Dry winter air is hard on your health and your home. Here, feaures to look for when selecting a humidifier.
Credit: Aya Brackett

Whether it’s a warm- or cool-mist unit (choose one based on your own comfort preferences), a humidifier will help soothe scratchy throats and prevent static electricity. Moisture in the air can also keep wood floors and furniture from cracking. “Remember to clean the water reservoir and the base every day; otherwise you could breathe in mildew and bacteria and aggravate allergies or asthma,” says Jonathan A. Bernstein, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. And keep these pointers in mind when shopping for a unit so you can hibernate in comfort.

Refill Container

Make sure the water container (also called the water reservoir) is easy to detach for refilling and cleaning. It should be short enough to fit under the faucet and have an opening wide enough to allow cleaning with a sponge or a dish brush.

Antimicrobial System

Look for a filter or a UV light that is designed to help kill germs and bacteria before they get pumped into the air you breathe.

Indicator Light

The base should have a light to signal when it’s time to refill the tank (particularly important if the tank isn’t transparent). Even better, look for a unit that automatically shuts off when the tank is empty.

Adjustable Moisture Control

If a room is too humid (signs are condensation and peeling paint), it’s a favorable environment for bacteria and mildew. Prevent a muggy room by buying a unit that’s the right size (specifications are usually found on the box).