What does a humidifier do ? That is the question. Imagine its freezing cold outside but you are sitting inside a cozy warm building. However you do not feel comfortable. Your lips are chapped, your skin feels prickly and you find it difficulty breathing. Why is it that even when the temperature is just right, you do not feel at ease?
The answer of course is humidity.
We all know that excess humidity can be uncomfortable, especially in the heat. But what most of us do not know that extremely low humidity can be uncomfortable too.
And that is where Humidifiers come in.
WHAT CAUSES LOW HUMIDITY?
Before we understand what humidifiers do, we need to understand why we need them.
Extreme low humidity situations are found in nature in hot deserts. It can also be found in environments where the temperature is artificially controlled. Central heating or air conditioners can bring down the humidity to uncomfortably low levels.
WHY IS LOW HUMIDITY UNCOMFORTABLE?
The human race evolved in the coastal regions of Africa. Hence, our bodies have evolved to be comfortable in moist environments. When the humidity becomes very low, things start going wrong in the following ways:
DRYING OF MUCUS MEMBRANES: In extremely dry conditions, the mucus membranes of the nose and the throat start drying out. To some, this can lead to respiratory problems.
CHAPPING OF SKIN: The skin dries out, the lips crack. Our bodies start to lose water at a very rapid rate.
LOW HUMIDITY ON MATERIAL OBJECTS
It is not only our bodies that are caused by low humidity. Dry conditions can also damage material things.
Wood and paper shrinks. As a result furniture, books, even art pieces become brittle and prone to damage.
Low humidity conditions can cause static electricity. This can cause havoc in industrial machinery and processes.
SO HOW DOES A HUMIDIFIER HELP?
Simply put, a dehumidifier brings back the humidity to normal levels. It usually does this by reintroducing moisture back into the environment.
Humidifiers are increasingly being used around the place to make living spaces comfortable and more habitable. They are also used in industries to ensure that machinery works at its optimum levels.
BUT HOW DO THEY DO IT?
At the basic level, it is pretty simple. Any device that reintroduces water into the air is a humidifier. As a result, humidifiers can also be extremely simple mechanisms. In fact, one can create one easily at home. Let us look at some of the most common forms of humidifiers.
THE BOWL AND THE TOWEL
This is as simple as it gets. Take a bowl partly filled with water. Place a towel over it covering it. Now put an heavy object – a stone will do – over the towel so that the centre of the towel gets immersed in the water. That’s it. Your humidifier is ready.
In this humidifier there is no need for a fan as the capillary action will ensure that the water is soaked across the surface of the towel. As the water in the towel evaporates in the dry atmosphere, it is introduced into the air and as a result the environment is humidified.
Portable humidifiers can be of various kinds and sizes. There are some which fit on a table while there are others which are big wall mounted devices.
Most portable humidifiers are evaporative. Which means that they work on the same principles as the towel on a bowl. They consist of three basic parts – a wick, a reservoir and of course a fan.
The reservoir acts like the bowl and contains the water that is to be evaporated. The wick is like the towel. It is made of porous material. Like the towel, it absorbs the water and spreads it over a large surface area where the evaporation can take place. The fan circulates the air around the wick. Moving the moisture laden air away from the wick and bringing in dry air. This greatly increases the rate of evaporation and moisture transfer into the environment.
As the name suggests, a vaporizer produces vapor. How does it do that? Most commonly by boiling water and producing steam.
A vaporizer has a few advantages over the normal evaporative humidifier. It is far healthier. In evaporative humidifiers microorganisms present in the water can be released in to the air making the diseases they carry far more contagious. If the water contains any harmful mineral content, that too is introduced into the air and then to human bodies. Sometimes the evaporative humidifier itself becomes a breeding ground of germs and infections.
On the microorganisms present in the water is killed off when it is boiled. Secondly, medical inhalants can also be added into the vaporizer, making the atmosphere more healthy.
This type of humidifier has a rotating disc that hurls water at a diffuser. The diffuser then diffuses’ the water into extremely fine droplets. These droplets are carried by the air humidifying it.
The possibility of infection is at its highest in the case of the Impeller Humidifiers. Therefore it is crucial that the water used is extremely clean.
These usually have a metal diaphragm or a metal plate vibrating at extremely high frequencies. This creates tiny water droplets. A fan is then used to spread the water droplets around in the form of a fog.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL ABOUT?
As mentioned before, unless you are using a vaporizer, you need to be careful of the quality of water that you are using. Because if the water you are using has micro-organisms, then it will soon become airborne and infect everyone who comes in contact with it.
As humidifiers increase the relative humidity of a particular place, they also make it less healthy. Fungal spores, dust mites and particulate minerals can be made airborne and hence more dangerous.
Care should therefore be taken that the water being used is clean and germ free. Repeated cleaning of the humidifiers is also a must.
HUMIDIFIERS: SIMPLE YET EFFECTIVE
So what does a humidifier do? Quite simply, it adds water to air. And as these elements combine, it makes the living and working spaces much more comfortable for both man and his machines. As rely more and more on heating and air conditioning systems, these simple yet effective devices are becoming more and more crucial. At the end of the day, it is all about breathing easier. If you reach the bottom of this editorial then congratulations. So I will end this piece with the same way I started do you know what does a humidifier do ?