With much of the country still under a blanket of sweltering heat, chances are you still have your dehumidifier running full tilt. But dry, cool air will be here before you know it, and retailers have already stocked up on humidifiers. Consumer Reports recently wrapped up testing of nearly 30 models from brands like Crane, Essick, Hunter and Vicks. About a dozen made our winner's list—not a bad percentage as product categories go—though we also found several models with poor performance and added costs.
Before you get to our latest humidifier Ratings, first think about how much humidifier you need. If you're just looking to improve the air conditions in a bedroom or other single room, a tabletop model should suffice. Most of the models we tested have claimed humidification areas in the range of 200 to 500 square feet. The console humidifiers we tested claim to humidify between 1,250 and 2,500 square feet. Console models are much larger, with tanks that can hold upwards of 40 gallons when full, compared to the 10-gallon capacity of most tabletops.
Once you determine which type of humidifier you need, check our Ratings for a top-performing model. Our testers use several criteria. The best models must, first and foremost, be able to emit the number of gallons of water claimed for a given area. They should also be easy to use and maintain, quiet to operate, and energy efficient. Testers also assess how well humidifiers can deal with hard water, since the minerals in this type of tap water can lead to scaling and other potential problems.
As you compare costs, note that some humidifiers require replacement parts that may set you back another $50 per year. For example, all evaporative humidifiers use a filter that needs replacing, while some ultrasonic models have a demineralization cartridge. We've noted which models need which replacement part, if any, on the individual model pages under the Features & Specs tab.
No single brand dominates the Ratings. Indeed, the 13 recommended models (not counting similar models) are spread across 11 different manufacturers. Crane is the one brand with multiple models on the recommended list, and it boasts some of the most playful designs—elephants, pigs, ducks—if the humidifier is destined for a child's room.
Regardless of which model you settle on, be prepared to clean it regularly. This might involve changing the water every day and disinfecting the tank on a weekly basis. Many manufacturers claim their humidifiers incorporate antimicrobial technologies to keep germs at bay. We found that some models are effective at reducing bacteria growth in the tank, but not to the point where you can skip the regular upkeep.