By Elizabeth S. Mitchell/Sept. 9, 2021 11:49 am EDT/Updated: Sept. 9, 2021 11:49 am EDT
If you’re looking to breathe better at home, whether you have allergies and want to wake up less stuffy, or whether dry heat or air conditioning seems to bother you, you might have considered investing in an air purifier or a humidifier. But what’s the difference, and which one do you need?
The first thing you should know is the difference between the purpose of both of these devices and the difference in how they function. An air purifier is meant to make your air healthier to breathe by removing air pollutants like dust, pollen, and other particles that can be bothersome to those with allergies or sensitivities (via Learn Metrics). Meanwhile, humidifiers are meant to improve the air you breathe by increasing the humidity levels of that air when they are too low, as super-dry air can be irritating as well. Essentially, air purifiers are meant to clean the air, while humidifiers are meant to dampen it.
Determining which you want means figuring out what about the air in your home is causing you the most annoyance.
Air purifiers work by sucking air into the mechanism and running it through a series of filters before releasing the cleaner, fresher air. (via Reviews of Air Purifiers). Purifiers that feature HEPA filters are the most popular, as they are able to trap incredibly small particles (down to 0.3 microns) with 99.97 percent efficiency. This means they can pull most allergens and irritants right out of the air. If you’re dealing with allergens like pet dander, dust, mold, or pollen, an air filter is likely a good choice for you.
A humidifier, on the other hand, works by converting water, which is stored in the device itself, into a cool or warm mist before releasing it into the air. They only release a regulated amount of moisture at a time, so you aren’t in danger of creating a rainforest environment in your bedroom. According to the EPA, humidifiers are most effective for folks who are bothered by dry nose, throat, lips, or skin. This can become especially problematic in winter months when dry heat is used in the home.
If you’re dealing with both issues, some humidifiers can be used at the same time as an air purifier (via Reviews of Air Purifiers). Specifically, evaporative humidifiers can be used with all types of air purifiers, even in the same room. Stay away from visible mist humidifiers, also called ultrasonic humidifiers, as release a dense mist that can dampen the filters in the purifier.
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