Pros: Low Maintenance, Cheap operating costs, Quick desired humidity
Cons: Somewhat Noisy, Rather large
Maintenance: The main reason for the purchase of the Hunter Humidifier Model #33350 was for the low maintenance of the humidifier. This particular humidifier has what they call a "permawick". Basically it's very similar to the standard paper filter/wick of the other cool mist type humidifiers however the "permawick" is made of plastic. Therefore, it doesn't need replacing and only requires a seasonal cleaning. You use a vinegar/water mixture to clean out the mineral deposits. The 3.5 gallon tank can also be cleaned using the same vinegar/water solution.
The only maintenance I do on a regular basis is to refill the tank every couple of days.
Costs: I purchased the unit for $78.95 including shipping and no tax. I bought it at Yahoo shopping. I know Frontgate sells this humidifier for $99.00(plus there's shipping and tax). I also like the fact that there is no consumables to replace. All you pay for is the tap water and the vinegar for cleaning.
I used to have a Bionaire (cool mist type) humidifier and the paper filter/wick was around $10-12 and needed replacement every 3-5 weeks. I have very hard water in my area and the mineral deposits on the paper filter/wick would block the water from saturating the paper filter/wick.
Also, I had a Slant/fin (warm mist type). You have to replace the mineral deposit pad often (every 2-4 weeks at around $1 per pad) or else the minerals would cake up the ring and it would be difficult to remove. You also have to replace the UV bulb (every 6-8 weeks at $12 each). The claim on this humidifier is that you don't have to replace filters, wicks, cartridges, etc... but I think the pad and the UV bulb is more of a pain to replace than a paper filter/wick if you ask me!
So, the operational costs of the Hunter humidifier is significantly less than the competition.
Performance/Operation: I basically leave the unit on low speed at all times. There is only two speeds low and high on this unit. I also have set the desired humidity level at a comfortable level and haven't moved it since. The humidifier turns on and off automatically to regulate the humidity level in the room. This unit also will turn itself off when it runs out of water, but normally I refill the tank before it does reach that point. I have noticed on the low setting that the fan seems to be fairly strong and will get a room to the desired humidity rather quickly.
The basic operation of the unit goes like this... The water from the tank goes to a tray on the bottom of the unit. When the fan is on, there is a small hose that sucks the water up and releases it to the top of a housing covering the permawick. The water then trickles all around the permawick and the fan moves air thru the filter. The saturated air then get distributed to the room. Any residual water then trickles back to the bottom tray. It is very similar to other cool mist type humidifiers with the exception of the hose that distributes the water to the top of the wick. This is a major difference in design that has two benefits that I can think of. 1st, since the unit forces the water onto the wick; the unit will continue to humidify a room whereas the paper wick style will not effectively saturate itself with water when there are mineral deposits on the paper wick thus reducing the ability to humidify. 2nd, since there is water constantly moving it will help prevent bacteria growth. The other cool mist type humidifiers have water on the bottom of the tray and stays stagnant for a while which will promote bacteria growth.
Cons: There are two things that bother me a bit. 1st, you will definitely hear the fan when it's on. Like I have previously said before, the fan seems to be stronger than the other cool mist type humidifiers. I believe it's because the motor of the fan also drives the suction of the water through the hose. It's not loud by any means, but is loud enough to hear in a quiet room. Light sleepers might find this annoying. For light sleepers I recommend the warm mist type humidifiers since it's very quiet.
2nd, the unit is large. It's about the size of a small microwave. I wanted the biggest tank so that I don't have to refill as often, but I think they could have designed the thing a bit smaller.