Cut Through Clammy Air With the Best Dehumidifiers
The small-space choice is ideal for a home office.
Published Sep 24, 2021 1:08 AM
When you spend a certain amount of time, money, and effort into getting your interiors just right, the last thing you want to deal with are moisture-related catastrophes—which is why experts say it’s so important to invest in a first-rate dehumidifier. Spending a couple hundred dollars on one could help prevent thousands of dollars in damage to your home, in addition to warding off dust mites and mildew that trigger asthma, allergies, and other health problems.
Even if humidity levels are just a little out of whack in your house, that’s enough to make it less comfortable for you and yours.“One of the more common reasons to get a dehumidifier is a very humid basement, as high humidity isn’t great for an area used for storage,” says Misha Kollontai, the senior test project leader in charge of dehumidifier testing at Consumer Reports. “The moisture can lead to rot in wood, mold, or fungus growth and other issues.”
Dehumidifiers work by drawing in warm air from a room and moving it over refrigerated coils, removing moisture and collecting it in a tank, one drop at a time. Most models have a built-in humidistat that measures moisture levels in the air, allowing you to program the dehumidifier to maintain a specific humidity. For most homes, between 30 and 50 percent is ideal—on the higher side in the summer and the lower side in the winter.
While the mechanics of a dehumidifier are pretty simple, choosing the best model for your home can be a bit tricky. We checked in with Kollontai to figure out the features that matter most, as well as the best dehumidifiers for every situation.
- Best overall: Honeywell Dehumidifier
- Best value: TCL Portable Dehumidifier
- Best quiet operation: HomeLabs Energy Star Dehumidifier
- Best for small spaces: Frigidaire Dehumidifier
- Best with a pump: Whirlpool Dehumidifier
- Best for smart homes: LG Dehumidifier with WiFi PuriCare
- Best for the whole house: York Whole-House Dehumidifier
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Size and capacity: Dehumidifiers are sized according to how much moisture they can remove from the air in a 24-hour period. Large dehumidifiers can remove more than 40 pints per day, so they’re good for large, humid spaces like a dank basement. Medium-capacity models can remove 30 to 40 pints per day—great for a family room or apartment with moderate humidity. Small dehumidifiers remove less than 30 pints per day, making them best for an occasionally damp bedroom or home office.
Hose connection: This allows you to send water from the tank to a floor drain so that you don’t have to empty the bucket. If you don’t have a floor drain, look for a dehumidifier with a built-in pump, enabling you to divert water to a utility sink or other elevated drain.
Filters: All dehumidifiers have a washable filter that cleans air as it moves through the machine, improving performance and efficiency. Most have an indicator light that tells you when it’s time to clean the filter.
Whole-home systems: Unlike portable dehumidifiers, these systems tie in to the ductwork used for a home’s forced-air heating and cooling. The robust units can remove up to 200 pints of water per day, making them a good choice for extremely humid environments. But whole-house systems are more expensive and require professional installation; the all-in cost can easily reach $1,000.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Honeywell Dehumidifier
Best Value: TCL Portable Dehumidifier
Best Quiet Operation: HomeLabs Energy Star Dehumidifier
Best for Small Spaces: Frigidaire Dehumidifier
Best With a Pump: Whirlpool Dehumidifier
Best for Smart Homes: LG Dehumidifier with WiFi PuriCare
Best for the Whole House: York Whole-House Dehumidifier
If you live in a very humid climate, it might make sense to spring for a whole-house dehumidifier, which works with the forced-air system in your home to condition all the air moving throughout the interior. This model from York removes up to 130 pints of water per day. Besides making a home more comfortable, the system can improve energy efficiency, since dry air feels cooler, making you less reliant on AC during warmer months. Costs vary depending on the size and configuration of your home’s ductwork, but with professional installation, you could be looking at $1,000 or more.
3 Tips on Where to Park a Dehumidifier
- Check the airflow direction. With some machines, the vents are on top, so they can sit against a wall. Others have side vents, which could be blocked by walls or furnishings.
- Close windows and doors. This will prevent humid outdoor air from entering the space, forcing the dehumidifier to work overtime.
- Think about noise. If the dehumidifier will be in a living area, especially the bedroom, look for one with quiet operation. Small-capacity models tend to be the quietest.
Q: Is it better to get a bigger dehumidifier?
Yes, when in doubt, it’s better to oversize than undersize. If the dehumidifier is a bit too big for the space, it just won’t run as frequently. But if it’s too small, it will run constantly without ever reaching the desired humidity level.
Q: Can I run my dehumidifier all the time?
As just noted, an undersize dehumidifier will run all the time without doing a good job of capturing moisture in the air. A dehumidifier that’s constantly running is also more prone to conking out prematurely. Ideally you want the machine to run 50 percent of the time or less.
Q: What is the average life span of a dehumidifier?
Dehumidifiers last an average of eight years, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Of course, proper maintenance is key to prolonging the life of the unit. “Replace the filter in the humidifier as specified in the manual,” says Kollontai. “Also, clean the water tank occasionally to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.”
The Last Word
A dehumidifier is one of those unsung appliances that most homes benefit from having. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but by dutifully maintaining optimal humidity levels throughout the year, it can save you from all kinds of headaches—and the sniffles, too—by keeping mold, mildew, and other airborne allergens in check. Bottom line: It’s the best couple hundred bucks you can spend to keep your home in top shape.
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