What is a Steam Humidifier?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 02 May 2020
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Low humidity within a home, especially during the winter months, can cause discomfort for its inhabitants. People often use household humidifiers to increase this moisture level in their homes. A steam humidifier can be used to heat water, allowing it to evaporate into the air as moisture. Some people prefer a vapor steam humidifier to other types because it is generally more healthful.

A steam humidifier is also known as a warm mist humidifier or vaporizer. A small point-of-use humidifier may be used to increase the moisture levels of a single room or small area. A larger model, such as a steam furnace humidifier, may be used to humidify multiple rooms or an entire house.

Steam humidifiers may provide less of a health risk than cool mist or other types of humidifiers. As these appliances produce steam through heat, they kill microorganisms and other impurities in the water, keeping these cold, allergy, and flu exacerbation agents from worsening an individual's condition. In a standing type of humidifier, water is kept stagnant and cool in a reservoir, which can foster the growth and spread of these impurities.

Generally quieter than other models, steam humidifiers can function on regular tap water. Because of their steam operation methods, they do not call for distilled water as other models might require. The warm humidity they produce can also help make air easier to breathe within a cool room.

Another popular element of the steam humidifier is its ability to dispense medication. Medicated inhalants, such as mentholated concentrate, may be added to the water. As the water is heated, the inhalant can be released into the air, providing medicinal relief without requiring a direct application to the patient.

Using a vaporizer steam humidifier also has have several drawbacks. These types of humidifiers require much more energy than their cool mist counterparts, making them generally more expensive to maintain. They have the added risk of injury as well, since they require a heat source to operate. Many people, particularly children, have sustained burn injuries from steam humidifiers. A home steam humidifier also has the potential to overheat, which can cause leakage, melting, and house fires.

Though less so than other types of humidifiers, a vaporizer can also promote the reproduction of certain allergens. Dust mites, mold, and other unhealthy products can develop if the relative humidity of a home exceeds more than sixty percent of its volume. Since children, sick people, and the elderly can especially experience harm in such situations, it is recommended that a home's humidity be kept between forty to sixty percent of its total volume.

Vaporizers and cool mist humidifiers are considered equally effective at relieving nasal congestion and humidifying a home. Both can provide relief as well as risks; therefore, people should consider their own preference, personal situation, medical conditions, and a physician's advice when selecting the type of humidifier appropriate for their home. Cool mist humidifiers are generally recommended for young children because of the burn risk factor associated with steam humidifiers.

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