You're not the only one who does it.
I love the noise filter... It helps to integrate all elements as if they were one... But I overused them,a few years ago... It's not good when you let it too granulated... Another thing I love is photo filters, but I do them manually, usually making a copy of the final image over it with a replace colour adjustment, playing with the opacity...
I like using the noise filter too, and YOU'RE right you really do have to be careful on how far you go with it.
Have you ever tried the 50% gray set to soft light?
Use that layer to put highlights and shadows using burn and dodge tools.
that way you're not messing with the original picture.
Once the shadows/highlights are on, then add a 1 or 2 px noise to that layer so you can adj opacity.
I learned that from DoaC.
Photo filters are great as well. Helps with the overall color correction to blend all the elements into the pict.
I've made manual ones, but only can seem to make them work well on night or water scenes.