidifier works by turning water into vapor and releasing it into your home’s air. This raises the humidity back to a comfortable level.

In turn, your baby can breathe better and the symptoms of dry air listed above are reduced and even eliminated! Here’s an excellent post that explains more about humidifiers.

How to check the humidity in your baby’s room

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gaugeA product like this displays the temperature and humidity in your baby’s room. They’re low-cost and a great way to monitor the real comfort levels for your baby’s air. During times when the heat is being used, you’re highly likely to see the humidity drop excessively!

A simple way to be able to check the humidity level for your little one is to use a hydrometer (humidity level) gauge. My recommendation is to use a simple & inexpensive temperature gauge with a humidity readout feature. Here's a great example of one I recommend.

These are inexpensive and work well. They’re fairly accurate and I use them both at home and work. Because of owning one I was able to detect that my colds and dry skin were being aggravated by the dry air.

With my heat running, I could see a dramatic decrease in my home’s moisture level – well below 25%!

After buying a humidifier for my room my quality of comfort greatly increased. With the humidity now between 40%-50% or so again I felt better and could sleep much more comfortably.

What humidity level is best for my baby?

Recommended humidity level imageFor most people (and it depends on the person) the general range is between 30%-60%. Above 60% and your baby may start to become hot and perspire as high humidity keeps the body from being able to cool well.

Below 30% or so the body begins to feel cool and the symptoms of dry air become obvious.

A great rule of thumb is about 40-50% humidity in your baby’s room and your home. That’s an approximate number and you don’t have to worry about getting it exactly within that range.

I’m confident that once you’ve experienced the symptoms that low humidity causes you’ll notice the relief provided by a humidifier.

Humidifier types & how they work

There are several different types of humidifiers sold today but most can fit into one of 2 major categories.

Mist vs evaporative humidifiers

Mist vs evaporative humidifier comparison image

Left: An ultrasonic (mist) humidifier with electronic controls. Right: an evaporative humidifier set

Warm and cool mist humidifiers

Mist humidifiers work by changing water into tiny water droplets that are released into the air to add moisture. Cool mist humidifiers do so without using heat in the process.

They use electromechanical or other methods (like ultrasonic oscillation) to release non-heated water vapor into the air.

Warm mist humidifiers work like steamers: heat is used to produce warm water vapor into the air which raises the room’s humidity.

Both types have to be refilled with clean water when the supply runs out. Normally a tank is used to store water to offer several hours of use.

One benefit of warm mist humidifiers for your baby is that they’re often helpful when a child is sick. Especially with colds or other nose or sinus conditions.

Evaporative humidifiers

By comparison, evaporative models work on the principle of how moisture is released over time from standing water (typically in a bowl of some kind) into the surrounding air until the moisture level reaches a balance.

Unlike electric-powered models, they produce zero noise but can’t supply moisture into the air rapidly like powered products. These must be refilled with fresh, clean water as well after drying up.

Today’s products are more advanced and offer much more dryness relief with far less sound produced than those of long ago. In decades past, humidifiers were usually electromechanical devices that used an electric motor.

The motor spun rapidly and “whipped” the water through a small vent hole to release a fine mist into the air.

Here’s a great post that goes into more detail about humidifiers and provides some examples you may find helpful.

Understanding air quality and the problems an air purifier solves

air purifier in living room image

Enclosed spaces like your baby’s room and your home are highly prone to trapping many elements that can trigger allergies in a child. Or even worse – sickness.

There are many types of unwanted particles, microbes, and allergy-causing particulates in the air around you:

  • Dust and dust mite particles
  • Microbes and airborne bacterial matter
  • Cigarette smoke byproducts and odors
  • Pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander and hair
  • Material from home construction or other foreign material
  • Odor-causing chemical substances

Babies are more sensitive to airborne irritants and germs because for their size they breathe in more air than adults. Additionally, they have weaker immune systems and have not built up a tolerance and resistance to common germs and allergens.

The biggest and most aggravating problems come when your child is continuously exposed.

Until these problem-causing particulates are dealt with properly your little one will continue to suffer.

Air purifiers provide relief for many types of allergies, coughing, colds & general respiratory problems.  After some time in use, you’ll be able to breathe clean, fresh, and pure air in your home and the baby’s room.

How do air purifiers work?

Diagram illustrating how an air purifier works

A good, well-performing air purifier like the GermGuardian AC4900CA has a HEPA filter (white) made of highly dense material for trapping microscopic particles in the air. A secondary dual-filter may be included: an activated carbon filter (black) and pre-filter section. Together they work to trap odors, chemical vapors, dust, and hair. These are often called a 3-in-1 air purifier filter.

Air purifiers work on a simple principle: they use fans to draw in dirty air, filter it, and permanently remove allergens, cigarette smoke particles & odors, pet dander, dust, and much more.

The fans then blow out fresh, healthy, and wonderfully clean air back into the room.

The problem with using a fan, opening a window, or using spray disinfectants or air fresheners is that they don’t address the source of the problem – the germs and unwanted materials in the air still remain and increase in amount as time goes by.

An air purifier is the only real solution to this problem.

Many of the problems we associate with allergies, sickness, and other conditions are actually too small to see – microscopic in size, in fact!

Some of the most common are incredibly small!

For example, some dust mite particles are around 5-10 microns in diameter. 1 micron is a unit of measurement representing 1/1,000,000 of a meter in size (also called a micrometer, or 1 uM). In the image above, PM10 and PM2.5 are labels used to indicate the size range of some particles: 10 uM and 2.5uM.

An air purifier works by using an industry-standard of filtering ability called a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.

This is a United States Department of Energy standard meaning it must meet the ability to filter out 99.97% of all foreign matter, down to 0.3 microns in size of the air passing through it.

Foreign matter, microbes, and many other things that are harmful to your baby become trapped in the filter material and are completely removed from your child’s breathing air.

What is a HEPA filter?

Additionally, most use a 1st stage filter that includes an activated carbon filter. Some also include an extra pre-filter to remove larger matter like pet hair and dust. The purpose of the carbon filter is to remove odor-causing chemical substances and vapors.

When combined, this combination of filter types creates an excellent way to remove sickness and allergy-causing particles and odors.

Air humidifier filters are replaceable and must be swapped for a new one after a number of months depending upon the number of particles removed. 6-8 months are typical replacement times.

How to know which is right for your baby

So to break it down into the simplest terms here’s what you need to know:

When you need a humidifier for your baby:

  • You live in a dry climate or frequently cold climate
  • During wintertime when the heat is heavily used
  • Your baby is suffering from dry skin, dry nose/eyes/throat
  • You can feel a large amount of static electricity when touching objects after moving

Again, remember that a mist humidifier works fairly rapidly while an evaporative product does not, so you’ll want to buy a mist-type humidifier.

Here’s a good example of an affordable mist humidifier that's a great choice.

When you need an air purifier for your baby:

  • You have moderate to high levels of dust or particles
  • After moving into a new home or after a recent home construction
  • You have visitors or people living in your home that are smokers
  • Your baby shows frequent coughing, sneezing, signs of allergies, or other symptoms of allergies
  • Your child becomes sick with a cold or other respiratory illness
  • Your baby was born with or developed a respiratory illness or other illness affected by air quality
  • For pet owners who keep dogs & cats indoors frequently

Can I use a humidifier and an air purifier together?

Yes, absolutely! They don’t affect the performance of each other and together they make a great team. A humidifier can improve the comfort of your air related to moisture while a purifier will clean and freshen the air. Also, it can relieve allergies and remove those odors you hate.

If you’ve got pets or smokers nearby you know exactly what I’m referring to.

Additional reading

For some of the best air purifiers on a budget, check out this helpful buying guide. Have a look at my review of the best-selling GermGuardian AC4825 purifier. I own it and highly recommend it.

If you’re wondering how much a humidifier costs and what they’re like, here's an excellent one that I use personally and can be found at Amazon.

Want to learn more about humidifiers? You can read more about humidifiers and what they do here.

How Long Does A Toaster Oven Take To Preheat? See What I Found!

How long does a toaster oven take to preheat featured image

Thinking about buying a toaster oven? Or perhaps you’d just like to know more about cooking & heating times for yours.

In either case, I’ve done some hands-on testing to tell you everything you need to know about preheating times, cooking times, and more. If you’re wondering how long it takes to preheat a toaster oven, you’ve come to the right place!

Additionally, there’s some interesting information to show why they offer some great advantages over larger ovens.

Read on to learn more!

Contents

Infographic – Toaster oven facts

Toaster oven facts infographic

How long does a toaster oven take to preheat?

The time it takes for toaster ovens to preheat varies from oven to oven based on 2 things:

  • The toaster oven’s size
  • The power rating (it’s heating ability)

Smaller ovens (like those most suited for small meals or 4 slices of bread) will perform differently than larger, multi-function toaster ovens.

To find out some hard numbers I used 2 example ovens and did hands-on testing for both. I found out some very interesting things!

Testing preheating on 2 toaster ovens

Toaster oven preheat time test setup image

Top: For the first toaster oven I used a typical-size Black and Decker TO1675W (1500W) model. Bottom: Setting up the larger Cuisinart TOA-60 model, which is not only an oven but features an air fryer as well (1800W power). For both, I used a high accuracy, high temperature probe and digital thermometer.

For my test setup, I used 2 ovens to get 2 readings and have a better understanding of how long it takes a toaster oven to warm up.

I used these models for testing:

  • Black and Decker TO1675W toaster oven with 1,500W rated power
  • Cuisinart TOA-60 toaster oven/air fryer with rated 1,800W power

For both, I used an accurate high temperature probe and digital thermometer, set them to their convection bake mode, and measured the time each needed to reach 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius).

How long to preheat an oven to 450 degrees?

Toaster oven preheat time measurements graphic

There you have it! An average toaster oven takes around 5-6 minutes to preheat to 450°F (232°C) while a larger one like the Cuisinart takes only slightly longer.

In most cases, expect a preheat time of close to 5 minutes. Smaller toaster ovens may take less time, but as a rule, 5-6 minutes is a reasonable expectation for most on the market.

What’s interesting, however, is how they compare to a larger more powerful traditional oven.

Keep reading to find out more.

Do you have to preheat a toaster oven?

Preheating a toaster oven isn’t necessary but is highly recommended.

The reason is that it gives the oven time to heat up to a ready temperature for immediate cooking when the food is put inside.

Ideally food begins cooking at the right temperature for the right amount of time instead of having it start cold in a cold oven. In the case of not preheating the oven, the food has to heat up gradually instead of having the oven hot and ready to start cooking right away.

Think of it as waiting for the shower to have warm water before you get in. Is it necessary? No, but it’s definitely better in most cases as it lets you get started correctly as soon as you’re in.

Toaster oven cooking times

It’s not just preheating times that matter when you’re considering buying or using a toaster oven. What about cooking times? How long will you have to wait for your dinner, and how well do they typically work?

In order to find out, I cooked a variety of foods in my wonderful Cuisinart TOA-60 toaster oven/air fryer. Especially important was finding out it they’re not just faster at preheating but cooking as well.

Toaster oven cooking times measurements

I measured the cooking times for several different foods including toast using my Cuisinart TOA-60. As it features both convection baking and an air fryer feature I put them both to the test. Here are 2 of the results I got during testing. Pretty fast, and certainly faster than a larger oven.

It’s important to clarify that I used the convection oven (baking) option in my test oven. Convection baking gives better results in many cases and is especially great for items that are tastier with an even, crunchy crust.

An air fryer also has many benefits and allows cooking great, healthy foods you love but without the oily mess and fatty health concerns normally associated with fried foods.

Cooking time results

For my test examples, a small frozen pizza took only roughly 6 minutes to become perfectly toasted and crunchy with the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees. (Note: for convection baking, it’s recommended to reduce the target temperature by 25 degrees before cooking).

Toaster oven cooked foods example (pizza, wings)

Cooking test foods and measuring cooking times. I got perfectly cooked pizza with an evenly crisped crust in about 6 minutes and delicious air-fried wings without unhealthy oil in about 15 minutes.

While the Cuisinart owner’s manual recommends about 20-25 minutes, my wings were very well done in just under 15 minutes.

Additionally, I estimate I overcooked them just a bit so it’s more like 13 minutes or so. The results were excellent, with minimal, if any, preparation.

Toaster oven vs traditional oven – Preheat times

Preheating time comparison

Sure, it’s great that you only have to wait about 5 or 6 minutes or so for one to heat up. But is there an advantage over a traditional and much larger oven? And how long does one of those take to preheat?

I had to find out!

Similar to my toaster oven measurements, I measured the pre-heat time for my Samsung larger oven and here’s what I found.

Cuisinart TOA-60 vs conventional oven preheat times comparison diagram

Shown: A comparison of time measured for preheating a toaster oven to 450°F (232°C) vs that of a larger, more powerful oven. Wow! Quite a difference! Just over twice as much time is needed.

What I found surprised me. While my oven is large and fairly powerful (a nice Samsung with many features) at around 3,600W, the Cuisinart toaster oven took less than half the time to preheat.

Needless to say, there’s a definite advantage here when using a toaster oven when it comes to how long you’ll have to wait before cooking a meal. That’s much less time wasted.

But wait – it gets even more interesting.

Toaster oven vs traditional oven – Energy use

I’ve put together a simple graph that helps explain how much power one uses vs the other.

Cuisinart toaster oven vs regular oven power use comparison graph

A basic graph showing the energy a good modern toaster oven uses vs that of a larger conventional (standard) oven. Basically, you can expect a regular oven to use twice or more the electrical power of a toaster oven. Over time the toaster oven will cut cooking times and energy use a lot!

Indeed, while you might think a conventional (standard) oven is larger and more powerful it’s better. The truth is, that’s not the case at all with a few exceptions.

Conventional ovens take extra time to heat the air and preheat because of the larger air volume inside.

As they’re more compact and the heating elements are normally closer to the food, toaster ovens can also cook faster in many cases despite being less powerful.

Reasons why they’re a better choice for most everyday cooking

Based on my preheating, cooking, and energy use comparisons here, I can confidently say a toaster oven will cut your waiting, cooking, and energy use costs by about 1/2.

Of course, toaster ovens aren’t ideal for everyone and all situations. For example, I often do “meal prepping” and cook large amounts of chicken or other items on baking pans which need a lot more room.

For smaller personal or family-sized meals, however, (especially frozen foods) toaster ovens are much more efficient and easier to use.

Some models like the Cuisinart TOA-60 I mentioned can even fit a whole 4lb medium-sized chicken inside for cooking.

How long does toasting bread take?

In addition to the other toaster oven measurements and tests I performed, how could I forget one of the most important?

I’ve always been a toast fan so I just had to find out how an oven compares to today’s typical inexpensive pop-up toasters found everywhere.

Cuisinart TOA-60 toaster time settings measurements chart

Toasting time measurements using 4 slices of white bread. I tested each of 3 darkness levels available on my test oven. Toasting with an oven takes slightly longer than a simple electric pop-up appliance but gives better results, I found.

Toaster ovens vs electric toasters

Cuisinart toasted bread test results

Testing white bread toasting quality & times with my Cuisinart oven. Toaster ovens are able to produce consistent, excellent toast quality (if you select a good oven, that is). Above: With the darkness selector set to Medium, I got perfectly medium-toasted bread in just under 5 minutes (with no preheating necessary).

There are pros and cons when it comes to using traditional electric pop-up toasters vs a toaster oven.

However, in my opinion, and based on my testing, toaster ovens are a better choice and you’ll be far happier with them.

While electric toasters are very simple often very inexpensive, what I’ve found is that they’re often unreliable, fail early, and are difficult to adjust for the results you want.

Additionally, I’ve seen many cases where they would begin to perform worse over time.

By contrast, a good quality toaster can deliver consistent, nearly perfect toasting due to including features like a toast timer (which shuts the oven off after use) or toast darkness presets.

There is a trade-off, of course: a pop-up toaster can take a bit less time. The problem is that you often get uneven toasting and sometimes the toast is too dark.

The end results were excellent and it was honestly some of the best toast I’ve ever tasted in my life!

Considering the added cost of getting a better-performing electric toaster, why not just get a quality toaster oven? Many are affordable and as low as around $50, making them a better value overall.

Hamilton Beach Toastation

Some toaster ovens offer the same convenience as a pop-up toaster built in. This popular, low-cost Hamilton Beach Toastation 2-slice provides the best of both worlds.

Features to look for when shopping

Most ovens sold today typically include the following features and what you should shop for mainly depends on the types of food you’ll enjoy.

Additionally, convenience is a huge factor in my opinion, too, as some models offer better options to make cooking less bothersome.

Typical features:

  • Cooking modes: toast, bake, and broil
  • Food warming mode
  • 30 minute auto-off cooking timer
  • Oven rack and crumb tray

Having tested a variety of ovens and cooking modes, I can tell you that the air fryer and convection oven features are simply some of the best you’ll find.

They’re well worth spending a little more money for. Here are a few features I recommend considering when shopping. Several are available in products below $100, making them affordable for many people.

Recommended features:

  • Built-in pop-up style dedicated toaster
  • Digital timer and/or electronic controls
  • Convection bake and broil functions
  • Longer cooking timer (60 minutes, for example)
  • Toast timer with auto-off & darkness settings
  • Non-stick interior coating
  • Oven light

Toaster oven air fried french fries example image

Love fried foods like delicious crisp, browned french fries? Buying a toaster oven with the air fryer feature allows fried food taste but is much healthier and easier, too.

Convection ovens work by using a fan or fans to move the hot cooking air constantly. This results in an evenly crisped or toasted outside of the food as well as better heat distribution for more even internal cooking.

As convection ovens are more effective, it’s often recommended that you reduce the temperature setting by 25 degrees.

Additional recommendations

If you’re wondering about which toaster ovens are great choices for your money – but you’ve got a budget – check out my great post with the best values in toaster ovens under $50.

One of the absolutely best products I’ve had the pleasure to own is the Cuisinart TOA-60 toaster oven and air fryer. It’s what I used to cook the wonderful and delicious foods you see in the pictures here.

It’s such a great model that after testing and reviewing it, I’ve awarded it my Editor’s Choice.

Cuisinart TOA-60 review Editor's Choice recommended product image

Looking for a great toaster oven that gives fantastic results? Based on my hands-on testing, the excellent Cuisinart TOA-60 is one of the best models sold today at Amazon.

Do I Need An Air Purifier In Every Room? An Informational Guide For Everyone

Image of a nice suburban home USA

So you’re considering buying an air purifier. But perhaps you want to breathe better, cleaner air in more than just 1 room.

If you’re thinking about buying more than one you may be asking yourself, “Do I need an air purifier in every room?

In this post, I’ll go into more detail and cover the facts you need to know before spending money. I’d like you to get the most benefit from your buying options and to get the best benefit per dollar spent.

Contents

Do I need an air purifier in every room? The basic answer

Before I go into more detail, here’s the short answer.

Air purifier room facts

The simplest answer is that you don’t need an air purifier in every room.  There are more things to consider, too, before buying & using air purifiers in multiple rooms:

  • The number of rooms which you regularly occupy and need an air cleaner for
  • Air quality problems you need relief for
  • Room size (in square feet) for matching with the correct model of purifier

However, you need to buy the right kind (or a combination of different kinds) for your needs. Additionally, you need to buy air purifiers with enough coverage for your particular home & needs.

You’ll also need enough of them to handle the air space volume (room size coverage, in other words) where you have air quality problems.

What to know before buying air purifiers

If you want the air inside your house to fresh and free of irritants, it only makes sense to place air purifiers in all rooms… right?

Well, not necessarily! 

Before making a decision, you need to consider several factors that affect the “hows” and “whys”:

  1. Budget
  2. Air cleaning needs
  3. Rooms needing coverage
  4. Air purifier room size

1. Budget

To be frank, placing an air purifier in every room would be pricey. From the very beginning, you really need to think about your expectations and air cleaning needs vs. the amount of money you can afford to spend.

While this may vary from home to home, the average house has about five rooms. How much are you able to spend to get air purifier coverage for your home and in multiple rooms?

Give this some thought before you go shopping online. Some people might be inclined to buy cheap ones so that they can place air purifiers in all the rooms. This is actually a mistake that might not seem obvious at first glance.

Cheap, low-spec air purifiers can actually be worse than having no air purifiers at all.

There are lots of reasons why, but it’s mainly because they do a poor job at cleaning the air and ultimately you’ll be unhappy with the results. In some cases, some products sold as “air purifiers” do little besides blow air and some produce by-products that can irritate the throat and respiratory system.

If you have to spend extra money later to buy better ones, that means you’re actually losing money – not saving it!

Cheap ones will only circulate dirty, unfiltered air through your house to the point that you would probably be better off without one. A single air purifier of good quality is worth more than several low-grade ones that work poorly.

Remember this: Quality over quantity. Every time.

What you can expect to spend

That being said, for a decent budget air purifier you can expect to spend about a bit under $100 for each.

Higher quality models that are best sellers and have amazing buyer satisfaction are only a bit more and sell for around $140-$200 depending on room size coverage, features, and performance.

More advanced models offer a lot more convenience and can even run in automatic mode or include a remote control.

Don’t worry! You don’t have to be rich or spend a ton of money to keep the air clean in your home. There are some great options that are affordable – you just have to be careful when buying. I’ll cover that more in detail below.

2. Your air cleaning needs

Diagram showing common air quality problem sources

A wide variety of contaminants – or combinations of those – need a “real” air purifier that will permanently remove them from your air. Some problems, like dust mites, require a HEPA filter. Odors and airborne chemical substances need an activated carbon filter to cleanse the air successfully. Think about what you specifically need relief from.

Not everyone has the same air quality needs. For example, if you have pets you’ll have slightly different requirements than someone who is dealing with dust.

A person with allergies or asthma problems, for example, will need different features as well.

Pet owners can sometimes find certain models with special filter versions available for their product.

Want to learn more? I’ve written a great post called “What Kind Of Air Purifier Do I Need?” here which goes more into detail.

Ultimately, it if involves removing odors, you need one that features an activated carbon filter. For general applications, at a minimum, you need a High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter (HEPA) model with sufficient room coverage.

Special features

If you have particular health issues or are susceptible to colds or other sicknesses, you might consider a model with a germ-killing feature. Some do this with an ionizer or ozone generator.

I don’t recommend these for people with respiratory problems, although ionizers are proven to greatly reduce airborne germs that cause sickness.

A few offer germ-killing features such as ultraviolet light (UV) light to reduce the chances of you contracting an illness.

Others offer advanced convenience features like self-off timers, a quiet mode, and so on. Some even offer smartphone control and air quality reports while you’re away!

3. Rooms needing coverage


Do you spend a considerable amount of time inside your house? Which rooms do you stay in the longest? Which rooms do you seldom use?

An average person spends the longest time in their bedrooms, followed by the living room. Most likely the time you spend in other rooms would pale in comparison. Air purifiers placed in rarely used rooms are useless so they would be a poor use of your money.

What’s the use of purifying the air in an area you don’t use? Don’t be concerned about rooms that are rarely entered. Much as you seldom enter them, so the same is true for air contaminants.

Unless some of the areas of your home have exposure to the outdoors (and particles brought inside) or other sources of poor air quality, it really shouldn’t be much of a concern.

Thinking about purifier placement

Concentrate mainly on adding air purifiers to the main areas – and areas in between – that you spend the most time in.

The areas where you, your pets, or others predominantly reside are the rooms that need air purifier coverage. Placing them in between means that other areas will have their air cleaned as well.

Although they’re rated for certain size rooms, air purifiers will still circulate air from other parts of your home. It does take some time, but additional rooms will have their air purified as well if air can circulate sufficiently.

4. Air purifier room size – how to find the square feet measurement

Room size measuring example

Most air purifiers sold specify the recommended room size they can clean in terms of the size of the room. This is usually stated in square feet (sq. feet, or “ft^2”).

Others may optionally state the room air coverage in cubic feet, which is very similar to room size except that it also takes into account the ceiling height of a room. Unfortunately, some may not specify this coverage ability clearly.

If a purifier doesn’t specify room size, assume it is generally good for a small room.

Before shopping, you need to estimate these rough numbers using some easy math. Don’t worry, as even if math isn’t your strong point, it’s not hard at all.

Estimating the air purifier coverage you need for a room - examples

1.  Estimating the air purifier coverage size in square feet for a bedroom:

Room width x room length =  10 feet x 15 feet room size = 150 sq. feet (150 ft^2)

2. Estimating the air purifier coverage size for a bedroom in cubic feet (air space volume):

Room width x room length x ceiling height = 10 ft x 15 feet x 15 feet = 2,250 cubic feet (ft^3).

After estimating the room size coverage you need, write it down in your notes. That way you’ll be ready before shopping when evaluating choices and you can verify it’s close to your room size.

Air purifier coverage specs are estimates

The room size listed by different manufacturers are estimates. Just like any other kind of estimate, it’s impossible to get the exact number – but the great news is that you don’t need to. The idea is to buy an air purifier based on the room size coverage it states it can provide that is close to the room or rooms you want to use it in.

Don’t worry about getting it perfectly right. All brands take time to circulate and clean all the air in a room, so even if the listed coverage is a bit below what the product you buy is rated at, it will clean it eventually.

Just remember it doesn’t need to be perfectly matched. Your goal is to buy a purifier with close to or greater than a coverage rating of the room you want to use it in.

Air purifier CADR ratings explained

What is a CADR rating?

A purifier’s Clean Air Delivery Rate is a measured, numerical way to express how effectively a purifier can filter a room’s air.  Introduced by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the CADR rating is an industry standard for measuring the airflow of filtered air.

The main benefit of a manufacturer-provided CADR rating is that you know the purifier has been tested in a certified test lab by following industry guidelines.

In other words, the CADR rating is a figure of measurement that is the volume of filtered air delivered by an air cleaner. The higher the numbers (listed for smoke, dust, and pollen) the more effective it is at filtering.

Why it’s helpful to know

Generally speaking the higher the numbers or numbers, the better.

CADR rating example label

Shown: An example CADR rating from a purifier. Not all manufacturers provide them or only provide them for certain models (typically higher-quality models include them).

Products sold with a CADR rating benefit you because you know they have a proven amount of square footage air filtering coverage. There’s no guessing and it is a good indicator of a quality product with demonstrated filtering ability.

Higher ratings for the tobacco smoke, dust, and pollen numbers are a sign that the unit will more quickly purify the air than a similar unit with lower ratings.

If the ratings between are the same between two products then the filtering performance is the same.

Air purifier types: portable vs. whole house vs. wall-mounted

Levoit LV-H132 Vs Germguardian AC4825 comparison image

Examples of two popular portable (floor use) air purifiers. Floor purifiers are the most common and are often the best choice for most people.

“Whole house, portable, or wall-mount air purifiers…which one should I use?”

You’ll likely be faced with this question as you set out to buy an air purifier. It’s actually pretty simple, but it’s something you may need to think about in advance.

Portable models (used on the floor or a shelf) can be moved around as needed while whole-house systems cover the full interior of your home. Wall-mounted units are attached to walls and can be placed out of the way.

Here’s a general overview of their respective advantages and disadvantages:

Pros and cons lists for the general placement types of air purifiers

Portable (floor or shelf) air purifiers

PROS:
  • You can move them from room to room
  • Ideal for those on a budget (You can buy one and bring it along as you switch rooms, even take it to work!)
CONS:
  • If you buy a model with low space coverage it may not work well in other rooms
  • You could decide it’s a hassle to drag one along every time you switch rooms

Whole house air purifiers

PROS:
  • Covers the airflow system of your entire house – especially larger interior spaces
  • Works as one whole system (It isn’t necessary to purchase several units)
CONS:
  • Heavily reliant on the HVAC system
  • Expensive

Wall mounted air purifiers

PROS:
  • User-friendly (Commonly controlled using a remote control)
  • Works as one whole system (Not necessary to purchase several units)
CONS:
  • Requires an installation process
  • Fixed in place (If not installed optimally, it could be less efficient)
  • Not flexible in use

What type of purifier should you buy?

The best air purifiers use a true High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter along with a pre-filter and odor absorption feature. These types are very effective at removing airborne particulates of nearly all kinds. Avoid ionizers and ozone generators sold as “purifiers” as many are ineffective and can even cause health problems!

It basically comes down to personal preference. However, generally speaking, most people buy a moderately priced portable model. Many of those available today provide great coverage and air cleaning ability. You can also expect good reliability and fairly low maintenance costs.

You’ll also want to buy a model with a true HEPA filter for the best air cleaning performance.

When getting ready to buy a floor model or HVAC/whole-house purifier product, buy one that works using HEPA filters.

Avoid ionizers and ozone generators as at the minimum they’re not very effective. In the worst case, they’re potentially harmful to your comfort and health. I’ve had several readers report they’ve had very bad discomfort, coughing, and irritation from HVAC products sold as “air cleaners.”

These were ionizers or ozone generators sold with fancy marketing terms, rather than good, quality design and performance.

A standard filter-based purifier can’t cause these kinds of problems, and are nearly always a much better buy, too!

Portable air purifiers are best for those:

  • With a smaller budget
  • Living alone
  • Who are new to purifiers or don’t want to deal with installation hassle & secondary expenses
  • Are renters or may sell their home later
  • Who want additional special features like Wi-Fi control and others

Whole house purifiers are best for those:

  • With a large budget
  • Living in a house with a pre-existing HVAC system
  • Willing to pay secondary costs for installation and maintenance
  • Who wants the most air cleaning that money can buy

Wall mount purifiers are best for those:

  • With a large budget
  • Living with multiple housemates or a family
  • With specific filter & technology needs
  • With no need for extra features and air purifier placement flexibility

Where should I put my air purifier?

Image of Levoit LV-H132 air purifier in bedroom

Since most people reading this will opt for a standard portable air purifier, I’ll cover the main things to know about those after buying one and getting ready to use it.

Generally speaking, bedrooms and the living room are the best locations to place them.

Definitely place them in rooms that have the most traffic coming in from outdoors or which are periodically exposed to sources of external contaminants like outdoor pollution.

If your pets mainly stay in one room most of the time but do move about (like to your bedroom) you might consider putting one in between rooms.

If you find yourself having allergy symptoms in a particular room, that’s a tremendous clue that allergens are airborne there and you need a purifier in that area.

Air circulation

Don’t place a purifier where air cannot circulate throughout the room well.

For example, don’t place them in areas that are closed-off from airflow or obstruct the flow of air through them. Purifiers work by drawing in dirty air, filtering it, and blowing out the newly freshened air so it’s critical to make sure they have easy access and enough space.

Many models recommend 15″ to 24″ space between them and walls or furniture, for example.

Noise levels & light brightness in other sleeping & study areas

Image showing Levoit Core 300 air purifier in a dark room

If you’re sensitive to light and sound when sleeping or concentrating like I am, definitely consider buying a model that has minimal noise production. Several very good products today have the benefit of allowing you to use them in your bedroom overnight without being disturbed. Otherwise, consider moving it slightly outside of your room.

If you stay in a certain room for sleep or need to concentrate for work or studying, consider placing the device just around the edge of the open doorway or slightly out of the way.

While many sold today have a special low-noise “sleep” mode or other low-speed settings with minimal noise produced while in use it can still be an issue for some of us. This includes me!

I recommend therefore ideally buying a model you know won't produce distracting noise or simply move it into a slightly different area.

Additional air purifier placement tips

Image of child in living room with air purifier
Always
 read the owner’s manual before deciding where to use it!

Don’t forget that reputable brands are well-tested and the manufacturer sometimes recommends the best locations for optimal air cleaning.

Here are a few other things to think about:

  • Don’t put air purifiers in the corner unless otherwise specified as acceptable
  • Try to avoid leaving windows open for very long
  • Make sure your purifier has 1-2 feet clearance (minimal) for best efficiency
  • Keep it a distance of 6-10 feet from the head of your bed
  • Point the output side of the purifier in your direction
  • Make sure the room size coverage of the one you buy is fairly close to, or larger than, your room size

In summary: Do I need an air purifier in every room?

  • No, you don’t. You only need enough to cover the size of the rooms you’ll mainly be staying in or have air quality problems in
  • Estimate your room size and buy products with room coverage close to the size you found
  • Buy quality models and place them in the right locations, positioned properly
  • Most people are fine with a portable model that’s moderately priced. Consider buying one with a germ killer if you are susceptible to sickness or other health problems
  • A good rule of thumb is to start with 1 rated for med. size rooms (living room) and use a smaller model for each bedroom

Levoit Core 300 review editors choice badge product imageFor the average person, I recommend choosing a model that’s a well-rounded combination of price, features, and performance. The new Levoit Core 300 medium room purifier was a great model I recently reviewed.

Find out here why it's one of the best new air purifiers you'll find at Amazon.

Additional reading

As I mentioned earlier, don’t stress if you’re on a budget. I’ve written a helpful guide here with 5 of the top air purifiers under $100.

Be sure to check out my other helpful guides like this one if you have pets or this post if you have a dust mite problem.

What Does A Humidifier Do? An In-Depth Guide

What does a humidifier do featured image

If you’ve asked yourself, “What does a humidifier do?” this post will help answer that.

Recently during the winter, I became sick with a sinus cold. The dry air (due to electric heaters in my home) actually made me suffer a lot more than I would have otherwise.

I bought a wonderful little humidifier and felt better immediately. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made!

Buying one was a great decision – so much so that I was inspired to write this and share with you what I’ve learned.

Contents

Infographic- What do humidifiers do? Facts and benefits

What does a humidifier do infographic

How does a humidifier work?

Vicks V745A humidifier imageHumidifiers work by taking water and converting it into fine steam or mist that increases the amount of moisture in the air around you. It’s similar to how running a hot shower in your house steams up the air. The water tank stores water to allow it to run for several hours – especially overnight use. Shown here is a Vicks warm mist humidifier with a large water tank.

Humidifiers are devices that increase the humidity in a room. They work by changing liquid water into a mist or steam which increases the humidity in the air. Humidity is a word used to describe the amount of moisture, as a percentage, in the air around you.

However, it’s not just adding moisture into a room’s air that makes them so helpful. It’s the other benefits you might not yet be aware of that can really boost your quality of life.

There are several kinds of humidifiers that I’ll cover in more detail below.

Don’t stress though – for the average person, the most important thing to worry about is getting one within your budget and needs. Honestly, you don’t have to worry too much about particular details unless you have special requirements.

How humidity affects you – the good and the bad effects

Relative humidity comfort scale image diagram

In the scale above you can see a general guide for the relative humidityThis is a way of expressing the amount of water vapor in the air compared to dry air for a certain volume & temperature. For most people, we feel comfortable if the relative humidity falls within a certain range.

Too low, and we feel cooler, our skin gets dry, and we are prone to various problems & sickness. Too high, and we can’t cool off as well and we’ll feel uncomfortable and much hotter.

The humidity around us can have a huge impact on our comfort and health.

Believe me, as I traveled in the past to various countries like Panama and Colombia, the high humidity was really tough at times and it was so hot I was constantly sweating everywhere I went!

Cities near the ocean like those are typically very high in humidity.

On the other hand, some areas like in Arizona (where humidity is low and the air is dry) and in seasons like winter the moisture is reduced greatly. This means the humidity is lower, as colder air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air can.

Dryer air means dry sinuses, skin that gets dried out and cracks, and a bigger chance of getting sick. It can also cause waking up the next morning with stuffiness, congestion, and an uncomfortable feeling in your nasal and respiratory passages.

Not only that, but dry air makes it more difficult to recover from colds and other common sicknesses we have to deal with.

In my personal experience, 40%-60% is the ideal comfort range but what works for me could be different for you.

The different types of humidifiers

Humidifiers are commonly available in three major types:

  1. Warm mist
  2. Cool mist
  3. Evaporative

1. Warm mist humidifiers

Vicks warm mist V90 humidifier example

Warm mist humidifiers like this Vicks V90 model can increase the moisture – and hence the humidity – in your home by using heat to vaporize water. The water tank is filled when it runs out and can allow several hours of uninterrupted use. I own one similar to this, and it greatly helped me when I was sick!

These types produce moisture as steam by heating the water with a hot heating element that heats water to a boiling point. Moisture released into the air is warm but generally safe enough to put your face up to the output opening.

These types sometimes can be used with additives like scent pads or optional soothing vapor liquids if you need cold and nasal or breathing problem relief.

Some models include a filter to trap minerals and other elements that may build up from the water used to produce the steam.

They, like some others, should be cleaned periodically to get rid of bacteria that can build up over time. You’ll usually notice this build up as spots or “gunk” that starts appearing in certain areas.

2. Cool mist humidifiers

These types produce moisture in the air without warming the water and without using heat to produce steam.

They generally work using 1 of 2 methods, although most modern designs are solely ultrasonic. (Impeller type products are rare now and are generally outdated)

Ultrasonic type humidifiers

Example of an ultrasonic humidifier : MistAire Cool Mist

Ultrasonic models such as MostAire Studio Ultrasonic model are a more modern approach. They use an extremely high-speed nebulizer to rapidly oscillate, causing water to be dispensed as a fine mist into the air.

They’re a good choice if heated water is not desired and may use less electricity as well.

They often look similar in appearance to their warm mist counterparts but don’t need nearly as much power to work since they’re more energy-efficient.

Impeller type (electromechanical) humidifiers

Impeller humidifier example image

An impeller type humidifier, unlike others, has a motor and “fan” assembly to stir the water and produce a fine mist. This is an older technology and is less commonly found today, but can still offer a simple and easy to use way to keep a room at a comfortable moisture level. This Vicks V400R model is a great example.

Products classified as impeller models are those like I had as a child. They work by using a rapidly spinning disk with “fingers” sort of like fan blades to disturb the water and allow tiny droplets to escape as a water mist.

These make a bit more noise when operating and aren’t as common as they once were due to the newer ultrasonic and warm mist models available today.

3. Evaporative type humidifiers

Example of evaporative humidifier

An example of a simple evaporative humidifier. This model is perfectly silent and slowly releases moisture into the air. If you need improved humidity quickly, you’ll need one of the other types instead. These lower-cost Bluestone decorative humidifiers are a good example of an old-fashioned but stylish way to humidify your home with zero noise added. Note that there are motorized models that use a fan as well.

Evaporative products are those that normally generate moisture into the air directly. That is, they work either by simply providing a way for moisture to gradually evaporate and enter the air or by blowing a fan over a wet wick to speed up the process.

These are the simplest and often the most inexpensive models, but also are the slowest to affect the humidity in your room.

What humidity should I set my humidifier to?

Typical humidifiers don’t have a “humidity level” (although some models with more advanced features do) so you’ll need to adjust the level manually.

For example, you may need to turn it to the “high” or “low” setting depending on how the one you buy works.

For most of us, a range of about 30-50% humidity is ideal.

Recommended humidity level image

As a general rule, about 50% is a safe bet. Too low and you’ll begin feeling the effects of dry air. Too high (say 60% and higher) and you’ll feel hot, may have trouble sleeping, and generally may be very uncomfortable.

The main issue that a humidifier can help resolve is low humidity caused by indoor heating. I’ve often noticed how low in moisture my indoor air became during the wintertime and especially when the heat was in use.

These include electric heat, natural gas-based heating, and especially wood fireplaces and heaters.

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gauge

Note: Don’t worry! You’ll never see 99% humidity…this is likely a display test being shown. You’ll likely never see above 60% or 65% except for when there’s a huge amount of moisture in the air. This happens after running a hot shower for a long time or other similar sources of steam. Digital Thermometer, ADiPROD Indoor 3 in 1 Hygrometer Alarm Clock LCD... works well, doesn’t cost much, and is easy to use.

A great idea is to use an inexpensive digital temperature and humidity gauge with your humidifier.

Having a gauge will allow you to see how low the humidity is where you’re at. It’s a good way to figure out the setting you’ll need to use on your humidifier.

For example, I keep one of these both in my bedroom and my work office. Before bed and during the day I’m able to tell what mode I need to put my humidifier in.

If the humidity is extremely low and I know I’ll be using the heat nearly all day or night, I normally just leave it on high to keep the room near 50% humidity.

When using the heater less often, the humidity inside when I arrive home (especially on days where it’s not so cold) is higher, I’ll use it on the low setting.

If you buy a humidifier with automatic humidity control, that’s fantastic! Set it between 40-50% and experiment with what works best for you.

How much does a humidifier cost?

Ecommerce computer image
Humidifiers for small to medium-sized rooms cost about $30 to $150 or so.
What you pay greatly depends upon the features and output capacity.

I recommend that if you plan on using one overnight or for long hours, buy one with a larger water tank capacity.

Models starting around $35 and up like this warm mist model by Vicks can hold 1 gallon of water and the use time can range from about 8 or 9 hours to over 12.

The time depends upon the setting you use (and how much mist is produced as it works).

Ideally, you can plan to at least buy one for each bedroom that’s occupied and one for your living room too, if needed.

Vicks V745A humidifier Editors Choice image

Expect to spend around $35 or so for a competent humidifier that’s a good combination of quality, value, and features. Additionally, don’t “cheap out” on spending or you’ll get a small water tank that requires refills more often. That’s a hassle! Shown here is a great model I enjoy and recommend, the popular Vicks V745A I own and love from Amazon.

Personally I enjoy using one at work as well, as it keeps my office comfortable, reduces my coughing, and helps me avoid complications and sickness.

As a starting point, I recommend you plan on spending about $35 for each room you want an electric-powered humidifier in. Buy one with a sufficiently large container (say 1 gallon/3.8 L) so you won’t have to constantly refill it.

You can spend less, but unless you have relatively small needs, a larger one that produces moisture more quickly provides better relief more quickly.

Does a humidifier help with a cold?

Image of a woman with a cold

Indeed, it can! Humidifier use is a great way to relieve your cold symptoms. It can definitely help aid in recovery when you’re sick. I’ve learned this from personal experience.

In my case on several occasions the dry air caused me to wake up from my sleep. The uncomfortable sinus dryness also made me more susceptible to getting a cold or sinus condition.

We normally need a healthy humidity level to keep our internal breathing passages clean.

The drying out of our nasal and respiratory passages means we’re more susceptible to becoming sick. A healthy amount of moisture in the air will help with your cold suffering and allows you to heal properly.

A study by Environmental Health and Engineering (Environmental Health 2010, 9:55) shows that keeping the air at relative humidity levels between 40-60% can reduce survival of flu viruses on surfaces and in the air. Humidifiers can help achieve and maintain this humidity level.

Low humidity increases the time it takes for your body to rid itself of mucus produced when you’re sick. Also, your throat, sinuses, and bronchial passages will feel quite uncomfortable at times.

Otherwise, you’ll have to use nasal sprays or similar remedies as a work-around. But why not address the problem at its source?

It is definitely no fun being unable to sleep because of painful coughing and sinus or throat pain from it. That’s a terrible feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone!

Buying a warm mist humidifier was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

immediately felt relief at night while the heat was on. Despite the outdoor temperature being near freezing (32 degrees), inside I was comfortable and cozy. The added moisture helped reduce my coughing.

Despite being sick, I woke up with far better feeling sinuses and I no longer had to breathe dry air that hurt my nose and throat. I also had far less mucus bothering me. Also, I no longer had to go run a hot shower to get relief – my bedroom was near 50% humidity nearly all the time!

Cleaning and maintenance

Image of a humidifier being cleaned by hand
Cleaning a humidifier is a required task for owners. Over time, minerals and other elements build up and form deposits. Bacteria can also begin to grow which can be spread into the air if left unsanitized. Vinegar and a soft scrub brush is recommended for washing both the water tank and the body.

Different types of water like well or spring water will cause a humidifier to build up mineral deposits. Even standard tap water (“city” or faucet water) can cause the same. Bacterial growths can occur, too.

You’ll need to periodically inspect and clean both the water tank and the body too. Using a very small amount of vinegar is recommended. Additionally, use cleaning agents that are safe for plastic or a very small amount of bleach can be used.

Using one of the recommended cleaners, rinse both the water tank and the humidifier where build-up occurs. Use a non-abrasive soft brush to clean the areas where mineral deposits are found and wash surfaces thoroughly.

A soft bristle toothbrush makes a great cleaning tool for purifiers.

For best results, clean your humidifier weekly. Sources of water with high mineral levels are not recommended due to the increased build-up they cause.

I recommend standard faucet water or distilled water if that’s convenient for you.

Remember, if bacterial build-up occurs in your humidifier due to a lack of cleaning it could enter your air! Don’t allow that to happen. Follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.

In summary

To recap what we’ve learned, here are the main ideas to remember about humidifiers:

  • Humidifiers add moisture to the air and increase the relative humidity in your home
  • There are two major types of humidifiers: warm mist and cool mist
  • 40%-60% is the comfort range of humidity for most. Use 50% as a target for your humidifier
  • They can aid in avoiding sickness caused by dry sinuses and dried mucus areas
  • Maintaining healthy a healthy humidity level in your home helps relieve colds and promotes healing
  • Use a temperature/humidity gauge to help you decide what setting to use
  • They’re not maintenance-free: you’ll have to inspect & clean them periodically
  • Expect to pay around $35 or more for a typical warm mist model for small to medium rooms
  • Some models can help relieve your cold by using add-ons like vapor liquids or vapor scent pads

Additionally, don’t forget to always check buyer reviews. For those looking for a basic but good budget model, here's a great one to consider. It’s a best-selling model I’ve actually owned and recommend!

If you have allergies or other air quality problems consider getting an air purifier to use along with your humidifier. Both can be used at the same time without any problems.

You can read more here to help you understand which air purifier you need.

If you children, you’ll find some helpful information here about choosing an air purifier vs humidifier for your baby.

Are Air Purifiers Good for Babies? What To Know Before You Buy

Air air purifiers good for babies featured image

Babies are more vulnerable to sickness and many other things we as adults can handle better. Since their lungs and immunity hasn’t fully developed yet, it’s easier for them to get sick and suffer a lot.

When you think of ways to keep your home’s air fresh and healthy, air purifiers are one of the first things that come to mind.

But are air purifiers good for babies? Which ones should you avoid? I’ll share with you everything you need to know, plus much more.

Contents

Answering the question: Are air purifiers good for babies?

I’ll answer the basic question first, then I’ll show you why as we go.

Baby health and air purifier facts

Air purifiers are good for babies – if it’s the right type of air purifier.

Air purifiers help babies in the following ways:

  • Remove sickness-causing particles, microbes, and allergens that are harmful to them and can cause sickness
  • Allows babies to breathe better and sleep more easily as the air remains fresh and pure
  • Fans and spray air fresheners cannot address the real source of the problem (They don’t actually clean the air)
  • Children who are born or develop health problems are especially sensitive to air impurities and need clean air
  • Prevents problems in homes with pets due to hair, pet dander, and dust mites that feed on the dander
  • Reducing bad odors both from diaper containers and other areas of the home

Basically, the right kind of air purifier is good for babies, by helping to prevent sickness and cleaning the air they breathe safely.

Not all purifiers (like ionizers and ozone generators) are good for babies or are simply aren’t very effective, as I’ll explain later.

What causes air problems for babies?

Image of a baby coughing. Humidifier vs air purifier for baby

You might not realize it, but the air around us can be loaded with a lot of pollutants, dust, allergens, organic matter (like pet dander), chemical vapors, dust mite particles, and even mold spores.

Bacteria can travel through the air as well!

The problem is that we can’t see these incredibly small & harmful particles that surround us. At some point, after enough exposure, we can become sick or cough and sneeze as our nose, throat, and lungs become irritated. That’s especially true for babies as they’re really vulnerable.

It’s a big problem when a child is kept in a room with unclean air for long periods of time.  That means a baby is exposed to much more potentially harmful particulate matter.

An example of what’s in the air

Image of household dust under a microscope

A microscopic image showing common household dust your child is breathing in.

The nasty particles and germs in the air that your child can inhale are incredibly small: some to less than 1 micrometer (a micrometer is 1 millionth of a meter) in size!

Because they’re so incredibly small, they’re easily inhaled deep within your baby’s lungs where they can accumulate and begin causing illness, coughing, or other respiratory problems.

Pets, cigarette smoke odors and residue, airborne remnants from construction, carpet, dust mites, and so much more stay in your home and your child’s air unless they’re removed.

Even if you don’t allow smoking inside your home, smokers can still bring in residual particles from smoke on their clothing & hair and near your baby. That increases the risk of respiratory problems and a lot of coughing and other reactions.

What doesn’t work – and why you need a purifier

Image of an open window in baby bedroom

It isn’t enough to just open a window to get cleaner air in your home. Air quality problems are caused by particles & germs that stay there unless they’re permanently removed. Opening a window simply lets in the fresh air – it doesn’t clean the air indoors or remove existing particulates.

Simply using an electric fan, opening the window, or using air fresheners don’t work because while it may seem like the air is fresher, the unwanted toxins and elements in your home are still there.

A fan can actually worsen your baby’s breathing as they can disturb pollutants and materials that have settled on surfaces. An example is dust which, when bothered by gusts of air, moves into the room’s air again where it can bother your child.

An air purifier is the right solution

The difference between an air purifier and other “solutions” is that they actually remove the nasty particles from the air your child breathes. That’s the only truly effective way to clean the air effectively: Removing the source of the problem.

The problem is, there are several kinds sold on the market and some can actually be bad for your child! I’ll explain here the different types and which ones to avoid.

Dirty air purifier filter that has collected dust

An example of dust removed from my home by my purifier, trapped in the pre-filter (shown as gray dust). HEPA purifiers are a safe, effective way to remove what’s in the air around your child and offer healthy, fresh air.

The 2 types of air purifiers

2 air purifier types comparison image

Products sold and labeled as “air purifiers” are categorized as 2 types:

  1. Emitting purifiers
  2. Non-emitting purifiers (filter-based)

What does this mean? It’s really simple, actually.

  • “Emitting” purifiers are those products like ozone generators that produce – or emit – a by-product into the air like ozone or ions.
  • Non-emitting (filter-based) purifiers are those that use filters to remove particles & gases from the air. They don’t add anything into the air around you.

Ozone generators and ionizers, often marketed as “air cleaners” or “air purifiers” are electrical devices that use high voltage to separate air molecules and create ozone molecules.

The misleading marketing idea used to sell to buyers is that as they produce ozone and create fresh air in the room as they work.

Usually, ozone generators are sold with the idea that ozone molecules can attract and attach to other substances (like dust, microbes, allergens, and so on) to cleanse the air in a room, automobile, or wherever they’re used.

Emitting-type purifiers can actually trigger problems and can be bad for your baby.

Emitting purifiers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is very clear about these types of purifiers. They define ozone as a lung irritant.

The EPA also notes that ionizers are ineffective in removing large particles like pollen and house dust. In this category of product you’ll find two types:

  • Ionizers
  • Ozone generators

Ionizers

ionizer purifier examples

Examples of ionizers available for home use sold as air purifiers.

Ionizers and ozone generators are very similar in how they work but generally speaking ionizers produce charged atoms in the air to attract airborne particles to a metal plate or similar object like a filter.

They typically don’t introduce a high level of emissions into the air, so they’re generally safe and aren’t likely to produce headaches. If you’re especially sensitive, however, it’s possible.

Additionally, they can reduce sickness by dramatically reducing the number of airborne sickness-causing microbes!

As a rule, an ionizer is helpful for improving the germ levels in a room, but as far as air cleanliness goes, they’re not very effective for the most common household air quality problems.

You can, however, buy a filter-based purifier with an ionizer feature in some cases.

Ozone generators

Ozone generator example image

Shown: An ozone generator that produces large amounts of O3 molecules (ozone) by splitting oxygen molecules (O2) from the surrounding air. Some of these recombine to form ozone with a charge whereby they can attach to particles in a room’s air. The side effects humans feel depends on the ozone levels they’re exposed to.

The truth is, ozone generators don’t purify the air without health risks – or as effectively – as filter-based products do.

While it’s true that they can trap some elements in the air like dust, pet dander, and similar particulates, they’re not at all efficient at doing so. The reason is that when ozone (O3) molecules are produced, they have a short life span before recombining back into oxygen molecules at some point.

How they create problems for your baby

An ozone generator, generally speaking, produces a lot of ozone in a room. The idea is that by doing so allergens and other contaminants will bond with the ozone, causing it to fall to the ground or be trapped in a filter if provided.

The main problem with this is that it takes a significant amount of ozone to make a worthwhile difference.

So much so that these are not recommended to be used in rooms that are occupied by people. That’s because there’s a health risk involved due to the high levels of ozone.

When inhaled by your child they can suffer from lung irritation, coughing, and other symptoms.

Non-emitting (filter) purifiers

Diagram illustrating how an air purifier works

A filter-based air purifier works not by emitting by-products into the air like an ionizer or ozone generator, but only by safely removing unwanted substances from the air. Almost all use a highly dense HEPA filter (shown in white) and an activated carbon filter/pre-filter (black). When used together, these remove headache-causing elements like allergens, odors, chemical substances, perfume smell, organic substances, outgassing molecules, and more.

A non-emitting air purifier works not by producing by-products that enter the air, but by simply but processing air in the room. They permanently trap and remove particulates and many other types of airborne pollution.

Filter type purifiers work by using a fan to draw in air which passes through the filters which trap air contaminants before releasing clean air back into the room.

These work by continually cycling and cleaning a room’s air as they work. You can let them run 24 hours a day if you like, in fact.

HEPA filters and prefilters explained

High-quality models use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to remove particles as small as 0.3 micrometers (less than 1/100,000 of a meter!) in size by permanently trapping them.

The result is safe, fresh air without anything produced as a side effect – therefore there’s nothing to breathe in and potentially cause headaches.

The HEPA filter standard

HEPA is a United States government standardized level of filter quality and assures that the 0.3 uM (micrometer) particle size and is met and that 99.97% of the contaminants in the air moving through the filter never escape.

In other words, the HEPA standard means that a filter has to meet the requirements of how small the elements it can capture are and how efficient it is at removing particulates.

An additional 1st & 2nd stage filter section first removes larger particles and matter in the air (like pet hair, for example) and uses an activated carbon filter that traps chemical substances. This allows it to permanently remove many odors, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), and vapors that can affect you.

Which is best for your baby?

You’ll want to get a good true HEPA purifier and stay away from ionizers & ozone generators. HEPA models are both safe and effective, which can’t be said for other types.

Purifier use, expected costs, and maintenance

GermGuardian AC4825 vs ac5000 filters compared

You’ll need to periodically replace the purifier’s filters. The odor-absorbing prefilter has a life expectancy of around 6-8 months while the HEPA filter can last longer. It depends on the air quality conditions in your home.

A HEPA air purifier is extremely easy to use and only requires maintenance for filter check and replacement after several months. For your convenience, many have a filter reminder feature in order to remind you to check and replace the filters if they’re heavily used.

Note: A purifier needs space for airflow around it to work well and effectively clean the air in your home.

You’ll need to place them in a room with adequate space between them and walls or furniture. Many models recommend 15″ to 24″ space around them, for example.

Costs include the original purchase price (for a good one for a baby’s room, expect to spend less than $100) and the cost of replacement filters. Most air purifiers for small to medium size rooms use replacement filters that cost around $30 or so and have an average replacement time of about 6-8 months, depending upon use and air conditions.

Note that if you aren’t removing a high level of pollutants in your baby’s room often the filter replacement reminder can simply be reset. If the filter isn’t heavily used you can wait more time before purchasing a replacement.

In summary – are air purifiers good for babies?

The answer is a definite yes – and they’ll provide cleaner air for you, too.

An air purifier helps babies in the following ways:

  • Removes lung-irritating particles and other microbial allergens that are harmful and can cause sickness
  • Allows babies to breathe better and sleep more easily
  • Fans and spray air fresheners only mask air problems, while an air purifier truly removes the problem
  • Children who are born or develop health problems are especially sensitive to air impurities and need safe, clean air
  • Removing the problems by smoke residue brought in on clothes and hair
  • Prevents problems in homes with pets due to hair, pet dander, and dust mites that feed on the dander
  • Reducing bad odors both from diaper containers and other areas of the home

Looking for a good purifier that’s affordable? Check out my great list of the top purifiers under $100.

Are you wondering if a humidifier or purifier is right for your child? Here’s a great post explaining humidifiers vs purifiers for your baby.

Do Air Purifiers Help With Cat Hair? Straight Talk For Cat Owners

Do air purifiers help with cat hair featured image

Whether you have your cat inside your house every once in a while or they stay indoors, you likely have a cat hair problem. Maybe you’re wondering, “Do air purifiers help with cat hair?

Vacuum cleaners and lint rollers can help with cat hair on things like furniture and clothing once it’s already settled. But what about hair still floating in the air?

Do air purifiers really help with cat hair or a potential waste of time and money? Read on and I’ll answer that question – and explain why there’s more to know.

Contents

Answering the question: Do air purifiers help with cat hair?

Picture of cat on couch with hair
Let’s get to the short answer first – I’ll cover the other things you need to know as we go.

Air purifier & cat hair facts
  • Air purifiers definitely can help trap cat hair floating in the air and reduce the overall amount of cat hair around you. However, they’re not capable of removing a substantial amount, as most is found on surfaces like furniture and clothing.
  • The main benefit an air purifier provides is that it can remove some cat hair that’s carried by air before it settles on surrounding surfaces.
  • Hair isn’t the only problem for cat owners. Pet dander and odors are also air quality problems which air purifiers are good for.

An air purifier definitely can help with cat hair, but there’s no magic solution to get rid of it or keep it from showing up in your home.

The good news is that they provide good relief for some of the worst causes of allergies, sniffling, and sneezing: Pet dander. They can help a lot with pet odors as well.

It’s important to understand that air purifiers can’t remove cat hair that has already settled and clung to furniture and other surfaces. Just like dust, cat hair will stay in the air a short time before settling.

You’ll definitely still need to use a vacuum cleaner or lint roller.

Cat hair and pet dander basics

Image note about pet allergies

To begin with, is it cat hair or cat dander that you need help with? Do you know the difference between the two?

A lot of people may feel like they’re the same thing but there’s definitely a big difference.

The difference between cat hair and cat dander

There’s a common misconception that cat hair causes allergies. But that’s all it is: a myth. Cat hair is literally just cat hair, although it just like with dogs it may have oils secreted by the cat’s skin on it too.

Contrary to popular belief, cat hair is actually safe for those with cat allergies.

A clean strand of cat fur will not induce any allergic reactions, even if you sniff it or touch it. On the other hand, cat dander is made of dead skin cells and it triggers allergic reactions.

Cat dander gets worse the older a cat gets due to deteriorating health.

Older cats are more susceptible to diseases that cause hormone imbalance. If your cat is getting older and you notice your allergies worsen, perhaps it’s time to invest in an air purifier.

Dander is a big problem – and how it gets around

Image of pet allergens and skin up close

Pet dander under a microscope. Dander is actually the shedding of dead skin cells, just like happens with humans too.

Cat dander is the true culprit behind all those sneezes and sniffles people react with. Along with cat urine and saliva, dander is one of the main triggers of cat allergies.

Much like other contaminants, pet dander isn’t just on surfaces – it’s often airborne.

Typically it causes allergic reactions as it contacts your skin and enters your nose or respiratory passageways where it triggers a reaction in your body.  How bad your allergies will be are different from person to person.

Did you know? It’s not just pet dander that affects your allergies.

Dust mites feed on human and pet skin cells and produce allergy-causing by-products. If you have allergies and you have pets, consider treating the dust mite problem as well.

Dander and dust mites


Dust mites cause allergic reactions and feed (and increase in number) from a supply of pet dander or human skin. There’s a good chance your allergies are due to this too.

I’ve written a helpful post here about dust mites and the allergy problems they cause.

While cat hair itself is harmless, cat dander and saliva can latch onto cat hair (especially since a cat grooms itself by licking). This is a big problem for people with cat allergies as it’s easy for cat hair to attach itself and spread or just float around the air.

As you can now see, there’s a lot to deal with. If you want relief you need a way to capture those microscopic elements and remove them from your living space.

How air purifiers help with cat hair and dander

Diagram showing how an air purifier works for cat hair and dander

Air purifiers capture cat hair and dander by continuously cycling the air in a room and filtering them out of the air as it passes through. There are 2 main filters (with 3 functions, often called a “3-in-1” purifier) that do so: a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter section and a pre-filter section with activated carbon inside or specialized chemical treatment. A good quality air purifier like the popular GermGuardian AC4825 will move a good amount of air quickly and help with pet problems.

Air purifiers work by using a fan to cycle the air in a room and filter out unwanted particulates, hair, allergens, and more.

You’ll need to buy one that’s capable of moving a sufficient amount of air in the room it’s used in. Ratings like the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) or air flow rate specifications such as the Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) help you to know how effective a particular model is when shopping.

For cat odors, hairs, and dander you’ll want to get a purifier with the following filters:

  • A prefilter for capturing hair
  • An odor-absorbing activated carbon prefilter section
  • True HEPA filter

The HEPA filter section & pre-filter section

Illustration of HEPA air purifier for dust sections

A HEPA filter (white) is an EXCELLENT means of trapping and permanently removing sickness and allergy-causing foreign matter. They’re made of very densely packed superfine fibers which permanently trap almost all foreign materials passing through them. A pre-filter section (black) is a more mesh filter section used to catch larger particles like cat hair and dust before it reaches the HEPA section.

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are excellent filters and can permanently trap microscopic particles. A HEPA filter can trap particles down to 0.3 microns, or less than 1/1,000,000 of a meter!

Dander and dust mite by-products can be a few microns in size so a HEPA filter in a good quality purifier will be able to remove them from the air and help reduce allergy symptoms as well as keep the air fresh.

The pre-filter section, in most cases made of a thin, mesh material, works to trap cat hair before it can reach the HEPA filter. In some cases, the pre-filter section is removable and can be vacuumed or brushed to extend its life and remove hair buildup.

That leads us to the issue of cat odors.

Odor-absorbing pre-filters for cat odors

GermGuardian FLT11CB4 carbon filter diagramAir purifiers (specifically, filter-based products) use activated carbon (charcoal) coating to absorb and trap odors. Carbon is an industry-standard element used in many types of filters including for water. Once it’s used up the filter must be replaced.

A good air purifier will offer an activated carbon filter (useful against smells and chemical emissions) to trap bad smells from your kitty. Mine has helped a lot and there’s a good reason that carbon filters are used: they just plain work for reducing cat odors.

How does a prefilter help with cat smells?

Activated carbon is the essential element required for removing odors and terrible smells with an air purifier. I bring that up because, in fact, not all purifiers include this type of filter!

Activated carbon (which is a form of charcoal) is a granular, tiny element used as an ingredient in a special section of the air purifier’s 2 or 3 filters. The carbon is a porous and absorbent element that has the ability to trap odors and airborne chemicals present.

For easy maintenance and lower costs, be sure to shop for a purifier with a separately removable pre-filter.

Pets produce a lot of air and it can build up quickly on the pre-filter during use. Models with a separately removable pre-filter you can vacuum (or wash, in some cases) make it easy to keep air cleaning performance high. You’ll also save money as normally the HEPA filter won’t need to be replaced when the pre-filter is.

When the purifier’s internal fan draws air through the carbon filter substances in the air are absorbed and removed from the air. This includes not just pet odors but also chemical vapors and other unpleasant airborne substances.

In most – but not all – purifiers, the activated carbon section is combined with the pre-filter also. In that case, it’s a coating on the mesh screen material.

Honeywell HPA300 pre-filter installation

Example of a typical air purifier pre-filter material with odor absorbing coating. Most air purifiers sold today have this type. It’s made from a soft mesh material that’s coated with an activated carbon solution when made. In many (but not all) these can be replaced separately from the main HEPA filter.

The best type of odor-absorbing prefilter for pet odors

Closeup of Winix 5500-2 activated carbon prefilter

The best odor control for pet smells comes from odor-absorbing filters with real carbon pellets instead of the simple coating most use. They’re much more effective and have a longer life, too.

For the best pet odor control you can buy, look for an air purifier with an odor filter with real carbon pellets instead of the activated carbon coating most use. Pet smells can be tough to deal with, and this type of filter not only lasts longer but has much better odor-absorbing performance, too.

Winix 5500-2 Editor's Choice review summary image

A great example is the top-selling Winix 5500-2 that I own, reviewed, and awarded my Editor’s Choice recommendation.

It’s one of the best for cat & pet odor control you’ll find and it’s great for cat hair. I love how the front pre-filter is easily removed and can be washed.

I’d also suggest a good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or other filter (or bag) for cleaning carpets and furniture. As I mentioned earlier, cleaning you’ll need to clean cat hair from nearby furniture and other surfaces so a good vacuum cleaner is ideal.

A quick note about reusable HEPA filter air purifiers

Hamilton Beach TrueAir purifier features image

It’s a bit less common, but there are some air purifiers that allow easy access for vacuuming the HEPA filter in order to extend its life and help keep maintenance costs down. The popular Hamilton Beach TrueAir small room pet air purifier is a great example.

We love our pets (I’m especially fond of cats, what can I say?) but let’s be honest: There is a bit of hassle when it comes to cleaning up after them and dealing with their hair and other side effects.

Because they produce so much hair, in my experience air purifiers can build up a lot of pet hair in a short amount of time. The problem is that if you buy the wrong kind of purifier you’ll end up spending a lot more money on new filters and might not be able to keep the filters working efficiently.

For cat and other pet hair problems, shop for a purifier with some of the following options:

  • Removable pre-filter that can be replaced separately (as opposed to having to replace the HEPA filter even when not needed)
  • Pre-filter can be brushed/vacuumed or washed
  • A HEPA filter can be vacuumed to extend its useful life

Mainly you’ll at least want a pre-filter that you can access to vacuum off the cat hair regularly. That’s because as it builds up the air purifier’s performance will degrade.

Removing the hair periodically will keep it running at maximum performance and will also help extend filter life. (Note that most pre-filters/odor filters need to be replaced after about 6-8 months)

Note: Unless the manufacturer specifically states you can, never wash pre-filters in water as they’re not designed to do so, and you’ll ruin them.

A true HEPA filter can’t be washed. Some pre-filters and activated carbon filters on some products can be, however.

Summary

Here are the main points to remember about air purifiers and cat hair:

  • An air purifier can help with cat hair already in the air, not from surfaces. You’ll still need to remove hair from places it has settled using a vacuum or other method.
  • For the cleanest air and to prevent allergy symptoms, you need to remove not just cat hair but dander as well. Cat hair doesn’t trigger allergic reactions – cat dander does.
  • For cat hair, cat dander, and cat odors, a purifier with a true HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter is best
  • Look for one with a pre-filter section that is separate and removable or a filter that can be cleaned

Product suggestions & additional reading

Need help picking a good air purifier for your pet allergy problems? Check out some of the best air purifiers for pet dander here.

Got more than one cat, or need a wonderful air purifier that’s great for pet hair, dander, and odors in a large room? Check out my detailed review of the wonderful Winix 5500-2 here.

Does An Air Purifier Remove Smells? Dealing With Common Odor Problems

Does an air purifier remove smells featured image

Sure – you can prevent some smells from getting into your home. But many are just a fact of life. Even without some of the most common problems (like pets, smoke, and cooking odors) smells just seem to find a way in.

Dealing with them can be a hassle, and air fresheners often only mask the problem. Additionally, some causes in particular (like smoke) come with even more side effects.

Does an air purifier remove smells? Should you buy one for your home? Read on to find out the answer.

Contents

Understanding smells

Home kitchen example image
Odors are everywhere! Unlike the outdoors, indoor odor sources don’t have much air circulation and can be even more noticeable. The addition of a well-designed, properly chosen air purifier can help relieve a variety of odor symptoms everywhere from rooms with pets to your kitchen.

In order to better understand what we’re dealing with and how air purifiers may help, it’s important to understand the problem.

What exactly is an odor or “smell”?

Odors are actually caused by volatile chemical compounds which basically means they’re the molecular composition of materials or chemicals that present in the air. When this occurs your nose’s olfactory nerves detect them as scents and you have a related reaction (good or bad, depending on the type).

Not only that, but the sense of smell varies from person to person. So while some odors may not bother you greatly, for others the effects can be much more unpleasant or even trigger problems.

Likewise, some smells don’t bother me as much as others – but some really get on my nerves!

Common types of odors

I’ve made a brief list here, along with added details, of some of the most common odor sources you may be dealing with. After that, I’ll show you how a purifier can help.

Cigarette smoke

Best air purifier to remove cigarette smoke featured image for post
Cigarette smoke is one of the most bothersome odor sources anywhere. Not only do the by-products of smoke find their way into the air, but they also cling to surfaces like your clothes and hair. A purifier is highly recommended when smokers are present.

This one has always bothered me a lot! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left my local sports bar while wearing nice clothes, that smelled absolutely terrible afterward. Even my hair smelled bad!

Even if you don’t smoke, you might live with a family member or roommate who does. Either way, tobacco smoke is capable of moving between rooms and distributing small particles that can irritate people with allergies, or even cause cancer as you may already know.

Smoke particles contain elements that are incredibly tiny in size – down to a fraction of other airborne contaminants like pet dander and dust, for example. That’s one of many reasons it’s harder to deal with.

Additionally, burning tobacco and paper releases gases into the air as well. You’ll need an effective solution to successfully get rid of those (and not just cover them up).

Pet odors

Wet dog smell odor infographicPet odors are caused by organic substances from microorganisms present on and released by animals. A great example is the “wet dog smell” everyone knows. Pets also produce a number of other odors that can stink up your home.

I love pets just as much as you do. But it seems like no matter how much we wash or bathe them, they always smell a bit. And pets always like to get into trouble, so they often end up bringing something smelly into the house.

We’ve all smelled the infamous “wet dog smell” I’m sure!

As much as pet hair and dander is a problem also, it’s the other sources of smells from them that need to be captured and removed from the air: organic sources like bacteria and their bodily functions in addition to the oils naturally secreted by their skin.

One more benefit of using a purifier is being able to capture allergy-causing dander as well as some of the hair they leave behind.

Food and cooking

Image of cooking at home on stove skillet

Cooking is especially notorious for releasing odors into the air. As a matter of fact, some dishes release substances that can cling to your kitchen’s interior and build up over time. Using an air purifier to remove airborne food-related substances is a great idea.

Some of the most common dishes like burgers or fried fish can leave a strong, lingering scent behind. Foods with spices and similar ingredients are especially bad at releasing organic compounds that cause very strong odors.

Sometimes it’s not just you that feels the effects, but your neighbors to, since odors can rise and permeate rooms and buildings.

Cooking appliances and food release particulate matter into the air when you cook which can spread throughout your home, leaving your entire house smelling like what you ate for dinner for a long time afterward.

To make matters worse, some foods, when cooked, distribute minute food particles in the air which can build up over time on your interior surfaces.

Garbage

Image of garbage cans at home
I’m certainly not perfect. Every once in a while I forget to take out the garbage. The problem is that leaving meat or old vegetables in the garbage can make the house smell even after I take out the trash.

Garbage has a variety of materials that tend to begin to decompose in a short amount of time, creating gases in the air which surface as very strong odors.

When bacteria begin to increase in numbers and start breaking down organic substances like old food or waste items it can become a big problem.

While the only true remedy is to remove the garbage from indoors, a purifier can help to reduce the problem while it’s in your home.

Household chemicals and construction materials

Image of household chemicals on a shelf
Other common substances like paint, cleaning chemicals, and even renovated rooms in a home emit harmful substances into the air by a process called “outgassing.”

Outgassing is a process in which everything from new carpet to household chemicals, paint, or building materials release molecules into the air as chemical vapor odors.

Some actually are harmful, like chemicals with vapors which can affect the central nervous system and internal tissues if inhaled.

That’s a definite source for headaches but potentially other health problems, too. You’re much safer with a means of capturing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and removing them from your breathing air.

How does an air purifier help with smells?

There 2 main ways in which a purifier can help relieve odors:

  1. Removing some airborne particles that carry odor-causing elements
  2. Absorbing and trapping odors substances from the air

Of these 2 factors, the most significant one is the ability to trap odors and remove them from the air. However, you’ll have to pick the right kind of product to do so.

Not to worry, though – I’ll cover that below as well.

How does an air purifier work?

Diagram showing how air purifier reduces odors

Air purifiers reduce odors by continuously cycling the air in a room and filtering out both solid and gaseous substances like odors and chemical vapors. There are 2 main filters (with 3 functions, often called a “3-in-1” purifier) that do so: a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter section and a pre-filter section with activated carbon inside or specialized chemical treatment. A good quality air purifier like the popular GermGuardian AC4825 will move a good amount of air quickly and will reduce odors in your home.

Air purifiers work by using a fan to cycle the air in a room and filter out unwanted particulates and odors too.

In order to do so, you’ll need to buy one that’s capable of moving a sufficient amount of air in the room it’s used in. Ratings like the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) or air flow rate specifications such as the Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) describe the effectiveness of a purifier.

However, I realize that can be a bit confusing and may feel a bit like a hassle to have to figure out. The good news is that the major purifier manufacturers specify the recommended room size in square feet.

For example, a 10 foot by 15 foot room has a size of 10 x 15 = 150 sq ft (square feet). Using the recommended room size you should be fine when buying.

How air purifiers remove odors

GermGuardian FLT11CB4 carbon filter diagramAir purifiers (specifically, filter-based products) use activated carbon (charcoal) to absorb and trap odors. Carbon is an industry-standard element used in many types of filters including for water. Once it’s used up the filter should be replaced.

Activated carbon is the essential element required for removing odors and terrible smells with an air purifier. I bring that up because in fact not all purifiers include this type of filter!

However, most high-quality and best-selling models do.

Activated carbon (which is a form of charcoal) is a granular, tiny element used as an ingredient in a special section of the air purifier’s 2 or 3 filters. The carbon is a porous and absorbent element that has the ability to trap odors and airborne chemicals present.

When the purifier’s internal fan draws air through the carbon filter, substances can be absorbed and removed from the air, removing odors and harmful chemical vapors.

The HEPA filter’s role

HEPA filters are a standardized filter section made of extremely dense fiber which can trap microscopic particle down to 0.3 microns in size (a micro is an amazing 1/1,000,000 of a meter!). They’re designed to capture solid particulate in the air, and not gases or vapors.

While that’s true, they can trap some nasty particles like hair and debris that can carry a bit of odor-causing molecules. Generally speaking, however, the carbon filter section is the most essential.

Carbon filters are typically separately replaceable from the HEPA filter section and tend to have a life of around 6 months or so, though this varies with use.

Air purifier types

2 air purifier types comparison image

Shown: (Left) Emitting air purifiers create a by-product that’s released into the air around you. (Right) Filter-based, or non-emitting purifiers, do not. The simply remove air contaminants as they pass through filters.

There are several different types of air purifiers sold today and it can definitely be confusing and in some cases – even misleading! And that’s a shame – unsuspecting buyers can get tricked into buying a poor-quality product that will do little, if anything, to improve their air quality.

Just to keep it simple, I’ll break down the most common types you’ll likely run across when shopping:

  1. HEPA (filter-based) purifiers
  2. Ionizers
  3. Ozone generators

Purifiers to avoid

Ionizer and ozone generator examples imageProducts like the Oion B-1000 ionic air purifier (left) and ozone generator (right) should be avoided. Ionic air purifiers do work to a degree, but they’re very weak and typically have extremely low airflow rates compared to HEPA-type purifiers. Ozone generators, however, are ineffective at safe ozone levels. At ozone production levels at which they become effective, they’re unsafe to be around. Most sold as “air purifiers” are a waste of your hard-earned money.

When shopping avoid the following two kinds which are often hyped-up with clever marketing and many technical phrases. They’re sold using misleading promises and a lack of actual performance data:

  • Ionizers (ionic purifiers)
  • Ozone generators

Ionizers do actually work, but in my experience, they’re extremely poor performers and simply are a terrible use of your money. For example, my GermGuardian AC4100 purifier is about the same price as the Oion B-1000 yet can run circles around it!

Good purifiers to buy for odor relief

Winix 5500-2 air purifier review featured image

To effectively combat odors, I recommend a quality air purifier with good airflow rate. This means it can cycle and clean the air in the room relatively quickly. Note: it’s critical to buy the appropriately sized purifier for your room size! While there are other very popular products available, one of the best I’ve owned and tested is the top-rated Winix 5500-2 model with a real carbon pellet odor capturing filter.

Whichever product you decide to try, be sure to buy one with the following criteria:

  • A quality purifier with proven buyer reviews
  • An activated carbon filter section
  • Adequate airflow rate / recommended room size meets your room

While the things I’ve mentioned here are of great importance, remember the following: no purifier can prevent odors 100%. You should treat the problem at its source.

In other words, don’t expect any purifier to work miracles. They’re very helpful and can definitely reduce odors, but they’re a way of dealing with the symptoms of the odor source.

Bad smells often require treating the source, depending upon the type of problem.

The most effective type of prefilter

Closeup of Winix 5500-2 activated carbon prefilter

Closeup of the activated carbon filter from a Winix 5500-2 air purifier, containing real pellets (rather than the standard coating most use). This is a more effective odor control option.

If possible, for the best odor control pick an air filter with a prefilter that uses real carbon pellets. They’re more powerful for odor control than the standard coating type used by most on the market.

They also have a greater life expectancy and use capacity as well, as they contain much more activated carbon.

Additionally, some can be rinsed off (like those in the Winix 5500-2) for maintenance.

Summary – Does an air purifier remove smells?

So does an air purifier remove smells? Let’s break it down.

  • In short, yes! A good-quality air purifier with an activated carbon filter can reduce odors and airborne chemical vapors
  • Not all HEPA purifiers include this type of filter – be careful and shop wisely
  • Ionizers and ozone generators may give the impression of fresh air, but they’re generally either 1) very weak and ineffective, or 2) can produce irritating or harmful ozone. They should be avoided.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, perhaps you’re wondering what kind I’d recommend?

I’m a proud owner of one of the most popular purifiers sold today, the GermGuardian AC4825. It’s one of the most popular & highest-reviewed products of all time at Amazon.

You can find a great buyer’s guide to help with some of the best purifiers for odors here.

Can Air Purifiers Cause Headaches? Uncovering The Facts

Man with air purifier headache

Headaches are horrible! Believe me, I’ve suffered enough times in my life, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

For a number of reasons you might be wondering, “Can air purifiers cause headaches?” I’d love to help answer that!

In this post I’ll clear up the confusion you might have about air purifiers, headache triggers, and which kind of products you need to avoid (whether it’s for headaches, or just to get the most effective air cleaning for your dollar).

Contents

Infographic – Air purifier and headache facts

Can air purifiers cause headaches infographic image

Video guide – Can air purifiers cause headaches?

Air purifier headaches are uncommon

Man with headaches air purifier

While there are many causes of headaches, air purifier headaches aren’t very common.

The reason is that in nearly all cases one of many possible triggers is the real cause, not the air purifier. This includes particles in the air as well as odors and chemicals in gas form.

Where do headaches come from?

People who are allergic to things like tobacco smoke, mold spores, plant pollen, pet dander, and more have mucous membranes in their sinus cavities that become irritated. When this happens the sinuses react and begin to cause pressure in the head near nerves due to swelling.

When swelling in the sinuses occurs, nerves such as the trigeminal nerve and nearby areas respond in a way that you feel as headache pain.

The main thing to remember here is that headaches are normally caused by external triggers not related to air purifiers. Good quality air purifiers process the air and remove these triggers.

There are certain types you need to avoid, as you’ll see below.

The 2 types of air purifiers

2 air purifier types comparison image

Products sold and labeled as “air purifiers” are categorized as 2 types:

  1. Emitting purifiers
  2. Non-emitting purifiers (filter-based)

What does this mean? It’s really simple, actually.

  • “Emitting” purifiers are those products like ozone generators that produce – or emit – a by-product into the air like ozone or ions.
  • Non-emitting (filter-based) purifiers are those that use filters to remove particles & gases from the air. They don’t add anything into the air around you.

Ozone generators and ionizers, often marketed as “air cleaners” or “air purifiers” are electrical devices that use high voltage to separate air molecules and create ozone molecules.

The misleading marketing idea used to sell to buyers is that as they produce ozone and create fresh air in the room as they work.

Usually, ozone generators are sold with the idea that ozone molecules can attract and attach to other substances (like dust, microbes, allergens, and so on) to cleanse the air in a room, automobile, or wherever they’re used.

Emitting-type purifiers can actually trigger headaches for some people.

Emitting purifiers

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is very clear about these types of purifiers. They define ozone as a lung irritant.

The EPA also notes that ionizers are ineffective in removing large particles like pollen and house dust. In this category of product you’ll find two types:

  • Ionizers
  • Ozone generators

Ionizers

ionizer purifier examples

Examples of ionizers available for home use sold as air purifiers.

Ionizers and ozone generators are very similar in how they work but generally speaking ionizers produce charged atoms in the air to attract airborne particles to a metal plate or similar object like a filter.

They typically don’t introduce a high level of emissions into the air, so they’re generally safe and aren’t likely to produce headaches. If you’re especially sensitive, however, it’s possible.

Additionally, they can reduce sickness by dramatically reducing the number of airborne sickness-causing microbes!

As a rule, an ionizer is helpful for improving the germ levels in a room, but as far as air cleanliness goes, they’re not very effective for the most common household air quality problems.

You can, however, buy a filter-based purifier with an ionizer feature in some cases.

Ozone generators

Ozone generator example image

Shown: An ozone generator that produces large amounts of O3 molecules (ozone) by splitting oxygen molecules (O2) from the surrounding air. Some of these recombine to form ozone with a charge whereby they can attach to particles in a room’s air. The side effects humans feel depends on the ozone levels they’re exposed to.

The truth is, ozone generators don’t purify the air without health risks – or as effectively – as filter-based products do.

While it’s true that they can trap some elements in the air like dust, pet dander, and similar particulates, they’re not at all efficient at doing so. The reason is that when ozone (O3) molecules are produced, they have a short life span before recombining back into oxygen molecules at some point.

How they create problems for you

An ozone generator, generally speaking, produces a lot of ozone in a room. The idea is that by doing so allergens and other contaminants will bond with the ozone, causing it to fall to the ground or be trapped in a filter if provided.

The main problem with this is that it takes a significant amount of ozone to make a worthwhile difference.

So much so that these are not recommended to be used in rooms that are occupied by people. That’s because there’s a health risk involved due to the high levels of ozone.

What is ozone?

Diagram showing ozone production and pair particles

Ozone is simply a molecule made of three atoms of oxygen that don’t normally occur often in nature.

It’s created when a high voltage “aura” (fields around a fine high voltage source) rearrange the oxygen molecules present in the air around it.

Normally oxygen is present with only 2 atoms. When 3-atom ozone is created, the third atom can break away from the ozone molecule (often called ions) and attach/bond with other substances in the air.

In some cases, this can attract trace amounts of debris and tiny particles like dust, pollen, and others in the air.

Uses in air cleaning products

More advanced ozone generators may include a fan and may make big claims about their ability to filter and purify the air as a real air purifier would do.

However, the 1st problem is that they simply aren’t effective like a well-designed air purifier is at safe levels. Industrial-strength ozone generators can have good results, but they’re not safe to be around and normally are used without people present.

It’s important to understand that no agency of the federal government has approved any of these devices for normal everyday human use.

The symptoms of unsafe ozone levels

Image of human respiratory system

The problem with ozone is that the same properties it has for air cleaning (at high levels) also means it can trigger symptoms in your body when breathed in.

At the minimum, ozone can be an irritant and in extreme cases can be damaging to your health.

To quote information from the Environmental Protection Agency about ozone and its health risks:

Relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections.

People vary widely in their susceptibility to ozone. Healthy people, as well as those with respiratory difficulty, can experience breathing problems when exposed to ozone. Exercise during exposure to ozone causes a greater amount of ozone to be inhaled, and increases the risk of harmful respiratory effects.

Recovery from the harmful effects can occur following short-term exposure to low levels of ozone, but health effects may become more damaging and recovery less certain at higher levels or from longer exposures (US EPA, 1996a, 1996b)

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates the safe levels that humans in the workplace can be safely exposed to.

They also note the symptoms that you’ll fee. Both alone and combined with other chemicals, ozone can produce irritation and headaches when sufficient exposure is provided

A room filled with a high level of ozone can easily cause coughing and a strange feeling of unnatural air exposure in my experience.

Non-emitting (filter) purifiers

Diagram illustrating how an air purifier works

A filter-based air purifier works not by emitting by-products into the air like an ionizer or ozone generator, but only by safely removing unwanted substances from the air. Almost all use a highly dense HEPA filter (shown in white) and an activated carbon filter/pre-filter (black). When used together, these remove headache-causing elements like allergens, odors, chemical substances, perfume smell, organic substances, outgassing molecules, and more.

A non-emitting air purifier works not by producing by-products that enter the air, but by simply but processing air in the room. They permanently trap and remove particulates and many other types of airborne pollution.

Filter type purifiers work by using a fan to draw in air which passes through the filters which trap air contaminants before releasing clean air back into the room.

These work by continually cycling and cleaning a room’s air as they work. You can let them run 24 hours a day if you like, in fact.

HEPA filters and prefilters explained

High-quality models use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to remove particles as small as 0.3 micrometers (less than 1/100,000 of a meter!) in size by permanently trapping them.

The result is safe, fresh air without anything produced as a side effect – therefore there’s nothing to breathe in and potentially cause headaches.

The HEPA filter standard

HEPA is a United States government standardized level of filter quality and assures that the 0.3 uM (micrometer) particle size and is met and that 99.97% of the contaminants in the air moving through the filter never escape.

In other words, the HEPA standard means that a filter has to meet the requirements of how small the elements it can capture are and how efficient it is at removing particulates.

An additional 1st & 2nd stage filter section first removes larger particles and matter in the air (like pet hair, for example) and uses an activated carbon filter that attracts chemical substances in order to trap and hold them. This allows it to permanently remove many odors, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), and vapors that can affect you.

Can air purifiers reduce headaches?

Image of a woman relaxing with no headache
Indeed, they can, if you buy the right kind as I mentioned above!

Using medicines that give relief to the symptoms like antihistamines, migraine medication, or aspirin and ibuprofen is only one way to deal with the problem. Ideally, you’ll be able to completely remove the source of the problem.

For example:

  • Remove household sources of chemical or organic odors
  • Keep pets outside (for pet allergy problems)
  • Remove perfumes or cologne
  • Ventilate your living area with fresh air to remove odors & substances in the air
  • Minimize dust
  • Don’t allow smokers in your home and breathing space

Not everyone can completely eliminate headache triggers in their home. Sometimes it isn’t practical to do so or possible.

In that case, using a non-emitting filter with a good quality filter as well as an activated carbon filter is an excellent idea. A high-quality product can remove headache-causing particles and/or vapors from the air permanently.

You can indeed get relief in these cases if you shop wisely and take measures to reduce the amount of headache-causing sources in your home.

If you’re sensitive odors then the best air purifier for you would be one with an active carbon filter. I strongly recommend one since you generally won’t be paying more money. Be sure to shop carefully and you’ll pay about the same as one without it.

In summary – can an air purifier cause headaches?

To recap what we’ve covered, here are the basics to remember:

  • Air purifier headaches are not common.
  • Headaches are normally caused by triggers like particulates and odors/chemicals in the air. Your sinuses react and cause headaches due to these.
  • A quality, filter-based air purifier won’t cause headaches and can prevent them by reducing triggers around you in the air
  • Emitting-type purifiers can potentially cause headaches for some people. They also don’t clean the air of headache-causing particles and gases like filter-based products do. Avoid them.
  • Whenever possible, remove sources of allergens or chemicals & odors from your home to reduce problems.

Ionizers that produce safe levels of ozone do have a use in light-duty freshening of the air but aren’t recommended for people who are sensitive to headache-causing triggers.

Generally speaking, you should avoid products sold as “air purifiers” that are actually 100% ozone generators. Ionizers are less bothersome, but may trigger very sensitive and simply aren’t effective for air cleaning.

Additional reading

If you’d like to see a great example of a purifier that can not only avoid but can prevent headaches, check out this post about one of the best-selling products available today.

In case you need to open your windows let chemicals or other airborne elements escape to relieve your headache, find out if your air purifier can work with windows open here.

HEPA Type VS True HEPA Filters Explained

HEPA type vs true HEPA purifier examples image

Air purifiers are wonderful and can definitely improve your quality of life. Unfortunately, a lot of the ones sold today can be hard to figure out.

You might find some labeled “true” HEPA filters while some others are advertised as “HEPA type.”

To make matters worse, as a new buyer it’s easy to be misled into buying a product that’s misrepresented and pretends to be as good as better-quality products. 

In this post, I’ll explain the difference between HEPA type vs HEPA filters in great detail.

Contents

True HEPA and HEPA type air purifiers

HEPA type vs true HEPA purifier examples imageShown: 2 very common air purifiers, which don’t seem very different from the outside. Left: A Holmes HAP242-NUC air purifier which includes a HEPA-type filter and marketed similarly to a true HEPA filter. Right: GermGuardian AC4825 air purifier. It includes a genuine HEPA filter that meets the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) standard.

The problem with air purifiers sold today (as pictured above, for example) is that it’s very easy to think they’re all the same. Because of clever marketing, you may think a HEPA-type is just as effective as a true HEPA product.

The problem lies in the details and how filters are rated.

What is a true HEPA filter?

Diagram showing HEPA filter efficiency
High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter describes a type of filter designed to meet efficiency and air purification quality levels set by the United States Department of Energy. These filters are made of a very dense fiber-like material.

To meet the standard a filter must be able to remove 99.97% of airborne particles that enter it down to 0.3 microns in size.

A micron, or micrometer (uM), is 1/1,000,000 of a meter. It’s a common unit of measurement for microscopic elements.

A filter’s efficiency refers to how many particles it can trap and remove from the airflow that passes through it. At 99.97%, for every 10,000 particles flowing into it only about 3 escape.

HEPA filters are very effective at cleaning the air!

The good news is that thanks to the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) standard exist it’s much easier to know what you’re getting for your money.

HEPA-type vs. true HEPA explained

HEPA filter efficiency graph

This graph shows how air filters like HEPA filters perform when used in an air purifier.

A HEPA filter’s efficiency actually begins to fall for particles near the size of 0.3uM, which is why they’re rated to “99.97% of particles down to 0.3uM.” Filters actually work even better above that size (as seen in the graph, like 5uM for example).

Following the red line on the graph, you can see that the efficiency (the number of particles it can capture) drops a bit near a certain size range.

The interesting thing to know is that filters actually trap more particles below that size range, but it’s misleading to sell a filter based on that.

Minimum particle size is what matters

The smallest particle size a filter can remove from the air is the most important thing to know. In the case of a genuine (true) HEPA filter, you can be sure that’s 0.3uM (less than 1 millionth of a meter).

“HEPA-type” filters are those that look like true HEPA filters but don’t meet the same requirements. They’re not standardized and can have any range of efficiency and minimum particle size rating.

HEPA-type purifiers are sold to give a buyer the impression they’re getting the same performance when in fact who knows? Unless the specs are specifically made clear, it’s anybody’s guess.

There’s no mandatory requirement for companies selling those to have proof of their product’s performance.

Industry standard ratings

Honeywell HPA160 CADR ratings label image

An example Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) label from the Honeywell HPA160 medium-large room air purifier. CADR ratings are lab-verified cleaning efficiency ratings based on measuring how effective an air purifier is for 3 major types of air contaminants.

The industry standard Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) is a standardized test carried out by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

The AHAM is an independent (non-government) voluntary industry association that was established to better rate and standardize the ratings of many appliances you buy.

Air purifiers have unique requirements as well so a method of testing their cleaning effectiveness was developed. Using the CADR you can better shop by comparison for those models which include the rating in their specifications.

Understanding CADR ratings

The CADR rating is a cleaning effectiveness rating. It’s a score based on standard lab tests by the AHAM where a purifier is used in a room with a measured amount of air contaminants.

The air purifier is then observed and measured based on how well and fast it can clean the 3 types of contaminants (smoke, dust, and pollen) in a given amount of time.

Air purifiers with a higher airflow rate (larger purifiers with more fan speed) will nearly always rate higher.

That’s expected. Therefore when shopping and reading CADR ratings you should compare purifiers of a similar recommended room size.

(For example, a small room purifier will have a lower CADR rating than a large room one, so comparing them as equals doesn’t make sense).

HEPA-type marketing to watch out for

HEPA type filter marketing gimmicYou might find products advertised as having “99.9% efficiency” or something like that. But the most important thing is what’s the minimum particle size they can filter at that level? What is it? How does it really perform?

Unless it’s specifically made clear, you have no idea how well it’s actually going to work. More than likely it’s not close to the performance of a true HEPA filter and is a bad choice.

In some cases, HEPA-type filters can allow allergens, dust mite particles, and more to escape! That’s because some of the most common airborne particles that give people problems are smaller than they can capture.

HEPA type vs true HEPA visual comparison image

Image showing the filters from the previously shown examples. A HEPA-type filter (Holmes air purifier, left) and a true HEPA filter (GermGuardian, right) look extremely similar. In most cases, you can’t tell the difference just by looking. You’ll need to be very careful and look for specifications that tell you their performance. However, in my opinion, “HEPA-type” filters are best avoided and you should simply get the real thing.

Avoid unknown HEPA-type filters. Don’t waste your money.

Are HEPA type purifiers bad? Are there exceptions?

Holmes HAP242-NUC hepa type descriptionAs I mentioned earlier, it’s generally best to avoid HEPA-type purifiers. But there are exceptions to the rule.

The Holmes desktop air purifier I showed earlier is an example I can use. It’s more of a budget model. However, in this case, Holmes does specify it can trap contaminants down to 2 microns (2uM) in size.

HEPA type filters aren’t “bad” – just a different performance level

While that’s poor in comparison to a real HEPA filter, it’s still ok for some purposes. For example, for larger particles like dust mites, household dust, hair, and so forth it can work just fine.

In that case, you’ll need to be well-educated about what size particles your air problems include. I definitely wouldn’t recommend a HEPA-type filter for smoke, airborne microbes, and other issues.

Smoke particles have been shown to measure well below 1 micron in size, for example.

Honestly, this kind of information isn’t for the average person and leaves too much room for making a bad buying decision in my opinion.

If you’re on a tight budget and your air problems aren’t demanding it’s an option to consider.

However, you can buy a better purifier with a real HEPA and carbon filter for around $50 and up these days.

Summary

As they look very similar to each other, you can’t rely on your eyes alone. As I mentioned earlier, because of clever marketing you could be misled into thinking HEPA-type purifiers are just as good as the real thing.

They aren’t.

To recap, here are the most critical points to keep in mind when comparing HEPA type vs true HEPA purifiers:

  • “HEPA-type” filters are not standardized and can’t match the performance of true HEPA purifiers. Often they don’t show the smallest particle size they can trap. This means they’re not a good choice usually but in some cases they’re ok to use.
  • True HEPA purifiers are verified to meet a standard level performance. They’re standardized and must meet the 99.97% efficiency / 0.3uM particle size quality standard.

In my opinion, it’s worth spending a bit more money for a product with better air cleaning ability and that has demonstrated effectiveness.

Additional reading

Speaking of money – got a budget? I’ve got a great list of some of the best air purifiers under $100 here.

One of the best (and that I own) is the super-popular GermGuardian AC4825 I reviewed in great detail here.

Wondering How Close Should A Humidifier Be To Your Bed? Your Questions Answered

How close should a humidifier be to your bed featured image

Humidifiers are great and can really make a big difference for both your comfort and health. However, it’s a bit confusing sometimes when trying to figure out how to use them.

What’s even more annoying is how little information there is out there to help. Can you potentially get bad results or even feel worse if it’s too close to your bed? And what about sleeping – how will it affect that?

If you’re wondering how close you should put a humidifier to your bed, I’ve got some great info that’ll help.

Contents

Where should you place a humidifier?

As it turns out, there isn’t a perfect place to put your humidifier. I can, however, give you some general guidelines that will work for nearly everyone.

Humidifier placement tips
  • Bed: We recommend placing your humidifier several feet from your bed – a minimum of 3 feet or so is good (Sick with a cold? See the exception below)
  • Although you can use them on a floor, placing them at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal
  • Don’t place a humidifier where it will be constantly exposed to sunlight (Ex.: near a window)
  • Avoid placing the unit on top of or very close to wooden surfaces subject to moisture or water damage. A tray or other water-resistant cover underneath the unit can avoid issues from mist droplets or spilled water
  • A non-metallic, level surface is ideal. Do not place on carpet or similar surfaces
  • For best results, place humidifiers closer to the center of the room or even to one side, where ever convenient

We don’t recommend placing a humidifier too close to your bed or other occupied areas but not for the reasons you might think. In fact, during cold and sinus congestion times they can actually be very helpful next to your bed!

I’ll explain more as we go.

A simple humidifier placement diagram

Humidifier bedroom placement diagram

Ideally, I recommend keeping your humidifier several feet from your bed on a good, flat surface above the floor that’s not harmed by water droplets or spills. Additionally, if you’re suffering from severe congestion you might find it helpful to keep it near the bed temporarily.

As I mentioned earlier, a good rule of thumb is to keep a humidifier several feet from your bed and other large pieces of furniture under normal conditions.

If you’re suffering from severe congestion, sinus problems, or other similar cold or flu symptoms keeping a warm mist humidifier near the bed is helpful sometimes.

That’s because warm mist products create a warm air mist in the form of steam which has a relieving effect similar to a hot, steamy shower. Heavily moist, warm air helps to open nasal and sinus passageways.

When you’re sick having one located next to your bed is not only accepting but also you can, at your choice, directly inhale the gentle warm mist for relief.

During sleep time

When trying to sleep, it’s sometimes again best to have a humidifier located far away from your bed. While they normally won’t harm anything if too close, it’s better to have them located where moisture can be distributed well and you won’t be around it too much. Additionally, some make sounds while operating that could wake light sleepers.

If you’re a heavy sleeper you’re not likely to have the problems waking up when sounds occur as I do. However, you should know that some humidifiers create some interesting sounds occasionally during operation.

For example, when opening the water tank’s valve to retrieve more water, my Vicks model makes a “gurgling” sound. Other models may have a slight bubbling or very low-volume sound from the air moving.

In general, most quality humidifiers are very quiet and aren’t very likely to disturb you during sleep if placed farther away.

Not only that but as a general rule, I don’t recommend having a strong source of moisture very close to you when sleeping as it’s potentially bothersome to your nose & throat.

Additionally, as our body temperatures fluctuate during sleep, you could become uncomfortable during your rest time as well.

Avoiding sunlight + cleaning notes

Image of a woman cleaning a humidifier water tank

As I mentioned earlier, don’t place humidifiers in direct sitting sunlight like near a window. It will encourage the growth of bacteria and even algae which will speed up how quickly the water tank spoils.

Maintenance is always required. Periodically (often 1 time week or once every 2 weeks) clean the tank thoroughly with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Use a soft cloth to clean the inside of the tank as you go.

Don’t use detergent.

I get great results using distilled water in mine as it helps keep buildup to the least amount of work possible.

Should a humidifier be on the floor or a table?

Diagram showing examples of humidifiers on table and floor

You can use humidifiers on either a sturdy table or the floor, although at least about 2 feet from the floor is recommended. Humidity will still distribute evenly throughout a room over time. Product manufacturers and I both recommend you don’t use a humidifier alone without something to protect the surface from spills or water droplets.

Placing one at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal. In this case, use a sturdy table that isn’t in danger of tipping with a full and heavy water tank. You also don’t want anyone accidentally tipping one over so be careful where you place it to avoid accidents.

Ideally, however, you’ll want to use them with some type of tray or protective material placed underneath as you’ll find that it’s very easy to accidentally spill water when replacing the tank.

In my experience, it’s a common problem although it depends on the design of your particular product.

Not everyone has a waterproof table to use so find an item that’s water-resistant. Pick one that’s large enough to cover the area around the base by about 1/2 – 1 foot in size as a rule.

You can, in fact, use a humidifier on either the floor or a table if you must. They’ll still work well, just not as fast and efficiently.

However, in that case, never place them on the carpet it will trap water and potentially lead to more problems.

How humidifiers work – Moisture, air, and your home

Illustrated diagram of a humidifier and how it worksIllustrated diagram of a common humidifier. Although the particular details vary from model to model, all have the same basic job: liquid water, stored in a tank, is changed into a very fine mist that rises in the air. This, in effect, increases the humidity level safely and comfortably.

Simply put, a humidifier works to convert liquid water into a fine mist which is released into a room to increase the humidity.

While not all need electricity to do so, the most common (and often the most effective ones) use power from a standard electrical outlet to run.

The power electronics work to use electrical power to drive a vaporizer element. A vaporizer is most often one of a few types:

  • Thermal (heating element) vaporize
  • Ultrasonic
  • Electro-mechanical

Of these, thermal (warm mist) and ultrasonic (cool mist) types are now the most commonly sold. Both have pros and cons I’ll share further below.

The vaporizer changes the liquid form of water into a fine mist that rises through an exit passageway and out a nozzle into the room’s air. This adds moisture (humidity) to the room’s air and improves comfort, health, and relief from low-humidity conditions.

Basic operation

Crane humidifier filling tank example image

Shown: Filling a cool mist humidifier’s water tank in my home during testing. Nearly all (except, for example, evaporative models) work the same: remove the tank when it runs dry and fill it with clean water. Note that mineral-heavy water is not recommended!

The great news is that humidifiers are one of the easiest appliances to use! It basically boils down to a few simple steps you’ll do during operation:

  1. Place on a suitable surface and place as recommended
  2. Remove the tank and remove the tank’s cap
  3. Fill with clean water of the recommended type (distilled is ideal)
  4. Replace the cap and tighten securely
  5. Place the water tank carefully on the humidifier base, taking care to avoid spills
  6. Switch on the humidifier and adjust as desired

Ultimately, you’ll only need to refill a water tank periodically as it takes several hours for a tank to run out in most cases. Some typical time windows are about 9 hours to 24 hours between running out.

The amount of time it takes depends on both the output setting of the humidifier and the tank size of the model you buy.

For that reason, it’s isn’t always best to buy the cheapest! If you’re like me and don’t like the hassle of having to keep up with something, spending a few more dollars for a model with a larger tank is well worth it!

This is especially true for using them overnight during the winter or all day in dry climates.

How to know when you need a humidifier (and how to check)

Recommended humidity level imageSome of the most common questions I get are, “What humidity level is best?” as well as “How can I tell the humidity level in my home or room?”

Great questions!

Humidity measured as a percentage on a scale of 0-100%, and relative to the air’s temperature. Hence the name you’ll often hear: “relative humidity.”

Generally speaking, the human body feels best with relative humidity above 30% and 60% and below.

However, an ideal range for humidity in your home is 40-50%. Your goal isn’t to have it perfectly at some fixed number – that’s not realistic or necessary.

The ideal amount of humidity is the level that you feel most comfortable at and resolve healthy and dry air symptoms for you, your child, or your home and family. A great rule of thumb is to aim for about 50%.

When the level begins to reach 30% and below it’s time to use your humidifier.

Severe dry air conditions begin to become obvious at about 30% and below. In dry climates and during winter the level can drop to under 20%!

You might not realize it, but even allergy symptoms are less bothersome if the air is kept to a healthy moisture level as I mentioned above. That’s because dry air allows allergens to become more of a problem as well as move about more freely.

How to check humidity levels

ThermPro TP50 humidity and temperature gaugeChecking humidity is actually very simple if you’ve got the right instrument. Fortunately, these days you can check both the temperature and relative humidity at a glance with a cheap meter like this fantastic little ThermaPro digital humidity gauge.

Unfortunately guessing is a terrible way to try to figure out the condition of the air around you. To make matters worse, our bodies are subject to fluctuate in how they sense temperature and other conditions.

While there are a few old-fashioned methods including using mechanical devices, in modern times it’s best to use a digital humidity gauge to check.

As humidity is related to temperature it’s better to be able to see both of them anytime you need to. That’s another reason these modern (and affordable – most are under $15) instruments are wonderful to have around.

I own several both at work and at home. You’ll be able to see the relationship between the rise and fall of temperature and humidity accurately at any time of the day or night.

Humidifier types

Image with examples of the 3 main types of humidifiers

While they’re often a bit similar in how they look from the outside, there are some important differences to know.

Here are 3 of the main types of humidifiers for home and personal use:

  • Warm mist
  • Cool mist
  • Evaporative

Warm mist and cool are fairly similar but have some distinct differences. Evaporative models are less common but have some advantages (and disadvantages) the other 2 don’t have.

Humidifier type differences

1. Warm mist models produce water vapor by using electrical power to generate heat and create a gentle, low-temperature vapor that’s a form of steam. They’re ideal for colds, congestion, and wintertime.

The drawback is that they add heat to a room as the water mist released warms before it escapes the device. Additionally, they don’t have a dial control like cool mist models and often have 1 or more fixed output levels instead.

2. Cool mist models typically use low-power methods such as an ultrasonic device to produce a super-fine mist at room temperature. They’re great for saving energy as well as particularly well-suited to dry climate use.

They also feature near-silent operation and many models allow for finer output level controls

3. Evaporative humidifiers work just as you might guess: water evaporates (aided by a fan) with a special design intended to raise the humidity in a room. One distinct feature is evaporative humidifiers cannot raise a room’s humidity level too high (above 60%).

It’s impossible as they only release moisture that naturally fills the void left due to low moisture thanks to the laws of physics.

Guidelines for baby’s room

Image of a mother and baby in crib with humidifier

The great news is that the same guidelines apply for your child’s room, too. One of the best types to use, by the way, are those like a child’s cool mist model that’s highly adjustable.

There are a few notes I should add, however:

  • Don’t forget to keep the humidifier from sitting in direct sunlight to avoid mold & bacterial growth
  • If the humidifier will be left running continuously, it’s best to leave the door at least partly open to avoid excessive humidity build up
  • As babies are especially sensitive to colds and congestion, a warm mist model is often ideal for sick babies

Additionally, I recommend picking up a quiet one to let your child sleep peacefully.

Key points to remember

Humidifier placement summary
  • Bed: We recommend placing your humidifier several feet from your bed – a minimum of 3 feet or so is good
  • Although you can use them on a floor, placing them at least 2 feet above the floor is ideal
  • Don’t place a humidifier where it will be constantly exposed to sunlight (Ex.: near a window)
  • Avoid placing the unit on top of or very close to wooden surfaces subject to moisture or water damage. A tray or other water-resistant cover underneath the unit can avoid issues from mist droplets or spilled water
  • A non-metallic, level surface is ideal. Do not place on carpet or similar surfaces
  • For best results, place humidifiers closer to the center of the room or even to one side, where ever convenient

Additional reading

Need some advice on the best models worth buying? Check out this helpful guide featuring the best humidifiers for your money. They’re especially great for cough or dry skin relief.

Are Air Purifiers Good For Your Health?

Image of child in living room with air purifier

Your home is your safe haven and should be a place that feels great to come home to. But did you know it can harbor some harmful gases and pollutants?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air contains organic chemical pollutants at levels 2 to 5 times higher than those found in outdoor air. Knowing that maybe it’s time to invest in a good air purifier.

But wait – are air purifiers good for your health? Or could they be potentially harmful as well? And which ones are the right kinds to buy?

Contents

Answering the basic question – Are air purifiers good for your health?

First off, before going into more detail, here’s a quick answer to your question:

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Yes, the right type of air purifier is good for your health. The wrong type can cause health issues or discomfort.

  • HEPA filter-based air purifiers produce no harmful by-products and are good for your health. They remove harmful and allergy-causing particulates from the air, leaving only fresh air behind.
  • Ozone generators are a poor choice and are potentially harmful. Additionally, they’re very ineffective for air cleaning when compared to HEPA type air purifiers.
  • Ionizers are generally a good way to effectively combat airborne germs that cause illnesses. However, like others, they’re not efficient or effective for the most common air quality problems. Again, a filter-type based purifier is a much better choice.

I’d like to explain exactly why this is – and what kind of purifier you should – or should not – buy.

Some are simply junk and a waste of money. In fact, some can make you cough, feel poorly, and are not good for your health!

Common home air quality problems

(Click image to enlarge)

Indoor pollution is best dealt with by eliminating the pollutants and ventilating your home. Some of us can open windows and let fresh air in for a while, but the problem is that’s a temporary solution – it won’t fix the source of the problem.

While there are too many to list here, some of the most common problems are:

  • Allergens from plants and other materials
  • Pet odors, hair, and pet dander
  • Bad smells from a variety of sources
  • Sneezing, coughing, and sniffling
  • Irritants causing red eyes or scratchy skin
  • Dust mite problems
  • Stale air that doesn’t smell fresh
  • Dust
  • Volatile organic compound (VOC) substances from chemicals

Image note about pet allergies

Unlike temporary solutions, an air purifier can remove air contaminants, pet dander, dust mite irritants, dust, smoke odors, and much more. Some of the most common problems we all suffer from can improve a lot!

Ultimately, the only way to truly deal with an air quality problem is to get rid of the source! If that’s not possible (for example, getting rid of your pets) the solution is to remove the cause as it’s produced.

To do so, however, you’ll want the right kind of product that won’t expose you to potential health symptoms. You’ll also want something that’s effective, too. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Air quality problems air purifiers can help with

Dirty air purifier filter that has collected dust

Shown: My air purifier’s filter after being used only about 2 weeks and capturing LOTS of dust. I was amazed at how much it removed from my room and the air around me!

There are two kinds of indoor pollutants commonly found in homes:

1. Particulate matter: Pollen, dust, debris, hair, pet dander, smoke, molds, bacteria, viruses, and other tiny organisms. Newer homes may contain airborne particles related to new carpet or building materials indoors.

Sometimes matter is brought in from outdoors. A great example is smokers who bring smoker particles inside your home on their clothes & hair, or dirt and plant particles from other places.

2. Gaseous pollutants: The usual household sources, including ingredients in fuels, medicine, perfume, cosmetics, plastics, and other products used for things like cleaning, cooking, or maintenance. Others include smoke or pet odors also.

How does an air purifier work?

How air purifiers reduce dust diagramAn air purifier works by drawing in dirty, contaminated air which is then filtered before it escapes back into the room. A great example is the popular GermGuardian AC4825. An activated carbon filter traps gaseous substances (and larger particles, as it acts as a pre-filter). This particular model also includes a germ-killing feature using ultraviolet (UV) light.

An air purifier is an electromechanical device that cleans indoor air either by removing or destroying the pollutants. Most use a fan to pull dirty air from an enclosed space (your bedroom, kitchen, or living room, for instance) and force the air through a filter or series of filters, trapping unwanted contaminants.

The clean air is then released back into the room. This continues and is a process of continuously cycling air over and over until the room is purified.

Since each group of pollutants has different characteristics, the air purifying system that will work for each of them will also differ.

Some systems work by removing pollutants by one of 3 ways:

  • Mechanical filtration – applicable for particulate matter
  • Electrostatic attraction – applicable for particulate matter
  • Gas absorption – applicable for some gas pollutants

Other systems work by destroying pollutants and work as follows:

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light radiation – applicable for molds, viruses, bacteria, and other biological pollutants
  • Photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) – also uses ultraviolet lamps and is intended for gaseous pollutants
  • Ozone generation – produces ozone molecules (O3) from surrounding oxygen to trap particulates, gases, and biological pollutants

The different types of air purifiers

There’s a number of different types of air purifiers that you should know about, although not all are found in consumer products. Just the same, it’s very helpful to have an overall awareness of what’s out there.

Several of these aren’t something you’ll find when shopping for a product for your home, so don’t stress out about it.

1. HEPA filter purifiers

A HEPA filter is an extremely dense filter made up of many extremely dense fibers packed together. The material traps microscopic particles in the air passing through it. They’re highly effective at cleaning the air and don’t have any undesirable side effects unlike other methods used. Often a HEPA filter is used along with a pre-filter and an activated carbon filter.

The most commonly available type in the consumer market, these are air purifiers that capture particulates using filters. High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters fall under this category and are the standard type you’ll find when shopping.

A HEPA air filter is made of very thin glass fibers randomly woven into a mesh material which is folded to increase its surface area.

Extremely dense in construction, they’re capable of capturing and removing 99.97% of particulate matter as small as 0.3 microns in size (a micron is 1/1,000,000 of a meter).

While there are other types of filters used in some cases (such as HEPA “type”), they’re not as effective if they don’t meet the government specifications the HEPA filter standard requires.

Normally they’re used along with 1 or 2 more filter sections such as a mesh prefilter (for trapping dust, hair, and larger elements) and an odor and gas-absorbing section.

2. Electronic air cleaners

Orion B-1000 air purifier with filter shown

Electronic air cleaners like this B-1000 ionizer shown here work by generating charged particles. These particles then can cling to particulates in the air as well as neutralize germs, too. A well-designed unit collects the foreign matter in a filter (shown) or on a plate.

Electronic air cleaners draw air into an ionization section where particulates are electrically charged.

Electrostatic air precipitators and air ionizers are two examples of electronic air cleaners. In the case of precipitators, these charged particles are attracted to plates with an opposite electrical charge as they pass through in the air, removing them from the air.

Ionizers create the charged particles which bond to air particles and then metal collection plates or a filter inside the device.

Unlike air filters that are tested using HEPA standards, there’s no way to gauge the effectiveness of electronic air cleaners. They also produce small amounts of ozone – a three-oxygen molecule which can irritate the lungs – as a by-product.

Why ionizers are a bad choice

Ionizers have been proven to rid the air effectively of sickness-causing microbes, so they can offer a great benefit if designed correctly.

Despite this, they can’t purify the air nearly as effectively as filter-based purifiers can. If you’re considering buying an ionizer purifier, it’s important to be aware that most aren’t really worth the money.

3. Ozone generators

Image of ozone generatorOzone generators produce heavy amounts of ozone molecules by using a high voltage device to split oxygen molecules. The oxygen atoms recombine as ozone (03). These can bond to particles in the air and may give the impression of fresh air being generated. They don’t permanently trap particulates in the air as filter-based types do.

Ozone generators are a type of air cleaner designed to oxidize biological contaminants, odors, gaseous pollutants, allergens, and particulates. Ozone has to be used in high concentrations to be effective.

At first glance, it can seem like ozone is a great way to eliminate pollutants in the air without even needing a filter or even fans in some cases. Many sold today on the market are listed with big claims and fancy technical terms but in truth are very poor performers.

Unfortunately, ozone can exacerbate symptoms in asthma sufferers, cause shortness of breath and throat irritation, and even lower the body’s ability to ward off respiratory infections.

In fact, the EPA recognizes ozone as a lung irritant and products often have ratings to let you know how much they produce.

Sales gimmicks and your money

As I mentioned earlier, ozone generators are often sold with misleading advertisements to make consumers think they’re effective and will freshen the air well. The truth is, they really don’t!

Ozone itself can attach to airborne particles and trap it, but the problem is that it takes an excessive amount of ozone for them to be anywhere near effective. Therefore, they aren’t recommended for enclosed rooms and especially not for people with asthma or other respiratory problems.

Diagram showing ozone production and pair particles
Some air purifiers have an ionizer or ozone generator as an extra option. These types are less likely to produce unsafe levels as they’re a secondary feature and aren’t a health threat in most cases.

The most prevalent problem with ozone generators is that they can’t purify the air efficiently as a filter-based product can.

4. Ultraviolet (UV) germicidal irradiation air cleaners

Diagram showing how UV light kills germs & DNA

Ultraviolet light damages the DNA of airborne germs and microbes at the molecular level, rendering them harmless.

UV-based cleaners are intended for the destruction of molds, viruses, and bacteria either airborne or populating along the HVAC ductwork. These serve primarily to cleanse the air of germs and don’t remove particles and other foreign matter from the air as filters do.

However, many of these biological pollutants produce higher levels of UV radiation than is provided by most UVGI cleaners designed for home use. Dead or inactivate microorganisms can still trigger allergies and respiratory problems.

Also, there’s no way to tell how effective UV cleaners are since there aren’t any standards to test them or compare them when buying.

In air purifiers available for home use, the UV feature serves as a side benefit for reducing airborne germs and microbes.

In summary – Are air purifiers good for your health?

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Yes, the right type of air purifier is good for your health. The wrong type can cause health issues.

  • Filter-based air purifiers produce no by-harmful by-products and are good for your health. They remove harmful and allergy-causing particulates from the air, leaving only fresh air behind.
  • Ozone generators are a poor choice and are potentially harmful. Additionally, they’re not nearly as effective as filter-based products.
  • Ionizers are generally a good way to effectively combat airborne germs that cause illnesses. However, like others, they’re not good for efficient and thorough air cleaning. Again, a filter-type based purifier beats them in that area.

Ideally, for the best health buy a true HEPA filter-based purifier. These will reduce airborne allergens and particulates that cause problems. A model with an ionizer or UV germ-killing feature is an ideal choice and won’t cause health issues.

These won’t produce excessive amounts of ozone and the UV light won’t be a health hazard for your either.

It’s very important to buy a reputable, proven brand that isn’t misleading you with hype or false claims. Many sold (especially from China) are simply ozone generators that are bad for you and simply don’t work well!

Don’t worry, though! You can buy a great HEPA filter purifier for under $100. You can find some great choices you can afford in my detailed post here.

Do Air Purifiers Reduce Dust? A Comprehensive Guide

Do air purifiers reduce dust featured image

Dust is an everyday problem for many of us. I used to suffer terribly from coughing because of dust blown into my work area from the ventilation system in my old job.

As I learned later, dust contains a variety of debris, pollutants, and allergens that are bad to breathe in. One of the best things I’ve ever done is to invest in a high-quality air purifier.

But what if you’re not convinced yet. Do air purifiers reduce dust? That’s a great question I’m going to answer for you.

Contents

Infographic – Air purifier and dust facts

Do air purifiers reduce dust infographic

Do air purifiers reduce dust?

Air purifier dust facts

The short answer is yes, air purifiers reduce dust and help eliminate the problem.

The critical reason is that they eliminate dust particles – both visible and microscopic – from the air. Airborne particulates pass through them and are caught permanently in filters. Larger dust elements like hair and fabric fibers get trapped in a front section called the pre-filter.

It’s important to note that I’m referring to filter-based purifiers, not ionizers or ozone generators. The reason is that while those have a purpose under certain conditions, they’re not nearly as effective as a traditional (filter-based) purifier.

Note that air purifiers aren’t a 100% solution – it’s impossible for them to remove all air contaminants, like dust that has settled on surfaces. I’ll cover the other steps you should take for the most benefit as we go along.

What is in dust?

Image of household dust under a microscope

A microscopic image of common household dust. It’s not made of any one element. However different dust sources may generate higher levels of some particles than others. These microscopic particulates are not just a cleanliness issue but can aggravate your respiratory system, cause allergies and sickness, and even cause cancer. Without a good way to trap and remove dust, you’ll constantly breathe in more and more.

It’s helpful to understand exactly the problem you’re dealing with. Why? Because common household dust isn’t often made of large, visible elements that are easily vacuumed or swept away permanently.

Many dust particles are actually microscopic in size which means ordinary cleaning and vacuuming won’t capture them. 

Additionally, different dust sources can bring toxicity and other potentially harmful effects due to chemical elements and organic threats.

Sources of dust

As you might have already guessed, there are a lot of ways dust gets into your home:

  • Dust mite by-products (dust mite feces and body parts)
  • Pet dander & human shed tissue/skin
  • Home construction materials
  • Carpet dust fibers
  • Fabric & clothing fibers
  • Plant materials
  • Central heating and cooling system air ducts
  • Outdoor elements
  • Hair fibers

…and the list goes on and on. There are just too many to list!

The problem can come from nearly anything that breaks down into small enough particles that can be carried by wind and air.

A surprisingly large amount of dust actually comes from the outdoors. Tracked-in dirt from outside is a great example of how you bring these types of particles into your home without knowing it.

Toxicity and health dangers

Image of human respiratory system
Respiratory and other health problems increase a lot when you inhale dust. Microscopic dust particles are more easily brought into our respiratory passageway. Coughing, allergies, nose problems, and much more are some of the symptoms caused by it. People with asthma are especially vulnerable to it too.

Because most Americans spend up to 90 percent or more of their day indoors, it’s easy to see why dust could potentially bring health risks over time.

Dirty, trapped air increases in dust content over time and you’re constantly breathing it in.

As dust settles, it’s less of a risk but once disturbed it’s airborne again and you’ll be inhaling more of it yet again. People suffering from asthma, emphysema, and other health issues can struggle with even a small increase in dust levels.

Many materials, many dust sources

Man-made materials like fabric, home materials, and carpet distribute particles that break off and enter your air. Many are potentially toxic and contain chemicals like formaldehyde.

In fact, a 2016 study found that it can contain up to 10 household chemicals!

Some are known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), meaning you’re at risk for even more health problems down the road!

Dust cleanliness problems

Image of dusty table being cleaned

The more you let your dust problem go unchecked, the more you’ll need to clean! I hate dusting so I use my air purifier nearly 24 hours a day for best results.

I really hate having to dust every so often! It’s a boring chore and just feels like I could be spending the time elsewhere.

I’m sure nearly everyone knows how that feels – walking in and seeing cabinets, tabletops, and shelves coated with that same old dust we hate.

The thing is, if left untreated you’ll have the same problem, day after day, week after week – more cleaning. That goes for nearly anywhere you live: If not dealt with effectively, you’ll never escape the headache of dust problems.

I finally had enough of the dust particles that were constantly building up from fabrics and my bathroom towels. Vacuuming helps, but it definitely isn’t the easiest or most efficient way.

So I decided to try an air purifier and I’ll share my experiences below.

How air purifiers reduce dust

How air purifiers reduce dust diagram

Diagram showing how an air purifier circulates air and removes dust in a room. Shown here is the AC4825 air purifier, a great example of an effective product. I’m an owner and have had great success with it keeping dust levels down where I live! 

As I mentioned above, a good purifier is a great choice for reducing dust.

They work by using internal electric fans to continuously circulate air in a room and filter the air as it moves through them. Dusty and dirty air is pulled in and forced through the filters, trapping dusty permanently.

Clean air leaves the exhaust side of the purifier and the cycle continues. In most cases, it takes a few hours with an appropriately sized purifier to circulate & clean the air in a room.

The time it takes depends on the model, the size of the room, and the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) rating of the purifier (if provided).

HEPA and pre-filter sections

A pre-filter section contains a thin mesh material that first traps larger elements like household dust and pet air before they reach the HEPA filter. This is especially helpful because when dealing with air quality problems like this the pre-filter will likely become dirty relatively soon.

In that case, the pre-filter will prevent the HEPA filter section from becoming dirty too rapidly and will extend its life. Many purifiers sold today allow the pre-filter to be replaced separately instead of having to replace both, saving money.

You may be able to vacuum the dust trapped in the pre-filter section as I’ve done before.

The High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) section is made of very dense fibrous material. The HEPA standard ensures it can trap 99.7% of the unwanted particles entering it, down to 0.3 microns in size. (A micron is 1/1,000,000 of a meter).

Working together they form a highly effective way to capture dust both large and microscopic in size.

My experiences with an air purifier and dust

GermGuardian AC4825E dust on filter image

My air purifier’s dust cleaning ability (top photo) after only a week or 2. I was amazed at how much dust it trapped! Truly wonderful, and it helps a lot to keep my place cleaner and the air healthier. Bottom photo: after it became nearly used I vacuumed the pre-filter to get more life out of it.

I bought the highly recommended GermGuardian AC4825 to try out in my own home – the results where excellent! The amount of dust it captured was crazy!

After about 2 weeks or so I opened the rear filter cover to check it out for curiosity’s sake. I was almost shocked by how much dust was on the pre-filter. How much dust had I been breathing in all this time?

Now I normally leave mine running for at least 8-9 hours a day and even longer if I’m inside working all day or while I’m out.

My problem with needing to clean so often has been reduced and I’m much happier. I was so pleased with mine that I wrote an extensive review of the AC4825 purifier here.

Additional steps to take

Ultimately, while an air purifier is the most practical and simplest remedy it can’t work magic. Once the dust settles a purifier can’t remove it. Purifiers treat airborne particles and odors.

There are several more steps I recommend to minimize dust levels in your home:

  • Use a high-quality, dense filter for your central heating & cooling system
  • Clean surfaces using a vacuum cleaner with a good bag
  • Clean your ventilation system or air vents occasionally
  • Avoid bringing dirt and materials from indoors
  • Remove older and deteriorating materials when possible

It’s crucial to buy a quality product with sufficient room size coverage in order to most effectively reduce the dust where you stay.

I’ve got several great recommendations here although I can personally vouch for the GermGuardian AC4825. See my detailed review here to learn more.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to reach out or leave a comment below.

Ionic Air Purifiers Vs. HEPA Purifiers – What’s The Difference?

Ionic air purifier vs HEPA featured image

Are you trying to understand the difference between an ionic air purifier vs. a HEPA purifier? I’ll be honest and admit a long time ago I was confused too. One reason is because of misleading product descriptions I had to research and verify.

It seems like there are so many products sold today as air purifiers. And many are falsely described – which makes it even more confusing! My main goal is to answer your questions about both the differences between an ionizer purifier vs. HEPA purifier.

Before spending any money it’s well worth taking a few minutes to find out more what you really need. I want you to get the best for your money and the best product for your needs.

Contents

Infographic – Ionic air purifier vs. HEPA

Ionic air purifier vs. HEPA infographic diagram/image

What does an ionic purifier do?

ionizer purifier examples

Examples of two popular and commonly sold ionic (ionizer) air purifiers. Left: O-ion B-1000 purifier and (right) the No products found. Both use charged plates to attract particles from the air which collect in a filter or on plates for later removal. Both also use a fan to move air through the ionizer section of the purifier. Both also have a UV-C light feature to kill germs.

Air ionizers work by processing air moved by a fan using electrically charged plates to charge air molecules. These ions – or charged air molecules – are attracted to plates or electrodes very much like how static electricity works.

How ionizers work

Ionic air purifier how it works diagramShown: one of many ionizer designs. In this example (of a design used by better ionizer air purifiers) air is moved by a fan through the first filter. Following this, particles in the air are charged (ionized) and then attracted to metal plates of an opposite charge where they’re captured. A final filter removes some more particles in the air. Note that not all ionizer air purifiers have filters.

Ionizers come in different designs. Not all work the same.

For example, better models have a fan to circulate air in a room and others don’t. In order to purify the air in a room, a product absolutely must actually move the air through it and process it to remove contaminants.

Generally speaking, however, ionic air purifiers use a fan to move air through a series of electrodes and plates. The first plates use an electrical charge to ionize (change the electrical charge of) the airborne particles.

The 2nd stage features other electrodes or plates which have an opposite charge. When the newly charged particles move close to them, they’re attracted to them and bond to them, removing them from the air.

It’s very much like static electricity. For example, think about how pieces of paper, hair, or styrofoam are attracted to your body and clothes when you build up a charge on your carpet.

These contaminants collect on plates or similar type of filter where they’re cleaned off later. Some models feature standard filters as well.

Sometimes ionizers are a feature built into HEPA type purifiers as an added benefit.

One major strength of an ionizer is its ability to destroy airborne illnesses by killing microbes in the air.

Ionizers vs ozone generators

Image of ozone generatorUnlike ionizers, ozone generators produce a lot of ozone molecules in the air and don’t internally collect contaminant particles. The idea is for ozone to bond with airborne particulates which then fall from the air. They’re not very effective at safe ozone levels and at levels where they are effective, the ozone is potentially harmful to humans.

It’s important to cover this topic as unfortunately ionizers are often confused with ozone generators. Companies selling ozone-generating “purifiers” often mislabel them and it simply adds to the confusion.

By nature, ionizers do generate a very small amount of ozone but don’t generally do so at an unsafe or harmful level.

Ozone generators are different from ionizers in that they primarily generate ozone (O3 molecules) by using a high-voltage corona effect to split oxygen molecules in the air which form with other oxygen atoms.

They usually use a fan to blow these molecules into the room, but a lot of them don’t contain internal filters for trapping contaminants. Instead, particles fall to the floor around it.

Why ozone generators are a poor choice

I recommend you avoid these and decide between an ionic purifier and a filter-based (HEPA) purifier. Ozone generators aren’t effective and even if not harmful can irritate your respiratory system.

They’re also a bad choice for people with health issues related to emphysema and other conditions.

What does a HEPA purifier do?

Image of Levoit LV-H132 air purifier in bedroom

Commonly sold HEPA filter air purifiers like the Levoit LV-H132 are placed in rooms where air quality issues are present. Some of the most common locations are bedrooms and living rooms. They circulate air using fans, moving the air through different filters that trap unwanted elements. You’ll need to replace the filters with new ones once they’re saturated with contaminants.

HEPA air purifiers are designed to circulate air in the room and remove contaminants, dust, allergens, and more by trapping them in filters. Unlike ionic purifiers, HEPA purifiers always use a fan – it’s not possible for a product to work without one. Also, they generally do not affect air molecules using any type of electrostatic charge as ionizers do.

(Note that there are some exceptions which I’ll cover later)

A High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter refers to a particular type of filter designed to meet certain efficiency and air purification quality levels. These filters are made of a very dense fiber-like material.

The HEPA name describes a standard that mandates a filter can remove airborne particles down to 0.3 microns in size. A micron, or micrometer, is 1/1,000,000 of a meter. The efficiency of this type of filter is 99.97%, meaning that for every 10,000 particles flowing into it only about 3 escape.

They’re very effective at cleaning air.

How HEPA purifiers work

How air purifiers reduce dust diagram

HEPA filter-based purifiers don’t produce anything in the air or cause any type of electrostatic charge, unlike ionizers. They work off of a simple principle: using a fan or fans to circulate the air in a room and move it through filters. These filters trap both larger and microscopic particles, odors, chemical vapors, and many common household irritants.

HEPA filter purifiers are pretty simple in principle although many variations with more features exist.

They all share a similar design: A fan (or fans) is used to draw in air and force it through filters that trap odors and contaminants to blow out fresh air. They continue to do so in a circulation pattern to clean the air in a home or room within several hours.

Unlike ionizers, they depend on the fast movement of air and a filter. While ionizers use an electrostatic charge to remove particulates in the air you breathe, these rely on mechanical means.

In other words, instead of “attracting” particles in the air, they block and trap them in filters.

Some add more features

It’s worth noting that some filter-based purifiers may include unique features like an ultraviolet light (UV) germ killing option. Some may even include an ionizer feature themselves! However they still heavily rely primarily on filters to work effectively.

For convenience, some also offer more advanced features like an air quality sensor or auto-off timer. Others today allow smartphone control features.

Filters used in HEPA purifiers

It’s actually rare that a modern air purifier like this has only a HEPA filter. Today, most products include some variation of a “3-in-1” design:

  1. Pre-filter section
  2. Activated carbon (charcoal) section
  3. HEPA filter

The pre-filter is normally attached to an activated carbon filter section. It’s a thin material that traps larger matter like hair and dust. The activated carbon filter is the section that absorbs vapors and odors.

Ionic air purifier vs HEPA purifier comparison

By now you should understand more about how ionic and HEPA purifiers work. You really shouldn’t spend money until considering the pros and cons of each.

In order to make it a bit simpler, I’ve put together a comparison table that highlights the differences between the two along with a few notes. (Some characteristics are often different on a brand & product basis and are not true in all cases).

Ionic vs HEPA comparison table

TOPICIONIC PURIFIER (IONIZER)HEPA PURIFIER
Air cleaning process Charges air particles which are collected on plates or filter. Fan moves air through the purifier. Cleans air by circulating air. Air is forced through HEPA/pre-/carbon filters, trapping particulates
Ozone production Very small (< 0.05ppm typical) None
Germ killing ability Low to good, depending on product None to fair (some products feature germ killing ability)
Air flow rate Low-fair (fan speed often not selectable) Good-high (adjustable fan speed)
Dust cleaning Poor Good
Cigarette smoke cleaning Fair-good (particles to 0.01uM in some cases) Good (limited to particle size to 0.3uM and above)
Odor reduction Poor/moderate Good (models with carbon filter)
Pet dander cleaning Fair-good Good
Pet hair cleaning Poor Good
Allergy relief Fair Good
Filter maintenance Clean plates/wash filter (reusable) Replace complete or separate filters, depending on model (ave. 6-8 months life)
Average cost $50-$65+ $50-$100+

Which one should you choose?

Confused man in suit
Ionic purifiers do have a distinct advantage over HEPA type purifiers: their ability to sanitize the air and greatly reduce airborne germs which cause illnesses. Filter-type purifiers don’t normally have this ability although some like GermGuardian products do have a feature that uses UV-C technology to do so.

Some ionizers like the O-Ion B-1000 in the image above also have this feature, too.

However, when comparing the pros and cons of each, I recommend a quality HEPA-type purifier. They offer a higher rate of airflow for better clean air delivery, they’re good for dust and hair problems, and models with a carbon filter can absorb odors and chemicals in the air.

Another reason is that ionizers are not held to the same standards of performance and demonstrated air cleaning that filter models are.

For example, the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) is laboratory tested and proven testing. It’s a standardized way of demonstrating an air purifier’s cleaning effectiveness. You won’t see that on ionic air purifiers.

When are ionizers a good idea or helpful?

Ionizers are good for light-duty cleaning like needing to freshen a room as well as other less demanding applications.

For pet dander, allergies, bad smoke problems, and others HEPA purifiers are the way to go. Additionally, the faster fan speeds mean air cleaning is more rapid and you have more control over it.

The major downside of HEPA purifiers is needing to buy replacement filters, which on average is about 6-8 months depending on the model. (Note that in some cases carbon filter can be replaced separately, extending the use of the main HEPA filter section).

Hybrid models

Holmes HAP116Z-U

Some models use both filters and an ionizer to clean the air. Note that purification effectiveness can vary greatly, so it’s very important to always buy a proven, effective product.

To (unfortunately!) make things more complicated, there are some hybrid models on the market which feature both a filter and a built-in ionizer section as an extra feature.

Primarily, however, you should always shop for a purifier on the basis of proven performance, great reviews, and cleaning ability for your room size. Don’t let marketing tactics mislead you into spending money on something that’s less effective.

Summary – Ionic vs. HEPA air purifiers

In summary here’s what we’ve learned:

  • Ionic (ionizer) air purifiers work by moving air. Airborne particles are charged and attracted to plates where they collect on plates or a filter. Ionizers are more effective at sanitizing air.
  • High-Efficiency Air Particulate (HEPA) purifiers move air through filters to trap particles, odors, and more. They don’t introduce anything into the air itself.
  • Ozone generators may be misleadingly sold as “ionizers’ but aren’t a good use of money, and aren’t effective. Ozone can irritate internal tissues. At high levels, ozone molecules can become harmful.

Be sure to do your reading before spending money!

One of the best HEPA purifiers sold today is the GermGuardian AC4825. It’s an effective purifier with good performance – and I own one! You can read my detailed review here.

If you’d like to see a good ionizer that’s moderately priced, check out the O-Ion B-1000 here as well.