If you live in a humid region of the country, you know the discomfort of high humidity. That moist air is as bad for your home as it is miserable for you because mold, dust mites and allergens thrive in damp household environments. A dehumidifier might be the best way to keep your home dry, healthy and comfortable. How do they work, and do you need one?
How to know if you need a home dehumidifier
Look for signs indicating high humidity, such as fog or beads of moisture on the inside of windowpanes or on windowsills. Too-high moisture levels can also cause mold to grow on walls, or leave gray stains on walls in a basement. If your home is too humid, the basement or other rooms with high moisture content, such as laundry rooms, kitchens or bathrooms, may smell musty.
How does a dehumidifier work?
The most common type of dehumidification is the refrigeration method. Much like an air conditioner, dehumidifiers using this method draw room air in through a vent. The air is then pushed over coils cooled by a refrigerant gas. These cold coils cause the moisture from the room to condense into water and drip into a tank. Most humidifier tanks must be emptied periodically, but some empty themselves through a hose into a drain.
Another type of dehumidifier uses a heating method in which the moisture is captured by a water-absorbing material. The moisture is then vented elsewhere by a fan.
Where are dehumidifiers needed?
Rooms with higher moisture content than the rest of the house, such as basements, bathrooms and laundry rooms, are most likely to need a dehumidifier. Crawl spaces can be overly humid as well. The moisture in bathrooms and laundry rooms rises and falls with use, so a fan that vents moisture to the outside may be sufficient to dry the air. A basement or crawlspace may be damp continuously, however, so using a dehumidifier may make more sense than installing and constantly running a ventilation fan.
If excess humidity is a problem throughout the home, you may need a whole-house dehumidifier that ties into your HVAC system. Before acquiring one, though, have your HVAC system checked to make sure it is operating efficiently.
Different capacities and efficiencies
Dehumidifiers can be generally classified as small, medium and large in their capacity to process moisture. A small unit can remove as much as 35 pints of water in 24 hours. A medium model can wring out about 50, and a large-capacity model can remove as much as 70 pints. The dehumidifier sits on either a table or the floor.
New technology has improved the energy efficiency of dehumidifiers. Look for models with the blue Energy Star symbol to ensure that your comfortable air isn’t accompanied by an uncomfortably large electricity bill. Often larger-capacity machines make more efficient use of electricity than smaller dehumidifiers, but the size of the room or rooms you need to dehumidify should dictate what size machine you need. Top names that combine good capacity with energy efficiency include LG, Frigidaire, Kenmore, and Whynter.
Dehumidifiers start at less than $50 for the smallest units, some of which are petite enough to sit on a counter, but may be priced around $185 at the top of this capacity range. A 50-pint unit can start at just under $200, and good-quality 70-pint units begin around $250. Whole-house dehumidifiers tie into a home’s HVAC system and cost an average of $1,800, including the necessary professional installation.
Related – Does Your Home Need a Dehumidifier?