Combatting Dry Winter Air
Adding Moisture to the Air
I was wondering if you or anyone had ever heard of a way to "reuse" or keep filters for humidifiers free of bacteria. I have a Duracraft model DH836 that you have to replace the filter every time the "purple spot turns red". They only last for a few hours and at $6 per filter, it gets pretty expensive. I have heard that you can microwave them to kill the bacteria, but I am not sure how.
I use humidifier bacteria treatment. It's a liquid solution that you mix in with the water every time you refill the tank. Your filters should last about a year while using the treatment. It's about $5 for a 32 ounce bottle and is available at most hardware stores. A single capful per tank keeps away all the yucky bacteria.
Years ago I worked for a commercial water treatment company who took care of all types of biological growth problems like these, but on a much larger scale. It's been quite a while, but most of the biocides I remember were based on halides (bromine, chloride, etc). A company that does these sorts of treatments sometimes also does home units, so they may be able to supply the chemicals.
If not, a few drops of chlorine bleach with a smell that isn't too bad would probably extend the replacement time. I'm not sure where to suggest a source for bromine.
One thing that Sue didn't say was how big a unit this is. If they are trying to humidify a whole house with a little unit, I'd suggest a whole-house humidifier. These are only possible in forced air heaters. I bought a Hamilton 800D unit, which is good for up to 3000 square feet. I also installed it myself in about an hour.
This is the second Hamilton model I've owned and this one is self-cleaning. The basic operation goes like this: A pad-covered drum is rotated by a tiny motor in a shallow pan of water. As the pad rotates up out of the water, the air blowing across it causes it to evaporate and be carried into the house. A humidistat controls the level of moisture (important if you don't want the walls and windows sweating!), and a simple float switch automatically tops off water lost to evaporation. For every few rotations of the drum, a small amount of water is released. The significance of this is that water has some dissolved solids (minerals) in it. When the pure water evaporates off, the solids left behind build up on the pad. In an area like ours with hard water, it only takes about 4 weeks until the pad is so covered with mineral salts that it's actually stiff. Releasing water does waste a little, but it keeps the pad clean enough that one pad ($5) lasted the entire heating season last year. It also saves money on heating because the house feels warmer and the thermostat can be kept lower.
I had that type of humidifier and realized it was costing me a bundle. I bought an old-fashioned vaporizer for about $12 (the cost of 2 filters). It still works great, 2 years later. I clean the electrodes about every 90 days, and otherwise all it needs is water and a little baking soda (about $0.02 a month). It is also better for you because it can't put bacteria or minerals into the air. Go to Target or Wal-Mart and get a cheapo vaporizer!
It is possible to reuse filters if they are made of the spongy material. Having spent years in the medical profession I know that frequently changing the water will help. Also if the water is too hard you may get a quicker build-up of lime and mineral deposits. Check to see if distilled water is appropriate.
Also there is no replacement for warm soapy water-dish detergent may work so long as there are no added perfumes. If you really want to try to go the extra step after rinsing the soap and water out soak in white household vinegar for a minute or two, wring, and then allow to air dry in a clean place. A commonly used component of acetic acid is vinegar and is used for bacterial control with respiratory equipment cleansing as well as wounds. However in these instances the solution is sterile and mixed to particular specs.
I can't recommend a way to re-use filters, but I can recommend another way to increase the moisture level in the air - an aquarium. I have kept my aquarium (without fish) running (filter and air pumps included) all the time. Since I have no fish swimming around, I don't need to keep the carbon cartridges in my filter - it simply circulates the water. I need to top the tank off once a week.
Not only does it provide humidity, but also it provides a very soothing background noise. I am not saying one should run out and buy an aquarium, but if you have one around the house, why not make use of it?
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