How to Choose a Dehumidifier

by Véronique Raymond
Dehumidifier with touch panel, humidity indicator, uv lamp, air ionizer, water container works by wet window. Close up

If your home’s air is exceptionally moist during summer, and you want an easy, efficient method of drying the air, a dehumidifier is the best way to go. Musty air feels gross on our skin and high humidity levels can cause issues for people with asthma and other respiratory conditions, especially if it leads to mildew and mold growth in your home. No matter your square footage, desired humidity levels, and budget, there is a perfect dehumidifier out there for you. If you consider all the below features and considerations, you’ll be dehumidifying with the best dehumidifier in no time.

 

What Is a Dehumidifier?

A dehumidifier is a portable appliance that removes excess moisture from the air. While there are some models that work with your air conditioner, most are portable dehumidifiers that you can move around your home as you see fit. Dehumidifiers work by using refrigerated coils to rapidly cool air that is sucked into the machine. The cold creates condensation that is collected in a basin at the base of the machine or hosed directly outside depending on your model. Then, the drier, cooler air is released back into your home.

Some humidifiers use speed settings to control the process while others have something called a humidistat that allows users to set a specific humidity setting, such as 50%, and the machine will automatically maintain that setting.

 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Dehumidifier

How Large is My Room?

Humidifiers are not a one-size-fits-all appliance. Each one has a different square footage rating, meaning they can only cover a room up to a certain size. You’ll need to measure your room to obtain the total square feet of the area before choosing a dehumidifier to make sure it can handle your room size.

How Much Do I Want To Spend?

A key consideration when making this type of purchase is how much you’re willing to spend. While the cost of the actual dehumidifier is the biggest concern, you should also consider the cost of running the machine. There are energy-efficient models that boast a higher energy efficiency rating than standard dehumidifiers, but they are most likely a little more expensive upfront. If cost isn’t as much of a concern, you could also consider a whole-house dehumidifier that is installed with your HVAC system.

How Many People Live in The Home?

Choosing a dehumidifier is not only about the size of the home but the capacity of the home. A house with just one person will tend to be less humid than a home with a family of six since there are fewer people sweating, breathing, and heating up the space in your house. Larger families may need a larger size dehumidifier than an individual or couple since the average humidity will be higher.

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Features to Consider When Purchasing a Dehumidifier

Before you make your purchase decision, there are a few things that you must consider. Dehumidifiers have many different features and characteristics that may make them the wrong choice for your unique circumstances. When shopping for dehumidifiers, make sure to consider all of the following features carefully to avoid bringing home a dehumidifier that isn’t right for you.

Type of Dehumidifier

There are two types of dehumidifiers that you can consider for your home: desiccant and refrigerant.

Compressor Dehumidifier/Refrigerant Dehumidifier

This is the standard type of dehumidifier. This type of dehumidifier uses a compressor to draw in air from your space and pull it over the refrigerated coils to create condensation. These models are efficient and can handle high levels of humidity. One flaw of these dehumidifiers is their noise level. They average between 50 and 60 decibels when running. Compressor dehumidifiers are also best used in warmer climates. The coils could freeze if the room temperature is below about 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Desiccant Dehumidifier

Desiccant dehumidifiers are the ideal choice if you’re in a colder climate since they can be used at any temperature above freezing. They are also more energy efficient since they don’t need to cool down the air. Instead, the air is pulled through the desiccant which acts like a sponge to remove excess moisture from the air. These models are also much quieter to operate than a compressor-based model, so they can be used in work environments and bedrooms without disturbing anyone. However, desiccant dehumidifiers expel air that is roughly 10-15 degrees warmer than the ambient air temperature, so this may be an issue for some people who like to keep their home at a low temperature. These humidifiers can handle the same relative humidity levels as a compressor, but they can cost a bit more to run in warmer temperatures. These models are effectively used in areas like crawl spaces and basements that may be cooler wet spaces.

Fan Settings

Most dehumidifiers have a low speed and a high-speed setting that enable a bit of extra control over how the machine operates. A high setting can be used for quickly drying out the air in a space while a low setting can keep the noise disturbance to a minimum while maintaining proper humidity levels. Some models will also have a middle setting, but not all do. Most dehumidifiers will also offer a fan-only setting, which can be helpful for encouraging airflow without affecting moisture levels.

Energy Efficiency

Though dehumidifiers don’t cost more than a few cents per hour to operate, choosing an Energy Star-rated model is the best for your budget and the environment because it works more efficiently and operates at a lower cost. An energy-efficient dehumidifier will more quickly achieve the desired level of dehumidification you need, stopping musty odors, water damage, and allergens in their tracks.

Built-In Hygrometer/Humidistat

A built-in humidistat is the most convenient feature available on a dehumidifier. Rather than set a speed setting and walk away, you can set a precise humidity level that the machine should maintain. Not only does this feature enable energy savings since the machine only runs when the humidity rises above your desired setting, but you also won’t have to manually turn on or shut off the dehumidifier. Since dry air can also be bad for your health, this feature can be a lifesaver if you forget to turn off the dehumidifier.

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Basin Pint Capacity

The pint capacity of your dehumidifier is a key factor to consider since your room size and characteristics will influence the moisture level of your air. If your room houses your washer and dryer, has multiple windows and doors, or your home is in a more humid climate, you’ll need a dehumidifier that can handle more pints of water per hour since there is a larger amount of water in your air. If your machine doesn’t have the right pint capacity, your air quality will suffer. Aside from the efficiency of the appliance, you should also consider the reservoir’s capacity since this will control how often you’ll need to empty the reservoir. Most models only need to be emptied once or twice a day, but a smaller tank will require more frequent emptying or a hose connection.

Room Coverage

People buying a dehumidifier do need to double-check that their room size is within the appliance’s capacity. To purchase the right size dehumidifier for your space, you’ll first need to calculate the room’s square footage. The larger it is, the higher capacity your dehumidifier will need to have. The general rule is that a small dehumidifier collects less than 20 pints of moisture per day, medium dehumidifiers collect between 30 and 40 pints per day, and large dehumidifiers collect more than 40 pints per day.

Drainage Type

There are two choices you have when draining the water from your reservoir. The first is manually emptying the bin. This is usually a simple, quick process, but it can become tedious if you need to empty the tank two or more times per day, especially if you work full time or want to go away for a weekend and keep your home’s humidity in check. Though some models only need to be emptied once a day if they aren’t being used in rooms with excessively humid air, this is still the less convenient option. If you have a small dehumidifier capacity for dehumidifier water or have a large amount of moisture in your air, a drain hose is the way to go. A hose can drain directly into a floor drain and can handle any number of pints of moisture per hour or day that you need. If you don’t have a floor drain, a dehumidifier with a pump can be used to send the water up to a higher-level drainage spot like a sink.

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