What Should My Humidifier Be Set At In The Winter?

This article discusses what to set your humidifier at in the winter. 

A humidifier has numerous settings that need to be calibrated to suit your surroundings. Everything from the mist volume to the relative humidity needs special attention. 

You will want to set the humidity level a bit higher in the winter, as the colder air can cause dry skin, throat irritation, and even coughing. Higher humidity will help combat a lot of these symptoms. 

Here, we recommend what to set your humidifier at in the winter to get optimal humidification performance, as well as better longevity for your unit. 

Keep reading to learn more about what to set your humidifier at in the winter. 

What Your Humidifier Should Be Set At In The Humidifier

The relative humidity of indoor spaces drops significantly in the winter. This necessitates running your humidifier at a higher setting to combat the effects of low relative humidity. 

We recommend setting your humidifier at around 40% relative humidity in the winter. This number will change based on what part of the world you call home, the exact temperature, and even personal preference. 

But setting your humidifier to around 40% in the winter will make your surroundings more comfortable. It also addresses health concerns such as chronic coughing, dry throat, cracked skin, and more. 

It is important to know how to configure settings other than the humidity level in the winter. But first, we must understand why humidifiers are even necessary in the winter. 

Why Humidity Gets Lower In The Winter

It is essential that you understand what relative humidity is, why it becomes so low in the winter, and the effects it has on you and your home. 

Relative Humidity

Put simply, relative humidity is a measure of how much water vapor a given amount of air at standard temperature is holding, compared to how much it COULD hold. 

As an example, say 1 cubic-meter of air can hold a maximum of 22 ml of water, at 25 C. Now, if that same volume of air at the same temperature is only holding 11 ml of water, we would say that the relative humidity of the air is at 50%. 

Why Relative Humidity Matters

Human beings feel comfortable in a very specific range of relative humidity. For most people, that range is between 30%-50%. In fact, relative humidity higher than 60% is considered high humidity. This is what you feel on very hot days after it just rained. 

Conversely, relative humidity lower than 30% is what causes that dry feeling in the winter. 

But in the winter, the relative humidity of indoor spaces can become as low as 10%. To give you some context of just how low that is, the relative humidity of the Sahara Desert is around 25% on average!

Relative Humidity And Ambient Temperature

The relative humidity of a space is directly proportional to the ambient temperature in that space. So, as one goes up, so does the other. In winter, when the ambient temperature of the air is lower, the humidity also goes down. 

Effects Of Low Humidity In Winter

Very low humidity in indoor spaces brings with it a ton of health problems. The most common effects of low humidity are usually respiratory problems and the like. 

The lower humidity causes your throat to dry out, which can lead to excessive coughing. Symptoms of asthma can get worse, and allergies might flare up as well. 

Your skin can also dry out, resulting in rough, cracked skin and lips. Itching is another common problem associated with low humidity. It is also common for nosebleeds to occur in low humidity. 

The problems even extend to your home. Low humidity can cause wooden floors to become loose. You will have experienced the static electricity build up in common household items. 

So low humidity can be a real pain. Thankfully, a humidifier can address a lot of these concerns. But how exactly does it do that? 

How A Humidifier Works

A humidifier’s design is very simple and straightforward. Usually, you have a water tank, some kind of mechanism for diffusing water into mist, and something to disperse the mist around a space, such as a fan. 

By spreading mist around a space, the humidifier effectively raises the water content of the air, i.e. the humidity.

Recommended Humidifier Settings In The Winter

Humidifiers also have other settings that you should know about. These can be used to humidify a space faster, at set time intervals, and at different temperatures. Some humidifiers will also have features that let you add fragrances, essential oils, or even medical inhalants to the mist. 

Mist Volume

Mist volume is one of the most important features on your humidifier. It is a measure of how much mist is being produced in a given amount of time. Mist volume is usually measured and quoted in ml/hr. 

Different humidifier units are capable of producing different volumes of mist. The higher the mist volume, the faster you can humidify a space. Furthermore, higher mist volume also means you can humidify larger spaces. 

Recommended setting: Increase mist volume to humidify larger spaces, or to humidify a space faster in colder winter weather. 

Cool/Warm Mist Modes

Many humidifiers offer cool and warm mist modes. Each has their own benefits. 

Cool mist makes a room feel more pleasant. It is also great for reducing snoring while you sleep. In fact, cool mist even improves your quality of sleep. And while it’s not the most noticeable difference, cool mist does cool the room a bit. 

Warm mist has a similarly weak effect on the temperature of your surroundings, but even that is welcome in the dead of winter. Warm mist is better for countering health problems such as coughing and stuffy nose. Some people also find that it helps soothe a sore throat. 

Recommended setting: We recommend using the warm mist setting for your humidifier in the winter. It is great for countering dry throat and skin, and also makes for a cozier feeling. 


Some humidifiers will come with an aroma tray or something similar that takes different fragrances and essential oils. A bit of fragrance can actually help open up your sinuses and reduce congestion in the winter. 

Your humidifier may even allow you to use inhalants, which can create a medicated mist. Inhaling medicated mist is a great way to deal with congestion, or just help you sleep better. 

That said, you shouldn’t try to use essential oils if your humidifier doesn’t specifically offer that feature, as it could cause problems with the internal components. 

Recommended setting: Using the aromatherapy function on your humidifier can really improve the experience. Medicated mist is ideal for dealing with congestion in the winter.


The timer is a seriously underrated humidifier feature. It allows you to set a time interval, after which the unit automatically turns off. This prevents over humidification, and is otherwise great for when you want to sleep with the humidifier running. 

And while most humidifiers come with an auto-shutdown feature that detects when the water tank runs out and turns the machine off, it’s always safer to have a contingency. 

Recommended Setting: Use the timer as frequently as you can. It prevents over-humidification in the winter, and also protects your unit’s sensitive internal components. 

Benefits Of High Humidity In The Winter

Easier To Breathe

Very dry air in the winter can be hard on our respiratory system. It causes dry throat and nasal passages, which can be quite uncomfortable. Setting a humidifier at high humidity in the winter makes the air a lot easier to breathe. 

The added moisture in the air lubricates your sinuses, making it easier to breathe. This in turn helps reduce snoring when you sleep. 

Reduces Static Shock

One of the most annoying problems of low humidity in the winter is the buildup of static charges in household items, such as door handles. Higher humidity allows these charges to disperse safely, effectively preventing the static shock you experience. 

Raises Temperature

If you understand the concept of relative humidity, you know that relative humidity and ambient temperature are directly proportional. That means one increases with the other. 

We discussed how higher temperatures increase the relative humidity, but it’s a two way street. Higher humidity also causes the air to become a bit warmer. The increased temperature makes your surroundings cozier and more comfortable, but also allows you to save a ton on heating costs!

Prevents Dry Skin

Dry, cracked skin is all too common in the winter. Setting your humidifier to higher settings counters this by moisturizing skin and preventing it from drying out. If you are prone to dry, chapped lips in the winter, a humidifier can be a great way to counter that as well. 


Humidity can get uncomfortably low in the winter months due to colder temperatures. A humidifier can effectively increase the relative humidity of a space and make it a more pleasant place to be. 

We recommend that you set the humidifier at around 40% in the winter. This gives you a balanced, cozy experience. It also brings with it a bunch of benefits such as reduced congestion and cough, easier breathing, healthier skin, and the like. 

There are various settings you can tweak to get the perfect humidifying experience for your particular needs. And if there’s anything you need help with, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to hear from you!


Shawn Willis is all about humidifiers. After working for some of the biggest names in the industry, he started HumidifierGuys with Scott Dawson. Now, the dynamic duo helps others figure out what they need in their next humidifier.

Shawn is an avid sports fan, motorcycle enthusiast, and has two dogs named Whiskey and Boba.