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Air Purifier or Humidifier: Which One Should You Use?

The air inside your home has a direct impact on your overall health and well-being; however, it might come as a surprise to learn that typically, indoor air quality is far inferior to outdoor air quality. There’s no doubt that you want the air you breathe inside your home to be as health as possible, and there are two tools that can help to enhance the overall quality of your indoor air: an air purifier and a humidifier.

While both of these tools are specifically designed to impact air, their purposes and benefits differ. Whether you suffer from a chronic respiratory illness, allergies, or you live in an arid climate, if you’re looking for a way to improve the quality of your indoor air, you might be thinking about using an air purifier or a humidifier. Before you invest in one of these appliances, however, it’s important to understand the difference between them so that you can determine which one will best meet your needs; or, if both would be beneficial for your home. To find out more about humidifiers and air purifiers, keep on reading.

Air Purifier and Humidifier: What’s the Difference?

In order to understand the difference between an air purifier and a humidifier, you first need to understand what each appliance is and what it’s intended to do.

An air purifier is an appliance that is designed to improve indoor air quality by cleansing the air of pollutants. There are two key components that allow an air purifier to remove airborne pollutants: a fan and a filter surface. The air filtration technology used varies and can include a standard HEPA filter, an ionizer, or the latest in air filtration technology, PECO filtration. Typically, the way in which an air purifier works is simple. The fan pulls the air into the unit, which is then pushed through the filter, and as it passes through the filter, the airborne pollutants are withdrawn, and the air is cleansed before it is emitted back out into the space. It’s important to note that while an air purifier cleanses the air, it does not put any moisture into the air.

A humidifier, as the name suggests, puts humidity into the air. There are a few ways that a humidifier can do this. The appliance can boil water, which creates steam, and then disperses the water droplets in the steam out into the air via advanced ultrasonic technology. Another common way that a humidifier can add moisture into the air is by evaporating water via a fan and wick system. It’s important to note humidifiers that when using an ultrasonic humidifier, distilled water should be used. Tap water should be avoided, as it could potentially contain small particles of minerals, those minerals could then be introduced into the air, and thus, negatively impact quality of the air inside your home. While the effects that these particles could have on health are not well documented, there is some evidence that success that they could possibly be harmful to sensitive lung tissue. In order to prevent the risk, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using distilled water with humidifiers that rely on ultrasonic technology. The reason being that the distillation process that this type of water undergoes removes dissolved salts, particles, and impurities; in other words, distilled water is chemically pure, and therefore, using this type of water in an ultrasonic air purifier significantly reduces the risk of potentially harmful particles being put into the air. In addition to using distilled water, the EPA also recommends cleaning and disinfecting purifiers on a regular basis.

The Impact Air Purifiers and Humidifiers Have On Air Quality and Health

The impact that air purifiers and humidifiers have on indoor air quality, and thus, your health, varies. The following is a brief overview of the manner in which these appliances can impact the air and different health conditions.

Respiratory illnesses and irritations

Air purifiers and humidifiers have the potential to be beneficial for preventing and speeding up the rate of recovery for some respiratory illnesses and irritations, such as the common cold and flu. The most commonly used air purifiers are designed to capture airborne particles; however, it should be noted that some viral airborne particles are so miniscule that they may pass right through a standard air filter. While an air purifier will not alleviate an existing cold, it could help to minimize the symptoms, as it can remove irritants from the air that might irritate the respiratory system.

As per the US National Institute of Health (NIH), humidifiers can help to alleviate nasal congestion and the discomfort that is associated with the common cold or flu. Exposure to ideal levels of humidity can also offer viral protection. Numerous research studies found that humidity levels between 40 to 60 percent minimizes the infectiousness of viral particles, thereby reducing the risk of becoming ill. While a humidifier won’t cure existing viral respiratory infections, they can help to reduce the symptoms that are associated with an active illness. For example, a humidifier can help to ease a dry and irritated nose and throat.

Arid Indoor Air

Since air purifiers are not designed to increase the moisture levels in the air, these appliances will not mitigate extremely dry air. Therefore, if the air in your home is excessively dry, using an air purifier could possibly exacerbate a variety of respiratory conditions; bronchitis, asthma, and sinusitis, for example. If the air in your home is very dry and you are looking for a way to reduce the effect on your respiratory health, the use of a humidifier could be a solution.

Humidifiers are designed to increase moisture levels in the air, which in turn increases relative humidity levels, alleviating aridity and the adverse health effects that it can cause; nose and throat dryness and irritation, for example.

The Effects of Air Purifiers and Humidifiers in Different Scenarios

Whether you should use an air purifier or a humidifier depends on the specific circumstances you are experiencing, as well as your goals. Below is an overview of different types of situations and which type of appliance would be better suited for each one.

To Reduce Allergies

If you suffer from allergies, an air purifier may be able to help ease your symptoms. That’s because air purifiers are designed to remove airborne allergens. For instance, an air purifier with HEPA filtration can trap small particles that you may be allergic to, such as dust and pet dander; however, a unit that uses Molekule technology would yield even better results, as this advanced technology actually destroys airborne allergens. While a humidifier can help to alleviate nasal congestion, water eyes, and throat irritation to some degree, these appliances can actually worsen allergic reactions. That’s because high humidity levels increase the survivability some types of allergens, like dust mites.

To Alleviate Asthma

If you or a loved one suffers from asthma and the air in your home is dry, a humidifier can help to subdue the symptoms that are associated with this chronic respiratory condition; however, a humidifier will not prevent asthma attacks, and in fact, can actually increase the risk of an attack. That’s because increased humidity levels can promote the growth of various types of air pollutants that can trigger asthma attacks, such as molds, dust mites, and various types of harmful bacteria. Because airborne pollutants often trigger asthma attacks, an air purifier would be a better option than a humidifier, as these appliances remove asthma-inducing air pollutants.

Keep in mind that if you do intend on using a humidifier, to reduce the risk of asthma attacks, the device must be properly maintained. It should be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis, which includes completely drying out and wiping down the appliance. If a humidifier is not properly cared for, mold growth can occur and mold spores can be emitted into the air, which could trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks.

Can An Air Purifier and a Humidifier Be Used At the Same Time?

If you’re looking to both remove airborne pollutants and increase the humidity levels in your home’s indoor air, you might be wondering if you can use both an air purifier and a humidifier. The answer is yes.

Since these appliances perform completely different functions, they are not only safe to use together, but using both at the same time can also be very effective way to increase the quality of your home’s indoor air. Do note, however, that if you do intend on using an air purifier and a humidifier, while they can be placed in the same room, you should take care with the placement of the appliances. They should not be placed too close to one another, as the moisture the humidifier generates may clog the filters on the air purifier, and thus reduce its effectiveness. For example, if you are using an air purifier with HEPA filtration, if the humidifier were placed within close proximity to the appliance, the HEPA filter could be damp on a consistent basis. This could potentially trigger mold and bacteria growth, which would not only render the air purifier useless, but could also increase the risk of adverse health effects.

In order to function as effectively as possible, an air purifier and a humidifier also need to be properly used and well-maintained. In regard to an air purifier, that means using the distilled water as opposed to tap water, particularly if you’re using a unit that is outfitted with ultrasonic technology, as doing so will help to prevent introducing mineral particles into the air that could be harmful to your health. Additionally, you should change out the filters on a regular basis. For a humidifier, proper maintenance means cleaning and drying out the unit every few days. Doing so will help to reduce the risk of bacteria and mold growth that could be harmful to your health.

Summing It Up

If you’re looking for a way to improve your home’s air quality, before deciding whether you should use a humidifier, an air purifier, or both, first consider the specific conditions in your home, as well as the health effects that you are trying to alleviate or prevent. While each appliance offers benefits, they function differently and if you aren’t using the correct appliance for your specific situation, instead of improving your air quality and health, you could actually be jeopardizing both.

In addition to using a humidifier and/or an air purifier, it’s important to schedule routine mold inspections for your home. Mold is one of the most common airborne irritants and exposure to mold spores not only increases the risk of aggravating existing respiratory conditions and allergies, but it can also increase the risk of developing new health conditions. To ensure the safety of your home, having a professional mold inspection company, like MI&T, is highly recommended. This is particularly try if you live in a humid climate or if the conditions in your home tend to be moist; however, even if you live in an arid climate, you should still consider having an inspection, as you never know when mold could be lurking behind your walls and impacting your health.