Informational Guide

Comparing Vaporizer vs Humidifier vs Nebulizer

Even though they have the same result, vaporizers, humidifiers, and nebulizers are different in their means and the type of treatment they provide.

by Josh M

Vaporizers, Humidifiers, and Nebulizers are most commonly used for aerosol therapy, which is the most prevalent treatment for respiratory conditions like asthma.

Humidifiers and nebulizers convert liquid into mist, making them easy to pass through airways and relieve your respiratory symptoms. They vary in their intended use and functions but are geared towards helping asthmatic people.

The most common use of nebulizers is to deliver medicine to the lungs, whereas the role of humidifiers is to provide your lungs with essential moisture.

This guide will define the difference between a humidifier and a vaporizer while discussing the functionality of a humidifier:

Humidifier Train Railway Station

The purpose of a vaporizer is to create a breathable mist; medication can also be added to this mist.

However, vaporizers diffuse mist all over the room, unlike nebulizers; therefore, they are not dependable for medication delivery. Still, the mist in itself can provide considerable health benefits.

A downside to using a vaporizer is that they boil water to create mist, unlike humidifiers and nebulizers. Knocking one over can be cause for alarm as it poses a hazard.

There are multiple types of vaporizers available to buy; the most common ones are:

Steam Vaporizer

As the name suggests, the working principle of steam vaporizers is relatively straightforward. They heat water and eject steam to create vapors.

Once you plug the vaporizer in and turn it on, it starts heating the water gradually. The machine stops working when the water reaches boiling point, turning the liquid into gas.

It then pushes the gas through a hole, feeding it into your space.

Ultrasonic Vaporizers

Ultrasonic vaporizers work on a different principle than steam vaporizers; they generate ultrasonic waves to create a humid mist.

When an ultrasonic vaporizer is plugged in, it vibrates the metal plate. The frequency of this vibration gradually increases until it turns the water into tiny droplets.

These are then pushed into the atmosphere via a hole.

Impelling Vaporizers

The impelling vaporizer works similarly to an ultrasonic vaporizer. However, instead of the vibrating metal plate, the impelling vaporizer has a spinning metal disk.

In an impelling vaporizer, the spinning metal disk impels the water in tiny droplets that are sprayed out in the room via a small hole.

Evaporative Vaporizer

The evaporative vaporizer is relatively straightforward as it self-regulates by responding to the atmospheric air.

Water is pulled from a filled container using a cloth wick, while a high-speed fan blows air on the wick, discharging moisture into the atmosphere.

The less humid the room is, the more water will be evaporated by the wick.

Benefits of Vaporizers

Vaporizers are a type of humidifier, and humidifiers are known to provide multiple health benefits.

When the air in a room is not humid enough, it can cause mucus membranes and skin to dry out. And drier skin is more prone to infection as it lowers the natural defense of the body.

Therefore, by using a vaporizer, you increase the humidity in the atmosphere. This exposes your dry skin tissue to water, which the skin can further absorb.

Here are some other benefits of using a vaporizer:

  • If you have a cold, cough, flu, or hay fever, a stream vaporizer helps relieve discomfort
  • A vaporizer also soothes dry and itchy throats as well as dispelling coughing fits
  • It also helps provide better sleep and keeps you breathing freely
  • It also helps provide suitable humidity levels at a lower temperature, thus saving a lot on your heating bills
Inhalation Mask or Aerosol Mask

What Does A Nebulizer Do?

Nebulizers are quite popular and relatively great for delivering asthma medications to young children and infants.

They also accommodate when a larger dose of medication is required for inhalation or if the child has trouble using a traditional asthma inhaler.

Furthermore, nebulizers can be used with various medications for quick relief while controlling asthma symptoms. The medicines one can use with a nebulizer include:

  • Bronchodilators for opening the airways (like using medications as salmeterol, albuterol, levalbuterol, and formoterol)
  • Corticosteroid for relieving inflammation (such as using medications like triamcinolone, flunisolide, budesonide, and fluticasone)

Nebulizers can further be classified by their functional principle into three types:

Nozzle Nebulizer

Compressor or nozzle nebulizers work through a compressor generating compressed air. Air flows through medicinal solution atomizing into tiny droplets.

Ultrasonic Nebulizer

Ultrasonic nebulizers use a piezo-electric vibrator to emit high-frequency vibrations (2 to 3 million per second).

These vibrations are transported across the water tank, enveloping the medication with the water serving as a coolant.

These intense vibrations help in generating liquid medication columns by producing smaller particles.

Mesh Nebulizer

The mesh nebulizer comprises a thin membrane that has minute holes in it. A vibrating element helps push the nebulizer medication through these tiny membrane holes.

This ultimately generates tiny droplets like an aerosol. The mesh nebulizer is also very lightweight and quiet. Therefore, they are perfect for traveling, especially with children.

Benefits of Nebulizers

There are multiple effective ways to deliver medication to the human body, one of them is a nebulizer.

But one must not self-administer. A doctor will decide whether to administer nebulizer therapy or not, depending on the nature of the illness.

Furthermore, nebulizer treatment is necessary for people suffering from asthma or bronchitis.

To help you better understand its use, here are the top advantages of nebulizers:

Effective Medication Delivery

Nebulizers are less therapeutic than medical; their primary purpose is to deliver medication directly into the lungs, where they are needed the most.

Orally administered medication usually takes some time to pass through the bloodstream or gastrointestinal tract. In contrast, nebulizers benefit the respiratory tract directly.

Speed is of the essence, and nebulizing provides a significant benefit during administration.

Black & White Digital Clock

Multiple respiratory problems are prevented through treatment via nebulizer, which otherwise might potentially get worse. Nebulizers are also very effective in the treatment of severe breathing emergencies.

Furthermore, long-term use of a bronchodilator will ensure that your bronchial tubes are kept clear and open.

An alternative to nebulizer therapy is to use steroids. These can increase the production of mucus and lower inflammation in the lungs, which obstruct oxygen flow.

However, even though steroids can reduce inflammation, nebulizers are effective in clearing obstructive airways.

Easy To Use

In contrast to inhalers that require the patient to breathe in during the release of medication, nebulizers are very easy to use.

Because the flow of a nebulizer is constant, the medicine is better received. As a result, the patient can breathe normally during therapy.

Additionally, newer nebulizer models are portable, and even though they are not as mobile as inhalers, they are still quite handy and easy to use.

Also, nebulizers are typically electricity or battery-powered and take a minimum of five to ten minutes to provide a complete medical dose.

Fewer Side Effects

Nebulizer treatment cuts off any risk of side effects that are otherwise common when taking medications orally.

Moreover, they also reduce chances of short-term side effects, like headaches, tremors, or a fast heartbeat.

What’s more, nebulizers also lower the long-term complications that arise because of steroids; these complications include:

  • High blood glucose
  • Bone loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Infection

What Does A Humidifier Do?

Humidifiers release water vapors into the room only to increase humidity levels in the home. When used correctly, humidifiers help relieve chapped lips, dry skin, nose bleeds, and other mundane conditions related to cold weather.

Furthermore, it also is known to help in reducing snoring! Here are some popular types of humidifiers:

Cool Mist Humidifiers

One of the safest humidifiers to use around children and babies is the cool mist humidifiers, as they carry no burn hazard.

These humidifiers usually use fans to evaporate water in the atmosphere, creating a chilled environment in the room.

As a result, they are the best choice for use all year round, as you would not want a humidifier that releases warm mist during the hot and humid summer days.

Warm Mist Humidifiers

Warm mist humidifiers boil water using a heating element to create steam. This noticeably warms the air in the room.

Due to the heat they produce, it is better to keep them away from the reach of children or pets. Warm mist humidifiers are a better choice if you require greater moisture saturation.

Furthermore, they can also be used along with other medicated products for relieving cough and cold symptoms.

Ultrasonic Humidifiers

Ultrasonic humidifiers are some of the quietest humidifiers out there as they are relatively mute. This is due to the metal diaphragm present inside.

This metal fixture vibrates at higher speeds to break down water into tinier droplets, converting them into a cool mist.

A silent fan then takes the responsibility of diverting this mist to every corner of your room, all while remaining completely silent.

Ultrasonic humidifiers usually do not have a filter in them; therefore, they will not require cleaning as often as others.

Furthermore, they come equipped with the option of increasing humidity quickly, especially during the extreme winters.

Evaporative Humidifiers

Evaporative humidifiers are considerably noisier than ultrasonic humidifiers; however, they are still quite convenient.

They generate humidity via a fan that pulls the air from the atmosphere and blows it through a wick inside water.

During the process of evaporation, the water and heat are removed. The water vapors are then added into the atmosphere, which circulates inside the room.

Benefits of Humidifiers

In the summer, air contains more allergens due to the weather being hotter. This causes respiratory disorders among many people.

During this season, there is greater use of air conditioners to circulate dry air through the house, resulting in loss of moisture from the air. Therefore, a humidifier can be pretty helpful during summer.

Here are certain benefits of humidifiers you must know of:

Influenza Prevention

According to a study, it was found out that the risk of flu is significantly reduced with functioning humidifiers.

They keep the air moist. Keep in mind that a humidity level above 40% is known to deactivate viruses, making them less effective.

Reduces Snoring

Snoring can also be reduced by increasing the humidity in the air. Dry air causes our airways to become barren and prickly; however, a humidifier makes the airways moist and reduces snoring.

Therefore, running a humidifier at night is known to diminish snoring drastically.

Helps Coughing Properly

Dry coughing is most commonly a result of dry air. Therefore, making the air more humid causes the moisture to permeate your airways, making the cough less destructive to your throat.

A moist cough can release the sticky and trapped phlegm more quickly than a dry one, which can help avoid common respiratory problems.

Keeps Skin Moist

During the winter, skin, hair, and lips become fragile and dry. Heating units, such as computers, TVs, and refrigerators, pump hot and dry air through your space, resulting in itchy and dry skin.

And cold air during the winter seasons has the same effect. Humidifier usage can ultimately keep inside air humid, reducing the chances of cracked and dry skin.

Vaporizer Vs. Humidifier Vs. Nebulizer

There are multiple ways in which a nebulizer, humidifier, and vaporizer are different from one another.

Nebulizers are designed to treat a single patient at a time; whereas, the vaporizers can treat multiple patients and even a room full of patients based on its size.

Furthermore, nebulizers primarily function to deliver medicine; whereas, vaporizers do not. And nebulizers also typically utilize liquids at room temperature; however, warm-air vaporizers employ pre-heated liquids.

Lastly, humidifiers are used to reduce phlegm in case of respiratory infections. Moreover, they can also be used to treat headaches, sinus-related problems, and dry skin.

When selecting humidifiers or vaporizers, the following factors must be considered:

Cost Of The Units

Humidifiers or vaporizers, whichever you choose, the cost will differ significantly, based on the unit’s size and the manufacturer.

Generally, humidifiers are more expensive than vaporizers. Ensure that you measure your room size before deciding to buy the right size of humidifier or vaporizer.

Safety Of Units

Even though adding moisture to the environment helps diminish dryness, increased humidity might also cause multiple problems.

According to the EPA, the perfect humidity level indoors is between 30-50%; anything higher than that can cause problems.

It is better to use a hygrometer to measure the humidity level in the house.

Cleaning Of Units

The process of cleaning humidifiers or vaporizers is relatively straightforward and alike. It is always better to follow the directions of the manufacturers.

The recommendations for cleaning the unit commonly includes a white vinegar bath, followed by washing and drying all the parts.

There might be scaling in the vaporizer because of the boiling of water inside, making the cleaning process more difficult.

Whether you are thinking of choosing a humidifier or vaporizer, you must thoroughly clean the device.

If the units are not adequately cleaned, it might cause a buildup of bacteria or mold that may lead to you getting sick.

When To Use A Vaporizer, Humidifier, Or Nebulizer?

When choosing between a nebulizer, humidifier, or vaporizer, knowing their purpose and capabilities is essential. Among other things, each device will reduce discomfort; this includes skin dryness, a dry nose, or prickly throat.

These devices also make it easier to breathe by reducing nasal congestion. Here are some pointers on when to use a nebulizer, humidifier, or vaporizer:

During Allergies

The most common symptom of allergy is congestion in the nose or chest. Therefore, humidifiers and vaporizers help increase the humidity in the air by adding moisture.

Inhaling moist air can help reduce the stuffiness in your nose and provide relief to your irritated sinus.

However, using these devices also comes along with certain precautions. If the humidity level is set too high, it can result in mold and dust mites, which are the most prevalent triggers for allergies.

Similarly, lower humidity is also harmful; therefore, it is best to achieve the optimum level.

However, according to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, people with indoor allergies must first consult their doctors before buying any humidifier.

A vaporizer, however, is a better option for someone who has indoor allergies since the mist they create is heated, lowering the presence of contaminants is lowered.

Asthmatic Problems

Much like someone with allergies, a person with asthma should also be cautious when using a humidifier or vaporizer.

Hypersensitive airways are subject to constriction, and that is what asthmatic people have to live through.

Using humidifiers might cause the airways to be irritated more instead of providing relief.

Furthermore, improper use of a humidifier can also cause the growth of bacteria, mold, or dust mites, further agitating asthmatic symptoms.

It is recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider on the type of humidifier you should get if you have asthma.

Vaporizers and humidifiers are not suitable as tools for asthma treatment; however, nebulizers are the best in this regard.

Flu And Cold

The symptoms of flu and cold may commonly include chest and nasal congestion along with a sore throat.

To ease your discomfort, you can choose either a humidifier or vaporizer; they are both helpful in relieving congestion and irritation by moisturizing the air.

Furthermore, viral transmission is also significantly increased in cold temperatures with dry air. Therefore, adding moisture to the atmosphere is an excellent way to protect against infections.

When discussing the differences between a humidifier and a vaporizer when relieving cold symptoms, it is all a matter of choice.

However, a vaporizer provides the additional advantage of letting users add inhalation medication to relieve chest and nasal congestion.

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Can I Use A Humidifier As A Nebulizer?

Even though the result of both the devices is the same, their intended purpose is quite different from each other. Nebulizers help deliver medicine to the lungs to relieve congestion; whereas, humidifiers achieve the same thing by increasing the moisture levels in the air.

Can You Use Tap Water In A Nebulizer?

A nebulizer can run on either tap or bottled water; however, experts recommend using purified water. Since a nebulizer works directly on the lungs, it is best to be safe.

Is A Nebulizer Better Than An Inhaler?

Both nebulizers and inhalers are equally effective; however, both carry some pros and cons. Inhalers are more of a quick on-the-go treatment in case of an emergency. However, nebulizers can be used for longer durations and can relieve long-term symptoms.

Does A Nebulizer Put Moisture In Your Lungs?

A nebulizer converts the drug solution into finer particles. These fine particles are breathed in via spray. Typically a nebulizer uses compressed air, oxygen, or ultrasonic power for breaking the liquid drug for delivering the dose. This ultimately moistens your lungs as well.


Even though they have the same result, vaporizers, humidifiers, and nebulizers are different in their means and the type of treatment they provide.

Nebulizers are used mainly by asthmatic patients for medicinal relief, whereas the purpose of humidifiers and vaporizers is as simple: making the air moist for relieving congestion symptoms.

Last Updated on July 16, 2021

Josh M

My name is Josh and I am obsessed with the HVAC industry. I created this website to help HVAC techs of all levels get the best out of their heating & cooling systems. I have spent thousands of hours studying air conditioners, heaters and home air products so you can learn & buy with confidence. Learn more about the team here.