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As temperatures heat up and homes start cranking their AC units to battle the sizzle, there’s another problem many still have to battle: moisture. But as we try to get rid of the heat with air conditioning, we’re not necessarily addressing the humidity issue. “The problem is, a typical air conditioning system only dehumidifies when it’s on,” says Chris Koehner of Halo Heating & Cooling. “When you get in your car, you typically turn your air conditioner on and leave it on. You don’t switch it off and on but, unfortunately, that's exactly what a conventional heating and cooling system does in your home.”
The periodic blasts of cool air don’t address the rising humidity. And not only can this thick moisture in the air make us feel miserable — it can also do serious damage (and not just to our skin or quarantine hairstyles). From doors sticking and a musty smell to mold or mildew developing, this thick moisture in the air can be a serious problem if it’s not addressed. Aside from personal comfort, people use dehumidifiers for three main reasons, explains certified mold inspector Jennifer Nitrio of Mold Help For You.
- To reduce relative humidity inside in order to prevent mold since it thrives in moisture
- 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).
In spaces that don’t equip newer AC systems with longer run cycles to pull humidity out of the air in addition to cooling, it’s time to turn to a reliable dehumidifier to help. But the space of dehumidifiers can be overwhelming. How should go about finding the best dehumidifier for you and where should you look? To help you prepare for and shop for the right dehumidifier, we got shopping tips and recommendations from experts.
Before buying a dehumidifier
First, it’s important to understand humidity’s wicking effect. Although the problem may start with humidity in a bathroom, it could be wicking into your bedroom and closets too. “When you drop a paper towel onto a spill, it wicks the liquid, pulling it into the sheet,” explains Koehner. “That’s a great visual for how humidity works in your home — it doesn’t stay in one room.”
That’s why, before shopping for a dehumidifier, start by identifying the size and extent of your humidity woes. “Invest 20 bucks in a thermo hygrometer, which is a digital thermostat that measures temperature and humidity,” says Koehner suggests. “The goal is to average about 45 percent humidity in all rooms, all year round.” In addition to helping you identify the “problem rooms” and how far it’s spreading, this will also tell you how much fluid you’re going to need to remove.
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
“Do not guess the humidity level in your home or room. Human perception should never govern dehumidifier settings,” Nitrio advises. “An incorrect setting can actually lead to mold growth in the dehumidifier, in addition to not removing enough moisture or by removing too much moisture from the air.” Dehumidifiers are also 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.
Then there are 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,” says Koehner. “They cool too fast, making them shut off before dehumidifying enough. 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 says. “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 recommends looking out for some other standout features:
- An adjustable thermostat
- An automatic timer shut-off or turn on 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 warns 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 says. “Make sure you choose a dehumidifier with the Energy Star seal of approval.”
From budget-friendly portable dehumidifiers to elevated units with added conveniences (and costs), here are some of the best dehumidifiers across categories to meet different needs and help you find the best one for you.
The best overall dehumidifier: Frigidaire
“Frigidaire has historically been one of the best dehumidifier brands with consistently strong sales and product reviews,” says Nitrio. “They truly make some of the best dehumidifiers you will come across.” But what impresses her specifically about this model is that it comes in three different capacities to accommodate between 300 and 4,500 square fee, as well as an antibacterial washable filter. “This is also the only dehumidifier to include a middle-speed option between low and turbo, which is the best compromise between noise and performance,” she says.
Best affordable dehumidifier: Frigidaire
This Frigidaire model efficiently removes up to 30 pints of water a day and offers ideal coverage for rooms that are up to 1500 square feet. In addition to caster wheels for easy transportation, it also has a washable mesh filter, automatic shut off, and a full tank alert. ”One of my favorite things about this dehumidifier is that, apart from just removing moisture, it also cleans the air of dust and helps to decrease bacteria, thanks to its mesh filter,” says Andrew James, a water damage and mold remediation contractor.
Best basic dehumidifier: Pro Breeze
Designed for small spaces, this “whisper-quiet” dehumidifier holds up to 52 ounces of water. “That’s just incredible due to the small size of the device,” says Nitrio. “It’s portable and lightweight with an auto shut-off feature. Although it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, it is a workhorse in small spaces with only minor moisture concerns.”
Best smart dehumidifier: Frigidaire
4. Frigidaire 70 Pint Dehumidifier with Wi-Fi (limited availability)
“This Frigidaire is one of the few — but is also the best — smart dehumidifier on the market currently. Frigidaire’s reputation is strong and this Wi-Fi enabled dehumidifier does not disappoint,” says Nitrio. “You can control your dehumidifier from anywhere at your convenience with Frigidaire’s Smart Appliances app, which allows you to turn the unit on or off, change humidity levels, and get notified when the water bucket is full.” It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa as well as Google Assistant and is capable of handling moisture in rooms from 3000-4500 sq. “It runs cool with very little heat output and is very efficient with removing moisture quickly,” Nitrio adds.
Best portable dehumidifier: Danby
This Danby dehumidifier has some of the best caster wheels of all dehumidifiers, making it Nitrio’s top pick for portable dehumidifiers. “In addition to outstanding portability, it’s also one of the most energy-efficient dehumidifiers on the market, and covers a 4,500-square foot space,” she says. “It’s very quiet and has the control panel on top of the unit, which is also very convenient.” Plus, it has a 24-hour timer as well as automatic stop, start and defrost. If you like portability and want this model in smaller versions, check out the Danby 50 Pint Dehumidifier and the Danby 20 Pint Dehumidifier.
Best heavy duty dehumidifier: BlueDri
If you're on the lookout for a heavy-duty dehumidifier that’s worth the investment, then the BlueDri should be your top choice, according to James. “At a massive 225-pint capacity, there isn't a place this can't dehumidify,” he says. “It also comes equipped with temperature sensors, automatic water pumps and a high tech digital panel.”
Best all-in-one dehumidifier: hOmeLabs
With a 1.8-gallon water tank, this budget-friendly dehumidifier removes up to 50 pints of moisture from the air per day. “It’s fairly quiet for its size and the 50-pint dehumidifier is actually known to be the quietest model on the market. Other stand-out features are that it's easy to move around, use the electronic display, and the water tank is very easy to operate,” says Nitrio. “And it has an auto restart, an auto shutoff and an auto defrost function.”
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