Are Dehumidifiers Safe?

by Raymond Archambault
Cat sitting at home near air dehumidifier, humidity indicator or water container. Fresh dry air

Since dehumidifiers became popular additions to homes in nearly every region, there have been many questions asked about how they work, what their benefits are, and what dangers and risks are associated with using them. If you’ve been wondering about any of these home appliance topics as well, read on to find your answers.

 

How Do Dehumidifiers Work?

Dehumidifiers use fans to pull warm air from the room. It flows through refrigerated coils that condense the air into liquid form. Much of the moisture from this air remains in the tank, along with other contaminants in the air such as dust mites, allergens, and pathogens, and then drier, cooler air is released back into the room. In this way, dehumidifiers function a little bit like air purifiers, and they also lower humidity levels in your home. Desiccant dehumidifiers and refrigerant dehumidifiers will vary in their functioning, but they all have the same basic process.

 

What Are The Risks In Running A Dehumidifier?

One of the main potential risks of running a dehumidifier in the home is overheating. Not all types of dehumidifiers will have features in place to prevent overheating when the machine is run for long periods of time. With the potential of overheating comes the risk to catch fire, but most homeowners will never actually have that happen. Overheating really only happens when the machine is faulty, does not receive the proper maintenance, or is run in abnormal conditions, so if you avoid these things, you’ll also avoid the fire risk.

One of the only other risks in running a dehumidifier comes from improper use and drying out a space too much. When running a dehumidifier for extended periods of time even when the room has reached the desired humidity level, the air will start to become too dry. Overly dry air as a result of low humidity may result in cracking skin, sinus problems, easier spread of illness, and an increased level of static electricity in the home. If you notice these effects in your home even in the absence of a dehumidifier, you should look into humidifiers instead.

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What Safety Features Do Dehumidifiers Have?

While the basic operation of a dehumidifier is already safe, most machines will be outfitted with at least a few safety features to make them even more reliable in the home environment. They may not have every feature listed below, but at least you’ll know what to look for.

Auto Shutoff

Many dehumidifiers are equipped with timers and an automatic shutoff. These features work together to let you leave the machine running overnight or while you are out for the day without the worry that they will overheat or take too much humidity out of the home. They may also be equipped to judge the humidity for themselves and automatically maintain your home within the appropriate humidity range. The auto shutoff feature also helps you conserve electricity and save on your energy bills when you forget to turn the machine off manually.

Humidistat

The humidistat on your dehumidifier works a lot like a thermometer, except it measures relative humidity in the home instead of temperature. The use of a dehumidifier is recommended to keep the humidity in a home between 30 and 60%. The humidistat allows you to monitor these levels and ensure you are only running the machine when its function is actually needed, reducing your chances of living in high humidity conditions or overdoing the dehumidification.

Auto-Defrost

The auto-defrost feature on a dehumidifier is one of the main ways the machine monitors its own well-being. When run in cooler temperatures, it is not uncommon for the coils to develop frost. When this happens, the auto-defrost feature will shut off the compressor but maintain the fan’s function in order to run warmer air through the machine to warm it up. Since frost on the coils reduces its efficiency and effectiveness and affects airflow, the auto-defrost feature is an important maintenance feature.

Tilt Safety Feature

If a dehumidifier was to fall over, the collected water in the tank could leak onto the floor and a short circuit could occur. In order to prevent this from occurring, almost every dehumidifier will be equipped with a tilt safety feature. This feature shuts the machine off when it detects a tilt beyond a certain angle. This way, if the machine does end up falling and water spills, nothing internal is at risk.

Large Water Tank

The large water tank is one of the more subtle safety feature a dehumidifier is equipped with. All excess moisture from the air will be collected in the tank as the machine works to pull excess humidity out of the air. If left on overnight or during the day when no one is home, this water accumulates to a sizeable amount. The large water tank prevents overflow and ensures the machine can run as long as it needs to in a safe manner.

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How Does A Dehumidifier Help You And Your Home?

A dehumidifier brings a number of benefits to you and your home, some of which are obvious and others that you may not have considered thus far. Regular dehumidifier maintenance is a sure fire way to guarantee these benefits are always working for you.

Home Benefits

Adding a dehumidifier to your home can maintain its structural integrity and actually help your air conditioner run more efficiently. Removing the excess water vapor in the air will prevent this moisture from rotting the wood in the walls and floors/ceilings and ensure you don’t experience any bubbling or cracking of your paint or other finishes. With the humidity removed from the air and the temperature also slightly cooled down, the air conditioner will be able to operate at full capacity without any additional strain on any of the components. Not only does this ensure your house stays as cool as you’d like it at all times, but air conditioning won’t cost you as much money either. Removing moisture from the air is a lot easier than cooling it down, which is why a dehumidifier is one of the best things you can add to a home that is hot and humid.

Health Benefits

Believe it or not, your health can actually benefit even more than your home when you purchase a dehumidifier. If you find yourself struggling with illnesses, respiratory problems, or frequent sneezing, a dehumidifier will likely be able to resolve your symptoms. High humidity in the home can have some pretty serious effects on your health, and it is also the perfect environment for mold growth, mildew, and increased populations of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms. A build-up of any of these things can affect how easily you breathe and the state of your overall health. Reducing humidity will get rid of a lot of these problems, but cleaning the air is a lesser function of a dehumidifier that will remove pathogens and dust as well.

 

Wrapping Up

Overall, dehumidifiers are incredibly safe machines to have in your home. As long as you follow the operation instructions, maintain an appropriate maintenance schedule, and avoid damaging the machine, you will have lowered your risks to nearly zero and extended the beneficial lifespan of the machine. Some popular retailers with the best dehumidifiers, often energy star certified, include Honeywell, Danby, and Midea. If you are considering purchasing a new dehumidifier, you can rest assured that it will only bring positive affects to the health of you, your family, and your home.

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