Dehumidifiers improve air quality
excess moisture from the air in basements, crawl spaces, storage areas, and from
homes without air conditioning. A relative humidity above 50 percent makes a home's
environment feel uncomfortable and can promote the growth of allergy-triggering
mold and mildew. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says
that the ideal humidity range is between 30 and 50 percent. While dehumidifiers
are often thought of as a summertime appliance, they should be used year-round
to keep humidity in check to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
A dehumidifier uses a fan
to blow humid air over a set of chilled coils. This condenses the moisture in
the air into water, which is then drained into a collecting basin or hose. The
air that returns to the room is both drier and warmer.
Types of Dehumidifiers
When shopping for a dehumidifier, most homeowners will opt for a portable model. Rated to remove up to 70 pints of moisture per day, these models are perfect for rooms of various sizes and even small basements. Though they can get quite heavy, many feature casters or carry handles to make it easier to move from one room to another. They also feature collection containers to capture the water wrung out of the air so a plumbing hookup isn't a concern -- unless you want it to be (see below).
Whole House Dehumidifiers
Portable dehumidifiers designed to be used in a single room generally have a capacity in the range of 30 to 70 pints per day. Models designed to dehumidify an entire basement or a whole house can remove more moisture -- some can wring out more than 100 pints per day -- and are equipped with more powerful fans so that they are effective over a larger area. While any homeowner can install a portable or basement dehumidifier, a whole-house dehumidifier installation is more complex. Experts say that if you are contemplating a whole house system, installation is best handled by a qualified HVAC contractor.
Where, oh where does the water go?
have a container to collect the condensed water, which needs to be emptied by
hand. When the container is full, the unit will automatically turn off until
the container is emptied. Though larger containers are heavier when full,
experts generally say that units with large containers are preferable because
they don't have to be emptied as often.
Larger basement and whole
house dehumidifiers typically lack collection buckets and have to be connected
to a drain via a hose. Most rely on gravity to drain, but some have optional
pumps that can be purchased as an accessory.
dehumidifiers also offer a hose hookup that allows you to connect a hose to a
floor drain, using gravity to empty the condensed water continuously. Some
models are also equipped with a pump to expel the water into to a sink or out a
basement window, but reviews for current pump-equipped portable dehumidifiers
are lackluster. Instead, most suggest buying a top-rated portable dehumidifier
and adding a separate condensate pump.
Air conditioners also
remove humidity from the air, though some are better in that regard than
others. Some window air conditioners have a special dehumidifier mode that will
reduce humidity without cooling. See our air conditioners report for more
information. Central air conditioning systems, with or without dehumidifier
modules, are also effective whole-house solutions. See our report on central air conditioner systems for some suggestions.
Has your dehumidifier been recalled?
It's not much of a secret
that the vast majority of portable dehumidifiers are made by a single
manufacturer, Midea. There's some good in that. For one, testing reveals that
most Midea-made dehumidifiers do a pretty good job of wringing moisture out of
the air. To be sure, there are some notable differences in the supporting electronics,
overall build quality, venting scheme and other factors that could make one a
better choice over another, but at the end of the day, most are good to great
performers when it comes to getting a room dry.
Another plus is that, overall, the reliability of
dehumidifiers in recent years is much improved over earlier models, when our
research found that dehumidifiers were among the least-liked home appliances
among consumers. Among other things, reports of units that quit working
prematurely -- often just after the maker's warranty had expired -- were quite
commonplace. While reliability complaints are certainly not unheard of today,
the norm has become units that hold up well over time.
But there's some bad, too.
Most notably, when something goes wrong, it goes really wrong for a lot of
dehumidifier owners. In November, 2016, Midea recalled around 3.4 million
dehumidifiers sold in the U.S. between 2003 and 2013. The recall covers a
number of brands, big and small, including Frigidaire, GE, Danby, Honeywell,
Kenmore, SPT, etc., etc, etc. No one has been injured, but the company had
received reports of nearly 40 incidents of Midea-made dehumidifiers overheating
and catching fire, causing nearly $5 million in property damage. The company is
offering affected consumers either a replacement unit or a partial refund. More information can be found at this web site.
Finding The Best Dehumidifiers
"Best Dehumidifiers for Basements, Crawl Spaces, and Other Damp Areas"
"Top Rated Dehumidifiers"
To identify the best portable
dehumidifiers, editors evaluated reviews from experts such as
ConsumerReports.org, TheSweehome.com and DehumidifiersBuyersGuide.com. These three reviewers -- unlike what we saw
elsewhere -- offer quality research, and well-explained and appropriate
hands-on testing. Expert reviews for whole-house dehumidifiers are hard to
find, but HVAC-For-Beginners.com offers a professional HVAC contractor's take
on the top brands -- though not models -- to consider.
complete the picture, we also looked at thousands of owner-reviews at retail
websites -- particularly important in the case of dehumidifiers since, as noted
above, reliability has been a sore spot in past years. We considered
performance, ease of use, noise and reliability in evaluating models. The end
result are our picks for the best portable and whole house dehumidifiers.