Not only does high humidity make your living space uncomfortable due to damp conditions, but you may also experience problems with the air quality due to a spread of mold and mildews that thrive in high humidity spaces. There are several ways to keep the humidity level in check, but a dehumidifier is one of the best ways to do this.

What Does a Dehumidifier Do?

Dehumidifiers pull excess moisture from the air in a space and collect it in a removable tank. This article is a comprehensive guide that covers the benefits of dehumidifiers, how they work and how to choose the right one for your needs.

When Do You Need A Dehumidifier?

The ideal humidity level in an indoor space should be between 30 to 50%. Anything above or below this range can lead to a wide range of air quality and temperature issues in your living space. Maintaining optimal humidity (OP) levels in the home is necessary for the comfort of people and pets. It also protects the building itself.

Of course, it is impossible to walk around with a humidity meter every time. So how exactly does one tell if the humidity level is too high and a dehumidifier is needed? Fortunately, there are tell-tale signs of high humidity. You don’t just feel it; there are obvious visible signs such as foggy windows, the presence of mold and mildews, and so on. The following are some ways you can tell that the moisture level in your space is too high.

  • Visible condensation: the presence of moisture on surfaces of windows, piping, mirrors, and other fantastic characters in your house is a sure sign that the humidity level is high. The differential of temperature between surfaces can cause moisture to form on these surfaces when in excess.
  • Wet stains and water damage on walls and ceilings: this often appears as discoloration, peeling paints, or crumbly stucco.
  • Allergies: a high humidity space is the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildews. This can negatively affect the air quality leading to common symptoms of allergy such as headache, shortness of breath, wheezing, and chronic cough.
  • Lousy odor: a strong, musty smell that lingers for a long time often accompanies mold and mildew growth. To confirm, you can try stepping of your indoor space for a while and going back. The difference in air quality should be evident and detectable in the air quality.

Although each of these signs on its own isn’t a definite sign of a humidity problem, it is safe to conclude that you have a humidity problem if you notice multiple signs like this.

The Benefits Of Using A Dehumidifier

Giving the many adverse effects of excess humidity levels, the benefits of dehumidifying your space when the humidity level becomes too high are apparent. Here are some of the benefits of using a dehumidifier.

  • It may help control asthma and allergies: The air in a high-moisture environment is often heavy, making it more difficult to breathe. This creates a high-humidity space dangerous for asthmatic people. Dehumidifying such a space will make the air easier to live in. It is not a cure for the condition but makes the area safer by clearing the mugginess.
  • Prevent mildew and molds: Molds and mildew thrive better in a high humidity environment. This is why crawlspaces and basements are often prone to mold infestation. Using a dehumidifier is one of the ways to prevent this from happening. And even after clearing off molds on walls, installing a dehumidifier can reduce the chances of the problem occurring again.
  • It creates a healthier and safer environment: In addition to helping molds to thrive, high humidity spaces also welcome critters like cockroaches, spiders, silverfish, and other insects. Lowering the humidity level can help eliminate these insects.
  • It Saves costs: Everyone knows that a room will feel hotter than usual when the air is too humid. This will require you to run your air conditioning unit more than necessary. A dehumidifier will not only reduce air moisture but also cools off your space, reducing the need to keep the AC working.

How Do Dehumidifiers Work?

A dehumidifier reduces relative humidity by removing moisture from the air. The machine sucks in air from one end, draws water from it (through absorption or refrigeration), and releases it back into your space. The removed moisture drips into a tank which has to be emptied when it is filled up.

While all dehumidifiers operate based on this fundamental principle, the exact method for removing moisture from the air varies depending on the type of dehumidifier in question. Most units operate on a principle similar to how your air conditioning unit works (through refrigeration). Others use a desiccant or remove moisture through the process of absorption.

How Do Refrigerant Dehumidifiers Work? 'Click Me'
Dehumidifiers that operate based on this principle remove moisture by cooling the air. This is the same technology that your air conditioner unit and refrigerator use. For units like this, the warm, humid air is sucked into the dehumidifier through a grill on one side. There’s usually an electric fan to draw the air into the device.

Inside the humidifier, there are cold pipes that are kept at freezing temperature by a coolant material. As the air passes over these cold pipes, it cools down. Since cold air does not hold water efficiently, the moisture in the air is converted to liquid water, which is on the surface of the pipe and drips into the dehumidifier tank.

After the moisture is removed, this air is released back into the room. But it is passed over a compressor unit on its way out of the dehumidifier. This warms up the air again before returning it into the room.

This is the essential operation of a refrigerant dehumidifier. There may be a slight variation from one unit to the other. For instance, some dehumidifiers have a plastic float in the tank that trips off the electric switch and turns off the unit when the tank is filled up.

How Do Absorption/Adsorption Dehumidifiers Work? 'Click Me'
Some dehumidifiers don’t use a coolant to dehumidify the air. Instead, they simply “mop” water out of them using a material that can hold water or desiccant. The moisture is then squeezed out of the material into a tank. The mopping action of the material may be either through the process of absorption, which involves the soaking of water through something, or absorption (the material picks up water on its surface)

How To Choose The Best Dehumidifier?

If you have a humidity problem and have decided to tackle it using a dehumidifier, you should take steps to ensure that you choose the suitable model for you. There are different types, brands, and models of dehumidifier units in the market. Each of these has specific features and qualities that determine how well they perform. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when purchasing dehumidifiers.

1. Consider your budget: 

Your budget will determine the type of dehumidifier you can get, so this is typically the starting point of your search. Generally, the higher the extraction capacity of a dehumidifier (volume of water it can remove from the air), the more expensive it will be. Hence, you will most likely need a bigger budget if your home is larger or has a lot of moisture. Likewise, if your humidity level is not very high or your home is medium-sized, you will need a mid-range dehumidifier.

Another factor that may determine the cost of your dehumidifier unit is the features it has. A dehumidifier with advanced features like digital controls and timers will be more expensive than one with basic features. Quality may also affect cost; after all, you get what you pay for. High-quality dehumidifier units from a big brand will cost you more than a flimsy unit from a relatively unknown brand.

2. Type of Dehumidifier: 

As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of dehumidifiers. These are refrigerant dehumidifiers and desiccant models (absorption/adsorption dehumidifiers). So what are the differences between these two types, and which one is right for you?

Refrigerant models have a compressor for removing humidity from the air. They are more common than the desiccant types and are more effective in warmer conditions. A good quality one will remove moisture from the air effectively, but they are louder. This might be an issue for cases where high noise levels are a concern, such as bedrooms and office spaces (note that the noise level varies from one unit to another). Generally, if your room is heated or you live in a warm climate, this type of dehumidifier is more recommended.

Desiccant dehumidifiers, on the other hand, are not affected by the temperature of the room. They do not have a coolant material, so they are considered more eco-friendly. The absence of a compressor also means they operate more quietly. But they may not be very effective in large rooms and are less energy-efficient than refrigerant units.

3. Consider the Capacity of the dehumidifier: 

Dehumidifier capacity refers to how much water it can extract from the air within 24-hours. This Capacity varies from one unit to the other and is usually stated by the manufacturer in pints. Comparing the capacities of dehumidifiers is one of the primary ways to determine which of them will be right for you.

Generally, the best dehumidifier capacity for you will depend on the size of your space and the dampness of the air. A large room with high moisture content will need a higher capacity dehumidifier than a small room with low humidity. Hence, you must know the size of your space and the humidity level to determine a dehumidifier correctly.

If the dehumidifier capacity is too high (compared to the size or dampness of your space), it will remove too much water from the air, and you’ll end up with a low humidity problem. Conversely, a small dehumidifier will be unable to keep up with the humidity needs of your space.

Dehumidifier Classification Based On Size
  • Large-Capacity: large capacity dehumidifiers can remove as much as 40 pints of moisture per day. They are best suited for large, wet spaces because they can handle a broader range of humidity.
  • Medium Capacity: these are best suited for mid-sized spaces that are not so damp. They can remove between 30 to 40 pints of water from the air per day.
  • Small-Capacity: dehumidifiers that remove less than 30 pints of water from the air per day are often considered small-capacity units. They are great for dehumidifying smaller spaces that are not so damp.
  • Whole-house dehumidifier: these are installed into the central heating and ventilation system of a home. They are often more expensive, but they’re best for cases where you want to dehumidify your entire home (as much as 5000 Square feet).
4. Physical Size: 

The size and weight of your dehumidifier affect the portability of the unit. The physical size also determines the tank capacity. If you stay in a small apartment and don’t have much space to spare in your home, you might want to consider a compact dehumidifier unit to save space. Portable units are also easier to move from one room to the other compared to more bulky ones. Additional features such as wheels and handles can further increase the portability of a dehumidifier unit.

5. Energy efficiency: 

This depends mainly on the type of dehumidifier you are buying. As earlier mentioned, refrigerant models are more energy efficient in warmer environments than desiccant units. But if your space is cooler, a desiccant dehumidifier is more recommended. But additional factors such as the size of your unit, extraction capacity, and the size of your space can affect how effective a dehumidifier unit will operate. Some models also have additional features like humidistat that further boosts the energy efficiency of the machine.

6. Auto-off feature: 

Dehumidifier units with an auto-off function will automatically switch off under specific conditions to protect the unit or save energy. Some units feature a timer that allows you to set the device to switch on and off at a particular time of the day or after operating for specific hours. Others will stop removing moisture from the air when the tank is filled up or if the humidity level in the room is at optimal levels.

7. Humidistat: 

An inbuilt humidistat automatically monitors the humidity levels present in an area. It adjusts the dehumidifier’s operation (or switch on and off) based on the humidity level of your room. This eliminates the need to monitor your humidity level manually and helps you save on energy since the unit only runs when needed.

Additional features
  • Auto-defrost: In refrigerant units, water may begin to freeze on the compressor coils of a dehumidifier when the temperature drops too low. This will affect the unit’s regular operation. A dehumidifier with an auto-defrost function will automatically unfreeze the water so the unit can continue operating normally.
  • Auto-reset: Many modern dehumidifiers allow you to set the timer, humidity levels, and under settings. An auto-rest function ensures that these settings are not lost if the unit loses power, so you don’t have to reset the unit each time you switch it on.
  • Filtration: In addition to removing moisture from the air, some dehumidifier units have filters that remove impurities from the air.

How To Get The Best From Your Dehumidifier

A portable dehumidifier consumes about 160 (kWh) of electricity monthly. This value is still a lot less than the average air conditioner uses but can contribute considerably to your utility cost. To ensure the efficiency of your unit and to make sure you get the best results as far as reducing humidity levels, there are certain things you can do. These things save you cost and ensure that you enjoy the maximum benefits of using a dehumidifier. Some of the things you can do to get the best from your dehumidifier unit include:  

  • Always set the humidity level: The optimal relative humidity level for an indoor space should be between 30% and 50%. You want to keep your humidity level within this range at all times. The best way to do this is to use a dehumidifier to monitor the humidity level and automatically adjust its operation. This approach will ensure that the dehumidifier does not remove too much moisture from the air. Setting the desired humidity level also helps you save costs in the long run.
  • Positioning matter: To get the best results from using your dehumidifier, you should place it in the right spot. Since the dehumidifier takes in air from the room and returns it after dehumidifying it, the unit should be mount in an area of your room where it gets a free flow of air. Some dehumidifiers have vents on the side, while others have their vent on top of the unit. Regardless of where the vent is, make sure there’s enough space around the unit.
  • Always close windows and doors: Dehumidifiers work more efficiently in enclosed spaces. When you leave the doors and windows open, air from outside will carry humidity into the room, making it more challenging to attain the desired humidity level for your space.
  • Empty the tank regularly: Most units have an indicator light that shows when the dehumidifier tank is filled up and needs to be emptied. Some units will also shut down entirely to prevent water from overflowing onto your floor or damage the unit. To keep your humidifier running optimally, you should empty the tank regularly. How often you’ll need to do this depends on how humid your space is, the season of the year, and the size of the dehumidifier tank. A viable alternative is to connect a drain hose to the tank that automatically empties it. Some advanced units also have a pump that helps to push water out through a hose connected to the sink. You can consider an option like this for convenience.
  • Keep your unit clean: Since humidifiers take in and release air into your space, a dirty dehumidifier can be a significant problem. Dirty filters can block the airflow, and this will reduce the efficiency of your unit considerably. It can also affect the air quality in your space which can trigger allergies and other respiratory issues. The dehumidifier tank should also be cleaned occasionally to prevent a build-up of moisture.
  • Fix the cause of humidity problems: Using a dehumidifier is excellent. There are some preventable causes of high humidity to reduce your dependency on a dehumidifier. Identifying the likely causes of high humidity, such as a leak in your plumbing, foundation issues, and ventilation problems, can help fix your high humidity problem and reduce how long you have to run the humidifier.  

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Conclusion

A good quality dehumidifier can help you solve your humidity problem. This is quite beneficial for your comfort, maintaining the air quality of your space, and preventing a broad range of health issues. Of course, you have to ensure that your dehumidifier is properly sized for the area. Also, make sure you’re using the correct type of dehumidifier based on the unique conditions in your home. The tips covered in this guide will help you with choosing the right kind of dehumidifier for your home so you can get rid of the clamminess and make your environment more comfortable.

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