When humidity levels are too high, it turns your house into the perfect environment for dust mites, insects, and mold to thrive.
These unwanted house guests can be seriously irritating- literally. From coughing to dry, itchy skin, and even asthma attacks, who knew humidity could be such a trouble maker?
A dehumidifier is an electrical appliance that can help prevent these issues. Our dehumidifier buying guide can help you choose the best model for your needs.
What is a Dehumidifier?
Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, and when there’s too much of it swirling around, it creates a damp environment where allergens thrive.
This is bad news for people with allergies or asthma. It can also damage your home by causing metal and electronics to corrode and wood structures to warp.
If the relative humidity (RH) level rises above 50% in summer, you may notice condensation forming on your windows or walls. This means your home is too damp, and it needs to be reduced before mold, odors, and allergens creep in.
It might be time to start looking for a dehumidifier.
Dehumidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, whether you need one for a single bedroom, a small space, an entire house, or a commercial property.
It removes the water vapor from the air, collecting the water droplets and then blowing out dry air. You can adjust the settings to keep the humidity at a consistent level, improving the air quality of your home.
How A Dehumidifier Works
When activated, the dehumidifier pulls in humid air and uses fans to feed the warm air into coils that are filled with coolant.
The coils separate the water vapor from the air, and depending on the unit, will collect or dispose of the water in a variety of ways.
The dry air is then pumped back out into the room, balancing the humidity level and making the area comfortable.
As mentioned, every unit is different. But here are some of the common design elements of a dehumidifier.
- Internal Pump: This helps the unit run continuously by pumping water to a compartment. It automatically pumps water vertically to a water bucket for continuous operation
- Auto-Humidistat: Uses a sensor to determine the moisture level in the room and automatically shuts the dehumidifier off once your select humidity level is reached.
- Direct Drain: Guides water down into a floor-level drain to keep the unit operating.
- Filter Indicator: This alerts you when the air filter needs to be replaced.
- Auto-Reset: In case power cuts out, the unit will restart itself, resetting to the original settings.
- Low-Temperature Setting: Suitable for winter use, this allows the dehumidifier to work in cold temperatures.
- Auto-Defrost: This mechanism keeps the unit from freezing.
Do I Need a Dehumidifier?
Even though water vapor in the air is difficult to see, there are several tell-tale signs that there’s too much of it in a room.
Some rooms will have higher humidity levels than others due to a lack of ventilation. This includes basements, crawl spaces, garages, closets, kitchens, or bathrooms.
Here are the signs to look for that signify it’s time to choose a dehumidifier for home:
- Condensation forming on windows
- Water droplets on the walls while you cook food on a stovetop
- Freshly washed clothes that take a long time to dry
- A musty smell that is a sign of mildew
- Dark-colored mold forming on the ceiling, walls, clothes, or furniture
- Bread, cereals, or powders that spoil too quickly
- Persistent symptoms caused by allergies or asthma attacks (coughing, runny nose, headaches)
- Inflamed skin
- If you notice cockroaches, spiders, or silverfish
Some people just blast their air conditioner, and while it might bring instant relief, it won’t reduce the humidity level or get rid of that musty smell. Only a dehumidifier can work that magic!
How to Pick the Right Dehumidifier
Choosing the right dehumidifier comes down to 3 main factors:
- The area you want to dehumidify (is it a small space, a room, or an entire home?)
- How you plan to remove the water collected from the unit
- How much energy is consumed
There are numerous models out there with varying features that boost convenience, lower maintenance, and give you more flexibility when the seasons change.
Of course, figuring out your objective can also help you make the most cost-effective decision.
We break down the different dehumidifier sizes and features to help you out on your dehumidifier journey.
Dehumidifier Areas & Uses
Whether it’s a bedroom or a closet- dehumidifiers come in multiple sizes to adequately fit any area where the humidity level is too high. Here’s how to navigate the sizes with precision.
How to Select Dehumidifier Sizes
Choosing the right size dehumidifier starts with measuring the square footage of the area you want to treat. You also need to test the humidity level in that area to know the percentage of moisture in the air.
This is important so you can be assured that the unit’s drying capacity can handle the concentration of moisture. The drying capacity is determined by the amount of water vapor it removes within 24 hours.
If you’re scratching your head right now, don’t worry- it’s a no-brainer. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) created a standard sizing chart to help homeowners easily choose the right dehumidifier for their needs.
It can be found on the box that the dehumidifier comes in, or you can just ask a sales attendant at your local appliance store if they have one behind the counter.
These are the most common units that you’ll find in many households. You can move it from room to room; just make sure to place it in a spot without restricted airflow and don’t push the vents up against a wall.
Portable dehumidifiers come in all sizes but are most effective for single rooms or smaller spaces, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, or closets.
You can use a smaller unit in a large area or a moderately damp room, but even if you run it continuously, it may not be powerful enough to bring the humidity down to a healthy level.
High Capacity Units
These are large units for large areas with heavy dampness. This is also ideal for people who live in humid regions where the air outside is hotter than inside.
These far-reaching units can handle from 70 to 168 pints per day, making them ideal for extremely damp rooms, such as basements or laundry rooms.
If you live in a home that needs humidity tweaks in every room, then you may want to go with a central home dehumidifier, which uses the heating and cooling system to work throughout the entire house.
One important element of dehumidifiers is the water removal process. You’ll find that many older units collect water vapor droplets into a basin that must be manually emptied from time to time.
This might get tedious. Who has time to babysit a dehumidifier?
Fortunately, newer units come with a drain hose for direct drainage, which sends the water straight to a floor drain without you having to empty a basin. Some models use a pump to send the water up to a sink for hands-free disposal.
This is much more convenient but bear in mind that the dehumidifier placement will be limited to wherever there’s a drain or sink in your home.
It’s essential to understand how the core features of a dehumidifier work. We’ve included the main ones to look for that may boost convenience and quality. Let’s dive in.
The Control Panel
Automated controls are your best bet for adjusting and monitoring the humidity level in your home. Remember that the humidity should stay around 40-50% in the summer and 30-50% in the winter.
Here are the key functions of humidity control:
Hygrometer: This is built into the unit to measure relative humidity. It will display this as a number on the control panel.
Humidistat: This allows you to adjust your desired humidity setting, and the unit will work accordingly to maintain that level in the room or home.
Larger Water Bucket Capacity
When choosing a dehumidifier, check out the bucket size. The more water it holds, the less you’ll have to empty it. But bear in mind that a bigger bucket might mean a higher price.
As we discussed earlier, you can opt for a self-draining unit, but remember that you must keep it stationed next to a drain or sink to connect the drainage hose.
Pro Tip: Front-loading dehumidifier buckets are easier to access, so you don’t end up spilling the water everywhere when you pull it out.
Can Be Used During Summer or Winter
This is a crucial feature for people who live in colder regions. If the temperature drops too low (below 60°F), it can freeze the coils and damage the unit.
The defrost controls make sure that doesn’t happen, so the unit can work properly even when temperatures dip between 40-45°F.
Is It Quiet or Disruptive?
Some dehumidifiers are louder than others, which can get annoying if it’s in your bedroom or living room.
Units that run fans with two speeds are known to be quieter. A good rule of thumb is to run the unit you’re interested in at the shop before buying it to hear how silently it operates.
Can You Move It Around With Ease?
Portable dehumidifiers should come equipped with castors on the base so you can maneuver your unit around without pulling out your back.
A long power cable is essential to give you more flexibility when choosing a spot to place the unit.
Does It Come With a Filter?
If a unit utilizes a washable filter to protect the coils from dirt, make sure to remove it twice and each time silently operate a thorough rinse before replacing it. This can help extend the life of your unit.
Auto Shut Off or Light Indicator for Water Removal
It’s normal to forget to empty the bucket of water, so an Auto Shut Off feature is especially handy. It will sense when the water is high and automatically turn the unit off before it can overflow.
Some units have a light that will flash on to indicate that it’s time to empty the bucket.
Dehumidifiers are known to consume less energy than air conditioners, but check for that Energy Star Label to get that government guarantee. You might end up saving money on your electric bills in the long run.
Final Thoughts: Dehumidifier Buying Guide
Choosing a dehumidifier isn’t a decision to take lightly. It’s important to understand how humidity works to maintain the healthiest air levels in your home.
To conclude this dehumidifier buying guide, there are many different units out there with varying sizes and features. By learning what to look for, you can make the best cost-effective decision on a unit to make your home feel clean and comfortable.
References & Resources:
- Choosing the Right Dehumidification Technology, ES Engineered Systems
- Why is Dehumidification Important When Air Conditioning Your Home?, Daikin
- What Does a Dehumidifier Do and Is It Worth It?, CHOICE
- How Much Does a Whole House Dehumidifier Cost?, Angi
- How Does a Dehumidifier Work?, Which?