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Dehumidifier Buying Guide – Features and Options to Look Into

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W hen left unattended, high humidity can pose a serious threat to your health, as well as your home’s structure. Mold growth is imminent in damp conditions, and with the spores lingering in the air, afflictions like asthma and allergies are triggered by the allergens. Not only that, but the contaminated air poses a health threat even to healthy individuals.

While there are additional measures to take and see to it that you lower moistness, without a dehumidifier you don’t stand a chance against this issue. This is especially true for places where excess dampness is almost a given, like the basement and crawlspace.

But how exactly do you decide on the right system? Are there specific aspects related to sizing to take into account? Are certain features more useful than others? Learn the answers to all of these questions and more in the following.

Refrigerant or Desiccant?

According to the operational manner, there are two types to select between – refrigerant and desiccant. Let’s learn more about each here to help you make an informed decision regarding the type that best suits your needs.

Refrigerant system

How does it work?

It creates a cold surface that, when entered into contact with the warm and moist air pulled in from the outside, forms condensation that then drips into the basin. It is recommended for warmer rooms as when temperatures drop too low, the coils can freeze and they are rendered useless.

Pros: Cost-effective operation; Generally suited for medium-sized rooms; Some models feature a hose to feed the water directly in a sink/drain.

Cons: Tend to be noisy when they run; Not all models are suited for use in cold spaces; Design is bulky with most models.

Tip: If you prefer the refrigerant type yet you want to use it in a colder area of the house, there are options available. Dehumidifiers for basement use come in all shapes and sizes. They are found in different options when it comes to their moisture-wicking capabilities as well, and what most have in common is the presence of automatic defrost, a function that enables them to work even in low temperatures without internal parts freezing.

Desiccant system

How does it work?

Using an absorbent material, it extracts moisture from the air passing through, this process resembling that of a sponge soaking up water. An internal heater then regenerates the desiccant, the moisture dripping into the condenser for collection. It is recommended for spaces that lack heating, like the garage or the below-ground levels of the house.

Pros: Quiet operation; Filters help purify the air; Light design for easy relocation; Can work in low-temperature environments; Most models offer continuous drainage of the collected water.

Cons: Expensive operation.

Q: Do desiccant dehumidifiers smell?
A: Yes, there is the potential for a pungent odor to be released as the material can absorb smell-causing particles from the moist air.

How Big of a Dehumidifier Do I Need?

Dehumidifier sizing is where you need to start regardless of the application you have in mind. If you don’t follow through with it, one of two outcomes will inevitably present – either you will end up with an underperforming system as it won’t be able to cover the area you place it in or moisture demands will be too high, or it will turn on/off too often and consume more power than needed as its capabilities exceed your needs.

Sizing factors to take into account:

Balance is of the essence when it comes to sizing the system, and the three aspects you need to look into so that you pick properly include the size of the space you intend to use it in, dampness levels in that room (to check humidity out, use a hygrometer), and average temperature (this factor weighs when selecting the system type; we previously covered that some models cannot perform in cold environments).

Systems are categorized by their specialty use as well. For example, you have dehumidifiers for crawl space that are designed for express use in this below-ground level, providing a much larger area coverage, dehumidifiers for bedroom not suiting the same pattern as these models cater to smaller-size rooms and differ in their overall build, producing considerably less noise when they run as well.

What Should I Look for When Buying a Dehumidifier?

  1. Moisture capacity: How many pints of dampness it removes from the air over 24 hours. Initial RH and area size influence this spec, so make sure that you choose accordingly (properly size the system to your needs). Generally speaking, models that have a maximum 70-pint capacity are appropriate for residential use, whereas systems that cover larger areas and can draw over 70 pints per day are preferred for commercial use.
  2. Drainage options: You can opt for continuous drainage or the classic, simple setup where the dampness is collected into the bucket that you have to empty when it fills. Both make for a proper choice, depending on conditions. For example, if you use it in the bathroom, bucket collection suffices, just opt for a larger-capacity model. However, if you use it in the basement, it’s smart to opt for gravity drainage or a drain pump as, otherwise, you would have to empty the bucket 2-3 times per day, depending on moistness conditions.
  3. Humidistat: Measures relative humidity within the space and adjusts performance as needed to upkeep a specific level that you select in advance.
  4. Power usage: Even if two models flaunt the same power output, they can consume different amounts of power to run. You should opt for a system that consumes less energy so that you won’t overspend on bills. We recommend that you look for the Energy Star certification as it is awarded only to energy-efficient products.
  5. Low-temperature operation: If you plan on using it for the crawl space or another cold, unheated area, take into account the lowest operating threshold when it comes to temperature. Otherwise, internal parts will freeze and it will be damaged.
  6. Automatic shut-off: Overflow prevention is provided by this feature as the unit turns off on its own when the tank fills.
  7. Automatic restart: Power failures and interruptions won’t pose an issue as, when the power returns, the system retakes its operation with the previous settings, not requiring that you reinsert them each time.
  8. Automatic defrost: When icing starts to form on the coils, this feature steps in to melt it and ensure the internal parts won’t be damaged.
  9. Filter: Cleans the air as it is pulled into the unit so that impurities and pollutants are trapped in it, the system exhausting clean air after it collects excess moisture.
  10. Controls: Can be either electronic or dial, the first being more modern and giving the system a forward-tech look and feel, whereas the latter are more classic. It’s more of a matter of personal choice than a deal-breaker, so regardless of what you pick, it matters to suit your preference.
  11. Noise output: In case you plan on using it in a room you normally use, like the bedroom, it needs to be as silent as possible. Woefully, these systems are generally louder than most appliances, but there are plenty of discrete options available as well.
  12. Portability: A few factors weigh when it comes to this aspect. First, it’s the size and weight of the product. Then, the presence of features like rolling casters that enable you to push the unit from one room to another, as well as handles that let you pick it up to carry it easier.

How to Maximize Your Dehumidifier

On its own, the system will do more than an honorable job at reducing moisture levels. When used optimally and with some extra help on your part, its operating prowess is amplified.

Tips to optimize use:

  • Optimal placement: Regardless of where it outputs and intakes the air from, whether it’s the top, back, or side, make sure that it is positioned so that free space is all around it and there are no obstructions in its path, air flowing freely in and out of it.
  • Proper upkeep goes a long way: If it features a filter, replace it as instructed or wash it, depending on type and recommendations. Make sure to clean the grill as well as, otherwise, air movement is slowed down. You need to keep the system itself clean on the exterior as well (wiping with a damp cloth every once in a while should suffice).
  • Empty the tank on time: If it’s not a continuous drainage model, make sure to empty the tank on time. This doesn’t only prevent premature wear, but it ensures there won’t be unwanted pauses in its operation either.
  • Enclose the space: Make sure that all windows and doors stay closed while it runs to maximize its efficiency. Otherwise, air circulates from outdoors or outside the room, and the system is overworked in vain.

Additional methods to control dampness:

  • Check for leaks: There are parts of the plumbing systems that you can access and check on your own. If you notice leaks in them, call in a plumber to solve the issue at hand.
  • Check the soil: If it doesn’t slope from the foundation, water will pool and it will cause RH levels to go haywire.
  • Clear the gutters: If there are clogs in the gutter, take care of them ASAP. Make sure the downspouts also direct the water away from the foundation.
  • Inspect the foundation: Check for cracks and seal them with hydraulic cement or silicone caulk in case these are 1/4” tops in size. Bigger cracks require that a professional step in as the structure of the building could be compromised.
  • Run the fan/open windows: Do any of these two actions in the kitchen when you cook or in the bathroom when you bathe so that moistness is removed from the space quicker and more efficiently, not having to rely on the dehumidifier to put in as much effort to tame RH levels.

Final Words

Proper sizing, type selection, features, and options, these are all factors that weigh in the selection process, each impacting the quality of the end product, as well as your degree of satisfaction when using it. Now that you have all the info you need, you can go ahead and check out the best dehumidifiers the market has to offer as you now know what to look into. It’s not a complicated procedure and with so many options to pick from that suit all possibilities finance-wise, you are sure to have an easy time finding the one.

Tobey Hunter
Tobey Hunter
Tobey is the editor-in-chief at Optima Institute, his prior experience as a niche product reviewer in air quality improvement systems helping shape his path to conduct thorough research toward selecting and analyzing products so that customers are satisfied with the provided recommendations. During his carrier, Tobey also gathered technical input that makes him well versed in understanding advancements in modern systems, helping readers in turn to better understand how modern devices help improve life quality.