The year was 2010 and if you were converting a wine fridge into a refrigerated cigar humidor there were a few things you knew about: Chasidor custom trays, Heartfelt beads, Johnson Controls temperature control units and Off! fans. Yes, Off!, the bug spray division of SC Johnson.
Off! made—and still does, albeit different models—a certain type of bug repellant that was designed to be used by a single individual and in conjunction with a small, battery-operated fan. For around $10, you got a fan and some bug spray. For those of us—including me—that aren’t the best when it comes to elementary electrical work, Off! fans were a crucial part of a wineador build.
The belief was for a three-foot-plus converted wine cooler, it was important to help the humidity distribute evenly. Most people would put a large amount of the silicone beads from Heartfelt—or certain brands of cat litter—at the bottom, maybe some smaller amounts throughout the humidor, and optionally an electronic humidification. One or two small fans would help to move the airflow around and for $500—and some tinkering—you could have an electronically-cooled humidor capable of storing 500+ cigars.
If you’ve never been on a cigar forum before—I’m not making any of this up, including the cat litter part.
And that was why I thought of Off! when I saw a press release about XIKAR’s new HumiFan ($39.95), a new purpose-built, battery-operated fan designed to help move air around a humidor.
The HumiFan measure 5 7/8 inches wide, 3 inches in height and 7/8 inches in width. While the Off! fans looked like miniature tabletop fans, the XIKAR unit looks like it came from a car engine. It’s a large black piece of plastic with one rounded side that is designed to go alongside the humidor wall. Air is sucked in through the side and blown out through the top. It operates on a timer that turns the fan on every 15 minutes for 15 seconds.
For those interested in opening it up, a total of six screws—four on the outside and two in the battery carriage—hold the unit together. After that, it opens fairly easily. Once inside, it’s a fairly basic design with a chip, power via the batteries, the removable grill and mesh covering and a blower fan that measures 1 7/8 inches in diameter. Without batteries it weighs 107 grams or a bit less than a quarter of a pound. Note: I have no clue if I have violated XIKAR’s lifetime warranty by taking this apart.
Despite needing four AA batteries, which XIKAR includes, the airflow isn’t exactly much. In fact, if I move my hand six inches away from the exhaust, I can’t feel the fan. But then again, that’s probably enough for the intended application of a desktop humidor.
While physics is certainly not my specialty, I’ve gotten the basics of cigar science. Humid air—more specifically the tiny water particles in humid air—rises. The water particles are actually less dense than the air around it, so overtime the moisture rises. What this means is that—assuming no other variables—the top portion of a humidor should be higher in relative humidity than lower portions. This gets particularly compounded if you use a desktop humidor with a lid-mounted humidifier and that’s why you’ll hear plenty of people tell you it’s always good to rotate your cigars every once in a while, i.e. move the cigars from the bottom of the humidor to the top.
That advice is not new and for desktop humidors that use floral foam humidifiers; it’s certainly something that’s needed. Because floral foam generally releases a lot of moisture in a highly inaccurate manner, a lid-mounted humidifier would mean that the cigars towards the top and those directly next to the humidifier when it closes would receive more humidity than those on the bottom, particularly those in the corners.
And that’s what XIKAR tries to solve. The HumiFan sucks dry air from the side and push it up top. Short, but constant running of the fan means the air is regularly circulating and in theory, it creates equilibrium, or at least a much better equilibrium than without it.
Scientifically testing this would require lots of sensors, probably thousands of dollars of sensors, which is a bit beyond the time and money resources we have for accessory reviews, so my test was a bit less precise. I placed the HumiFan in a Daniel Marshall humidor with a lid-mounted humidifier and then placed a small hygrometer at the bottom. The humidor I chose is one that isn’t opened regularly and the cigars in it remain fairly constant, and most have been in the humidor for a few years, i.e., the cigars should be at pretty constant internal humidity levels themselves.
Two weeks of the HumiFan running—and me not opening the humidor—compared to two weeks of not opening without the HumiFan showed the relative humidity was .2 percent higher at the bottom with the HumiFan running. Temperature was the same at the time of both readings and given the humidor was in a climate-controlled room, it presumably didn’t fluctuate too much during the test.
Yet, I’m not here to sing the HumiFan’s praises. It’s not because the product doesn’t work or because I think XIKAR designed it wrong. I just am not sure this is needed.
I remember a conversation I had years ago with Bob Staebell of Aristocrat Humidors. I pointed to one of his large cabinet humidors and asked, how many fans do you need for that unit? His answer surprised me. It wasn’t eight, or six, or even two. One. Staebell explained that even in his largest units, airflow simply wasn’t the big of an issue. Humidity rises and as such, a well-designed product won’t need much help, just smart engineering. Assuming your humidor is made of wood and not a hermetically sealed unit, some air will eventually leak in and out and while the humidity won’t be perfectly even throughout, it probably will be good enough for just about everyone.[ref]Compound this with cabinet humidors generally being used to store boxes, which create their own microclimates of sort and precision humidification becomes even more challenging.[/ref]
For applications like cabinet humidors designed for long, interrupted storage, I totally understand the need for a fan to assist in air circulation, but it’s not something I’ve ever really considered for a desktop humidor.
My standard desktop humidor approach is to place the recommended amount of Bovedas at the bottom of a humidor, place cigars on top and then place one Boveda at the top of the unit. It’s probably overkill, but my theory here is that if there’s too much humidity, the top Boveda will actually absorb it. I use that method because I have too many humidors and some of them don’t get opened for months at a time.
But in a world where companies like Boveda and XIKAR themselves sell products that only put out humidity at specific relative humidity, my concern about too much humidity in a desktop humidor just isn’t there, particularly if you are actually smoking cigars out of the humidor and opening and closing the humidor. The only time I’ve felt like the cigars in the humidor were receiving too much humidity was because of me using inferior humidification products.
The HumiFan is well designed and well made, but even with that I’m not convinced it would make a difference in even large desktop humidors like the Camacho Strongbox. Furthermore, things like dividers, common in almost any humidor designed to store 100 cigars or more, would seem to limit its effectiveness throughout the entire unit. It’s not going to hurt your cigars, but it’s a product that I think at best has diminishing returns considering the $40 price tag and five to six cigars sacrificed by placing it in your humidor.
The unit for this review was purchased by halfwheel.