Essential oils are becoming popular. The main reason for its popularity is its natural origin. There is a lot of excitement among people in moving towards green and healthier products. Similarly, of late, there has been a lot of concerns about harmful effects of chemicals. Tensions in all walks of life are yet another reason for increase in tension. Aromatherapy is one form of alternate medicine to relax and get our acts together to save our body and relax. Aromatherapy, yoga and essential oils complement modern medicine and bring positive changes in our life. Essential oil diffusers play an important role in bringing aromatherapy into our lives.
What is an essential oil diffuser?
Essential oil diffuser is a device that converts liquid essential oils to gaseous form; and disperses the gaseous mixture into our surrounding air. In short, an essential oil diffuser disperses the liquid oil into the air, so that we can inhale and reap the benefits of aromatherapy. Smaller mist particles are better.
Different types of essential oil diffusers
There are different types of essential oil diffusers. A brief description of each type of diffusers are given below.
Reed diffuser is one of the simplest form of essential oil diffuser. It is so simple, that you can make one yourself. It does not require water, electricity, etc. to function. The diffuser involves a narrow necked glass bottle in which essential oils are kept. The entire evaporation happens naturally.
The drawback of such a mechanism is that it works only in areas where the evaporation happens naturally. The ambient temperature should be high enough to cause the evaporation of the oil. During winter season, the diffuser will not work as expected, unless kept in a room which has temperature control mechanism like heater.
Ceramic Oil Diffuser
Ceramic diffusers or tealight diffusers use heat to disperse the aroma of the essential oils. There is a small holder of essential oil under which a heat source, normally tealight, is placed. The heat produced causes evaporation of the essential oil kept in the holder. The evaporated oil, disperses scent throughout the room. This is a very conventional method and is now outdated. Some people add water to the oil. However, addition of water does not change anything. The oil, being lighter than water and insoluble in water, floats on top of water. When heated, the oil evaporates first. Upon heating the oil, the molecular structure of the essential oil changes. This, in turn, alters the medicinal properties of the oil. So, you may use this method only if you want to enjoy the scent of the essential oils and not for therapeutic use.
There are electric variants of such diffusers. In electric variants, electricity replaces tealight. However, neither the operating mechanism nor the outcome changes. Ceramic diffusers are not expensive.
Fan diffuser or evaporative diffuser uses natural evaporation of the essential oil to disperse the scent into the air. A pad, which absorbs the oil and lets the oil evaporate acts as an evaporation platform. When the air blows on the pad, the oil evaporates, sending small particles of the essential oils into the air. A fan accelerates the dispersion of the essential oil. This can be considered as an improvement of the reed diffuser.
This method does not involve heating of the essential oil. Hence, the chemical properties of the oil does not change. The rate of oil dispersion depends on the type of oil used. Low density (lighter) oils evaporates faster, while denser oils tend to evaporate slowly.
You would need to change the pad periodically. Pad absorbs a significant amount of essential oils. While a major portion of the oil evaporates under the fan, there will be some residual oil on the pad. So, the utilization of the oil would not be optimum. Furthermore, you cannot switch off the diffuser unlike the other mechanisms. In this case, the fan can be stopped. However, the diffuser will continue to disperse the essential oil into the air, slowly but naturally.
Cold Air Diffuser
Cold air diffusers use a jet stream of air flowing at high velocity to atomize the essential oils. This is different from the evaporation operation. The diffuser uses air at room temperature. The air is passed through a narrow tube, the end of which is narrower. This causes a pressure difference, which sucks the essential oil from a similar narrow tube. The entire action causes the essential oils to break down into small particles. This atomization of the essential oil does not cause any changes in the chemical composition of the oils.
An advantage of the cold air diffuser is its ability to push the aroma. Since, there is an airflow at a good velocity, flowing through a narrow section, it forces the atomized drops of essential oils to spread in the room. This is especially useful, in case you plan to use the diffuser is a large room. With cold air diffusers, you would connect an entire bottle of essential oil to the diffuser. Unless you switch the diffuser off on time, the diffuser would continue to push the aroma, and the essential oil bottle may soon be empty. Having said that, cold air diffusion technology is well suited for medical applications of essential oils. Firstly, there is no need to heat the essential oil and hence no chemical change of the essential oil happens. Secondly, you need not mix anything to the oil – not even water, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of pure essential oils.
The diffuser uses a moving part inside the diffuser to pump air. This creates some sound, and the diffuser may not be quiet. Use of modern technology helps in insulating the noise, which is standard among new models of cold air diffusers. Secondly, the cold air diffuser would use more electricity due to the working of an air pump.
Ultrasonic diffusers are the most popular type of diffusers today. They have almost replaced all other types of diffusers just like smartphones have replaced feature phones. An ultrasonic diffuser uses high frequency vibrations produced by certain materials like crystals or ceramic. On the application of electricity, the crystals produce high frequency vibrations . The phenomenon is known as piezoelectric effect. These vibrations are strong enough to atomize essential oils and water.
Most ultrasonic diffusers will have a water reservoir tank. Water is added to the tank and a few drops of essential oils are added to the water. Water, however, does not mix well with essential oils. Essential oils float on the water surface and are atomized fast. This would cause scent of the oils to be present only when the diffuser is started. The scent disappears after a few minutes. Because of the water requirement, you would see that almost all of the ultrasonic diffusers branding themselves as humidifier-cum-diffuser.
Ultrasonic diffusers are mostly lightweight. Firstly, the electronic construction of the diffuser does not have any moving part. So, the diffuser is almost silent during its operation. Secondly, ultrasonic diffuser uses less power, owing to complete solid state electronics inside. Thirdly, the diffuser does not alter any chemical characteristic of the essential oil.
There are certain disadvantages of the ultrasonic diffusers as well. First, the plastic construction of the diffusers may not be suitable for certain types of oil like citrus oil. Secondly, the usage of water in the diffuser results in condensation of the water drops inside the diffuser. When you take the top lid of the diffuser to clean it, the water may spill on the table. Thirdly, the water used in the diffusers may contain dissolved minerals. Hence, there could be deposits (white powder like) of these minerals inside the diffuser. Fourth, in case you overfill the water reservoir, the mist output will be less. And, finally the scent from the oils will not last for longer periods.
How to choose the best essential oil diffuser
We had a look at different types of essential oil diffusers. They range from simple reed diffusers to most advanced ultrasonic diffusers. The choice a diffuser for a particular purpose depends on various factors. In the coming sections, we take a close look those factors.
This should be the most important factor that influences your choice. In case you are buying the diffuser for therapeutic use aromatherapy, then it is wise to choose a cold air diffuser. Cold air diffusers deliver the best of the aroma oils, while keeping the purity of the oils intact. In case, you want to use the diffuser for relaxing purpose, you may choose any other type of diffuser. Cold air diffusers tend to make some sound while operating, although that has reduced with new technological innovations. When you relax, you do not want any other sound to disturb you.
How big is the are you want the scent to spread? In case you want the aroma only on your work desk, then a reed diffuser would be the best choice. If you want to use the diffuse in a small room, an ultrasonic diffuser would be the best choice. However, in case you want the aroma to spread in a large area, or large room, essential oil diffuser best suited for that purpose would be cold air diffuser.
When you choose a diffuser, you must have a deep look at the features supported by the diffuser. Although feature list comes secondary to the diffusion, some features may come handy at times. Many diffusers, especially cold air and ultrasonic, supports timers. These timers allow you to program the duration for which the diffuser will work. Certain ultrasonic diffusers come with auto shutdown, night light, mist output control, intermittent mode of operation, etc. You may choose the best one depending on your need.
How long during the day or night will you use the diffuser? In case you want to use the diffuser throughout the day or throughout the night, then it is recommended to get an ultrasonic diffuser. They are quiet and runs throughout the day or night depending on the water capacity. However, they might not give you all night scent. In case you want the scent to stay throughout the night, better choose a water soluble essential oil with enough water capacity. It is better to avoid cold air diffusers, because they produce some amount of noise and tend to use more oil.
However, you want to use a diffuser for a short duration in a large area, say during an event, then cold air diffuser is the one to choose.
Kids, Pets, etc.
If you have kids or pets at home, then it is recommended to avoid ceramic diffuser and ultrasonic diffuser with large water reservoirs. In case we are not careful, they might run over the diffuser causing it to fall and spread fire or water respectively. Other types of diffuses too carry risks, as the essential oils are not safe for internal consumption.
Maintenance aspect of the diffuser cannot be ignored while choosing a diffuser. Ultrasonic diffusers need frequent cleaning, because you need to change the water and oil frequently. On the other hand, cold air diffusers need least maintenance as you only change the essential oil. Oil pads in evaporative diffusers needs replacement too.
Your budget has an important role in shaping your choice of a diffuser. Cold air diffusers are the most expensive types of diffusers. Ultrasonic diffusers come next. Ceramic and evaporative diffusers are cheaper. However, depending on your budget, you might have to choose certain features you are willing to forego.
And when you consider your budget, you need to consider both initial investment and running cost of the diffuser. Again, cold air diffusers use up essential oils faster, with obvious added benefits. For evaporative diffusers, oil pads need to be replaced often, depending on the usage.
Essential oil diffusers are long term investment. When you are looking to buy a diffuser, you must take a holistic look at the offering. On an important note, you should know the types of diffusers and their basic working principle. This knowledge will help you choose the diffuser best suited for you needs without falling for marketing messages alone. Never depend only on the marketing messages and feature list of the diffusers in offering. Only you are the best person who knows the purpose and expected benefits. Taking an informed decision is the key to protect your investment and health.