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Record-breaking temperatures are sweeping the country, forcing homeowners to crank their AC units. And while this helps get rid of the heat, it doesn’t necessarily address the humidity issue, which means another major problem could be lurking in your home: moisture.
“If you have the symptoms — the musty smell, the musty feel — you’re in the market for a dehumidifier,” said Chris Koehner, owner of Halo Heating & Cooling. Your air conditioner works as a dehumidifier, but only when it’s on — and even when it’s on, it’s not running continuously. “You don’t switch [your air conditioner] off and on, but unfortunately, that's exactly what a conventional heating and cooling system does in your home,” explained Koehner.
Not only can this thick moisture in the air make us feel miserable, but it can also do serious damage to your home if it’s not addressed. Too much moisture can cause doors to stick, create a musty smell in the air and even lead to mildew.
In spaces that don’t equip newer AC systems with longer run cycles to pull humidity out of the air, a reliable dehumidifier is important. But the range of dehumidifiers can be overwhelming. To help you find the right dehumidifier to fit your needs, we turned to the experts for shopping tips and recommendations.
Koehner and certified mold inspector Jennifer Nitrio of Mold Help For You agreed that you should rely on reviews when shopping for a dehumidifier, adding that a good product should have mostly 4- to 5-star reviews. “Go with a company that has been making that type of product for a long time and has a track record," Nitrio added.
From budget-friendly portable dehumidifiers to elevated units with added conveniences (and costs), here are some of the best dehumidifiers across categories. Unless otherwise noted, all of the dehumidifiers we recommend have the Energy Star seal of approval, which means the organization has determined that it removes moisture using less energy than a similarly sized conventional unit. Our experts said dehumidifiers with the Energy Star seal are the best, but they also recommended a more affordable model as well as a more powerful commercial-grade model without the seal.
Energy star certified dehumidifiers
Koehner recommended the hOmeLabs dehumidifier for large rooms and for those that are very wet because of its 1.8-gallon water tank and its ability to remove up to 50 pints of moisture from the air per day. It also boasts a sleek design and is one of the quietest models on the market, he said. It comes equipped with wheels and handles, which make this 40-pound unit easier to move around. It also has an auto restart, an auto shut-off and an auto defrost function.
The Danby DDR050BLBDB is the newer version of the brand's older and discontinued DDR070BDWDB 70-Pint model. Designed for spaces up to 3,000 square feet, the Danby still includes the best caster wheels of all dehumidifiers, Nitrio said, which is what she loved about the older version. “In addition to outstanding portability, the newer Danby is one of the most energy-efficient dehumidifiers on the market,” she added. It boasts an Energy Star certification to run economically even in the most humid environments, according to the brand.
Nitrio said she has become more and more impressed with the Frigidaire dehumidifier line. “I would suggest this dehumidifier as a good alternative to the Danby if it’s not in stock,” she said. “It’s easy to clean, and it’s a workhorse. It’s really robust in a high-humidity area, and it has the continuous drain option.” The only caveat, she said, is that it does not have the auto restart feature.
The Tosot 35-Pint Dehumidifier is fit for spaces as big as 3,000 square feet, according to the brand. It will automatically stop running once the water bucket fills up or you reach your target temperature, and you can hook up a 3/4-inch drain hose (not included) to the Tosot so that it will automatically drain if you aren’t around. If you’re worried about noise levels or energy consumption, don’t be: It has a peak sound level of only 50 decibels at high speed, and it’s Energy-Star certified. You can also find it in 20-pint and 50-pint options.
Other expert-recommended dehumidifiers to consider
Nitrio says that Eva-Dry offers a solid product line as well as great customer service. Designed for small spaces with the capacity to absorb up to 8 ounces of water per day, the EDV-1200 model is optimal for any space up to 1,200 cubic feet, according to the brand. It has a water fill window as well as an automatic water level switch so you know when the tank is at its capacity. This dehumidifier is not Energy Star certified, but it may be a good option if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars.
If you're on the lookout for a heavy-duty dehumidifier for larger projects, then the BlueDri should be your top choice, according to Nitrio. “There isn't a place this [machine] can't dehumidify,” she said. “It also comes equipped with temperature sensors, automatic water pumps and a high-tech digital panel.” Though this dehumidifier isn’t Energy Star certified, the brand says its efficient rotary compression helps extract up to 225 pints of water per day, compared to the normal 70-pint capacity of typical humidifiers.
What to know about dehumidifiers
Aside from personal comfort, people use dehumidifiers for three main reasons, Nitrio explained:
- To reduce relative humidity inside in order to prevent mold
- To help reduce indoor pollutants, which can trigger allergies
- To preserve building materials by protecting them from dampness and damage (think buckling floorboards and rotting support beams)
It’s important to understand humidity’s wicking effect. Although the problem may start with humidity in a bathroom, it could eventually spread into your bedroom and closets, too. “When you drop a paper towel onto a spill, it wicks the liquid, pulling it into the sheet. That’s a great visual for how humidity works in your home — it doesn’t stay in one room,” Koehner explained.
Before shopping for a dehumidifier, start by identifying the size and extent of your humidity woes. “Invest $20 in a thermo hygrometer, which is a digital thermostat that measures temperature and humidity,” Koehner suggested. “The goal is to average about 45% humidity in all rooms, all year round.” In addition to helping you identify the “problem rooms” and how far the humidity is spreading, this will also tell you how much fluid you’re going to need to remove. Koehner said a smart thermostat can also measure the humidity in your home.
Units that are too small can’t keep up, but units that are too large have a different problem: They cool too fast, making them shut off before dehumidifying enough. You get cold, damp air. That creates a recipe for mold.
Chris Koehner, Owner, Halo Heating & Cooling
It may be tempting to just buy a unit and put it on the highest setting, but this can actually cause more issues. “An incorrect setting can actually lead to mold growth in the dehumidifier, in addition to not removing enough moisture or removing too much moisture from the air,” Nitrio explained. Dehumidifiers are sized by square footage and by how many pints of fluid they remove per day, so knowing the size of the space you’re working with will help streamline your options.
According to the experts we consulted, a common mistake shoppers make is buying the wrong size unit. While some go with a smaller dehumidifier because it’s cheaper, they quickly learn that they need to invest in a second option in order to get the job done. There are also those who assume oversized units will give better results and go with one that’s too aggressive.
“Units that are too small can’t keep up, but units that are too large have a different problem: They cool too fast, making them shut off before dehumidifying enough,” Koehner explained. “You get cold, damp air. That creates a recipe for mold.”
How to buy a dehumidifier
Some dehumidifiers require considerably less maintenance than others given their features. “Ideally, shoppers should look for a model that has a built-in humidistat, which not only measures the relative humidity but also controls it automatically,” Nitrio said. “This takes the guesswork out of whether or not you need to turn your dehumidifier on or off.” In addition to a handy built-in humidistat, Nitrio recommended looking out for some other standout features, including:
- An adjustable thermostat
- An automatic timer shut-off or restart when it’s needed so you don’t have to constantly check the humidity
- A defrost mode on a refrigerant dehumidifier, as the coils can freeze in lower temperatures
- Water-level windows to monitor the bucket as it fills
- Direct-to-drain installation compatibility so you don't have to manually empty water that collects in the machine’s reservoir
- A filter-change light
- Handles for easy transport from different rooms
Koehner also warned against any model that isn’t isn’t energy-efficient, especially if you’ll be running it throughout the day and night. “Dehumidifiers can increase energy usage and drive your electricity bill up,” he said. “Make sure you choose a dehumidifier with the Energy Star seal of approval.”