Humidity can do more harm than you might imagine — especially in humid climates, and especially during the summer months. If you don’t have a dehumidifier, you could be subjecting yourself to a lot of unnecessary discomfort and health risks.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the main benefits of dehumidification, what to look for in a dehumidifier, and our top recommendations for any budget.
How a Dehumidifier Can Benefit You
In simplest terms, a dehumidifier pulls in surrounding air, strips moisture from it, then circulates it back into the room. The moisture collects in a basin that you dump out every so often (in more advanced models, the moisture can be pumped out through a drainage tube).
3 Reasons to Use a Dehumidifier
Of the many reasons to monitor indoor humidity at home, here are the most important:
- Humidity makes you feel hotter. According to the Heat Index Chart [PDF] published by the NOAA, humidity during warm and hot weather can make you feel 3 to 18 degrees hotter (when comparing 50 to 80 percent humidity).
- Humidity encourages bacteria and mold growth. Bacteria thrive at 50 percent humidity and higher while mold thrives at 70 percent humidity and higher. Both can have a negative impact on your health and should be minimized.
- Humidity can damage home property. Excess moisture can warp wood, peel paint, fade photographs, and corrode metal. For this reason, even if you don’t get a dehumidifier, consider getting a few moisture sensors for your home.
Do I Really Need a Dehumidifier?
Maybe, maybe not. The only way to know for sure is to grab an analog or digital hygrometer (a thermometer-like tool that measures humidity) and check the humidity level of your home. I recommend the ThermoPro TP50 (UK) or the AcuRite 00613.
All year long, the ideal indoor humidity level is between 45 and 55 percent. However, fluctuations are normal with the comings and goings of weather, so a humidity level between 30 and 60 percent is often comfortable enough for most people.
Note that excess humidity is more easily felt in the summer, and anything over 50 percent may contribute to feelings of stickiness, mugginess, and general discomfort. Therefore, if you regularly have indoor humidity levels above 50 percent, we recommend buying a dehumidifier.
Do I Need a Dehumidifier If I Have an AC?
While air conditioners do strip some moisture from the air when running, the key difference is that air conditioners are optimized for cooling and circulating air. Dehumidifiers don’t cool the air at all and are instead optimized for pulling out as much moisture as possible.
Here’s what that means in practical terms: running a dehumidifier in tandem with an air conditioner can, in certain situations, cool your home faster and better for less energy.
Dry air makes it easier for moisture to evaporate, and evaporation has a cooling effect on the skin. Dry air also cools faster than moist air. In other words: when the air is dry, you feel cooler AND the air conditioner needs to work less hard to bring down the room’s temperature.
But don’t dehumidifiers give off heat? Yes, they do! But the amount is negligible compared to how much cooler you’ll feel with dried air. A dehumidifier may only raise room temperature by 1 or 2 degrees F, and it’s less noticeable the larger the room is.
What to Look For in a Dehumidifier
You might feel overwhelmed the first time you shop for a dehumidifier — I know I was. But in truth, there are only three things you absolutely need to know about in order to make a purchase you won’t regret:
There are three types of dehumidifiers: compressor, desiccant, and thermo-electric. While desiccant and thermo-electric types have their uses, they are very slow and unfit for most homes. You’ll be happiest with a compressor type (fortunately, it’s the most common type sold).
Dehumidifier Size (Important!)
Commercial dehumidifiers come in three main sizes: 30-pint, 50-pint, and 70-pint. The size describes how much moisture it’s designed to pull from the air per day — it has no relation to physical dimensions or reservoir capacity.
Some guides will tell you that a 30-pint dehumidifier is good for smaller rooms, a 50-pint dehumidifier for bigger rooms, and a 70-pint dehumidifier for the largest of rooms. While this isn’t bad advice per se, we disagree with it. (Ignore the oft-cited AHAM sizing chart!)
Regardless of the square footage of your home, you should always buy the largest-sized dehumidifier that you can afford. The reasoning behind this is simple:
- Larger dehumidifiers pull moisture faster than smaller dehumidifiers — that’s literally what “pints per day” means.
- Because larger dehumidifiers are faster, you’ll experience relief within hours rather than days. This enhances comfort.
- Because larger dehumidifiers are faster, they don’t need to run as long or often as smaller dehumidifiers do. This saves energy.
- Because larger dehumidifiers run less often, they are subject to less wear-and-tear over time. This prolongs lifespan.
- Because larger dehumidifiers run less often, they contribute less heat to the environment. This keeps you cooler.
All told, the upfront cost of a 70-pint dehumidifier is nothing compared to the savings in long-term cost and the increased level of comfort. But if your budget is tight and can’t afford a 70-pint, a 50-pint or 30-pint is still better than nothing at all.
You can also find miniature half-pint dehumidifiers designed for closets, bathrooms, etc. These can work fine for tiny spaces, but I find it hard to justify their costs and therefore do not recommend them.
For peace of mind, always get one that’s at least Energy Star rated. Here are a few energy usage baselines:
- A typical 70-pint dehumidifier draws 700 to 750 watts.
- A typical 50-pint dehumidifier draws 500 to 550 watts.
- A typical 30-pint dehumidifier draws 400 to 450 watts.
Note that dehumidifiers draw varying amounts of energy depending on how much moisture is in the air. Lots of moisture? That means less energy used. Not much moisture? It’ll have to work hard to wring out what’s in the air — thus more energy used.
Other Features to Consider
These days, a dehumidifier without a built-in hygrometer simply isn’t worth buying. Not only is a hygrometer useful for monitoring the humidity of your home, but most models with a hygrometer also come with an auto-shutoff feature upon reaching a certain humidity level. This can further boost energy efficiency.
The reservoir capacity will determine how often you need to empty the unit. Meanwhile, a drainage adapter lets the water run out on its own so you don’t have to keep emptying it by hand. In the case of drainage, the water can be pulled out by gravity or pushed out by a pump. Not all models have these kinds of drainage.
And don’t forget about exhaust direction. A top exhaust lets you place the unit right up against a wall or in a corner, while a rear exhaust lets you aim the heated exhaust air away in a certain direction. Neither is better. It only depends on which you prefer.
Lastly, if you’re going to move the unit often, make sure it has wheels.
3 Top Recommended Dehumidifiers
As of this writing, no dehumidifier can match the FFAD7033R1 by Frigidaire. It came onto the scene in 2015 and instantly blew everything else right out of the water — even those at significantly higher price points. I can’t think of a reason to not get this over another.
It has above average performance and energy efficiency. The digital humidity readout is convenient, and you can set your desired humidity and let it handle that on its own. Or you can use timer-based operation. It also comes with side handles and caster wheels for portability.
A 50-pint model is available for $30 less and a 30-pint model for $50 less. All three models are functionally identical except for how quickly they pull out moisture. The 30-pint is smaller and lighter than the 50-pint and 70-pint, both of which are physically identical.
The DH70W by Honeywell is a powerful option. It outperforms most other 70-pint dehumidifiers, giving it above-average energy efficiency. It also has the backing of the Honeywell brand, which you might recognize for its fans, air purifiers, and smart thermostats.
Standout features include top-notch hygrometer accuracy, two fan speeds, timer-based operation, and auto-restart after a power outage. Downsides include above-average noise and a lack of auto-defrost (when operating in cold temperatures).
Perhaps the biggest hang-up is its price. At just shy of $300, the DH70W can be a tough bullet to bite. 50-pint and 45-pint models are available, but no 30-pint model, and even they are still pricey at $250 and $220, respectively.
If you’re on a tight budget and want to stretch your dollar as far as possible, look no further than the KSTAD70B by Keystone. Not only is this unit above average in performance and energy efficiency, but its price is way lower than the competition.
For comparison, this 70-pint model is the same price as the 30-pint model for the above-mentioned Frigidaire. Why settle for less when you don’t have to? If you want to go cheaper, consider the 50-pint model for $15 less.
Overall, it isn’t as sleek or pretty as its competition, but it’s functional and it rocks. It has an LED display, built-in hygrometer, and auto-restart functionality after power outages. It’s also very light, making it a strong option if you need to lug it from room to room every so often.
These prices might seem a bit higher than you were expecting to pay, but if you live in a humid climate, have a basement, or have poor ventilation, then this is a home device that’s absolutely worth the cost. For everyone else, a dehumidifier is still worth having for infrequent use.
What does your home humidity situation look like? Are you going to invest in a dehumidifier? Know of any other moisture-related tips we should know? Share with us in the comments below!