Can a Humidifier Overheat? [Ways to Prevent]

A humidifier can be a life-changing device especially if you live in a dry area or feel under the weather. But have you ever wondered if your device can overheat? 

Like all electrical appliances, humidifiers can overheat especially when they run dry and continue to operate, or if their internal components, such as the motor and fan, develop problems. But, instances of humidifiers overheating and starting fires or exploding are not common. 

If your humidifier is old, faulty, or damaged, it can result in an overworked machine and excess heat generation.

What could cause a humidifier to overheat?

A humidifier can overheat if it runs dry and fails to automatically switch off or if the motor or internal components become damaged or malfunction. Overheating is more likely to occur in steam/warm mist humidifiers because they have a heating element that boils water to produce steam. 

Budget humidifiers or those from unknown brands should be avoided because sometimes, in order to cut costs, they fail to undergo proper research and testing before being distributed into the market. Cheap humidifiers can also contain cheap, unreliable parts that are likely to fail, thus increasing the risk of overheating.

Is a humidifier supposed to get hot?

A humidifier, especially a cool mist humidifier, is not supposed to get hot. However, it is possible for warm mist humidifiers to feel a bit warm to the touch since they have a heating element used to boil water to turn it into steam.

Avoid coming into direct contact with the steam from warm mist humidifiers to avoid burns. If you have children in your home, get a cool mist humidifier or place your warm mist humidifier in a space where children can’t reach it.

If your humidifier feels too hot to the touch, it could be a sign that your humidifier is overheating.

Can a humidifier catch fire?

functioning humidifier

A humidifier can catch fire if: it fails to switch off automatically after it runs dry, in case of a power surge, or if it has design flaws that allow for water and electricity to come into contact with each other, causing a short circuit.

To prevent starting fires, steam humidifiers should be kept away from power outlets as well as other electrical appliances to reduce the chances of water ever coming into contact with electricity. 

Like most other electronic equipment in your home, humidifiers can be vulnerable to random power surges, especially during storms. To prevent fires from power surges, a humidifier should be plugged into a surge protector to divert excess power away from the device. 

While the chances of a humidifier starting a fire are extremely rare, it has happened. In 2006, there was a recall on a model of humidifiers that were catching fire due to water leaking into the electrical components.

See also:

Does a humidifier give off heat?

The outside enclosure of a humidifier does not give off heat, but the steam produced by warm mist humidifiers gives off heat, enough to make a room hot. If you want to use a humidifier but don’t want to heat up your room, consider using a cold-mist humidifier. It will keep your room nice and humid without raising the room’s temperature. 

Cold-mist humidifiers are an excellent option during the months of summer. Some special humidifiers are able to function as both warm and cold mist humidifiers, thus avoiding the need to have two separate devices.

What happens if a humidifier runs out of water?

Most humidifiers will automatically turn off when they run out of water. The manufacturer of the device should specifically state in the description whether or not the humidifier they are selling has this function. 

Ultrasonic humidifiers are capable of blowing out warm air even when the water in the tank runs dry. However, this can lead to overheating of the device, so make sure to be on top of your device’s water levels or choose one that automatically shuts off.

It’s also important to consider the type of water you’re putting into your humidifier. You should use distilled water that is free of dust and debris to avoid clogging up the device or encouraging the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. 

Every once in a while a humidifier should be cleaned using vinegar to keep mold and bacteria at bay, as shown in the video below:

Can I have my humidifier plugged in all day?

You can have a humidifier plugged in all day, but ideally, you should run your humidifier for about 8-12 hours a day. This will keep the air in your space nice and humid and also avoid excess moisture. 

Too much moisture can make it easier for airborne pathogens to travel, and cause respiratory problems. However, there are no specific guidelines or rules as to how much or how little you should use your device; just know that it is possible to overdo it.

If you want to keep the device on but have to leave it unsupervised, consider keeping it at the lowest setting possible and filling the water tank.


Humidifiers do run the risk of overheating and potentially starting fires, but fortunately, it is not a common occurrence. However, you should take the necessary safety precautions to avoid potential electrical fires. 

For example, making sure you are using a device from an established brand and that it has an automatic turn-off feature in case the water runs out will greatly reduce the risk of overheating and fires. 

Although humidifiers can be plugged in all day, you should consider running them for a maximum of 12 hours a day to avoid having too much moisture in the air that could cause other problems.

Eustace is a technology enthusiast and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Telecommunication and Information Engineering. His passion and knowledge of computers, and technology in general, is channeled towards helping others understand complex concepts, solve problems, and make informed decisions.