Poor air quality in the wintertime can truly undermine your health and comfort indoors. When temperatures dip, so does the humidity. This, combined with the habit of cranking up your furnace creates moisture-sapped air that dries out your skin, irritates your breathing passages, and aggravates cold and allergy symptoms. In addition, weatherizing your home to seal out cold air and help your heating system work more efficiently keeps harmful pollutants locked inside. This means you breathe in more symptom-triggering allergens and may be exposed to higher levels of chemical pollutants. That’s a scary thought, right? Fortunately, an air washer can help.
Why Use An Air Washer?
Air washers are clever little air quality appliances that have been popular in Europe for years, but have only recently jumped across the pond to the U.S. market. An air washer is a hybrid appliance, a combination of an air purifier and a humidifier. Like conventional humidifiers, air washers add therapeutic moisture to the air. And, like a conventional air purifier, an air washer removes symptom-triggering allergens from the air. Therefore, they are capable of soothing your uncomfortable dry air symptoms and easing your allergies. They're ideal for you if you suffer from light to moderate allergies or you just want to improve your indoor air quality in the wintertime. You might also consider using one year-round if you live in a dry climate.
How Air Washers Work
Air washers remove many types of household allergens—including dust, dust mites, pet dander, pet hair, mold spores, pollen, and other airborne particles—while adding moisture to the air. The most popular types of air washers use impeller technology. This technology uses a series of spinning discs (often 30 or more) to continuously filter out allergens and particles from the air as it is drawn into the unit. Large allergens collect on the discs as a continuous bath of water rinses them away and deposits them at the bottom of the unit. The discs then propel clean water through a special diffusing screen that breaks it down into a fine mist that blankets your air. Most tabletop models can disperse around a gallon of humidity total per day.
Another fairly less common type of air washer uses a particle pre-filter to filter out allergens and particles from inbound air prior to humidifying your room. These models use evaporative humidifying technology to add moisture to your space. The pre-filter is usually the same as the evaporative wick filter, which "wicks" up water while a fan blows to generate a fine mist. This filter also removes mineral deposits from the water, an added benefit if you have hard water.
Shopping for an Air Washer
Shopping for an air washer humidifier doesn't have to be confusing. In fact, you'll need to consider just a few things as you browse models.
The type of air washer you choose depends mainly on your preference in humidification technology. Evaporative humidifiers, for example, are ideal for larger rooms since they use internal fans to push humidified air to nearly every corner of the space. In contrast, impeller humidifiers are fanless and more ideal for smaller spaces. Plus, with the absence of a fan, these units tend to be a little quieter than evaporative air washers. You also might think about future maintenance needs when picking your model. Filter-based air washers, for example, will need periodic filter replacements, which will add to your cost of ownership. Impeller air washers don't need filter replacements, but they will need more frequent cleaning than a filter-based model since particles and debris fall to the bottom of the unit.
Most air washer humidifiers on the market today are portable tabletop units that will treat up to one room at most. However, each model may treat a different size room and release more or less moisture per day. When browsing models, look for a recommended square foot coverage area listed in the specifications and compare that with your room's size. Consider choosing a slightly larger air washer than you think you'll need in order to ensure optimal humidifying and air washing.
Added features help make an air washer easier to use and maintain. When shopping, compare the feature line-up for each model and decide if there are any must-have features on your list. Popular air washer features include:
- Multiple fan speeds
- Digital controls
- Adjustable humidistat
- Low-water indicator with automatic shutoff
- Filter change indicator
- Fragrance container
As with humidifiers, it's extremely important to clean your air washer regularly. Frequent cleanings prevent mold, mildew, and bacteria growth inside the water reservoir and rid the unit of the allergens and other particles it has filtered out overtime. We recommend that you clean your air washer every few days to maintain optimal operation and ensure only clean humidity is released into your space. It's also a good idea to change the water on a daily basis to keep the moisture fresh. To clean your air washer, follow the instructions included in the owner's manual. You can also get tips for cleaning both air washers and humidifiers in our article Tips for Maintaining Your Humidifier.
If You Have Severe Allergies
It's important to keep in mind that while an air washer helps clean the air, it doesn't provide the same level of filtration for allergens that a dedicated air purifier would. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) air purifiers are capable of removing 99.97% of allergens as small as 0.3 microns. In comparison, an impeller-type air washer removes allergens as small as 1.5 microns. If you have severe allergies or simply want a higher level of air cleaning, we recommend using a HEPA air purifier in addition to an air washer or a traditional humidifier for the most relief.
Still Have Questions?
For more information on air washers and other air treatment solutions, browse our products and visit our Knowledge Center. Not sure what's best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact one of our air treatment specialists at 1-800-934-9194. We want to help make your indoor environment healthy and comfortable.