How To Tell If Your Humidifier Is Working Properly

How To Tell If Your Humidifier Is Working Properly

Okay, you’ve gone and bought a humidifier and now you want to know if it’s working properly.  That’s a perfectly normal thing to wonder, especially if you purchased a humidifier for personal reasons.

What might those personal reasons be?  Not really anyone’s business but yours but a lot of people use humidifiers for respiratory health reasons, to reduce the impacts of allergens in the home, or even to help dry skin and hair and aide in sleep.

Those are all great selling points for using a humidifier and manufacturers usually point those particular benefits out.  They don’t, however, guarantee a humidifier will help or cure your specific issues.  Instead, they’ll usually go with a disclaimer like, “Individual outcomes and success will vary” or something along those lines.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to tell if your humidifier is working properly when it comes to its design and function.

So, how do you tell if your humidifier is working properly?  Well, let’s take a look at some of the things that will give you answers to that question.

Types of Humidifiers

If you weren’t aware, there are about five different types of portable humidifiers out there.  They include:

  • Cool Mist Humidifiers.  These types of humidifiers raise the humidity in a room without raising the temperature.  They’re best suited for warmer climates.
  • Warm Mist Humidifiers.  These types of humidifiers have a heating element that allows for the emission of warm mist, raising the temperature and humidity within a room.  They’re best suited for colder climates.
  • Evaporative Humidifiers.  Similar to a cool mist humidifier but also employs a fan to circulate the humidity.  This type of humidifier is ideal for use with pets and kids.
  • Vaporizer Humidifiers.  These types of humidifiers allow the option of choosing between warm or cool mist functions.  They also can produce visible steam when set to warm.
  • Ultra Sonic Humidifiers.  These humidifiers use a vibrating metallic diaphragm to release moisture in the air.  They also give you the option between warm and cool mist modes.  Lastly, they’re energy efficient and quieter than other humidifiers, making them great for kids’ rooms.

So, those five types of humidifiers do essentially the same job (raise humidity), but complete the job in slightly different ways.

Diferent Type Of Humidifiers
Now that you know the different types, it’s time to get down to how to tell if they’re working properly.

How to Tell?

If you want to know how to tell if your humidifier is working properly, you need to know the right questions to ask.  Here are some basics thoughts that will help:

  • Does it feel dryer in the room you have your portable humidifier in, even if it’s running?  If you have a whole-home humidifier, does the air feel dry everywhere?
  • Are you experiencing physical symptoms you don’t normally experience?  Dry throat, hair, eyes?  Do you feel more congested?  Are you coughing more?  Are these symptoms new, even though the humidifier is running?
  • If you have carpet in your homes, are you noticing more static electric build-up or shocks than normal?  This is usually a sign of a dryer an environment.  If your humidifier isn’t working properly, this would be one of the symptoms you might notice.

The main thing to take from this quick list of possible indicators is the word dry.  If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry air with a humidifier running, it’s probably not working properly.

This is really true with impacts to your surroundings.  Humidifiers may not always help with health issues as hoped for, but if you’re dealing with a lot of static electricity or your symptoms are getting worse or the overall dryness is increasing, your home isn’t getting the benefits a humidifier should provide.

So, what may be some of the reasons it’s not working properly?


For a humidifier to convert water into mist to raise the moisture content of the air in a room, it needs power.  So, the first thing to do in making sure it’s working properly is to make sure it has a reliable source of power to draw from.

Yes, it’s easy to just plug it in and go about your business.  After all, if the outlet is working, then your humidifier should be getting sufficient power right?

Or is it?  How many other things are plugged into that same outlet?  Do you have the humidifier plugged into a power strip?

To ensure a humidifier is working properly, you should plug it in directly to an outlet.  Avoid the power strip and avoid sharing the outlet with anything else other than a small lamp or phone charger.  This way you won’t overload the outlet and you’ll ensure the humidifier is getting enough electricity to run properly.


One thing all humidifiers have in common is the need for water.  If they don’t have water, there will be no increase in humidity where you want it to.

As far as whole-house humidifiers go, those are usually tied into the HVAC system in a home and have water plumbed to them directly.  If your water to your home isn’t shut off and you have manually isolated water from a whole-house humidifier, there should be no water issues.

Now for portable humidifiers, you have to refill the water tank on a regular basis.  Even if you don’t use your humidifier often, you should still change out the water based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Water that isn’t used and allowed to sit can lead to improprieties building up in your machine.  This can of course impact the proper working of your humidifier.  More on how to deal with build-up later.

If you do regularly use your humidifier, you should know about how often you need to refill your tank.  If you don’t know, your humidifier will tell you for you.


By shutting off and not running.

It will usually give you an indicator light on the unit as well.  Something that says REFILL TANK, or along those lines.

Filing Humidifier With Water
Humidity won’t be accomplished if your dehumidifier does not have water.

Check Your Humidity Setting

If you live in a humid climate, your humidifier might not run as much as if you lived in a dry climate.  But humid climates do experience they’re dry spells from time to time.  So, if it’s not keeping the humidity as high as you want it to, consider raising the humidity level setting.

If you’re in a dryer climate and your bedroom suddenly feels like a steam room, consider lowering the humidity level.

The main thing is even if you live somewhere that’s always dry or always humid outside, weather can be fickle at times, which can impact your home’s internal climate.  Don’t be surprised if you do have to play with your humidity setting a couple of times a year to account for unexpected changes in weather.

If you’re dealing with moisture, you’re going to have to deal with cleaning.  Your manufacturer’s manual will tell you the recommended maintenance you should perform to avoid things like build up of contaminants in your machine.  But the main things you’re going to probably be doing include:

  • Cleaning the water tank.  This usually involves making sure no bacteria builds up when not in use.  Also, let the tank air-dry when not in use.
  • Scrub and de-scale.  If you’re using tap water or any water that isn’t distilled, you’re going to end up dealing with things like mineral and scale build-up.  Your manufacturer may recommend a specific cleaning product but almost all of them involve white vinegar and some elbow grease.
  • Disinfect.  Cleaning, air-drying, and de-scaling help but if you have mold issues, they won’t help completely.  This is where disinfecting comes into play.  Again, follow your manufacturer’s recommendations but disinfecting usually involves some sort of water mixed with vinegar or peroxide.  Sometimes bleach, especially if mold is a concern.

If you have a whole-home humidifier, you should already be receiving annual maintenance for it.  If it’s not working properly, that’s when you’ll find out.  If issues are occurring outside of the periodicity of your normal maintenance, you should still call the same company for help to avoid any issues with warranties.


If you have a humidifier, it makes sense that you should expect it to work properly.  And that’s all well and good but how do you tell if it is?

Besides doing what’s recommended to make sure your device is operating as designed, it’s also important to pay attention to how the humidifier affects your quality of life.

If you bought one to help reduce the impacts of seasonal allergies, did it seem to help?

If you had the cold or flu, did your humidifier help reduce the severity of symptoms like a stuffy nose, cough, or sore throat?

If you were experiencing poor sleep, did the introduction of the humidifier improve the quality of your sleep?

These are only a few questions to consider and maybe none of them are the reasons you bought a humidifier.  But if you did buy it for a specific reason and it has helped, you can honestly say it’s working properly.

If it hasn’t helped and you know it’s working properly, maybe a humidifier isn’t the answer or worth maintaining if you’re getting nothing out of it.

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more