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What's the Difference Between a Humidifier and a Dehumidifier?

  • Air Quality Facts
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Maintaining the proper amount of air moisture in your home is a delicate balance. Too little or too much of it can lead to unpleasant conditions or health problems, and can also cause issues for the structure of your house itself. Fortunately, a humidifier or dehumidifier can help to achieve the right level of moisture, which can in turn make it a more comfortable living space. The question is, which one is right for you?

Both dehumidifiers and humidifiers have very important functions for improving the air quality inside your home. However, they serve opposite functions. Determining which device will be most helpful requires first assessing the current conditions in your home.

The humidity in any home should ideally fall between 30 and 50 percent. You can use a digital humidity gauge, otherwise known as a hygrometer, to measure this, but many humidifiers come with a built-in monitor. If the humidity level is below the minimum mark, then you likely need a humidifier, such as the Holmes® Warm & Cool Mist Humidifier

This device can increase the humidity in the air, thereby reducing the risk of problems like nosebleeds, sinus headaches, sore throats and flaky skin. It's especially helpful during the winter months, and can help keep wood fixtures, antiques or musical instruments in your home from splitting or cracking.

It's important to distinguish between cool mist humidifiers and warm mist humidifiers. If you find it difficult to breathe in a sauna, you may want to opt for a cool mist humidifier. On the other hand, some prefer warm mist humidifiers, which boil the water to release steam into the room. Make sure to look for a product that promises quiet operation if you're placing the unit in your bedroom and noise is a concern.

Some humidifiers contain parts that are treated with an antimicrobial agent. This hinders growth of mold, mildew and bacteria and keeps the steam cleaner.

Too much moisture in the air poses the perfect environment for mold, pollen and dust mite growth, which can exacerbate asthma, allergies and other respiratory complications. If the humidity level in your home exceeds 50 percent, you should consider implementing a dehumidifier. Moist air that is collected by this device passes over coils, and excess moisture is collected. Thus, the unit removes the humidity, emitting dryer air back into the room.

A dehumidifier can make a major difference in comfort during the sticky summer months, when humidity levels are naturally higher.