Electric aromatherapy diffusers are a bit less effective in spreading a strong aroma, however they tend to do a good job at spreading a weaker aroma throughout a larger room.


These types of diffusers may be a bit more expensive than other types that might only use a flame, for the simple purpose that it’s a more complex system and takes money to manufacture.


For those who are interested in being more environmentally friendly with their aromatherapy needs, it might be a better idea to stay away from the electric types and use a diffuser that uses heat. Also, electric fan aromatherapy diffusers aren’t silent, which might be a problem for some people who use aromatherapy for relaxation purposes.




Another form of aromatherapy diffuser is called an atomizer. When you’re thinking about how an atomizer works, think about a bottle of perfume and how that works.


The essential oil is pushed through a small screen that breaks up the oil into smaller drops. When the oil moves into the pump, the droplets are sprayed in a fine mist into the air.


This is an effective method of spreading an aroma throughout a room, however, unlike heat or fan-powered aromatherapy diffusers, this type of diffuser tends to work in a smaller room to cover a smaller area.



Since Martha and I have started sharing more about our experiences with essential oils here on Simple Nourished Living, we’ve been getting quite a few questions about diffusers…


  • What’s the best essential oil diffuser?
  • How do electric aromatherapy diffusers work?
  • Do you know about the smaller, personal USB-powered diffusers?
  • What’s the best way to use my diffuser?
  • Are there any other types of diffusers that I should know about?


Just to name a few.


I’ve decided to keep this post focused on electric essential oil diffusers. In a future post, we’ll go into more detail on other (non-electric) types of diffusers such as: necklace pendants and lockets, bracelets, lava stone beads, clay jewelry diffusers, aromatherapy pens, and more.



There are four main types of electric diffusers you can use with essential oils:


  • Atomizing or Nebulizing Diffusers
  • Ultrasonic Vaporizing or Humidifying Diffusers
  • Fan or Evaporative Diffusers
  • Heat Diffusers



These sturdy machines are considered by many to be the most powerful and best type of diffuser. It’s most likely the type you’ll find in a commercial setting (i.e. dentist or doctor’s office, firehouse, spa, emergency room, therapist’s office, etc.).


Here’s a brief video that shows how Vanderbilt ER is diffusing essential oils for both employee and patient benefit:



The atomizing diffusers use a mini cold air pump to push the essential oil through an atomizer that separates the oil into millions of tiny particles which in turn creates a micro-fine vapor in the air.


It’s important to note that these diffusers do not require water. The bottle of essential oil is attached directly to the diffuser itself.


Atomizing or nebulizing diffusers are generally the most expensive type of diffuser and they also create a little bit of noise due to the the action of the pump and atomizer.


You will receive a higher concentration of essential oils released into the surrounding air with this diffuser and you are also likely to use the oil more quickly.


Here is an atomizing diffuser that I use at home and can be purchased on Amazon:


Atomizing Diffuser for Essential Oils


You can turn this on and diffuse for only 15 minutes and will get a strong and powerful scent from the oil. Plus, there is a built-in timer that allows you to control how often it runs and how strong the output of vapor will be. Adjusting these down can help you use less oil than if you just turned it on and let it run continuously.



These are probably the most common type of diffuser in use and also create a fine mist – like the atomizing diffuser. The difference is that with this type of diffuser, you need to add a few drops of essential oil to water and ultrasonic waves cause vibrations that will emit the super-fine mixture of oil and water particles into the air.


These ultrasonic vaporizing diffusers are generally less expensive than the atomizing type and you will also find lots of different options available, such as: timers, auto shut-off, area of coverage, LED night lights, etc. – all of which affect the price.


Here is an ultrasonic diffuser that I use at home and have given out as gifts to friends. It too can be purchased on Amazon:


Ultrasonic Diffuser for Essential Oils



These are very simple diffusers that perform best in very small spaces and are generally very low cost.


The fan or evaporative type of diffuser will most likely use a fan to blow cook air through a pad which contains the essential oil. This type of diffusion is beneficial but not at the same level as the atomizing or ultrasonic diffusers for therapeutic purposes.


Pod Fan USB Aromatherapy Diffuser


Some diffusers may use an intense heat source (such as a light bulb or candle) and may alter the chemical makeup of the oil along with its therapeutic qualities, so these are generally not recommended.


Different diffusers provide different capacities for covering the square footage of a room. Other important features may include timers, some allowing both constant and intermittent distribution options.


The best dosage for aromatic use of essential oils is smaller doses dispersed multiple times throughout the day.


Essential oil diffusers can be made from ceramic, wood, plastic, glass and even metal. I’ve found that most are easy to clean with water and white vinegar, easy to maintain and easy to operate.



Depending on the particular oil you are using, you may experience one or more of the following:


  • Promotes calming and relaxing qualities
  • Immune-supporting properties
  • Lifts mood
  • Helps maintain feelings of clear airways and easy breathing
  • Can help reduce stress
  • Safer than incense and candles
  • Can naturally repel insects


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There are multiple types of aromatherapy diffusers that you can consider, all based upon your needs. All of them do the same job, however, there are different ways that various types of aromatherapy diffusers go about the process of spreading the oil molecules through the air. Some use heat, some use fans, and some use other more interesting ways of spreading aroma throughout a room.



You may have been over to a friend’s place and seen a cute looking vase steam was coming out of. You probably also noticed the fragrant smell it produced and may even have felt a sense of calm wash over you. The strange object you saw was most likely an aromatherapy diffuser, and what you experienced was just the beginning of an olfactory journey worth taking.


It’s definitely prudent to learn about gadgets before bringing one home, and essential oil or aromatherapy diffusers are no different. Here’s a crash course on the various types of diffusers and their (dis)advantages to help you decide which kind of diffuser best fits your lifestyle and aromatherapy expectations.


The principles behind aromatherapy diffusers: How do aroma diffusers work

How do aroma diffusers work? While there are a number of different ways diffusion is accomplished, the underlying principle is basically the same for all diffuser types. Essential oils come in heavily concentrated form and need to be diluted in order to actually be of use. The most effective way of doing this is turning a dose of the oil from a few pungent drops into a fine mist, and that’s what diffusers accomplish by either using reeds, heat, ultrasonic waves or atomization.


Traditional and low-tech diffusers

We know that aromatherapy has been around at least since ancient Egypt, and some simpler diffusers still used today remain practically unchanged. Ceramic and clay diffusers have a shallow base you put a couple of oil drops onto and then light a small candle underneath. The heat then greatly accelerates evaporation and leaves your room smelling nicer almost immediately.


The reed diffuser is another low-tech solution which consists of a bottle or similar container larger quantities of usually diluted oils are poured into, and a bundle of reeds placed inside. These reeds suck up the oil and release it gradually. Since they point in every direction, the room gets a pleasant smell evenly and quickly. Both of these can be messy, and involving.


Modern diffusers

The most popular modern aromatherapy diffusers emit ultrasonic waves which break the essential oil down into tiny particles which get absorbed into our body via the mist they travel by. Requiring no heat to operate and running very silently, they’re a great addition to any home.


Fan diffusers run a stream of air across pads containing essential oils, doing nothing to speed up the diffusion process, but making sure that the vapors reach every corner of the room. After a while the pads need to either be replaced, or more oil added to existing ones.


Electric heat diffusers are the modern-day equivalent of ceramic ones—they gradually heat the oil up and then disperse it evenly, potentially over large areas. Such diffusers are especially effective when used with more viscous oils like sandalwood.


The most high-tech of the bunch are so-called nebulizing diffusers. Drawing oil straight from its bottle, they run it through a glass sphere where it is broken down into particles finer than even ultrasonic diffusers create, and then released into the air. They also tend to be the most expensive ones, and since they release the greatest quantity of oil while working, replacing your stock also gets more expensive.


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