As air quality management is more prominently discussed, air purifiers and humidifiers have become two of the most influential contenders for creating healthier indoor environments. These devices, each designed with distinct functions and benefits, stand at the forefront of enhancing indoor comfort and well-being. In this comprehensive article, we delve into the distinctions between air purifiers vs humidifiers, gaining a deeper understanding of the scientific aspects involved.
At first glance, air purifiers and humidifiers might appear quite similar, but their internal workings are different. One focuses on eliminating airborne allergens, while the other adds extra moisture to alleviate discomfort caused by dry air. To make the right choice for your family, your home, and yourself, it is necessary to understand the differences between air purifiers and humidifiers. As well as providing information on how each device works and how to use them safely, we will also explain when air purifiers and humidifiers are best suited for different uses.
What Is the Difference Between an Air Purifier and a Humidifier?
The key to understanding air purifiers vs humidifiers is to understand how each works. An air purifier cleans the air by eliminating airborne particles or “inactivating” pollutants in the air. An air purifier consists of a fan and a filtering surface, although the particular filtration technology can differ, ranging from HEPA filters to ionizers and PECO technology. In most air purifiers, the air is drawn through the device, where unwanted particles are captured or removed via a filter, subsequently releasing clean air back into the environment. It is important to note that air purifiers do not introduce any additional moisture to the air.
On the other hand, a humidifier cannot cleanse the air or extract airborne allergens. Its primary function revolves around increasing moisture levels in the air through methods such as boiling water to produce steam, using ultrasonic technology to disperse water droplets into the air, or using a fan and a wick to facilitate water evaporation. Furthermore, ultrasonic humidifiers may introduce minute mineral particles into the air when using tap water instead of distilled water. The potential health implications of these particles are not extensively understood, although research indicates that they could potentially impact lung tissue (Umezawa et al., 2013). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends using distilled water and regularly cleaning and disinfecting the humidifier.
Are Air Purifiers and Humidifiers Good for Your Health?
Now that we have understood the difference between air purifiers vs humidifiers, let’s find out how they impact our health differently due to their effects on air quality. There are several common conditions to look out for:
1. Asthma and allergies
Certain air purifiers are designed to reduce allergen particles in the air. These include dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or mold spores. Many people suffering from allergies or prevalent asthma symptoms turn to air purifiers to curtail their exposure to these triggers. Particles carrying allergens float in the air, often so tiny that they remain suspended for hours.
In contrast, humidifiers do not exert any influence over allergen levels. If you have dry and irritated nasal passages, they can make allergies feel less severe. Humidifiers do not help reduce allergy or asthma symptoms; in some instances, they might escalate the risk of asthma and allergies (Svendsen, Gonzales & Commodore, 2018). Additionally, a poorly maintained humidifier could foster mold growth, potentially introducing airborne contaminants such as mold spores into the environment. This, in turn, could act as a catalyst for allergy and asthma symptoms, along with other health complications.
2. Flu, colds, and respiratory irritation
Various air purifiers are designed to capture airborne particles, although certain virus-carrying particles can pass through standard air filters. An air purifier cannot cure an ongoing cold but can reduce the symptoms by eliminating respiratory irritants.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that having a humidifier helps relieve a stuffy nose and cold or flu discomfort. Maintaining an optimal humidity level can also offer a protective advantage against viruses. Several studies indicate that increasing air humidity to a range of 40-60% can diminish the contagiousness of viruses. However, a humidifier cannot cure an existing illness but can mitigate symptoms by preventing a dry, scratchy nose and a sore throat.
3. Dry air
An air purifier does not introduce moisture into the air, thus offering no assistance for addressing excessively dry air. This dryness can worsen various respiratory issues such as asthma, sinusitis, and bronchitis. Nevertheless, a humidifier increases the moisture level in the air, effectively boosting humidity and enhancing dry air situations, which is particularly beneficial for people living in dry climates. Your throat and nasal passages can be irritated by insufficient humidity caused by heating systems during winter.
4. Skin conditions (Eczema)
Eczema and skin rashes are known to be caused by air pollution, which can be reduced by using air purifiers. A study revealed a higher incidence of skin conditions such as eczema among children living close to roadways. The use of air purifiers may be effective in reducing eczema and skin rashes, even though there are limited studies on the topic.
Air Purifiers vs Humidifiers: Which Is Better to Suite Your Needs?
Wondering which one would you need: air purifiers vs humidifiers? Different circumstances may make one better than the other.
1. For baby
In the nursery, a humidifier proves beneficial when combating dry air issues. It effectively prevents discomforts such as a dry, scratchy nose and throat irritation. The FDA advises using a cool mist humidifier for infants with cough and cold symptoms, as it shrinks nasal passages, aiding easier breathing. On the contrary, a warm mist humidifier should be avoided, as it may induce swelling in nasal passages, leading to breathing difficulty. By maintaining an optimal relative humidity of 40 to 60%, humidifiers also diminish the contagion potential of bacteria and viruses.
For sustained air quality enhancement, an air purifier can assist in minimizing airborne pollutants. It tackles various sources, including potential toxins from tobacco smoke, triggers for asthma such as mold spores, dust particles, pet dander, pollen, emissions from plastics, allergens, and other potential respiratory irritants. Because of this, air purifiers are a better choice for a baby’s room throughout the year.
2. For Asthma
A humidifier can relieve asthma symptoms if dry air exacerbates the condition. However, it does not directly impact asthma itself. Inversely, maintaining higher indoor humidity levels has been linked to an increased risk of asthma attacks due to the potential growth of harmful microorganisms such as mold, bacteria, and dust mites (as noted by Mayo Clinic). Given that asthma attacks are frequently triggered by airborne pollutants, an air purifier capable of eliminating these pollutants offers a more beneficial solution for asthma.
Moreover, proper maintenance of a humidifier cannot be neglected. Your indoor humidifier should be regularly cleaned, thoroughly dried, and wiped down every other day after each use. Overlooking these steps could lead to the development of mold inside or on the humidifier, which can release mold spores into the air, consequently triggering allergic reactions or asthma attacks – the very outcomes you aim to prevent.
3. For allergens
With its capability to capture particles, an air purifier with a HEPA filter can effectively lower the level of allergens in the air. Despite their potential to relieve a congested nose or irritations, humidifiers may worsen allergies. This is because higher humidity enhances dust mites’ survival rate, as noted by Berkeley Lab.
Should I Use Both an Air Purifier and a Humidifier Together?
Air purifiers and humidifiers can be used in the same room despite their distinct functions. The coordination of these two units can lead to an enhancement in indoor air quality. To maximize the synergy between these devices, the following aspects should be taken into account:
- Positioning: To prevent the humidifier mist from entering the air purifier’s intake, place the air purifier and humidifier in different locations. This can affect the effectiveness of an air purifier.
- Compatibility: Some humidifiers generate dust that might pass through the air purifier’s HEPA filter. Therefore, you should select a humidifier with a filter designed to eliminate minerals from the water or opt for a humidifier that is compatible with distilled water. This proactive measure prevents the release of minerals into the air, thereby maintaining the desired air quality.
Using both an air purifier and a humidifier can have a beneficial impact on your living space. Paying close attention to both devices’ positioning and compatibility will guarantee their seamless cooperation and contribution to your home.
The difference between air purifiers vs humidifiers contributes significantly to the indoor air quality of your residence. Selecting the most suitable device to cater to your requirements is paramount. While both air purifiers and humidifiers can be utilized within the same space, comprehending the significance of their placement and mutual compatibility is crucial.
In the pursuit of a top-tier appliance, an air purifier with a HEPA filter stands as a commendable option due to its superior filtration capability compared to standard filters. Regular maintenance and thorough cleaning of all appliances, especially humidifiers, remain imperative to ensure their optimal functioning and to avoid the accumulation of potentially harmful agents such as bacteria, mold, and spores.