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Thread: Does distilled water work with Ultrasonic Humidifiers?

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    dashman's Avatar
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    Does distilled water work with Ultrasonic Humidifiers?

    I recently purchased an ultrasonic humidifier. When I received it, I immediately tried it out and nothing... I read the directions of course and re-read them a few times. I checked the water level, tried many different containers and nada.

    When I got home from work a few days ago, my son who is 12 was playing with it and what do you know... he got mist.

    I didn't have time to put it up in my grow room until today. I took the container he used, filled it up with distilled water and nothing.

    I was starting to get irritated at this point so I started experimenting with different pots again. I put the distilled water back in the jug so I wouldn't waste it while experimenting. Everything I tried worked until I poured out the tap water and put the distilled water in.

    I finally realized it wouldn't work with pure distilled water. So I tried it with 3 parts distilled and 1 part tap and voila, it worked. Finally!

    Anyone else have this experience? Is it just the model I have or a general rule of thumb?

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    It's a general rule of thumb. It appears that the process of producing mist is not purely mechanical as I first thought: I experienced the same thing that you did - loading my cool mister with RO water thinking that this would cut down on the amount of times that I had to clean the unit. I then tried it with regular water and the thing worked! Then I placed the mister in the RO water and again, no mist!
    I then took some regular tap water and slowly added it to RO water and surely enough, the more tap water I added, the more vigorous the reaction became and the more mist was produced. It seems that the diffuser relies at least in part to an electrolytic reaction and you need ions (dissolved salts) in the water to make it work.
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    Hello, I must be going... Not a Number's Avatar
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    http://www.humidifirst.com/faq.html
    Q. How do ultrasonic humidifiers work?

    A. Ultrasonic humidifiers use a piezo-electric transducer to create a high frequency mechanical oscillation in a body of water. The water tries to follow the high frequency oscillation but cannot because of its comparative weight and mass inertia. Thus, a momentary vacuum is created on the negative oscillation, causing the water to cavitate into vapor. The transducer follows this with a positive oscillation that creates high pressure compression waves on the water's surface, releasing tiny vapor molecules of water into the air. This is an extremely fine mist, about one micron in diameter, that is quickly absorbed into the air flow. Since the mist is created by oscillation, not heat, the water temperature need not be raised. Ultrasonic humidifiers, therefore, can create instantaneous humidity, and don't have to wait for a heating element to boil the water. This precise on/off humidity control is the hallmark of ultrasonic humidifiers. In addition, unlike wet pad humidifiers, ultrasonic units can be of comparatively small size, and still produce significant amounts of vapor.
    My guess is that the dissolved solids form a seed that the vapor molecules condense around to the point that you can see the vapor. Easy enough to test with either a hygrometer or see if the water supply in the reservoir is consumed faster than by simple evaporation.

    Of course you could always charge the vapor particles so that the repel each other and won't condense as easily. A method developed for dispersing chemical and biological agents.
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    dashman's Avatar
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    Now I know. Thanks for the info.

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    NAN: Interesting. So you're proposing that disolved solids act as centers of condensation. If this is what's being proposed, perfectly distilled water with a soluble ionic salt - like table salt should technically be in solution and not act as seeds for condensation. A micron is still quite large compared to a single sodium and chlorine ion. I dunno, I'm not exactly convinced that there's not some aspect of the diffuser that relies in part with electrolitic reactions. What about adding an ionic liquid - like acetic acid. Would that produce a reaction?
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    I use RO water with a ultrasonic fog maker by exo-terra. It works fine for me!
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    Admin- I'm growing CPs in the Desert of Tucson, Az. adnedarn's Avatar
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    Hmmm My guess is that sensor in the reservoir relies on an electrical current to sense when there is water. If the water is too pure, no completed circuit so you have a device that thinks there is no water in it. That being said, I used RO water in mine (walgreens thing) that had one of those sensors for years and it worked fine until about 3 weeks ago. I messed with it a bit and tossed it out. Now I wonder...... lol My ro water is generally around 10-15 ppm.
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    I have a theory to present, although I don't have the physical chemistry stuff to judge how likely it is. Could it be that osmotic pressure is involved? Thinking about it more, that doesn't quite make sense - water with a soluble in it should want to attract more water, not repel it. But maybe there's some bizarro ultrasonic effect that I'm not taking into account.
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