Dehumidifiers reduce the humidity indoors by removing excess moisture from the air. But, how do you know if you need one? What type of dehumidifier will work best in your home?
High humidity is not only uncomfortable, but it also increases the likelihood of mold growth and mildew in your home. Additionally, excess moisture can lead to damage and rot. You may notice excess humidity by a stuffy feeling, a musty smell, or condensation on pipes or windows.
In areas where outdoor humidity is already high, it can be challenging to manage humidity in your home. This is especially true in a basement. Even after cooking, showering, or using your washing machine you might feel the musty air if the room is not properly ventilated with fresh air.
If this is your first time buying a dehumidifier, it can be challenging to know where to start and what to buy. For example, most manufacturers sell dehumidifiers based on a pint size. A measurement in pints is hard to visualize or understand how that will translate to your needs.
Our buyer’s guide will simplify the buying process and help you learn what a dehumidifier can do for you. You will better understand which features work best in your space and how to select the best dehumidifier for your home or office.
What Is a Dehumidifier & What Does It Do?
A dehumidifier is a relatively simple appliance. It draws the air in, inside, the cold evaporator coils condensate water and collect it in a bucket while releasing the warm air back to the room.
Similar to refrigerators, residential dehumidifiers use the condensation method which we described above. In desiccant models, absorbent materials inside of the device draw water out of the air as it passes through.
Dehumidifiers work well in higher ambient temperature. They are less effective in a cold room. A room at 68 F and with 45-55% relative humidity presents an ideal environment.
Dehumidifiers are used in homes, offices, commercial and industrial spaces.
If I Have a Dehumidifier, Do I Need a Humidifier or Air Purifier?
A humidifier adds moisture to the air, opposite of a dehumidifier that removes moisture from the air. There are many reasons you might need a humidifier. For example, air that is too dry can irritate several parts of the body, such as a dry, scratchy throat. Dry skin, eyes, and lips are common complaints of dry air. Heating systems create dry air, meaning the symptoms are significantly worse during the winter months. Humidifiers can provide some relief to symptoms of colds and flues, asthma, or other respiratory diseases.
An air purifier can be said to clean the air. It removes contaminants from the air, such as dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and smoke particles. An air purifier can trap dust particles before they settle onto a surface. This means that you have less cleaning to do. Air purifiers can remove up to 99% of airborne bacteria as well. While helpful for many reasons, an air purifier does not affect the humidity in your home.
Who Will Benefit From a Dehumidifier?
Families with a newborn at home will likely want to use a dehumidifier. If you live in a humid climate and do not have central air conditioning (or want to boost the AC), a dehumidifier will help keep your baby’s skin from feeling sticky. A dehumidifier will also help if your child has indoor allergies, such as allergies to dust mites, pets, or mold.
Homes with high humidity, especially in the basement, will benefit from a dehumidifier. Keeping control of excess moisture in the air will reduce the growth of mold, mildew, and any other nasty things that like to grow in damp, dark places. Beyond caring for your health and your home’s structural integrity, reducing excess humidity will make your home more comfortable.
If you recently experienced a flood in your home a dehumidifier will become your best friend. Water can be present even if it is not seen and can linger for a long time. It is highly recommended that you get a dehumidifier for your basement or other affected areas as soon as possible after a flood to speed up the drying process and prevent mold, mildew, and rot.
Homes with poor ventilation may need a dehumidifier too. Drafty windows and doors can let in too much outside air into the house. In humid climates, this can lead to too much moisture in the air inside your home. On the other end of the spectrum, well-insulated dwellings may not be able to let water vapor escape after activities like showing or running a dishwasher. With a dehumidifier, you can manage your home’s humidity levels to a comfortable and safe range even with less than optimal insulation.
Who Will Be Less Satisfied With a Dehumidifier?
A dehumidifier is not a set-it-up and run forever device. If you are unable to maintain it, you may want to pass on this appliance. Dehumidifiers need to be emptied and cleaned once in a while to maintain health and safety.
We recommend that you inspect and clean your dehumidifier once every two weeks to empty the bucket and to clean the air filter. Most manufacturers have alerts and visual signals built to remind you.
Keep in mind that most dehumidifiers do not have a pump like your dishwasher. The excess water will frequently need to be drained manually or directed to a gravity drain. The longer water sits in the collection are, the more mold, mildew, and bacteria will grow.
If you are sensitive to noise, you will want to position the dehumidifier strategically to work around the hum that it gives off. Dehumidifier noise can range from the level of a running refrigerator to a box fan running on the highest setting. If you need a dehumidifier for your basement that you rarely spend time in, this shouldn’t usually be a problem. However, if you need the appliance in or near a room that you use frequently, a louder model may not be the best for your home.
If you are looking for a quick fix to a much larger problem, a dehumidifier will not be your best option. You must always address the root cause of excess moisture in your home first. For instance, a leaky pipe should be repaired to prevent excess water from coming into the house rather than relying on a dehumidifier to remove the excess moisture once it is present.
Suppose your space is in the open air. A dehumidifier works most effectively indoors. It will not work on a porch or other outdoor space. The dehumidifier will not work well in areas with open windows.
What Are The Types of Dehumidifiers?
There are two types of residential dehumidifiers, whole-house and portable.
Whole-house dehumidifiers are just like they sound – dehumidifiers that work throughout your entire house rather than in individual rooms or spaces. Builders usually install these large systems during the new construction phase. These systems are a significant commitment when it comes to installation and maintenance. In some cases, whole-house dehumidifiers can be retro-fitted for use in a home. This process is often challenging to do and unnecessary since portable dehumidifiers will give you the same results.
In this buying guide we cover portable dehumidifiers. They are small, mobile, and easy to use and maintain. Portable dehumidifiers can be moved from room to room as needed or stored when not in use. They are typically less expensive than whole-house dehumidifiers, much easier and quicker to install.
What Size Dehumidifier Do I Need?
As a general rule, we can categorize dehumidifiers under 3 size groups:
- Small 25 pints > for up to 1,000 sq. ft.
- Medium 35 pints > max 1,500 sq ft
- Large 40 pints and above > 1,500 sq. ft. and above
Dehumidifiers are sized based on the total amount of moisture they can remove from the air. This is measured in pints of moisture extracted per day. A small dehumidifier may be rated at 25 pints. This means that the appliance can remove 25 pints of moisture from the air in 24 hours under predetermined testing conditions. Since you don’t live in a testing lab, how do you know what this means for your home? Well, that’s where we come in to help you come up with the best estimate of your needs.
The best place to begin is to find the size of the room where you plan to use the dehumidifier most often. You can use our size guidelines listed above as a starting point. Next, consider the dampness of your space. Dehumidifiers are tested in a controlled environment of 65 degrees and 60% humidity. If your space is more humid than that, it will be beneficial to go up a size larger than what is recommended based on your room’s square footage. Some additional considerations merit adding 5 to 10 pints of capacity for each condition. These include:
- Living in a humid climate
- There is a dishwasher or washer and dryer in the room
- The room has many doors or windows
- Multiple people use the room where the appliance is needed
- When in doubt, get the larger model. There’s no harm in going big. The outer dimensions are almost the same, and the price differences are nominal.
You can read more about how testing and capacity are determined by Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program here.
Pro Tip! When you first get a dehumidifier, test different locations around your house. You may be surprised to find out various places in your home have different humidity levels.
Safety & Recalls: What Do You Need To Be Aware of When Making a Purchase?
From 2013-2016 there were over 2,000 cases of fires reported with dehumidifiers. You can read more about this safety issue here and here.
Most of these fires were traced back to appliances produced by Chinese manufacturer Gree that makes equipment for many resellers as an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) follows this issue closely and publishes its findings.
We mention this as an opportunity to remind our readers to be mindful of safety when using a dehumidifier. These devices are often used in the basement and not constantly supervised. Please be aware of the following safety precautions to be on the safe side:
- Look for a dehumidifier with an Auto Defrost feature.
- Provide adequate airflow around the appliance to prevent overheating.
- Do not place anything on the dehumidifier while it is on – do not block the grills.
- If air-drying laundry, make sure it is at least a foot away from the dehumidifier.
- Do not allow liquids to come in contact with the dehumidifier.
Additional safety practices include:
- Search for recent recalls using search terms such as “(model number) recall,” “(manufacturer) dehumidifier recall.”
- Fill out the warranty form and register with the manufacturer so they contact you when there are updates.
- Avoid plugging your dehumidifier into an extension cord. (Most people have undersized, low-quality extension cords lying around in the house. If you are going to use an extension cord, be sure only to use a heavy-duty cord from a reputable brand.)
- Replace your dehumidifier every 2-3 years.
- Give your dehumidifiers a rest. Two 50 pint dehumidifiers were adequate for my basement, but I opted for three. This way, the load is distributed better among them, and each machine won’t need to work constantly.
Other Remedies If You Are Worried About Humidity in Your Home
Even the best dehumidifier will not cure the root cause of moisture in your house. Here are a few tips from the pros to find the cause of excess moisture:
- Check your dryer vent – You will be surprised how much lint accumulates in the vent forcing moisture to the inside of your home. Every 9 to 12 months be sure to clear the vent (there are companies that do it for you if you prefer). Pro tip! Once the vent is cleaned, check the vent attachment. Better yet, after you use the dryer, check the back of it to see if lint has escaped. Many times the vent cleaners focus on cleaning the vent and leave a messy connection behind.
- Clear gutters – water needs to go somewhere: either away from the home or to the home. Do you know for sure where the water is going around your home?
- Be conservative when watering plants near the walls of your home. The idea is simple, keep any excess water away from the foundation.
- When cooking, turn on the range hood exhaust fan to remove excess moisture from the air.
- When taking a shower, use an exhaust fan, or better yet, open a window.
- Check under the sinks to make sure there are no leaks.
What Features Matter When It Comes To Buying a Dehumidifier?
Dehumidifiers are straightforward appliances, and you generally won’t see (or need) many additional features. You plug it in, set your desired humidity level, and let it run. However, there are a few features available that make your dehumidifier easier to use.
- Connection for a hose – some models will allow you to connect a hose to drain the accumulated moisture. Without the hose (or a pump), you will have to empty the dehumidifier manually.
- An indicator to let you know when it is time to change the air filter.
- An auto-humidistat will sense the humidity in the air and can turn your appliance off automatically once the desired humidity level is achieved.
- An auto-defrost setting and low-temperature setting will allow your appliance to work properly in lower temperatures.
- An easy to remove and empty bucket
- Easy to understand controls
Our Top Picks – 5 Best Dehumidifiers
Now that you know what you are looking for take a look at our favorite portable dehumidifiers. We base our list on the factors discussed above.
1) Best Overall: Frigidaire FFAD5033W1
Frigidaire FFAD5033W1 is the dehumidifier I have in my basement. My favorite feature of this product is the continuous drain option. The amount of time saved by not having to empty my dehumidifier manually is priceless.
Though this is not an air purifier, it will capture dust with a reusable air filter. Custom humidity control allows for maximum comfort. The front-loading bucket has a splash guard and handles for easy emptying and cleaning. A handle and caster wheels make this appliance easy to move from room to room as needed.
This Frigidaire dehumidifier is both Energy Star certified and designed to operate in low temperatures. An automatic shut-off mechanism is triggered when the water bucket is full for added safety. There are three speeds to select from as needed.
Frigidaire makes controls that are simple and easy to use, and the appliance runs relatively quietly. It is very effective, able to keep damp areas dry. The drainage hose is one of the most popular features. The external indicator bar that shows the moisture collection level is helpful to quickly check if the storage container needs to be emptied.
This unit may sometimes do “too good of a job,” and you may have to adjust the settings a couple of times until you find the perfect humidity level. Some might find the control labels hard to read in low-light areas due to a dark design. The unit does put out some heat. On occasion, the unit will need to be replaced due to various error codes. However, there is a warranty, and Frigidaire offers excellent customer service.
2) Best Value: hOmeLabs HME020030N
This 30-pint model is sized for a space of less than 1,000 sq. ft. One popular feature is a digital display that allows you to set the desired level of humidity. The display also shows alerts and indicators, such as notices that it is time to clean the filter or empty the collection tank. From this display, you can control a timer to indicate when you would like the dehumidifier to operate, fan speed, and continuous mode. The water tank is easy to access and remove. It also has a window that allows you to see the current water level to tell at a glance if the water needs to be emptied. There is a hose connection in the back of the machine to allow continuous drainage. A garden hose works best, and they are typically easy to come by. The hose drainage is based on gravity, so keep in mind that the water will not flow up to a sink but should work well flowing down to a drain. You can, however, purchase a pump by hOmeLabs that will allow the water to pump out vertically to a sink or basement window. This hOmeLabs dehumidifier has an auto-defrost safety feature. The auto-restart feature allows the appliance to turn back on after disruption of power without human intervention. This device is easy to move from room to room with convenient wheels and side handles.
We appreciate the auto-defrost feature that turns off the cooling element once frost is detected. Since the fans stay on, warm air is continuously circulating, allowing the machine to defrost more quickly. This dehumidifier runs very quietly. It is noticeably quieter than other dehumidifiers we have used. Multiple fan speeds come in handy depending on your specific usage needs.
This model does have a smaller tank compared to other similar models. This can be remedied by using a drainage hose instead of the collection tank. On occasion, this device has been reported to not work directly out of the box, but it does have a limited two-year warranty. If not cleaned properly, there can be mold growth inside the dehumidifier, so it is crucial to be diligent with cleaning. It seems as if the manufacturer may be overestimating the capacity of this appliance, so it is generally recommended that you size up when buying this version.
3) Most Reliable: GE APER50LZ
This APER50LZ is GE’s top-of-the-line unit, and it comes in a color other than white! Available in Stratus Grey, this large-sized dehumidifier has a built-in pump to make continuous drainage more accessible. This model has alerts when it is time to replace the filter to empty the collection bucket. Digital LED controls are easy to use. The timer allows you to select how long you would like the machine to run in hours before it automatically shuts off. There is an auto-defrost safety feature. This unit has wheels for easy portability.
This machine runs very quietly and does its intended job very well, even in cold spaces. This dehumidifier provides consistent results, even when run continuously. The built-in pump is a beneficial feature when you do not have a floor drain easily accessible in the room where the dehumidifier is used. The LED display is intuitive and easy to use. Many of our customers say that they appreciate the upscale design.
It can be challenging to set up and attach the drainage hose. The collection bucket may not be as easy to remove and empty as some other models. While this unit works very well, it may not have the longevity of other similar units.
4) Best Capacity: Frigidaire FFAD6022W1
This Frigidaire FFAD6022W1 dehumidifier is one of the largest residential models you’ll find and can remove 60 pints of excess moisture from the air per day. It comes with a drainage hose hook up for continuous drainage, so you do not have to remember to empty the water collection tank. A timer allows you to easily control when this unit is running and when it is not. An indicator light lets you know when the collection tank is full. This unit is unique in that it uses wifi to connect to your smartphone. From there, you can control the various settings through the Frigidaire app along with your other Frigidaire appliances.
This dehumidifier is extremely easy to use. The machine provides excellent results in a short amount of time compared to other models. The ability to control the device through a smartphone is a valuable feature for many people, and you don’t often see it in dehumidifiers. The drainage hook-up is especially useful with a dehumidifier of this size since it can be difficult for many people to lift and empty a 60-pint collection container.
Even with wheels and handles, this dehumidifier can be hard to move due to its size and weight (43 lbs.). Because this model is so powerful, it is noisier than other models we review here. This unit does not have a built-in pump, so you will need to elevate the unit and allow gravity to do its job if you choose to use a drainage hose. This model does not have an auto-defrost feature.
5) Best Energy Efficiency: Honeywell TP50WK
Another large unit, the Honeywell TP50WK, works in rooms up to 3,000 sq. ft. It has a drainage hose included, auto-restart, and automatic operation. This unit features a washable filter, a full tank alert, digital humidistat control, wheels, LED display, and a spill-proof collection container. The appliance is on wheels, making it easy to move from one room to another.
This machine runs very quietly. The auto-restart is useful to turn the device back on after a power outage. The anti-spill system is a nice touch since some units can be difficult and almost impossible to empty without causing a mess. The digital display is handy, showing indoor humidity levels, temperature, and timer settings.
The bucket is a bit small for a dehumidifier of this size. You will most likely need to empty this unit more frequently than other models. This machine does not have an auto-defrost mode.
Worth Mentioning – LG PuriCare 50-Pint Clear Bucket with Handle Dehumidifier UD501KOG5
This large dehumidifier from LG is worth taking a look at as well. It features an easy access collection container with a water level indicator and a drainage hook-up that is compatible with most garden hoses. This unit has wheels for portability, a washable filter, and an electronic control display. It also has a timer and auto-restart features.
This dehumidifier is very efficient, removing a large amount of moisture from the air without consuming excessive energy. The machine is very quiet, and the humidistat is shown to be highly accurate. Safety features include an automatic shut-off every 23 hours and a metal design to reduce the chance of fires. The caster wheels make this appliance easy to move as needed.
It can be challenging to attach a hose and have the water diverted from the collection bucket. Once connected, it may still leak in some circumstances. If there is a problem, LG customer service can often be less than satisfactory.
Now That You’re Ready
Shop with confidence now that you have a thorough understanding of dehumidifiers and their various features. A good dehumidifier will keep your home safer, healthier, and more comfortable.
It is essential to find the best dehumidifier for your specific needs. The size of your room, the humidity level, draftiness, and other factors go into determining the size that will work best for you. Your lifestyle will help you decide what features are most important. Be realistic about the amount of maintenance you are willing to do so that you can choose an appliance that fits your level of commitment to maintaining a dehumidifier. If you are tech-inclined, you will likely do well with a wifi-enabled dehumidifier. We would love to see more wifi-enabled appliances on the market since they offer such a high level of monitoring and customization no matter where you are. Folks that appreciate simplicity may not enjoy this feature and would do well with non-wifi-enabled models.
Ultimately, the best dehumidifier for you and your home is a very personal choice. We hope to give you the tools to find the best appliance for your specific needs.
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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on September 28, 2021. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.