Dry air got your throat scratchy? We brought 12 of the top humidifiers into our testing lab for some head-to-head comparisons. Using a humidity meter we were able to quantify how quickly, how effectively, and how consistently each model adds humidifies a bed or living room. We also cleaned each model multiple times throughout our testing process, evaluating how simple or arduous it was to complete this task. After using these machines for more than 200 hours, we can help you find a humidifier that is easy to clean and maintain, powerful enough for your needs, and within your budget. So read on to ditch your dwelling's desiccating dryness.
Best Humidifiers of 2018
This month we put the new Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic and the TaoTronics TT-AH001 through our rigorous series of tests. Both of these models performed well, but neither impressed us enough to earn an award. The TT-AH001 is particularly powerful, but it had a few specific downsides that prevent us from recommending it outright. You can get the full scoop below.
Best Overall Humidifier
Combining best in class power, an easy to clean configuration, and set-it-and-forget-it functionality, the Levot LV600HH is the best overall humidifier we've tested. It has a built-in humidistat that accurately (we compared it to our calibrated humidistat) monitors the surrounding humidity, and adjusts its setting accordingly. This means you don't have to worry about over-humidification, you can just set your desired humidity level, start up the LV600HH, and not touch it again until the water runs out. When the water does run out the tank has a big, easy to fill opening and the machine itself allows easy scrubbing access to all the bits that need to be cleaned. The remote control lets you turn the machine off in the middle of the night without leaving the comfort of your bed.
The only real downside of the LV600HH is its price. The list price of $120 is probably more than most people figured on spending when they decided to start shopping for a humidifier. But if you want something powerful that won't have you returning to a damp house if you forget to turn it off, the LV600HH is the best choice.
Read review: Levoit LV600HH
Best Bang for the Buck
Many people will just want to humidify their bedroom while they're sleepy in order to avoid a morning scratchy throat. If your bedroom is less than 200 square feet, the Honeywell HUL520B is one of the best ways to do that on a budget. This simple machine lists for only $40, is very easy to clean, and was able to keep our 150 square foot testing room at a near perfect 47% humidity. What more could you want?
The HUL520B does have some significant drawbacks when compared to higher priced models. The first is power. It will likely take the HUL520B 1-2 hours to get an average sized bedroom in a dry area to an ideal humidity. That's not too big of a deal, as you could turn it on right before bed and still enjoy its effects for the majority of the night. It also doesn't have any sort of off timer, so it will keep running all day if you forget to turn it off. However, its tank is too small and its humidification power too low to leave your bedroom overly damp, so again this isn't a big issue.
Read review: Honeywell HUL520B
Cheap Option for Large Rooms, But With Some Caveats
We know there are probably many people that want something powerful enough for a large (200+ square feet) room, but don't want to spend $120 on the LV600HH. In this case, the TaoTronics TT-AH001 may be a good choice. it matched the LV600HH in terms of power, and costs only $48.
However, the TT-AH001 has some significant drawbacks you'll need to be aware of before buying. First, it is quite difficult to clean and has some hard to reach nooks and crannies, meaning you'll have to be diligent to keep mold at bay. Second, the air intake is on the bottom of the machine, so you cannot use it on most carpet because the intake will get clogged up. If you're already a neat nic and have hardwood floor in the room you plan to use it, the TT-AH001 is a good choice. Otherwise it may be necessary to spend extra on the LV600HH to get large room power.
Analysis and Test Results
We spent over 100 hours putting our humidifiers through a stringent series of eight tests that evaluated everything from humidifying performance to ease of cleaning and operating cost. Using those tests we assigned each model an overall score out of 100, as you can see in the table above. Below we further detail how each model performed in all of our different tests.
The above chart can help guide you towards the best use of your humidifier budget. It compares the performance of each model to its price (place your cursor on a dot to see its corresponding product). You can see that the Editor's Choice winning Levoit LV600HH offers teh best overall performance, but asks a relatively high price for that performance. In comparison the Best Buy winning Honeywell HUL520B performs well but not amazingly, at a much lower price. Finally, the Dyson, while incredibly cool looking, doesn't really live up to its huge price tag.
Good humidifying performance is all about balance. You want something that can quickly add humidity to the air, but that also won't add too much humidity and leave condensation all over the walls. In our humidifying performance testing we focused first on power, or how quickly and how much humidity each model was able to produce, along with consistency, or the ability to maintain a desired level of humidity. Models with humidistat controllers that read and react to the humidity of the room performed much better in this regard. All of our tests were completed in a 150 square foot room, about the size of an average bedroom.
The Levoit LV600HH and the TaoTronics TT-AH001 were the clear winners in this test, earning the leading score of 9 out of 10. Of these models the TT-AH001 was slightly faster and more powerful. It hit the ideal level of 45% humidity in 17 minutes and reached 70% after 3 hours. The LV600HH took 30 minutes to hit 45% and reached 65.8% after 3 hours. Both models have humidistats which proved to be quite accurate in our testing. Bottom line, both of these models are powerful enough for a large bedroom.
We tested all of our models in a 150 square foot room, and have made general suggestions based on those results. Please keep in mind that humidification performance can vary greatly based on ambient humidity, ambient temperature, and the ventilation in your home. Whenever you buy a new humidifier you should start out on a lower setting and slowly move up until you find a good level of humidity, rather than starting on the highest setting and risking over humidification. For more on preventing over humidification, see our buying advice article.
Just behind the leader with a score of 8 out of 10 was the PureGuardian H1250. It actually achieved 45% humidity in our testing room faster than the top scoring Levoit, doing so in just 22 minutes. However, it didn't reach as high a level of humidity, maxing out at 66%. The built-in humidistat also wasn't quite as accurate, as it stayed within 5% of the desired humidity (the Levoit stayed within 3%). That being said, the PureGuardian is still an excellent performer as far as humidifying is concerned.
Rounding out the top scorers with a 7 out of 10 was the Dyson AM10. It reached 45% fairly quickly (29 minutes) and maxed out slightly below the top scorers at 57.6%. Its score was buoyed by the built-in humidistat, which was the most accurate amongst the models we tested. This allowed the Dyson to never waver more than 1% from the desired humidity. The Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic also earned a 7 out of 10, hitting 45% in 40 minutes and reaching 63.4% after 3 hours.
Outside of the top scorers, none of the models we tested have any sort of humidistat, so there is no control of the output. You simply turn the unit on, and if it starts to get too humid you have to turn it off yourself. The top scoring of these non-humidistat models was the TaoTronics TT-AH002 and the Honeywell HCM-350, both of which earned a 6 out of 10. The TaoTronics was slightly slow in getting to 45%, taking a full hour, and maxed out at 56.7%. We felt that was a promising high point as, depending on the size of your room, you can likely find some medium setting that would plateau at around 45%. The Honeywell HCM-350 was slightly better, reaching 45% in just 34 minutes and hitting a maximum of 58.9%. Again this feels like a good place to max out, as you'll likely find a medium setting that could settle in somewhere near 45%. The Honeywell HCM-350 is also the only evaporative model we tested. This means it naturally releases less moisture as the humidity of the room rises, essentially negating any risks of over humidifying
Three different models earned an average 5 out of 10 in our humidifying testing. The Crane Drop took a full hour and 45 minutes to hit 45% and peaked at 51.2%. The Honeywell HUL520B took 2 hours to hit 45% and petered out at 47.8%. The Sunpentown SPT SU-4010 was the best of these three models, hitting 45% in one hour and hitting a maximum of 56.8%. While the Supentown is right on the line in terms of providing enough power for a large bedroom, the Honeywell HUL520B and the Crane Drop both would only be effective in smaller bedrooms.
At the bottom of our humidifying scoresheet was the URPOWER Cool Mist and the Pure Ultrasonic, both earning a 4 out of 10. Both of these models took over 2.5 hours to get our testing room to 45% humidity. Both also maxed out our humidity meter at 47.5% over the course of the 3-hour test. This makes both of these models really only suitable for small rooms (100 square feet or less).
Ease of Cleaning
If you don't clean your humidifier regularly it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and end up doing you more harm than good. Therefore, if a model is so hard to clean that you end up neglecting that responsibility, it becomes not only useless but counterproductive. Most require some basic scrubbing and a soaking in a vinegar or bleach solution to get rid of mold. We cleaned every one of our models multiple times throughout our testing, and kept careful notes on how arduous the process was for each one.
The Honeywell HCM-350 was the only evaporative model we tested, which eliminates those hard to reach corners around the sonic agitator in other models where mold can slowly take hold. The tank is large and easy to scrub, and the bottom tray is dishwasher safe. The one caveat is the actual filter (that soaks up water before it is evaporated) can get very moldy if you neglect cleaning or let stagnant water sit in the tank for a couple of days. If that happens you're pretty much out of luck and will need to buy a new filter for $8.
The Honeywell HUL520B was a close runner-up to its sibling, garnering a top score of 8 out of 10 in this metric. It has a wide, nearly 4-inch opening that allows for easy scrubbing access. There are some nooks and crannies around the ultrasonic unit, but generally, you can scrub everything without too much maneuvering.
Both the PureGuardian H1250 and the Levoit LV600HH scored 7 out of 10 in this metric. These models require a bit more focused scrubbing than the Honeywell HCM-350 to make sure every crevice is clean, but they're not particularly annoying in that regard.
Earning scores of 6 out of 10 and just verging into 'oh crap I need to clean that thing' were the TaoTronics TT-AH002, the Crane Drop, and the Sunpentown SPT SU-4010. These products have smaller openings and more crowded internal construction, making both access and scrubbing every surface more difficult. It can be done, but it requires some hand yoga and maybe even sacrificing a toothbrush to the humidifier cleanliness deities.
Starting off the list of models that are almost too hard to clean to be worthwhile is the Pure Ultrasonic, which earned a 5 out of 10 in this metric. Its cleaning difficulty arises from the small tank opening, which necessitates some creative toothbrush and/or chopstick use in order to get every surface scrubbed. The Everlast Comfort Ultrasonic also earned a 5 out of 10. It has a bigger opening, but has lots of little crevices where mold can hide.
The Dyson AM10 is even worse in this regard and scored a 4 out of 10 in our ease of cleaning metric. The opening on the tank is so small that you really can't scrub the inside whatsoever. You just have to trust that regular citric acid soaks and the Dyson's ultraviolet water purifier are going to keep mold and mineral buildup at bay. The TaoTronics TT-AH001, which also scored a 4 out of 10, has a bigger 2" opening. However, it's still hard to scrub inside, and it comes with no directions for demolding.
Our least favorite model to clean was the URPOWER, whose cleaning annoyances earned it just a 3 out of 10 in this metric. It has a trifecta of problems that make cleaning difficult: a very small opening in the water tank, an opaque color that makes it hard to locate moldy spots or areas of mineral buildup, and a poorly translated instruction manual that doesn't provide a clear and effective method for cleaning. This last point leaves you wondering whether the vinegar soak you read about on the internet is really the best way to clean the machine.
Humidifiers are generally very simple machines, but a few small design differences can make using them feel like a walk in the park or a laborious undertaking that prompts you to question whether the air in your house really is too dry. From large water tank openings to remote controls that let you change settings without getting out of bed, choosing a thoughtfully designed model can save you from the scourge of extra logistics that many of our modern appliances can bring on.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two models we found most user-friendly were the two that won awards, the Editors' Choice Levoit LV600HH and the Best Buy Honeywell HUL520B. These models shared the top score of 8 out of 10, largely because of their easy to fill water tanks. The Honeywell's tank has a huge opening and is short enough to fit in any sink, making refilling a breeze. The Levoit's opening isn't quite as large, and the tank is bigger so it may take some maneuvering to get it into a small sink, but it is still very easy to fill. The Levoit also has a convenient remote control that lets you adjust settings without leaving your bed. Both models have simple and intuitive interfaces. The Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic also earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric. Its simple, single dial control panel and relatively large 2.75" tank opening made filling and operating the machine quite easy.
The Honeywell HCM-350 was just off the top scorers with a 7 out of 10. Like its smaller sibling, it has a wide opening in its water tank, making refilling a painless process. It also uses evaporative humidifying, which self-regulates based on the humidity of the room and requires less monitoring. However, it missed out on a top score because this evaporative technique requires replacing the filter/wick every six months.
The PureGuardian H1250 also earned a 7 out 10 in this metric. Its opening is quite large, but the tank is on the tall side, so it can be difficult to refill in shallower sinks. The interface is clean and simple to use.
The final model to earn a 7 out of 10 was the TaoTronics TT-AH001. The 2" is just on the borderline of being too small, but also isn't too bad. It also has an optional nightlight and built-in handles. However, the air intake is on the bottom of the machine, so you have to periodically check to make sure it's clear, which is a hassle.
Outside of these top scorers, all of the models we tested had some little thing that annoyed us about them. Three of those models, the TaoTronics TT-AH002, the Dyson AM10, and the Sunpentown SPT SU-4010 , scored 6 out of 10 in this metric. The TaoTronics has a relatively small opening on its tank. Additionally, the tank is quite tall, which can create a geometric puzzle if you have a small sink. The Dyson has the smallest water tank opening of all the models we tested at just one inch. This can make refilling feel like trying to dock with the international space station. However, a convenient remote control and the ability to use this as a fan as well as a humidifying device saved it from a lower score. The Sunpentown's tank also has a large opening, but the tank itself is fairly long, so you may not be able to fill it directly from smaller sinks.
Leading off the low scorers in this metric is the Pure Ultrasonic, which scored 4 out of 10. The tank's opening is fairly small, but the tank itself is also small and easy to maneuver during refilling. It really lost points due to its interface, which requires you to scroll through different settings by pushing a single button. There is no display to indicate which setting is currently selected, so you just have to remember how many button presses gets you to your preferred setting.
The URPOWER was the worst performer in this metric, earning a 3 out of 10. Here again, it has a small but not frustratingly small opening to refill the water tank, and a user interface that is just annoying. It has a single button to toggle between its two mist settings. There are a couple of LED lights to indicate which setting is selected, but those LEDs are very dim. Also, the button isn't always responsive, we had to press it many times to get the setting to actually change.
Humidifiers generally do not use much electricity, but their operating costs can add up in the long run. To estimate operating and lifetime costs we measured each model's electricity usage with a wattage meter. Then we assumed 12 hours of use each day and a cost of $0.12 per kWh (the national average), and a functional lifetime of 5 years. We also factored in filter costs for those models that use filters, and of course we considered the upfront cost of each machine. This resulted in estimated lifetime costs that spanned a range of more than $500.
The Honeywell HUL520B, our Best Buy Award winner, was the most inexpensive model we tested with an estimated lifetime cost of just $56. This is largely due to its incredibly low list price of $30, and the fact that it barely uses any electricity (less than 0.01kWh per hour to runs its sonic agitator. The Pure Ultrasonic wasn't too far behind, logging an estimated lifetime cost of just $63. It also has a low list price ($50) and uses even less electricity than the Honeywell. In a slightly more distant third was the TaoTronics TT-AH002 with an estimated lifetime cost of $89. Its list price is quite low at $50, but it uses a bit more electricity than average (0.015kWh per hour).
Next in line was the Everlasting Comfort Ultrasonic, with an estimated lifetime cost of $98. The other TaoTronics model, the TT-AH001, wasn't far behind, clocking an estimated lifetime cost of $101.
The Crane Drop is one of the more inexpensive models we tested at a list price of $50, but it also uses more electricity than most models (0.02kWh per hour). This pushed its estimated lifetime cost a bit higher to $108. The PureGuardian H1250 was next in line with an estimated lifetime cost of $153. This jump was due to a higher list price ($100) and a relatively energy-hungry sonic agitator that pulled 0.02kWh of electricity per hour in our testing. Just behind this was the Editors' Choice Award winning Levoit LV600HH. It was mid-range both in terms of electricity economy (0.015kWh per hour) and list price ($120), resulting in a lifetime estimated cost of $159.
The first model in the mid-range in terms of lifetime costs is the URPOWER. It both has a relatively high list price ($130) and uses quite a bit of electricity, as far as humidifiers go (0.02kWh per hour). This resulted in an estimated lifetime cost of $183. The Honeywell HCM-350 Has a fairly low list price of $70, but it uses more electricity than most models (0.02kWh per hour) and has an $8 filter that must be replaced at least every 6 months. This resulted in an estimated lifetime cost of $203.
Now we get to the really expensive models. The Dyson AM10 and the Sunpentown SPT SU-4010 blew the other models out of the water in terms of estimated lifetime costs, and not in a good way. The Sunpentown SPT SU-4010 only costs $108 up front, but it requires buying a $30 filter at least every 6 months, which skyrocketed its estimated lifetime cost to $447. The Dyson AM10, like all Dyson products, carries a high price tag, $500 in this case. It also uses the most electricity of all the models we tested (0.03kWh per hour), likely because it always uses a UV water purifier. This pushed its estimated lifetime cost up to $579, the highest we calculated.
A humidifier can make your home much more comfortable and negate many of the adverse side effects of dry climates and parched, winter air. However, any humidifier requires diligent cleaning and upkeep, and not all are created equal in terms of the ease of this upkeep. We hope our detailed testing results have led you to a model that is both powerful enough and user-friendly enough for your needs. If you're still on the fence, or just want more information about humidifiers and their uses, check out our buying advice article. It provides some useful background information and a step-by-step buying guide to make choosing the right model a bit easier.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for tips.