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Cheap Humidifiers Buying Guide

We found several good cheap humidifiers in the $30 to $60 range that are portable and suitable for areas as small as 250 square feet and as large as 1,200 square feet, depending on the model. Larger units cost more, of course, and add moisture to the air in several rooms or in larger open spaces, but they usually aren't portable because of their size.

Whole house humidifiers that connect to your central (forced air) heating system are way more expensive and must be professionally installed.

Among small cheap humidifiers, there are several types to choose from. Warm mist humidifiers, a.k.a. steam/vaporizer humidifiers, heat water to a boil and release the steam into the air. This technology is great for cold rooms and helps fight congestion but is not recommended for use around children because the units get hot enough to cause burns. Cool mist humidifiers are either ultrasonic, impeller, or evaporative. HowStuffWorks.com explains that ultrasonic humidifiers use vibrating technology to produce moisture, impeller models use a rotating disk and diffuser to produce a fine mist, and evaporative models use a wick and fan system to draw water from the reservoir and blow it into the air. All these technologies come packaged in cheap humidifiers. The brand names to note at this end of the market include Crane, Vicks, Honeywell, Holmes, Hunter, and Sunbeam.

There are several things to consider when looking for a humidifier, including size, adjustability, automatic shut-off, and warranty. The area covered (measured in square feet) and tank capacity are two good indicators of size; lower-cost humidifiers are designed for small- to mid-sized rooms, and their tanks typically need filling at least once a day. A built-in, adjustable humidistat is another plus because it keeps a room at the ideal relative humidity of 30 to 50 percent depending on the setting (or level) you choose. Cheap humidifiers with an automatic shut-off turn themselves off when the tank runs out of water, which is a safety and energy-saving feature. Finally, a warranty protects your investment if a cheap humidifier doesn't work properly or fails prematurely.

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Based on our research, we found that consumers tend to judge humidifiers by the amount of maintenance required, the noise level, and the moisture output. Maintenance refers to the ease of refilling the water reservoir and keeping the unit clean. Humidifiers have a reputation for being loud, and consumers, not surprisingly, prefer models that run quietly. And finally, consumers expect low-cost humidifiers to do their job and inject enough moisture into a room to get rid of the nagging markers of dry air. In general, reviews of the cheap humidifiers on our list of top picks indicate that most users are satisfied with their purchases.

We found good cheap humidifiers of various types that are worthy of consideration. The Crane EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $38) is an ultrasonic, cool mist humidifier that garners strong consumer reviews for ease of maintenance, lots of moisture, and quiet operation. The Honeywell HCM-630 QuietCare (starting at $43) is an impeller, cool mist humidifier that's one of the few in the Cheapism niche to feature an adjustable humidistat. The Vicks Warm Mist V745A (starting at $30), the only warm mist, steam humidifier on our list, boasts the capacity to moisturize up to 1,200 square feet, an automatic shut-off, and a cup that holds inhalant for the relief of stuffy noses and chests. One humidifier we'd pass on is the Holmes HM630-U Cool Mist Tower Humidifier (starting at $60), a cool mist model that earns poor user reviews and whose marketing materials are short on critical information, like how much space it covers and whether it has an automatic shut-off.

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