Honeywell Top Fill Cool Moisture Humidifier, Model HEV615, October 2020.
design observations preservation

The Humidifier Poorly Designed for the Fussiness It Requires

The older I get, the more annoyed I become with poor design. Age may be part of that annoyance in that the body is simply not as capable as it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. I’m finding it harder to lift things and my grip is not as strong.

We recently purchased a new humidifier because our other one stopped releasing mist, which is a bad thing for a humidifier.

Honeywell Top Fill Cool Moisture Humidifier, Model HEV615, October 2020.
Honeywell Top Fill Cool Moisture Humidifier, Model HEV615, October 2020.

In comparing box labels and prices at the store, I ended up buying a Honeywell Top Fill Cool Moisture Humidifier, Model HEV615. The unit, which stands maybe 2 feet high, has a sleek rounded surface. It looks great, but I immediately discovered a problem. In order to operate it, the unit should be kept at least 1 foot away from walls or furniture. The best way to meet this condition is to put the humidifier in the center of an open space, which happens to be where we walk through the room during the day. That’s not a great place to keep the humidifier when we want to move about the room, hence, I find myself moving the humidifier back and forth during the course of a day, tucking it in a corner in the morning, taking it out at night.

That lovely, sleek rounded surface that looks good makes it difficult to get a good grip on the unit in order to move it. When the humidifier is full of water, it’s also heavier. Here’s the thing: Would it have killed the designers of the humidifier to have put a couple of handles in it?

Okay, so maybe the designers weren’t thinking specifically of how we would use the humidifier. Perhaps they thought people would put it in one spot and leave it there, rather than moving it like we do.

And then again …

About a month after purchasing the humidifier, I saw that the filter light had come on, indicating the filter should be changed. I finally cracked open the instruction book and read the maintenance procedures. (Because don’t we all stop reading the instruction book after we’ve gotten an appliance set up and operational?)

Filters for Honeywell Top Fill Cool Moisture Humidifier, Model HEV615, October 2020. I think these filters are a mix of paper and some form of plastic, which makes for a lot of plastic waste going into the garbage when the recommendation is to change them once a month.
Filters for Honeywell Top Fill Cool Moisture Humidifier, Model HEV615, October 2020. I think these filters are a mix of paper and some form of plastic, which makes for a lot of plastic waste going into the garbage when the recommendation is to change them once a month.

Oh, my! Honeywell recommends changing the filter every 30-60 days. At $12 a pop, a once-a-month filter change is expensive. A year’s worth of filters would pay for the entire unit. They also recommend doing a full cleaning and scale removal with vinegar, plus disinfecting once a week.

This involves moving the entire unit into a kitchen or bathroom so it can be dismantled and the reservoir at the bottom emptied of water.

Right.

So, the designers surely knew about this regular cleaning regimen when they were put to work on the humidifier, which means they knew the unit would have to be picked up and moved often. Given this, I am flummoxed as to why did they not design handles into the unit or otherwise modify the exterior for easy movement. Wheels wouldn’t have been a bad idea to meet this requirement.

Perhaps assuming that designers of appliances will consider functionality along with good looks is too big a leap on my part. If it’s pretty, that’s all that counts.

But the pragmatist in me balks at this notion. If an appliance is not both functional and attractive, there is a greater chance that people will abandon it before it has lived its useful life. That means it will wind up in a landfill, its embodied energy (all the resources that went into creating it, including the designers’ work) wasted. The preservationist in me wants to scream into the void over this waste. And that’s the true root of my annoyance with poorly designed products.

Are there any products or appliances you use that could have better design? Please share your experiences in the comments.

2 thoughts on “The Humidifier Poorly Designed for the Fussiness It Requires”

  1. Good piece! We don’t tend to need humidifiers over here – the opposite, in fact. But if we did This one would seem a bad choice. Seems to be a triumph of looks over utility. But I think I’d rather have one that was a little more ugly.

  2. Yes, Clare, I would definitely trade some of the aesthetics for better functionality. There were no models on display in the store, just humidifiers in boxes, so there was no opportunity to look it over or lift it before buying. That’s one of the benefits of retail shopping over buying online.

    What’s funny is that my husband came into the bedroom this morning to look at the humidifier, which I normally maintain, and I knew instantly he had read my post. He tried picking it up and could see exactly what I was talking about. He said one handle or even a definite ridge in the back would have done the trick because you could lift it from a back handle/ridge and the front just above the water reservoir. Kinda wish these manufacturers had user experience testers like with video games.

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