The Honeywell HCM-350 is the only evaporation humidifier in this review. While once all the rage, these loud fan-operated products have largely been replaced by ultrasonic products that provide quieter operation and a higher level of effectiveness. This humidification uses an evaporative wicking filter that draws water up and a fan pulls the moisture from the filter to add humidity to the surrounding air. The wicking filter means it is unlikely to create white dust and there is less moisture accumulation on surrounding surfaces. We like the 350 for its dishwasher capable cleaning but the fan is noisy and it doesn't have some of the features of the ultrasonic humidifier contenders. However, if you don't mind fan white noise, it could be a contender for smaller spaces depending on your needs.
Honeywell HCM-350 Review
Pros: Dishwasher cleaning, no mineral/moisture accumulation on surfaces
Cons: Fan noise, larger, regular filter replacement required
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Like Vicks, the Honeywell company is owned by the Helen of Troy company. Honeywell is well-known for its fans, personal heaters, air filters, and humidifiers, among other household products that make life more comfortable. However, the company also has ties to the aerospace industry and oil and gas. Their Honeywell Home branch is the one most familiar to consumers. Honeywell is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenue that exceeds $40.5 billion in sales each year.
Ease of Cleaning
The 350 is the only option with machine washable parts making it one of the easiest to clean. This unit is top-rack dishwasher safe, which makes routine cleaning a breeze and extremely low maintenance. You still need to refill the water tank and wipe the base clean periodically, but there isn't much else to worry about on a day-to-day basis.
This Honeywell doesn't have any difficult-to-reach areas and small spaces that most of the ultrasonic humidifiers have, and you can easily fit your entire hand into the water tank to clean it by hand. This unit is genuinely no muss, no fuss, and the only option for parents worried about keeping their humidifier clean and free of bacteria, mold, or mineral buildup.
The evaporation technology can't compete with the ultrasonic competition for efficiency or humidity output levels. The housing has a sticker reminding users that mist will not be visible during use, but you can feel the moisture if you leave your hand over the opening for a few minutes. The lack of visible moisture translates to less moisture accumulation on the surrounding furniture, which could be a blessing or must-have for families with nice wood surfaces they don't want to be damaged. Plus, the filter technology means no white dust and mineral droplets in the air. So while it isn't the most effective option, it does have benefits that could be more in line with what you need or want. At an hour of operation, this Honeywell has an output of only about 2/3 the rest of the competition. While this is significantly less, it could be enough for smaller areas. However, it will never have the output or efficiency of the ultrasonic options and is a poor choice for parents who want visible or virtually instant results.
By virtue of its fan operation, something not found on the ultrasonic units, the 350 creates significantly more noise than most of the competition. The fan pushes moisture into the air as it crosses the wicking filter, which results in a white noise that increases as the fan speed increases. If your goal is a silent humidifier, this one is sure to disappoint. If you enjoy the white noise and find the sound of a constant fan soothing, then it may not be a problem. During in-home testing, we find the Honeywell's fan noise soothing on the lowest setting and feel some parents and babies will appreciate the benefits of added "white noise." However, on the medium and high settings, the noise made it somewhat harder to sleep and wasn't as soothing to most testers. Some babies may find the sound mimics the noise of the mother's womb, and it is sure to drown out any competing household noises that could keep little ones from drifting off.
Ease of Use
This Honeywell redeems itself somewhat with average ease of use. It has one rotating dial that has three fan settings for various degrees of humidity output. While the dial is easy enough to use, the lack of programmability may leave some parents wanting more. Also, we had some difficulty getting the casing over the wicking filter when it is fully saturated. The unit won't work properly if the filter is squished.
The 350 also has the most significant footprint in our tests and requires more space around the unit, so the intake area isn't blocked. If nursery space is at a premium in your house, this could cause a location problem. This unit would work best on a counter with plenty of extra space or a hard floor (below left).
Finally, the UV light feature designed to reduce bacteria and viruses is non-essential, in our opinion. It claims to kill up to 99.9% of certain bacteria, mold, fungi, and viruses in water after two continuous hours of operation, but we are skeptical. Most tap water is treated to eliminate bugs, and the location of the light only addresses water coming out of the tank. Although all of the water from the reservoir will pass under the UV light once, we are more concerned about the possibility of water sitting in the base for days after the UV light treatment before being soaked up by the filter. The mouth of the tank is wide and easy to fill, and the tank shape sits by itself in the sink without tipping even when full (above right).
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and Bob Wofford