If you’ve purchased a humidifier in the past decade, there’s a good chance it was an evaporative system. These humidifiers are the closest thing you can get to natural humidification inside your home and are designed to handle small to large areas with ease. That doesn’t make finding the best evaporative humidifier easy, however, as there are a variety of factors to consider outside the usual areas.
- The Best Evaporative Humidifiers
- How to find the Best Evaporative Humidifier
- Evaporative Humidifier FAQ
The Best Evaporative Humidifiers
In our search to find the best evaporative humidifier, we went through more than 40 models from brands, both big and small. After some serious debate, we chose to stick with systems from reputable companies with machines that can cover between a few hundred square feet to over 2,000.
- Capacity: 4 gallons
- Coverage: 1,000 sq. ft.
- Runtime: 24 hours
- Controls: Manual
- Warranty: 5 years
- Capacity: 3.2 gallons
- Coverage: 540 sq. ft.
- Runtime: 10 hours
- Controls: Manual or App
- Warranty: 5 years
- Capacity: 0.8 gallons
- Coverage: Medium Rooms
- Runtime: 18 hours
- Controls: Manual
- Warranty: 3 years
- Capacity: 1-gallon
- Coverage: Medium – Large Rooms
- Runtime: 24 hours
- Controls: Manual
- Warranty: 3 years
- Capacity: 2.5 gallons
- Coverage: 2,600 sq. ft.
- Runtime: 36 hours
- Controls: Digital
- Warranty: 2 years
#1 Vornado Evap40 Evaporative Humidifier
Vornado isn’t the first name to come to mind with most consumers looking to purchase a humidifier. Well, you won’t want to overlook this brand, as they have several eye-catching evaporative systems like the Vornado Evap40.
With a total capacity of 4 gallons, the Evap40 holds more water than any system on our list. It’s easy to fill as well, considering it sports dual 2-gallon tanks that are removable. The overall design of the system is unique with the fan on top, filter at the bottom, and dials on the front. It’s not what we would consider sleek, however. You may also need to clear some space for this stout system as it is short but is 19.5” wide.
On high, you can expect around 24 hours of runtime from this humidifier, but considerably longer if you drop the speed down. It has three fan speed settings and uses two wick filters. It can produce 1,600 RPMs on high or 750 RPMs on low, and the coverage range is listed at 1,000 square feet. The Evap40 has a humidistat, but with manual dials and no digital display.
This humidifier wasn’t designed with creature comforts in mind, so there are no timers or nightlights on the Vornado Evap40. It’s built to produce humidity for large rooms, and it exceeds extremely well in that regard. While it should be standard, this humidifier does not have an automatic shutoff feature. The unit won’t be damaged if the tanks run dry, but your wicks could dry out quickly. This system is made in the USA and comes with a 5-year warranty from Vornado.
Pros: Dual water tanks and a simple design that’s easy to use. Three speeds, a humidistat, and an excellent 5-year guarantee.
Cons: No automatic shutoff feature.
#2 Boneco H300 Hybrid Humidifier
Most of Boneco’s humidifiers are in the ultrasonic class, but they have several hybrid systems that make use of evaporate cooling. The H300 is one of those machines, and it’s your best option if you need to purify the air while raising the humidity levels.
While technically in the air washer class, the Boneco H300 provides homeowners with three different modes of operation. It can humidify the air in a room, purify the air, or perform both functions simultaneously. This ensures the humidified air stays fresh, and you can even use essential oils or fragrances through a built-in container on the system.
There are two filters on the H300 with a permanent pre-filter and a pollen filter built to take on allergens. Humidification from this system comes from a large evaporative mat, which can produce up to 2.2 gallons of moisture per day. It has a runtime of around 10 hours and a large tank that can hold 3.2 gallons of water. The Boneco H300 is rated for areas up to 350 square feet.
Hybrid systems often have more features than a traditional humidifier, and the H300 doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Standard features like notifications and automatic shutoff are present, along with a child safety lock, six performance levels, and several preset profiles. Bluetooth is the main attraction on this 3-in-1 humidifier; however, as it allows you to control or customize your unit from a smartphone.
If you want to purify and clean the air in your home, the Boneco H300 is well worth a look. It has a number of useful features, and it’s one of the quieter systems on low with a decibel rating of 28 dB. We also like the variable speeds and the ability to control the H300 with a mobile device. Pricing will be the main drawback for this humidifier, but hybrid systems that perform more than one function usually aren’t cheap.
Pros: High-tech humidifier that can purify and humidify simultaneously or separately. Bluetooth connectivity, custom profiles, and multiple speeds. Dishwasher-safe components and an aromatherapy compartment.
Cons: The price tag.
#3 Honeywell Cool Moisture Humidifier HEV320
Honeywell has an array of humidifiers that range from small evaporative systems to warm mish humidifiers and drum-based whole house machines. While they have around a dozen models currently on the market, the Honeywell HEV320 is one of the best budget-friendly evaporative humidifiers.
The HEV320 is one of Honeywell’s simpler systems. It’s not on the tier with their connected machines from a feature standpoint but does have an easy to use dial on the front and two speeds. The tank is in the back on this humidifier and is made from break-resistant plastic. It also has a large opening, which allows you to get a hand into the tank for cleaning.
Honeywell claims this humidifier is up to 30% quieter than other evaporative systems, but failed to provide a decibel rating. Homeowners felt it was quiet at both levels and produced enough moisture to take care of a small to medium-sized room. It’s a system you can “set and forget” aside from the fact it doesn’t have an automatic shutoff feature.
The Honeywell HEV320 is an effective humidifier that won’t break the bank. A few more features would have been nice, but it’s quiet and the easiest system to use on our list. The large tank is also easy to clean, although some consumers did not feel the same about the other parts on this system. The HEV320 is available in Black or White and has a 3-year guarantee.
Pros: Simple humidifier built with ease of use in mind. Great price point and shatterproof-tank.
Cons: No auto-shutoff.
#4 Vicks Starry Night Filtered Cool Mist Humidifier
One of the drawbacks of purchasing an evaporative humidifier is the chance for mold and bacteria buildup. Companies have several ways of addressing that, and Vicks uses filter to ensure the water stays clean.
Vicks Cool Mist Humidifierhas a five-color projector screen that can project starry night onto your roof. It’ll be very relaxing for both kids and adults during cold and dry season. It also works with Vicks VapoPads (sample included) for cough and congestion relief.
This humidifier has three speeds with high, medium, and low, which is controlled through a dial on the front. The tank holds 1-gallon of water, which is good for around 24 hours of runtime before it needs to be refilled.
Given their background and the fact they have more than a dozen humidifiers in their catalog, it’s safe to say that Vicks knows a lot about humidification. The V3700 is a nice all-around unit with a great price, as long as you’re not looking for a system with digital controls or lots of bells & whistles. Like several other evaporative systems, this one doesn’t have auto-shutoff, which can dry out the filter quickly.
Pros: Simple design with 5-color starry night projector screen. Nice price point and a 1-year warranty.
Cons: Lack of features.
#5 AIRCARE MA0800 Console Humidifier
While you can find tabletop and other styles of humidifiers that can handle a large room, console humidifiers are built for big areas. AIRCARE has several console-based systems, but the MA800 is the best option for rooms up to 2,600 square feet.
Console humidifiers are usually large, and many can resemble a piece of furniture. AIRCARE went the opposite route with the MA800 as it still looks like an appliance, but it’s relatively compact for the capacity. This system measures 12”D x 18”W x 16.5”H but only weighs 8.5 pounds. The weight will rise considerably when full, however, because of this humidifier’s capacity.
The AIRCARE MA800 can hold 1.2 gallons on the bottle and another 1.2 gallons in the base. It has a small set of digital controls that allow you to adjust the humidistat and provide access to a handful of features. It has a control lock, automatic shutoff, and indicators for the filter and water tank. This system has three speeds along with an automatic mode and works with the company’s demineralization cartridges.
There are more attractive evaporative humidifiers on our list, but not provide the bang for the buck that you’ll get from the MA800. It can cover 2-3 times the same area as smaller machines at the same price point and has all the standard features you’d need aside from a timer. The MA1201 is also an option if you need a slightly larger system as it’s rated for 3,600 square feet and holds 3.6 gallons of H2O.
Pros: High-capacity humidifier with an excellent price point. 2.5-gallon capacity with a humidistat, and it can cover 2,600 square feet.
Cons: Can be noisy on high.
How to find the Best Evaporative Humidifier
You don’t have to search hard to find a good humidifier for residential use, but choosing the best evaporative humidifier can be challenging. This type of humidifier has been overshadowed by newer styles in recent years, which means the options are a bit more limited than they used to be. Before you set your sights on an evaporative system or choose one from our list, you should understand a little more about these machines.
What is an Evaporative Humidifier?
Evaporative humidifiers are the simplest type of system. They have a tank that holds water, a wick filter, and a fan. The wick draws moisture from the tank, and as air pass over the wick, water evaporates before being blown back into your home.
The moisture from these machines is cooler coming out than it is going in, which is why they are billed as “Cool Mist” humidifiers. A cool mist humidifier can work in any type of weather but is best suited for warmer climates. While effective and often affordable, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind as well.
Evaporative Humidifier Pros
- Affordable and simple to clean
- Several models are compatible with inhalants
- Filter can capture minerals and impurities
- Cool mist is safe for homes with children and pets
Evaporative Humidifier Cons
- Increased chance for bacteria and mold
- Can be noisier than other types of humidifiers
- Filters can get expensive to replace
Evaporative vs. Ultrasonic Humidifier
The biggest competitors to evaporative humidifiers are ultrasonic systems. The technology in these humidifiers is nothing new, but they’ve come down in price in recent years, which has helped to increase their popularity.
An ultrasonic humidifier uses vibrations to turn water into a mist. They are considerably quieter than an evaporative humidifier, which gives them an edge when it comes to noise levels. They also tend to be energy-efficient, and there are systems in this class that allow you to choose from a warm or cool mist.
Those are advantages, but an ultrasonic system can be just as easy (or difficult) to clean as an evaporative humidifier. Easy cleaning and maintenance generally come down to the design, and bacteria can be a problem with both types of systems as well.
An ultrasonic humidifier may have more features than an evaporative system, but they are more expensive. You won’t get as much bang for your buck when it comes to capacity, and mineral dust can become an issue if you have hard water in your home. These units are also limited in size compared to evaporative humidifiers.
How large of a room or area you need to humidify? That’s the first question you need to ask yourself before you settle on an evaporative humidifier. While you can find systems rated from 100 to well over 2,000 square feet, there’s more to coverage than just the room size.
Most manufacturers size their humidifiers by square footage, so it’s not uncommon to see systems categorize that way on a variety of sites. Well, just because a company says their machine can humidify an area 500 square feet doesn’t mean it will perform the same way in your home.
Companies test these systems in a controlled environment. The conditions in your home will vary from theirs, as you may have open doorways or other issues that can affect coverage. There are also manufacturers that size their machines traditionally through small, medium, and large, so not every system will have a square footage rating.
Unless you plan to purchase a travel-sized system, every humidifier will have a water tank regardless of whether it’s ultrasonic or evaporative. Aside from caps, most water tanks are simple by design, but you’ll need to pay attention to the size and how easy it is to fill.
Some humidifiers will have fixed tanks that aren’t removable. These are often referred to as top-fill humidifiers, although there are a few variations on this style as well. Humidifiers with removable water tanks can come in many shapes and sizes. That includes small plastic tanks that hold less than a half-gallon of water along with large 4-gallon water tanks.
With this type of system, you want to make sure the water tank is easy to remove, fill, and reinsert into the humidifier when full. The latter is easier said than done on plenty of models, including some top-tier machines that didn’t make our list for that reason. Don’t let a flagship feature like Wi-Fi overshadow the tank as it can make or break a humidifier.
If you plan to run your humidifier throughout the night or for an extended period of time, runtime is a specification that you’ll want to look for. Almost every humidifier we checked out could run for at least 4 hours. That said, most systems geared for small to large rooms can go for at least 8 hours before the water reservoir will need to be refilled.
It’s also important to understand that the operating time given by manufacturers depends on a number of factors. Many machines have multiple mist settings. A humidifier running on low may last for 36 hours, but on high, that number could be slashed in half. Unfortunately, many companies only provide you with a number without telling you what speed it represents.
Output also plays a part in runtime. The output of a humidifier tells you how much moisture it can produce within a set period of time, which is typically 24 hours. While a system that can produce 2.2 gallons of moisture per day may seem ideal, it can be an issue if it only has a single-speed and an undersized water tank.
Lights and Sound
When we mention lighting or sound with a humidifier, we’re not talking about a system that can play music and alter the mood in a room. While there are dozens of humidifiers with built-in nightlights, the operating lights on a humidifier are something to think about.
If you plan on using the humidifier in your bedroom at night, look for a system with a sleep mode. This will dim or turn off the operating lights on a machine but may also adjust the speed. Even if you have a small LED light in your bedroom now that doesn’t bother you, we’ve seen lights on humidifiers that would definitely keep you awake at night.
Another specification that’s important to many consumers is the noise level. It’s something that can vary quite wildly from one machine to the next, and whether a company actually lists the decibel level is hit or miss. Evaporative systems aren’t as quiet as an ultrasonic humidifier, but there are plenty of machines that are incredibly quiet at between 28-35 decibels on low.
This is where things get interesting when you’re dealing with evaporative humidifiers. There are typically two types of features found on these machines with standard and premium features. Some companies reserve their top features for their flagship models, while others may have a budget, mid-range, and premium tier. Below are a few examples of popular features found on evaporative humidifiers.
- Automatic Shutoff – This is the most common features found on humidifiers, although not quite as prevalent on budget-friendly models in the evaporative class. Auto shutoff turns your humidifier off when the tank runs dry, which can keep your wick filter from drying out prematurely and potentially extend the lifespan of your system.
- Mist Modes – Often referred to as speeds, the mist modes allow you to adjust the output on a humidifier. Most evaporative systems have two modes with low and high, but there are plenty of variable speed humidifiers as well.
- Timers – This one is self-explanatory, and most humidifier timers generally top out at 8 – 12 hours. While not nearly as common as a shutoff feature, you can find timers on machines in the mid-range and premium tiers.
- Humidistat – When you hear the term humidistat, think thermostat” but for a humidifier. A humidistat or hygrostat allows automatically monitors the humidity level in the area a humidifier is in. It allows you to set the humidity level the level you need, and the machine will automatically adjust itself based on your requirements.
Those are some of the features you’re likely to find on evaporative humidifiers, but just the tip of the iceberg. If you want a humidifier you can control with your smartphone or tablet; you can find one. There are also models with UV-C lighting or additional filtration to help keep your water tank germ-free. Humidifiers with nightlights and medicine cups for aromatherapy are a popular option as well.
Evaporative Humidifier Warranties
Humidifiers may not be complicated machines, but there are a variety of issues that can send your system to the trash bin. That’s why a good warranty is important or solid customer service if the humidifier has a short guarantee.
With evaporative humidifiers that can range from 1-3 years, although several companies have warranties at 5 years or longer. If you have a chance to check out any of the systems in person, you can look into the build quality as well. Replacement parts are available from some of the larger brands like Honeywell or Dyson, but difficult to come by from smaller companies.
Evaporative Humidifier FAQ
Q: When should I run a humidifier?
A: While warm mist systems are ideal in cold weather, you can use any humidifier year-round. A humidifier is commonly used for sinus issues and congestion, along with other problems like dry skin.
Q: What’s the best way to clean my humidifier?
A: While humidifiers are easy to clean, you should take care when using cleaning solutions with your system. If you need help cleaning your humidifier, check out our humidifier maintenance guide.
Q: What size humidifier do I need?
A: Humidifiers are generally sized to match the square footage of a room. While some manufacturers may use traditional sizes like small, medium, or large, many provide a square footage rating as well.
Q: What is the ideal humidity level indoors?
A: It depends on several factors, but a range between 30% to 50% is highly recommended.
Q: How often should I change the water in my humidifier?
A: After each use. Letting old water sit in a humidifier increased the chance of spreading viruses and bacteria when you turn it back on.