The Science Behind Vaporizers
A home-use vaporizer is actually a point-of-use humidifier, which is a small appliance whose function is to increase the moisture content (humidity) of air within a living space. There are humidifiers that connect to the HVAC system of a house and treat every part of it, but standard vaporizers are most often used for small spaces and single rooms. A steam vaporizer works by boiling water, which releases steam that moisturizes into the room air. Some units have a well into which a medicated inhalant can be placed. Common inhalants used in vaporizers contain a mixture of menthol and eucalyptus oil, which is known to open and soothe sinus passageways and to suppress coughs. In this way, we can say that a vaporizer is a sleep aid.
The science behind these comforting appliances is not very complicated, nor is it difficult to understand. A heating element brings water added by the user up to the boiling point where it turns into steam. A small opening in the top of the unit is oriented in such a way as to create a jet of steam that can flow at a near horizontal angle giving the steam the best chance of filling the room air with relief in the form of nose and throat soothing water vapor. Other risks associated with the use of room vaporizers is that overuse of them can increase the relative humidity in the room to such high levels that it can promote mold growth and dust mites. Hypersensitivity to dry and arid environments is another risk factor. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has warnings against people spending too much time in rooms where the relative humidity is greater than 30% to 50%.
Anybody can create their own “evaporative” humidifier with just a few basic items commonly found around the home. If you have small fan, you can use it to blow air slowly across a wet towel or cloth that is rolled up like a wick and inserted into a vessel of water. Moisture will be drawn up from the vessel by capillary action, and will evaporate at a rate consistent with the relative humidity of the environment. A room with very dry air will support a higher evaporation rate as compared to a room that is humid. In this way, we can say that this method is self-regulating. Although not a true vaporizer, this device can accomplish some of the same things any good room vaporizer or humidifier can.