Having the ideal moisture conditions within your home or office is an important part of feeling comfortable in your indoor environment. Humidifiers increase ambient moisture, whether it's done on a temporary or regular basis. As with all appliances, there are advantages and drawbacks to buying, owning and using a humidifier.

Moisture

The main purpose of a humidifier is to release moisture into the surrounding environment, a process that creates many benefits for those living or working there. Increasing the ambient moisture helps prevent dry skin problems and static buildup in clothing, paper and hair. Moist air also soothes respiratory problems and breathing discomfort/dryness associated with colds and flus.

Bacteria and Mold

Extra-moist conditions have their downside, especially if they're excessively damp. Moisture in your home can create the right conditions to encourage the growth of household molds, especially in areas that already have higher degrees of moisture, like kitchens, bathrooms and basements. In addition, mold, mildew and bacteria may grow inside parts of the humidifier itself, especially in cheaper models without disinfecting measures built in. These can cause the humidifier to distribute these substances into the air as it works.

Cooling and Warming

Basic humidifiers release moisture without heating, which will have a cooling effect on the surrounding space. Other types of humidifiers are made to release heated steam into an area, making it warmer. Whether you consider these temperature changes a benefit or a problem is up to you, so read the box carefully to know which kind of machine you'll be getting.

Noise

All humidifiers make some noise while they're working. The whirr of the humidifier may be a constant while the device is in use, a noise that can become annoying. Many machines will claim to run quietly, but it's hard to know how truthful these claims are without actually getting a chance to hear the machine run. Ask store salespersons for a demonstration, or check that you can return a model if the noise proves to be unbearable.

Cost and Quality

Humidifiers range in price and quality, starting with simple models in the $20 and going up into the $200 range or more. As with many appliances, the pros and cons of cost vs. quality are a tradeoff. Generally, more expensive models will not only last longer and produce better results, they will be equipped with more features.