All humidifiers serve the same basic purpose: to release more moisture into the air, preventing an array of winter afflictions, such as sore throats, cracked lips, and the perpetually stuffy nose. And since studies show that the influenza virus survives better in dry conditions, humidifiers are a crucial addition to the home. The question is: Which type will work for you?
Evaporative units use a fan to push out cold vapor. While they're a bit loud and don't release as much moisture as the others, they require the least amount of maintenance. Warm-mist models, which send out steam, are great for clearing sinuses but need to be cleaned more often and can burn unsuspecting children or pets. Finally, there are ultrasonic humidifiers that use a high-pitched frequency to create mist. They're quiet and efficient but require frequent filter replacement.
Here are the models of each type that performed best in our tests.
Best Evaporative Humidifier
Stadler Form Oskar Big Humidifier
A smooth block of slate-colored ABS plastic seated on a curved metal stand, this handsome evaporative humidifier uses two large fans and a 1.5-gallon water tank to disperse moisture. Although large, the 18.5-inch-wide unit emitted only an easily ignorable low hum – a huge improvement over others of this type. Cleaning is as simple as replacing the filter every three months. While it doesn't have an LCD display, blinking lights indicate settings, water levels, and when to change the filter. And with a coverage area of up to 650 square feet, it filled a bedroom and living room with plenty of vapor. [$280; stadlerformusa.com]