Using a humidifier during the dry winter months in your home is only as healthful as the water you place inside the unit. The type of humidifier may also play a large role as to the contaminants you are placing in the air. There are two basic types of humidifiers: cool mist and steam vaporizers. A third type of humidifier called an evaporative uses a small wick to disperse moisture through a blower fan.
The cool mist or impeller unit will literally throw droplets of water into the air by the use of a small disc attached to an electric motor. The steam vaporizer uses two carbon electrodes to boil the water and release steam into the room. The evaporative humidifier employs a small wick that sucks the water up through it and a small fan blower pushes the moisture from that wick into the air. All three types of humidifiers use a small water tank as a reservoir. The water in this tank must be free from bacterial growth and minerals. The water should never be allowed to stand for any length of time because this can promote bacterial growth. On a daily basis the humidifier unit should be emptied and thoroughly wiped clean.
According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) almost all tap water and most private home wells contain some form of mineral content in the water. The EPA conducted tests using tap water in the two types of humidifiers. Mineral content from the cool mist type of humidifiers becomes airborne when using common tap water. In some cases the minerals appear as a white powder substance on furniture and floors. The steam vaporizer, also tested by the EPA, did not add significant amounts of minerals into the air during humidification testing. The evaporative type was not tested, but other results show that the minerals can build up inside the reservoirs in all types of humidifiers.
The best water to use in a humidifier, regardless of type, is distilled water. This water is already steamed and most minerals and bacteria have been removed during the distillation process. Distilled water must be removed daily from the reservoir. If any water is left to sit, bacterial growth can occur from room contaminants. Deionized water and reverse osmosis treated water can also be utilized in a humidifier. Although these two processes do not remove all mineral content from the water, it is better than using tap water, according to the EPA. There are chemical treatments that can be added to the humidifier reservoirs, but many of these products remain untested by the EPA.
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