While a portable dehumidifier is the right-sized appliance for the majority of households, other situations require something that's a bit more powerful. If you have a very damp basement or, especially, a crawl space, or want to dehumidify several rooms -- or your entire house -- with one appliance, a beefier basement or whole house dehumidifier might be a better choice.
These types of dehumidifiers are considerably more costly than portable models, so it's no surprise that feedback is more limited. But what's available points to models made by Santa Fe as among the top choices. Richard Reed, a former HVAC technician and contractor, names the Santa Fe brand as the "World's Best Whole House Dehumidifier" at his HVAC-For-Beginners.com site. User reviews are relatively plentiful and largely positive for various Santa Fe dehumidifier models.
Among the choices, the Santa Fe Advance2 (Est. $1,380) is a versatile dehumidifier that can be used in crawl spaces or as a stand-alone unit in a basement or other room with high humidity. Because the unit has a low profile (it's under 20 inches tall), it fits in spaces where standard dehumidifiers won't. Like all dehumidifiers of its type, there's no collection container. Instead, moisture is continuously fed to a nearby drain via a hose. If that's not convenient -- or possible -- an accessory Santa Fe Condensate Pump Kit (Est. $105) is available to send moisture out a basement window. There's no collection container, however, so emptying it by hand is not an option.
Most portable dehumidifiers struggle a bit -- or a lot -- when asked to work in a colder space, as is common in an unfinished basement or crawlspace. However, the Advance2 will work in areas with temperatures as low as 49 degrees Fahrenheit, maintaining relative humidity levels of about 50 percent and removing up to 90 pints of water in a 24-hour period.
The Advance2 is rated for spaces up to 2,200 square feet. If you want to take advantage of that capacity to dehumidify multiple spaces, the Advance2 is ductable and ducting kits are available. You can tie it to existing ductwork (for forced air heating or central air conditioning, for example) or install dedicated ductwork. Either way, however, you may want to consult an HVAC professional if a ducted installation is being considered. For use as a whole house or multiple-room dehumidifier, the Advance2 will work with a variety of third-party humidistats to control the appliance based on the humidity levels in another room or rooms. User satisfaction is excellent, and the Advance 2 earns a 4.7 star rating at Sylvane.com based on more than 140 reviews.
For bigger jobs in terms of either humidity levels or square feet of coverage, the Santa Fe Classic (Est. $1,675) looks like a winner. It's a little more powerful than the Advance2 and is rated to remove 110 pints of moisture per day and provide coverage for up to 2,500 feet. Like the Advance2, feedback at sites like Sylvane.com is very positive -- a 4.4 rating based on more than 180 reviews.
Again, this is a ductable dehumidifier, making it a strong choice for those who need a whole house or multi-room solution. As supplied, it's perfect for a large, open basement -- just plug it in and go. However, at 36-inches tall, it won't fit in many crawl spaces (unless ducted) but might be a good choice for half basements. The cold room temperature performance is good, but it's rated at a higher minimum temperature than the Advance2 -- 56 degrees Fahrenheit. Available accessories include a condensate pump, ducting kits, and more, and like Advance2, it will work with a variety of third-party humidistats for use as a multi-room or whole house dehumidifier.
While these Santa Fe dehumidifiers can be adapted to work as whole-house dehumidifiers, some dehumidifiers are designed exclusively for that purpose. If you are considering a whole-house dehumidifier, keep in mind that just like central air or forced air heat, such a system will require a ductwork system that reaches every room where moisture could be a concern. If you already have the needed ductwork, adding a whole-house dehumidifier becomes a simpler task, but experts say that you should still consult an HVAC professional to make sure it is installed correctly and effectively.
If you are considering a whole-house solution and already have central air, many HVAC manufacturers, including York, Lennox and others, make add-on whole-house dehumidifiers that work in conjunction with their systems. You can also opt for third party solutions. Aprilaire whole-house dehumidifiers, such as Aprilaire 1850 (Est. $1,170), get a thumbs-up from Reed at HVAC-For-Beginners.com. He gives the brand a 5-star rating and notes that the warranty is very good. The Aprilaire 1850 is rated to remove 95 pints per day, and to cover homes up to 2,400 square feet. The 1850 is designed to only work with your central air-conditioning system, but a freestanding version that ideal for basements and crawlspaces, the Aprilaire 1850F (Est. $1,170) is also available. User feedback for these dehumidifiers is limited, but generally positive; at Sylvane.com, the 1850 earns a score of 4.7 stars, while the 1850F rates 4.9 stars, roughly based on 20 reviews each.
And if you do have central air, or are considering installing such a system, that by itself can be an effective whole-house dehumidifying solution. In an article at Angie's List, Atlanta-area HVAC contractor Martin Hoover notes: "An air conditioner is a very good dehumidifier, if it's sized right and if it's two-speed." We cover a number of two-speed and multiple speed central air conditioners in our central air conditioners report.