Humidifies the whole house
Minimal cleaning required
Unattractive, bulky design
AIRCARE is a brand by Essick Air Products that specializes in mist humidifiers only and offers a wide range of products from small, ultrasonic, diffuser-style bedside units to large whole-home appliances. We tested the company’s Console MA1201 Humidifier, which falls into the latter grouping, to see if its performance is on-par with its looks. Find out if the humidifier’s large capacity and straightforward design conquered the dry mountain air in our small home.
Setup: Super simple
The AIRCARE Console comes fully assembled with the filter installed and is ready to go out of the box. Just fill the attached reservoir and plug the unit in.
Filling the reservoir is simple, and although it is large, it fits comfortably in our average-depth kitchen sink for easy filling from the faucet. Like most humidifiers, water ends up getting everywhere as you fill the reservoir and place it back in the unit, so use care or consider putting an absorbent mat under the unit.
Once you set the reservoir back into the unit, it will fully drain into the main base of the Console. To extend the humidifying time you get, we found that you can then take the reservoir off, fill it again, and replace on the unit, effectively doubling the water it holds at the start of operation.
Operation: Simple three-button controls
There isn’t a lot going on with the controls of the Console, but it’s a bit more than a simple on/off unit. The Humidity button lets you set a desired relative humidity; the unit will turn on and off to try and maintain that setting. We set the unit to a high level that the unit never reached with our dry air, effectively making it an “always on” unit. We simply shut the unit off when we didn’t want to run it.
The Fan button cycles the fan through four preset speeds. Most of the time, we left ours on the lowest setting to keep the noise low and to extend the amount of time the unit would run on a tank of water.
Design: Clinical look falls short of modern appliance standards
The company’s homepage states, “At AIRCARE, we don’t make humidifiers that have to be kept in a closet. Our humidifiers are made to look great in your home, so you can enjoy the comfort year-round.” We beg to differ.
While AIRCARE does make many attractive humidifiers, the Console is not one of them. The name itself is surprisingly frank, and the unit’s all-white PVC plastic looks borrowed from a desktop computer in the early days of the Internet. Humidifiers usually end up in places people spend time such as living rooms and bedrooms, but the color and design of this unit, set atop industrial-looking casters, make it feel like a medical device that belongs in a bathroom rather than sitting next to your couch.
While AIRCARE does make many attractive humidifiers, the Console is not one of them.
Many modern humidifiers (including others produced by AIRCARE) are designed to blend into a modern living space. The Console and a few other models by the brand have a legacy product feel to them—as if they’re holdovers from a time when the design was secondary and you did hide humidifiers in a closet.
The layout of the unit also feels bulky, like its parts could’ve fit into a more compact package if a bit more thought was put into the design.
Performance: High-capacity humidifying that we could feel (and see)
Performance is where the Console really shines. Despite our gripes with its clinical appearance, the unit works well. The large fan and large wick combine to crank out moisture to the point where we saw condensation on the glass of our windows on a cold night from the Console keeping our humidity high.
Performance is where the Console really shines. Despite our gripes with its clinical appearance, the unit works well.
The unit seems most effective in large, connected spaces such as our open kitchen and living room area. Just don’t expect it to defeat the physics of airflow and magically humidify all spaces equally, no matter where you place it. The touted reach is 3,600 square feet (which is larger than our entire home), but we didn’t feel the effects in our guest bedroom, which sits around the corner and down the hallway from where we positioned the unit.
Cleaning: Wicking filter minimizes scale buildup
Most humidifiers recommend using distilled water (an additional expense) to minimize mineral scale buildup created, as pure water evaporates and leaves deposits behind. After a few weeks of testing using well water, the Console didn’t look any worse for wear, and that’s likely due to its evaporative method of humidifying.
The recommended cleanup procedure is to wipe down and rinse all parts of the unit when you change the wick. The MAF1 Super Wick is a large, replaceable paper filter meant for both air and water. It helps eliminate buildup and thus simplify cleanup. The company recommends swapping the wick every 30 to 60 days; after 720 hours of operation (30 days of continuous use), the display will flash a “CF” (Change Filter) alert, but that isn’t based on an assessment of filter performance, just time of operation.
Due to the use of the replaceable wicking filters, there is a recurring cost to using this unit.
At around $20 for a new wick, that becomes expensive quickly. Based on how pristine our wick still looked after a few weeks of testing, we’re skeptical that a wick actually needs to be swapped after 30 days unless your air quality is really bad.
The biggest concern for this unit appears to be bacterial growth. The owner’s manual recommends adding “bacteriostat” to the water each time you fill the reservoir. The solution is designed to prevent bacteria or algae growth in humidifiers specifically, and AIRCARE sells a 32-ounce bottle for less than $10. We didn’t use the solution in our weeks of testing and had no problems, but those letting the unit idle for long periods of time or running it for several months may experience this issue.
Price: Affordable whole-home humidifying
At a list price of $129.99, the Console isn’t the most affordable unit out there, but for the capacity, it’s hard to beat. The lack of attention to design is a let-down, but if you’re just looking for effective humidifying, the Console gets it done in a big way. (Keep in mind that due to the use of the replaceable wicking filters, there is a recurring cost to using this unit. If that turns you off, you may want to consider a model that doesn’t use filters.
Essick AIRCARE Console MA1201 Humidifier vs. Essick AIRCARE Alliance Humidifier
For $30 more (on the manufacturer’s site, anyway), you can get the Alliance, which features almost all the same features and specs as the Console, but with a much more attractive wood exterior to help the unit blend into your home. The tall, rectangular shape takes up less floor space and appears to be more efficient in its design.
If budget is your top deciding factor, though, stick with the Console. If you can spare a bit more and value a unit that you don’t have to hide in a room, consider the Alliance.
- Product Name Console MA1201 Humidifier
- Product Brand AIRCARE
- MPN MA1201
- Price $129.99
- Product Dimensions 20.5 x 21.5 x 14.5 in.
- Water Volume 3.6 gal.
- Highest Humidity Level 65%
- Warranty 2 years, limited