There is little doubt that manipulating the air around us might have some health benefits. The advancements in technology have brought about terms that some might find confusing. The act of humidifying a room means increasing the moisture in the air. Ionizing air is different. Not all humidified air has been ionized and not all ionized air is humidified. While there is some correlation between ionizing and humidifying, it is important to understand the difference when selecting a humidifier.
Ultrasonic humidifiers differ from the old standby your mother used. These devices produce sound waves to vibrate water. The vibration breaks apart water molecules and eventually sends them into the air. Ultrasonic humidifiers are cool humidifiers. In other words, they produce water vapor without the use of heat while steam humidifiers will heat water to create vapor.
Ionizers are filtering agents that have nothing to do with increasing the humidity. An ionizer, often referred to as an air purifier, has an electrostatically charged plate that reverses the charge of ions. The benefit of this process is the reduction of bacteria in air. The theory behind ionizers is that charging an air molecule also charges any contaminants. Charged contaminants will bind together and fall out of the air. An article published in "New Scientist" in 2003, reported that in one study, ionizers in a hospital environment reduced infections.
Ultrasonic versus Ionic
It is difficult to compare these two separate devices. The science behind each is sound, but designed for different purposes. However, ultrasonic humidifiers can support an ion filter. This means that is possible to have the benefits of both technologies in one device. The question becomes whether there's a reason to choose an ultrasonic humidifier with an ionic filter instead of a humidifier unit alone. Ionic filters built into humidifiers work differently than air purifiers. The purpose of an ion filter in an ultrasonic humidifier is to prevent bacterial growth in the water that becomes vapor. Humidifiers may actually introduce contaminants into the air. It is the job of an ion filter to clean the water and prevent contaminants.
There are bona fide benefits to using a humidifier. Mayo Clinic.com recommends humidifiers to help ease respiratory and dry skin problems. The difficulty behind humidifiers, whether they are ultrasonic or not, is keeping bacteria and mold from growing. Humidifiers use standing water as their source for vapor. Standing water can be a source of bacterial growth. Manufacturer Air-O-Swiss claims that using, what they term as an ‘Ionic Silver stick,’ will reduce the amount of microbial contamination in the water of an ultrasonic humidifier.
Humidifiers offer a lot of advantages to help deal with chronic problems such as asthma and allergies. They also provide temporary relief for those suffering from bronchitis or a cold. There are risks to using a humidifier. High humidity in the room can cause condensation on walls that will lead to mold growth. An ionic filter in a humidifier will not change this fact. Filters simply keep growth from occurring in the chamber.
- Air O Swiss: Ultrasonics
- New Scientist: Air Ionisers Wipe Out Hospital Infections
- Us Enviromental Protection Agency: Ozone - Good Up High Bad Nearby
- Penn State Department of Architectural Engineering: Negative Air Ionization
- MayoClinic.com: Common Cold: Humidifiers: Air Moisture Eases Skin, Breathing Symptoms