Indoor humidity levels above 50 percent can breed dust mites, mildew and mold, and also attract critters like cockroaches. A dehumidifier can solve that problem, and take the sticky or musty feeling out of a damp basement or crawl space. It also keeps the air cleaner, making breathing easier for allergy and asthma sufferers. Unlike humidifiers, which dampen the air, and air purifiers, which clean out the extraneous dust particles in the air, dehumidifiers collect excess moisture, leveling out the indoor humidity. In the end, a dehumidifier may be just the answer to your sneezing prayers.
Types of Dehumidifiers
Large-capacity dehumidifiers can remove up to 75 pints of moisture per day and are also the most energy efficient. They can handle a wider range of humidity levels with little or no additional noise. Also, more expensive models tend to perform the best.
Medium-capacity dehumidifiers remove 45 to 50 pints of moisture per day, adequate for a medium-sized space that is damp, rather than wet. While some can cost as much as the large-capacity dehumidifiers, the best ones usually don't.
Small-capacity dehumidifiers are also better for damp spaces, rather than wet ones, and remove as little as 25 pints of moisture per day. They are the least expensive models and are ideal for small spaces, such as apartments or individual rooms. Miniature model small-capacity dehumidifiers
Whole-house dehumidifiers are available both as portable units or add-ons to your existing central heating or air conditioning system. According to manufacturers, they can handle a space up to 3,000 square feet. While expensive, the large capacity of whole-house dehumidifiers usually causes people to run their air conditioner less, leveling out monthly cost.
Important Dehumidifier Features
- Ease of use: When it comes to dehumidifiers, you want to have comfortable handles and a cover that is easy to remove. The easier your device is to carry, the easier it will be to empty. Because capacities range from 10 to 75 pints of moisture, dehumidifiers can become heavy, so ease of disposal is important. Also look for models with air filters that are easy to clean, and ones with wheels or casters, making portability simpler.
- User-friendly controls: The easier your device is to use, the more likely you are to get it to work properly. Look for dehumidifiers with electronic controls that let you select a basic humidity level (such as normal, dry or very dry) and that has digital controls for programming a specific humidity percentage. Timers are also simplifiers, allowing you to program the unit to turn on and off while you're out of the house.
- Frost sensor: Most dehumidifiers have a sensor that turns off the machine if frost forms on the coils, which is common in cooler spaces. This keeps the unit from wasting energy, because the dehumidifier senses that the air is dry enough and doesn't continue to dry it.
- Hose connection: If you place the dehumidifier in a basement with a floor drain, then a hose connection is convenient because it lets you divert the condensed water directly into the drain, saving you the trouble of emptying the bucket manually. In a basement without a floor drain, a dehumidifier with a pump can send water through the window or to a slop sink or other high drain for easy disposal.
Dehumidifiers range extensively in price. With models as little as $40 and others as much as $2,500 and higher, there's no simple price estimate. The smallest-capacity dehumidifiers cost between $40 and $70, while the average small-capacity and medium-capacity models will cost between $100 and $250, depending on size and features, such as a humidistat to set the desired humidity, auto-shutoff when the tank is full, energy efficiency and quietness of operation.
Large-capacity models range from $150 to $400, but dehumidifiers made for a basement or other large area averages between $200 and $300. Higher prices for these models are for features such as an extra-large tank or a hose attachment, frost control or low-temperature operation. Large-capacity, self-draining dehumidifiers that are designed for hard-to-access crawl spaces or extra large basements start around $800 to $1,200 and go up depending on capacity, compactness and other features. Whole-house dehumidifiers with capacities between 80 and 260 pints start around $1,000 to $2,500.
Most dehumidifiers are relatively easy to install and are often a do-it-yourself project. However, if you're worried about crawlspaces or electrical issues, then hiring a professional is always an option. The cost can run between $100 and $400, depending mostly on local labor rates, but also on ease of installation.
Dehumidifier To-Do List
- Consider where it will go. Noise is a concern within living spaces, and dehumidifiers tend to make a lot of noise when running. Decibel readings on the average dehumidifier ranged between 55 and 67, about the level of street traffic noise. Typically, smaller models are the least noisy. However, you should always place a dehumidifier away from spaces that need quiet, such as bedrooms or libraries.
- Look for energy savings. A dehumidifier can easily rack up more than $150 each year in electric bills. Large-capacity units tend to be the most efficient, removing more moisture per kilowatt used than smaller models. For the best efficiency, look for models with an Energy Star seal of approval. They are usually 10 to 20 percent more efficient that non-sealed models.
- Time your purchase. New dehumidifier models come onto store shelves in late spring and early summer, when demand for them is highest. However, the same models will often be on sale from June through August, near the end of the heat season. Closeout deals are likely in the fall and winter months, as well, so try buying a dehumidifier then if you are able to anticipate your need for one ahead of time.