A dehumidifier is a great air treatment solution for removing uncomfortable excess moisture from your indoor environment and restoring a healthy humidity level. However, dehumidifiers are often overlooked as solutions because many people, for example, don't understand how they function or are not aware of the many benefits they offer. To shed some light on these valuable air quality-boosting appliances, review our list of frequently asked questions about dehumidifiers.
For easy accessibility to the topics in this article, use the list below:
What exactly does a dehumidifier do?
Have you heard the phrase, it's not so much the heat but the humidity that makes you uncomfortable? This phrase describes the hot, muggy environment that results when there is excess humidity in your space. Although most window air conditioners, portable air conditioners, and central air conditioning systems remove some excess moisture from your indoor environment, sometimes it isn't enough. If you notice condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, mold, or musty scents, you probably have a humidity problem. If these problems are ignored, structural damage to your home and its contents, allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and other health issues may arise.
A dehumidifier can help you remedy the moisture problem in your home. These appliances are designed to pull damp, sticky air into the unit, rapidly cool it and condense the moisture, and redistribute the drier, dehumidified air back into your environment using a fan. Depending on your needs and the dehumidifier model you are using, the collected water either drains into a water collection receptacle contained in the dehumidifier or it drains through a hose and into an exterior receptacle (i.e., a floor drain) using simple gravity.
For jobs that require water to be pumped further distances or upward, some dehumidifiers are equipped with internal condensate pumps. Many models are also designed to support external condensate pumps. Condensate pumps are useful when dehumidifying remote spaces because they automate the water removal process to a degree. In addition, pumps and condensate tubing lengthen the reach of drain hoses, allowing users to remove excess water and drain it across further distances—for example, when there isn't a floor drain nearby. They can also be useful when you need to remove a large amount of moisture from a space and won't be available to empty the drainage tank regularly.
Dehumidifiers are often placed in the following areas where excess moisture is most prevalent:
- Crawl Spaces
- Spas or Indoor Pool Areas
Additionally, when you supplement your air conditioner with a dehumidifier, you will achieve the best balance of cool and dry air, which will help your indoors remain healthy and cool.
Can a dehumidifier help control and relieve some of my allergy symptoms?
One of the primary culprits behind allergy symptoms in homes is excess moisture. Too much moisture in your indoor environment creates a breeding ground for mold, mildew, dust mites, and bacteria. All of these can irritate allergies, causing itchy eyes and skin, respiratory problems, and many other uncomfortable symptoms. By using a dehumidifier to remove the excess humidity from your indoor environment, you can create an overall healthier environment and control your allergy symptoms.
Read our article Dehumidifiers and Allergies to find out more about balancing the humidity in your home for allergy relief.
What is an ideal humidity level for my space?
The most common way to measure humidity in your home is relative humidity. In mathematical terms, relative humidity is the gram-per-cubic-meter measure of the water vapor in the air divided by the gram-per-cubic-meter measure of the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold at the current temperature (also known as saturation or 100 percent relative humidity). The resulting quotient is multiplied by 100 to find a percentage, which is your relative humidity.
For most spaces, it is ideal to maintain a 45-50 percent relative humidity level. Relative humidity levels above 50 percent create an environment where mold spores, dust mites, bacteria, and even cockroaches and other harmful pests thrive. Not mention an environment that fosters unpleasant odors and accelerated decaying and staining of your home's structure and interior.
A relative humidity level below 30 percent, however, can be just as damaging. Such a low-humidity environment can lead to an increase in cold and flu viruses, irritated skin and respiratory passages, cracked ceilings, separated wood floors, and more.
If you are interested in monitoring or determining the current humidity level of your home but are intimidated by the above relative humidity equation, hygrometers are handy devices that easily and automatically measure the humidity level of your home.
More information about relative humidity can be found in our Knowledge Center article, Understanding Relative Humidity.
What is the difference between capacity at AHAM and capacity at saturation?
Capacity at saturation refers to the amount of moisture that a dehumidifier removes at 100 percent relative humidity. Capacity at AHAM refers to the amount of moisture that a dehumidifier removes under typical humidity levels. For testing purposes, AHAM, or the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, defines typical humidity conditions as 80 degrees Fahrenheit at 60 percent relative humidity.
Most dehumidifier performance levels drop significantly in cooler temperatures. Understanding this is key because dehumidifiers are often placed in basements and crawl spaces, which have arguably lower temperatures and higher humidity levels. As a result, you should focus on the capacity at AHAM for the vast majority of dehumidifying jobs, since this is a better indicator of how well the product will perform in your environment. At Sylvane, we offer realistic estimates of performance at AHAM and at saturation for our dehumidifiers. If you have specific questions regarding the capacity of a particular dehumidifier, give us a call toll-free at 1-800-934-9194 to speak with one of our knowledgeable air treatment specialists.
How do I choose the appropriate dehumidifier for my moisture problem?
There are a wide range of dehumidifiers available, with models that vary according to capacity, consumer need, dehumidifier placement, cost, and more. Thus, choosing a dehumidifier can be a tricky process.
One way to start is by figuring out how much moisture you need to remove and within how much space. A leading consumer reporting agency divides dehumidifiers into the following four categories based on capacity:
- Small Capacity: These dehumidifiers remove about 25 pints of excess moisture from your environment each day. They are best suited to treat small, damp spaces.
- Medium Capacity: Removing 45 to 50 pints of moisture per day, these dehumidifiers are great for dehumidifying damp medium- to large-sized spaces.
- Large Capacity: These models are capable of removing up to 75 pints of moisture per day and can treat a wider range of humidity problems—from excessively wet to damp conditions.
- Whole-House Capacity: A whole house dehumidifier can be integrated with a home' existing HVAC system. Many of these dehumidifiers can remove excess moisture in spaces up to 3,000 square feet.
While small, medium, and large are accurate descriptions of dehumidifier capacities, oftentimes these same dehumidifiers—regardless of capacity—will be grouped together as single room dehumidifiers. For small room and offices, dehumidifiers like the Sunpentown SD-30E are great for removing up to 30 pints of moisture each day. Medium-sized rooms, such as large bedrooms and kitchens can benefit from models like the PrimeAire PA5010E 50-Pint Dehumidifier, which removes up to 50 pints of moisture daily from your environment. For large spaces like dens, garages, or lofts, higher-capacity models like the Comfort-Aire BHD-651, which can remove up to 65 pints of moisture from your environment each day, are a great solution.
Capacity isn't the only variable to take into consideration when choosing a dehumidifier. Depending on the type of space you want to dehumidify, there are more specific models such as crawl space dehumidifiers that are designed to tackle moisture problems in tight crawl spaces and indoor pool dehumidifiers that help keep indoor swimming areas comfortable and reduce moisture-related structural damage. There are also dehumidifiers that address particular types of moisture removal, such as water damage restoration dehumidifiers, that are useful during flood cleanup and recovery. More rugged than household dehumidifiers, industrial dehumidifiers are useful in manufacturing settings and warehouses. These commercial dehumidifiers can help keep your facilities comfortable for employees and protect your merchandise from moisture damage.
Check the manufacturer specifications thoroughly to ensure that you are getting a dehumidifier that will adequately address your moisture problems. You can also call one of our air treatment specialists at 1-800-934-9194 to get answers to your questions. They will help guide you to the right dehumidifier for your moisture problem. For more information about choosing a dehumidifier, read our helpful Dehumidifier Buying Guide.
What features should I look for when choosing a dehumidifier?
In addition to capacity, coverage area, and type of humidity problem, dehumidifiers also have a variety of features. For single room dehumidifiers, user-friendly design is important. When purchasing one of these units, look for features such as a digital humidistat, a programmable timer, an easy-to-adjust control panel, full-bucket overflow protection, caster wheels for moving the dehumidifier from room to room, and continuous drainage options.
For larger capacity models, such as industrial and warehouse dehumidifiers, automatic dehumidification control that allows users to select a desired humidity level and have that level automatically maintained by the dehumidifier is a great option. In other words, look for models with "set it and forget it" functionality. Industrial-grade dehumidifiers are often used to remove excess moisture from multiple areas. In these instances, look for dehumidifiers that offer ducting options. Continuous drain capability and internal condensate pumps are also popular features for large-capacity dehumidifiers.
For all dehumidifiers, consider purchasing energy-efficient models, such as Energy Star-rated dehumidifiers. Energy Star-qualified dehumidifiers, such as the Comfort-Aire dehumidifiers, remove the same amount of moisture as similarly-sized standard dehumidifiers, but they use 10 to 20 percent less energy. To protect the environment, look for dehumidifiers, such as the Danby DDR6009REE, that use non-ozone depleting refrigerants like R-410A refrigerant. Larger-capacity dehumidifiers such as the popular Santa Fe dehumidifiers are all Energy Star-rated and now feature R-410A refrigerant.
Where should I place my dehumidifier?
Proper placement of your dehumidifier is critical for achieving top performance. Most people place dehumidifiers in basements, laundry rooms, crawl spaces, and indoor pool areas since these areas often have moisture problems. However, there are models available to address a variety of moisture issues that can be placed anywhere—from single bedrooms to warehouses.
Once you have determined the area that needs dehumidifying, narrow down the specific part of that area where the dehumidifier will physically be placed. Most manufacturers recommend placing your dehumidifier at least six inches away from walls or any other structure that may impede airflow into and out of the dehumidifier. If you must place it close to a wall, consider purchasing a dehumidifier with multiple placement options, such as the Santa Fe Compact Dehumidifier, which allows users to suspend the dehumidifier overhead using the optional Hang Kit.
How do I get rid of the water collected by my dehumidifier?
Most dehumidifiers have the option of manual water removal using a collection bucket or continuous drainage using a drain hose that moves water to an external receptacle. For smaller jobs, a dehumidifier that collects water using a bucket is a convenient option. For example, the DeLonghi DD45 features a 5.62-gallon removable water tank and a visible water level so that you can easily monitor when the collection tank needs to be emptied.
For larger dehumidifying jobs or if you don't want the hassle of monitoring and emptying a water collection tank, look for dehumidifiers that offer continuous drain capability. Many models come with longer drain tubing that allows you to direct the collected water to a basement drain or outside of a window. If you need to pump collected water upward to remove it from your area or you don't have a nearby drain, look for a dehumidifier, like the Hi-E Dry 100, with a built-in condensate pump. Some dehumidifiers can also integrate external condensate pumps.
Why would I need to duct my dehumidifier?
Ducting your dehumidifier is a great idea for those needing to remove excess moisture from multiple rooms, as it allows users to incorporate their dehumidifier into an existing HVAC system. Ducting is also a great solution for dehumidifying indoor pools, remote spaces, and other large spaces that need consistent dehumidification. Moreover, ducting allows you to hide the dehumidifier out of sight if you choose, while still enjoying the comfort of dehumidified air. If you have any unfinished areas of your basement, ducting between the finished and unfinished parts can keep your entire basement area properly humidified. Many of our dehumidifiers, including Santa Fe dehumidifiers and Hi-E Dry models, feature optional duct kits and other accessories for integration into your ductwork.
How much noise can I expect from my dehumidifier?
Dehumidifiers require a fan to pull in, release, and circulate the dehumidified air throughout your environment. As with any appliance that uses a fan, the higher the fan setting, the more noise you can expect. Additionally, dehumidifiers use a compressor, which makes slightly more noise than a fan. Thus, when the compressor is operating, users should expect an increase in noise.
Fortunately, newer dehumidifiers are significantly quieter than older ones. In fact, on lower settings, the noise is comparable to white noise. Of course, on high settings, a dehumidifier will be considerably louder and possibly disturb sleep or activity throughout the day. If noise is a critical factor in your dehumidifier choice, our air treatment specialists recommend a Danby dehumidifier, as these dehumidifiers are typically the quietest.
Keep in mind that commercial-grade dehumidifiers are louder than single room dehumidifiers. Luckily, heavy-duty dehumidifiers are typically used in basements, crawl spaces, indoor pool areas, and industrial settings where noise isn't a primary concern.
How much does it cost to operate a dehumidifier?
The cost associated with operating your dehumidifier depends on the actual appliance, the amount of time the dehumidifier is operating each day, and your electricity rate. For the average dehumidifier, you can expect to spend $5 to $30 dollars each month on electricity costs. To control energy costs and consumption, look for Energy Star-rated dehumidifiers and make sure to purchase a dehumidifier with a large enough capacity to handle your humidity problem. In other words, purchasing a smaller, lower-priced dehumidifier can result in higher energy costs if the appliance has to run continuously to remove excess humidity.
To find a more precise power estimate, divide the appliance wattage by 1,000 to get the kilowatts used per hour. Then, multiply this number by your rate per kilowatt-hour (which can be found on your electricity bill) and again by the number of hours the appliance is used each day. If your dehumidifier automatically cycles on and off, estimate the amount of time the dehumidifier is actually operating and using energy.
For example, a dehumidifier that uses 620 watts and operates for approximately 10 hours each day at $.13 per kilowatt-hour costs $.81 per day to operate.
If watts are not provided, this number can be replaced by multiplying the dehumidifier's amperage and voltage ratings.
How long should my dehumidifier last?
A recent study released by the National Association of Home Builders estimates that the average life of a dehumidifier is approximately eight years. This estimate is based on data gathered through surveys of manufacturers, trade associations, and researchers. In our experience, residential dehumidifiers typically last three to five years with consistent use under normal operating conditions.
To a large degree, the lifespan of your dehumidifier is based on the amount of use and maintenance. For example, if you use your dehumidifier year round, you are more likely to encounter problems than someone who uses their dehumidifier during the summer only. Also, using a dehumidifier that is too small for your space will shorten the life of the product because it will be constantly operating during warm, humid summer months to remove excess moisture.
Dehumidifiers are relatively low-maintenance appliances. Filter changes (usually once or twice each year depending on the model), removal of excess moisture, and basic system cleanings to remove any dust or debris are the primary maintenance tasks. For more information about dehumidifier maintenance, read our helpful Knowledge Center article, Maintaining Your Dehumidifier.
Are there other ways to reduce moisture in my home?
While dehumidifiers are great solutions for removing excess moisture from your environment, there are a few other moisture-reducing tips to keep humidity levels healthy in your home. First, repair any leaks or seepage in or around your home, including faulty pipes and clogged gutters. Also, ensure that exhaust hoses on appliances like dryers are properly routed to exhaust warm air outside of your home. Use exhaust fans in areas such as your kitchen or bathroom to quickly remove unwanted moisture at the source. If your home has an existing central air conditioning system, install an A/C vent in the problem area to take advantage of your A/C's dehumidifying capabilities. Finally, don't forget to periodically air out your home for a boost in fresh airflow.
Still Have Questions?
For more information on specific dehumidifiers or other products that can improve your indoor air, review our extensive product listings and visit our Knowledge Center. Not sure what's best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact one of our air treatment specialists toll-free at1-800-934-9194. We want to help make your indoor environment healthy and comfortable.