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Humidifier vs Dehumidifier: What Is The Right Device for Perfect Air Humidity?

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A young woman relaxing in her room next to a dehumidifier

Have you ever felt like your home is just not as comfortable as it should be? Maybe it gets too stuffy in the summer, or the air gets too harsh in the winter? If the answer to either is “yes”, chances are that the air humidity in your home is not ideal. Hence the whole humidifier vs dehumidifier conundrum.

If you want to keep the air humidity in your home in check, you’ll need one of these two devices – a humidifier or a dehumidifier (or possibly both). A humidifier increases moisture in the air while a dehumidifier removes it.

Which one should you buy? The answer depends on where you live and what your needs are. This post will discuss how these devices work, their effectiveness in various climates, and ultimately help you pick the correct one.

"humidity" written in humidity gathered on a window

Table of Contents

In a Nutshell: Humidifier vs Dehumidifier

Humidifiers and dehumidifiers are polar opposites: humidifiers add moisture to the air, while dehumidifiers remove it.

Humidity is a common issue in homes, especially during the summer. If your home feels stuffy and stale, a dehumidifier is what you need. A dehumidifier will remove some of the water from the air and help you breathe easier, and prevent the build-up of moisture that causes mold and mildew.

If your home has dry air, it can make your skin crack and irritate your airways. This often happens in the winter when space heaters additionally dry up the indoor air. A humidifier will create water vapor and help disperse tiny droplets of water through the air in your room. 

Humidifiers come in a few forms – cool mist, warm mist, ultrasonic, evaporative, and vaporizers. As a bonus, you can often add a drop of essential oil into a humidifier to make your room smell amazing!

A round humidifier in action

Should you use a humidifier or dehumidifier in winter?

The insulation on your home will protect you from air temperature, but it will still let the weather affect indoor humidity. 

In wintertime, the cool air is naturally drier. The dryness of your surroundings may cause your skin to get scaly and your airways dry. Your air conditioner and space heaters additionally lower the moisture levels in the air as they warm the air up. Keeping a humidifier in your home during winter will help keep your skin moisturized and your sinuses feeling great. As a bonus, your indoor plants (if you have any) will stay healthy as well.

In the summer, a dehumidifier is probably the way to go – but it depends on your climate. Arid states like Nevada and Colorado may still need to add humidity into indoor air for comfy summers, so a humidifier is still needed. But people in humid climates, e.g. Florida and Louisiana, will definitely enjoy summers more with a dehumidifier at their disposal.  

How Humidity Affects Health

Whether it’s too high or too low, unbalanced air humidity in your home can affect how you feel.

If humidity is high

Air that’s too moist can facilitate asthma attacks or cause allergic reactions.

A tad-bit-too-moist air can also cause mildew and mold to form on your walls or furniture, which can further lead to health problems.

In addition, a dehumidifier also helps combat dust and smoke particles in the air, though it doesn’t do it as efficiently as an air purifier.

A woman and her cat relaxing next to a dehumidifier

If humidity is low

Air that is too dry can also be a source of health issues, and that becomes painfully obvious in the winter.

Respiratory issues like asthma and bronchitis are common results of dry air. Milder issues like a dry nose (that sometimes becomes so severe it causes nosebleeds) are an uncomfortable side effect of dry air too. A humidifier will also help you breathe easier if you’re suffering from sinus congestion.

Your skin also suffers when the air is dry. People who spend time in rooms with dry air (especially with a heater turned on) often get symptoms like rough, flaky, and even itchy dry skin. Remember to drink plenty of water and turn on your humidifier to keep your skin happy and elastic year-round.

A cat sitting on a sofa, watching a humidifier

Is it good to sleep with a dehumidifier?

Both humidifiers and dehumidifiers are set-and-forget. That means you only need to fill/empty their water canisters, set them up to your desired program, and turn them on – leaving them to their tasks.

A dehumidifier is safe to leave on while you sleep. It’s OK to leave them on since these devices come equipped with humidity sensors (hygrometers) that turn the machine on and off as needed. A modern dehumidifier won’t simply continue working indefinitely and overly dry your space. If you want to dig deeper into this, we recommend our article that covers the topic of dehumidifier water collecting.

For as long as it can’t get flipped over and it’s away from flammable objects, both dehumidifiers and humidifiers are great bedtime companions – especially if soft humming lulls you to sleep! 

A humidifier next to a lamp on the night table

How to Measure Home Humidity?

If your home feels unusually uncomfortable, low or high humidity might be the culprit.

Comfortable indoor humidity is between 30% and 50%. You can measure the humidity in your home with a hygrometer (here’s a nice, affordable model), or use an alternative measuring method.

Indoor humidity level changes depending on the time of day, the season, and many other natural and man-made factors. To get a clear picture of the humidity levels in your home, install hygrometers in a few locations throughout your home and take note of the readings year-round. Long-term readings will give you insight into your real needs. They will also help you decide between a humidifier and a dehumidifier.  

Besides stuffy humid air and musty smells, damp stains and mold buildup on your walls can indicate excess moisture. Bugs like dust mites, wood-destroying beetles, carpenter ants, and termites are attracted to humid places as well, so these creatures can be a tell-tale sign your home could do with a dehumidifier.

On the flip side, if your wooden beams, leather furniture, and plaster keep on getting cracks for no obvious reason – your home might be suffering the effects of dry air.

An analog humidity meter (hygrometer)

The Disadvantages of Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers

Both of these devices can make the atmosphere of your home much nicer. However, nothing in this world is perfect, so these powerful devices come with a few drawbacks too.

  • They let out a hum – dehumidifiers can be annoying as they automatically turn on and off.
  • While they don’t use a lot of electric power, keeping your device turned on constantly can make your electricity costs add up.
  • Both require regular maintenance, but dehumidifiers sometimes come with complex cleaning instructions.
  • Humidifiers need to be cleaned thoroughly too – the moist environment can be a breeding ground for germs.

While all of these pose legitimate concerns, our verdict is that the benefits of humidifiers and dehumidifiers far outweigh the drawbacks. After all, it’s about the quality of the air you and your loved ones breathe!

Water’s in the Air!

All in all, the humidifier vs dehumidifier argument boils down to dry air vs moist air in your home.

Whether the air in your home gets too stuffy or harshly dry, there’s a solution for your problem. If you choose the right device, you’ll soon enjoy comfortable, easy-to-breathe air that has just the right amount of moisture in it.

Over here at The Home Dweller, we don’t put up with discomfort – instead, we do our best to find practical solutions to everyday problems homeowners face. If you appreciate what we do, consider sharing the site with your friends and family on social media!

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