Archive for Humidifiers & Gear
Sinus Sister lets off steam at work
Is it too late to add this to my Christmas list? It’s a portable humidifier disguised as a cup of ramen noodles. And it runs off a USB port. How cool is that? James Bond’s inventor, Q, would approve. So does Sinus Sister, who has often felt like a lizard in the desert while stranded at a desk with dry heat billowing from baseboard heaters. No more.
While the Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic travel humidifier is perfect for hotels, the Cup Shitsuki USB Humidifier ($80 USD) blends into the average desk—a graveyard of take-out containers. The Cup Shitsuki holds about 75 ml of water. creating cool mist in about 3 minutes. It’s supposed to last about 4 hours (reviews concur) and it has stabilizer feet so it won’t tip over. Most importantly, it’s red, which my favourite colour. For a real review, check back in 2012, after Santa delivers. That’s a direct hint to Handsome Manling, if he’s reading.
Sinus Sister dusts off her passport
Rating:“Freedom!” cried Sinus Sister, plugging in her new Air-O-Swiss Ultrasonic travel humidifier ($49). A column of steam came shooting out, silently. No hiss, no whirling motor. HIGH FIVE, Air-O-Swiss. You just gave me wings. To sinus sufferers, a traveling humidifier is liberation. It means we can visit people’s ski chalets (see you soon, Carolyne!) and not wake up to a blood-spattered pillow that would make Dexter Morgan blush.
Previously, Sinus Sister’s only defense against dry hotel air was to put a wet towel on the heater (i.e. mood kill). Hotel towels dry in about 10 minutes when draped across a radiator. Maybe I need to stay at better hotels, you’re thinking. Not true. As a hotel reviewer for Fodor‘s, I’ve stayed at some of the world’s best properties (shout out to The Merchant in Belfast and The Point in the Adirondack’s) and still got nose bleeds from dry heat. Money can’t solve it. Only moisture can.
What I love about the Air-O-Swiss: it’s light, with its own black travel pouch
Best feature: ultrasonic silence
What your inner decorator would say: it doesn’t look like a humiliating medical aid
What your inner vixen would say: it looks like a sex toy (while it’s in the travel pouch)
What airport security will say: “Please explain and assemble your device, Ma’am”
How you felt when the VISA bill arrived: no remorse
The only downer: the small water bottle (500 ml) doesn’t last very long, so I had to refill it three times during the night.
Here are the specs, for all you gearheads:
- Main Voltage: 100 V / 50 Hz
- Power Consumption: 15 W
- Weight: 0.7 lbs (when empty)
- Size Dimensions: 4.4″ x 2.6″ x 3.2
- Recommended bottle size (not included): 17oz / 0.5 liter
- Humidity Output: up to 1 gallon a day
- Tank Capacity: ≈17 oz. (.5 L)
Sinus Sister addresses the neti problem
The Villains: neti pots are the much-maligned wee teapots people use to rinse their sinuses. Not everyone is familiar with this ancient Indian technique, but when Dr. Oz featured neti pots on T.V. last January, they got a big shove into the mainstream. Neti pots are not yet ubiquitous like my beloved Tylenol Sinus, but they will soon be as accepted as thermometers—another health tool that gets inserted into our orifices.
So what’s the problem? They can kill you. This year, two Louisiana residents died after neti potting. And they weren’t idiots who rinsed with paint thinner. They used tap water, which delivered the so-called brain eating amoeba (Naegleria fowleri) into their system. It wasn’t pretty.
#1 Tip to Avoid Death-By-Neti-Pot: use distilled water. Alternately, boil tap water for 10 minutes and let it cool before use. Make sure to rinse out your neti pot and let it dry in the open air (not your medicine cabinet). Now, feel safe to enjoy the magical healing properties of Alladin’s sinus-soothing nose lamp.
Sinus Sister consults The Boogor Doctor
His real name is Dr. Russell Faust, but most people know him by his online name, The Boogor Doctor. He works at Lakeshore ENT, in Michigan, but he helps patients everywhere via his cool blog. Sinus Sister is not a doctor—with the science scores to prove it—so she laps up the good doctor’s advice on how to hunt for a humidifier. Boiling a kettle, it seems, is not enough. Here’s what you should know:
The Three Types of Humidifiers:
This type of humidifier uses a cloth or mesh belt that acts like a wick: it dips down into a vat of water, then rotates up so that a fan can blow across it and evaporate the water off the belt into the air. Effective way to humidify the air, but these have some downsides.
This is the so-called “cool mist” humidifiers. These use a small ultrasound transducer to vibrate a stream of water so that the water vaporizes. Effective, inexpensive. These have their own special disadvantages as well.
3- Steam Vaporizer
These are little more than a pot of water with a heating element that boils the water to produce steam. Very effective, but of course, they have their own issues, too.
Most of us are also familiar with the humidifier on our central heating system, if we have forced-air heat. The only thing to keep in mind with those is that the system should be cleaned. How often? I have no idea. The thing to do is to read the instructions for proper maintenance. I have asked several people if they have ever cleaned theirs, and the standard response has been “what?”.
There is another type of humidifier that I have no experience with – the “impeller” humidifier. These produce a cool mist using a rotating disk. I suspect they may have issues similar to the Ultrasonic type of humidifier (see below), but I have no personal experience with them.
So, after years of using these other 3 types of humidifiers in my home, including experience with multiple belt-evaporative humidifiers growing up in my parent’s home, here is my own assessment. My apologies to humidifier manufacturers. No doubt some will take offense at my admittedly simple and anecdotal comparison of these types of humidifiers, but this is based on decades of personal experience, and experience with each of these types of humidifier.
|(1) Evaporative||(2) Ultrasonic||(3) Steam Vaporizer|
|Construction, Ease of Use||Complex||Simple||Simple|
|Cost / purchase||$$$$||$$||$|
|Cost / to run||$$||$||$$|
|Cleaning||Challenge to Clean||Easy to Clean||Easy to Clean|
|Microbe risk: mold, etc||++++||++||–|
Sinus Sister’s Draws First Blood
“What would Dexter think of this splatter pattern?”, I wonder, looking at my pillow case…
DEXTER MORGAN enters a disheveled BEDROOM, and heads straight to the blood-splattered PILLOW, but not before finding an empty bottle of TYLENOL SINUS on the floor and noting a GLASS OF WATER on the bedside table. Detective ANGEL BATISTA eyes some LINGERIE on the floor. The RED NEGLIGEE is surrounded by crumpled KLEENEX. The two detectives exchange a LOOK.
It’s not what you think, Angel.
It’s not? Chances are, we’ll find her body in the vacant lot next door.
(Dexter looks out the bedroom window at the VACANT LOT and sees RAGWEED)
She’s not dead.
DEXTER returns his attention to the PILLOW. His eyes trace the BLOOD SPLATTER.
It’s low-velocity splatter, from zero distance. There was immediate contact between her head and the pillow. See the smear? It’s from tossing and turning all night. She’s about 5’6″, 120 lbs.
Dexter surveys the bedroom, looking for something. He notes the empty ELECTRICAL SOCKETS.
No humidifier. That’s it. The dry air gave her a nose bleed in the middle of the night. She panicked.
Well, where is she?
At the pharmacy, getting more Tylenol Sinus.
ANGEL was satisfied by DEXTER’S explanation, but DEXTER looked nervously out the WINDOW at the VACANT LOT.
She’s not at the pharmacy.
She’s going to kill the Slum Lord responsible for the ragweed next door.
ANGEL holds a file labelled MISSING, and crosses off the name SINUS SISTER.
A sneezing fit woke her up. She saw the blood and met her own dark passenger.
DEXTER has a violent SNEEZE.
I’m gonna help Sinus Sister kill this deadbeat.
Sinus Sister finds a winner
“Oh no! It’s HUGE!” That was my first thought when the delivery guy came to the door with a Sharp KC-850U Air Purifier/Humidifier ($449.99). FALSE ALARM!!! The box threw me. Weighing only 20 lbs, I could easily carry it upstairs and unpack Sharpie, as she became known affectionately in the house.
The good people at Sharp Canada let me borrow the unit for the purpose of this review, with the understanding that my reivews are honest appraisals of one woman’s encounter with their product. In this case, they may have a hard time getting Sharpie back, because she is the key to my all-night, sneeze-free bliss.
The box claims she’s “library quiet”. Oh really? Nobody’s more of a noise freak than Sinus Sister. But, true to claim, Sharpie is almost inaudible at the lowest setting. The unit is notably attractive, with a diamond-patterned white plastic casing and Superhero-like sensor readings that light up in green, red and blue. It looks great beside a white leather couch or in a bedroom with a fluffy white duvet. Yes, these are superficial observations, but who wants an ugly appliance killing their decor?
Sharpie does the job of air purification/humidification, as long as your space isn’t a huge loft. She’s good for about 254 Sq. Feet. For those who want technical details, let’s discuss some of the more geeky aspects. Sharpie uses something called Plasmacluster technology to clean the air. That technology releases negative and positive ions into the air. They react with water vapor in the air, producing hydroxyl radicals, which surround and oxidize the pollutants. I’m talking to you, pollen, dander and dust, my evil oppressors! All these positive and negative ions create the kind of happy gas (metaphorically speaking) you get from ocean air. Ahhhhhh. Very refreshing. And there’s no ozone by-product to speak of, unlike cheaper, more ordinary ionizers. What about these hydroxyl radicals? Harmless.
Sharpie has a true HEPA filter, to catch the smaller pollens, plus a cleanable PRE-filter to do the dirty work. The filters are easy to handle, as the back panel pops off without a fuss (I hate needing an engineering degree to clean a filter). There’s no sensor to tell when the filter needs replacing, however, so don’t forget to replace the HEPA every few years. The water tank rides sidecar. It humidifies for about 10 hours, but I’d prefer a slightly larger tank to humidify a bit longer—at least 12 hours. There’s no remote control, so be prepared to get out of bed to turn it off at night. Is that really a hardship, or are people just spoiled by air conditioning remotes? The delivery guy returns on Monday to take Sharpie away. Such sweet sorrow.
What we love about Sharpie: She’s quiet and smart.
It shouldn’t mattter but it does: She matches the white duvet.
Nitpicking complaint: Her dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree in a dark bedroom.
What we think of the value: Excellent, but watch for sales.