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Dehumidifier Buying Guide

Dehumidifier Buying Guide

Too much moisture in the air negatively impacts personal comfort, as humidity worsens health conditions like allergies and asthma. Plus, high humidity can damage household items, like electronics, pianos, cameras, books and clothing. Excess moisture causes mold, dripping pipes, peeling wallpaper, warping wood, blistering paint as well as musty odors. A dehumidifier helps maintain an ideal relative humidity level in the home (RH level). During summer months, a 50% RH is recommended. In winter months, as low as 30% RH is acceptable, especially if condensation is building up on your windows.

Do I Need a Dehumidifier?

Even if you have home air conditioning, a dehumidifier may still be a necessity. In rooms such as basements and laundry rooms, where dampness is heavier due to natural conditions or where air conditioning may not reach, a dehumidifier will help, especially in reducing musty odors.

How Dehumidifiers Work

  • Air is fan-forced over cool coils to remove moisture.
  • Depending on the model, the condensed moisture then drips from the coils into a bucket/basin or can be drained or pumped out of the unit.
  • The drier air is then exhausted back into the room.

Selecting the Right Dehumidifier

Consider these three main factors:

  • The area you wish to dehumidify (in square feet)
  • The method you wish to remove the water collected by the dehumidifier
  • The energy performance of the unit

Area to Dehumidify

Dehumidifiers are rated by pint removal capacity every 24 hours. The following guide will help you choose the right capacity model for your needs.

Dampness Level in the AreaArea in Square Feet 
 < 2,000
sq. ft
sq. ft
sq. ft
sq. ft
> 3,500
sq. ft
Moderately damp: 
Space feels damp and has musty odor
Very damp: 
Space always feels damp and has musty odor
Space feels and smells wet, walls or floors sweat
Extremely wet: 
Laundry drying, wet floor, high load conditions

Dehumidification variables also include other factors, such as climate, laundry equipment, the number of family members, the number of doors and windows, and the degree and intensity of area activity. Needs may also vary by temperature and humidity level from outside conditions. If in doubt, always buy the next larger size. Larger capacity units remove moisture faster and have a bigger bucket reservoir to hold collected water.

Dehumidifier Water Removal

Dehumidifier Pump

In very damp or wet conditions, the unit will collect a large amount of water, and you'll need to empty the internal bucket regularly. Most units have a direct drain feature, which allows for continuous operation without having to empty the unit's bucket, but requires a floor-level water drain. Without access to a floor-level drain, if you want to avoid regular emptying of an internal bucket, buy a unit with an internal pump feature that can pump water vertically up to a sink.

Dehumidifier Energy Performance

Energy Star

Energy performance is rated by the amount of water extracted every hour versus the amount of energy consumed to do so. ENERGY STAR® qualified units remove a very high level of water while consuming the least amount of power.

Dehumidifier Features to Consider

  • An internal pump automatically pumps water vertically to a water basin for continuous operation.
  • A direct drain allows for continuous operation with a gravity feed to a floor-level drain.
  • A filter indicator shows when the air filter needs to be cleaned.
  • An auto humidistat senses moisture level in the area around the unit and automatically shuts the unit off to save energy once the desired humidity level is attained.
  • A low temperature setting allows units to operate in temperatures as low as 41°F.
  • Auto-defrost keeps units from freezing in colder environments below 65°F.
  • Auto reset will restart the unit to its previous setting in case of a power loss.

How to Use a Dehumidifier

After properly unpacking the unit and removing all the shipping tape keeping the bucket in place, you should also check the internal bucket to ensure the float switch is not dislodged (refer to instruction manual).

If you choose to use either the direct drain or pump application that some models feature, please make sure to follow the instructions for setup in your owner's manual.

When you turn the dehumidifier on for the first time, set the relative humidity (RH) level to the driest (highest) setting possible to stabilize the room's humidity. Most units have RH settings as low as 30% and as high as 90%. After a couple of cycles, set the unit's automatic humidistat to the setting you desire. In summer, 50% RH is recommended, and as low as 30% RH is ideal in winter.

  • Maintain an unrestricted airflow. Units with vents on top may sit flush against a wall. Units with vents on the back and sides require 6 inches of circulation space from walls and furniture.
  • Keep the air filter clean by checking it regularly. A dirty filter restricts air flow and affects the unit's performance.
  • Help reduce humidity in your home by cleaning gutters and downspouts and ensuring dryer vents and exhaust fans are working properly.
  • Plug the dehumidifier into an appropriate ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. Never remove the third prong from any plug.
  • Always unplug the unit before cleaning.
  • To avoid possible electric shock, unplug the machine when emptying the container.