The Ultimate Guide To Using A Dehumidifier

When you initially purchase a new device or product, aside from the excitement of having something new, a wandering thought probably crosses your mind. How do I use this, or if you are a perfectionist, how do I get the most use out of it and keep it operational for the most amount of time. 

These passing thoughts are not something just a few people suffer from. If anything, many people are curious about “min-maxing” their investments on anything, and a dehumidifier is no different! 

Before we get into how to keep it running or get the most out of it, let’s start from the beginning and ask, “how should I use a portable dehumidifier?” Here are a few things to know:

  1. Remember that not all portable dehumidifiers are the same
  2. Make sure your settings are correct
  3. Keep your device away from the walls
  4. Empty the trays frequently
  5. Cold and warm water has a significant impact

Throughout this article, we will discuss some of the most important parts about owning a dehumidifier and addressing some concerns you may have. 

These questions may range from something as basic as how to operate it and what a dehumidifier is. We will also discuss their pros and cons at the very end. Continue reading on to find out the ultimate guide for using a portable dehumidifier!

What is a Dehumidifier?

Let’s break the ice by unraveling what precisely a dehumidifier is and what its function in your home (or other dwellings) is. We will also briefly check in on the different kinds of dehumidifiers that exist down below. 

In its most raw form, a dehumidifier is an electric appliance that dramatically reduces the humidity in a room or area and proceeds to regulate it throughout its usage

This process is entirely different depending on which dehumidifier you are using. Still, the result is the same, excess moisture is removed from the air by and large.

As stated above, there are several different kinds of dehumidifiers. For example, electric refrigeration dehumidifiers that use a cold evaporator coil will condense to water and heats it across the ring. 

It will then release it into the room again, thus removing excess moisture in the process. The condensing method works similarly to how your typical air conditioner does. As such, it is a lot easier to identify by the large and more clunky size of the dehumidifier itself.

1. Desiccant Dehumidifiers 

Another dehumidifier that differs from conventional variants is the desiccant (absorption) dehumidifier. This kind relies on a unique humidity-absorbing material lovingly known as a desiccant. 

The desiccant is a substance that can come in a solid or liquid, depending on its application and usage. Still, its fundamental property of keeping things dry wherever it is stored is how it finds itself utilized in a dehumidifier. 

After removing a certain amount of moisture in the air, the desiccant in itself will need to be dried, usually with heat, and then placed back into the dehumidifier to be used again. 

Because of the method used to remove heat from its surroundings, a desiccant dehumidifier is only practical for smaller rooms or areas.

2. Thermoelectric Dehumidifiers

A dehumidifier by any other name is just as dry, or so you would assume. Thermoelectric dehumidifiers get the job done by a Peltier heat pump that cools a surface and condenses water vapors from the air. 

The simplistic design of these dehumidifiers given them a wide array of benefits. One way they are beneficial is by being quieter than a traditional dehumidifier. Still, these advantages are also its Achilles heel. 

Because they function without the use of a mechanical compressor, they are more silent. Furthermore, thermoelectric dehumidifiers don’t do the job as efficiently. It is wise only to consider this option if you want a more noise-free option.

How to Use a Portable Dehumidifier

Now that we have some information on what a dehumidifier is and the different kinds let’s break down how to effectively use one and identify that each type has a unique purpose. 

Not only that, but the size of the location you are using it will also govern which dehumidifier will work best for you.

1. Ensure You Know All Dehumidifiers Aren’t the Same

As we briefly glazed over before, there are quite a few different kinds. Suppose you do not do some research on which dehumidifier benefits you the most. 

In that case, you may be dissatisfied with your purchase. Some examples would be that the humidity may not be the best, or you will have less storage space.

If, for example, you want to remove excess humidity from your basement, you would probably want to go with a larger, electric refrigeration dehumidifier.

Refrigerator dehumidifiers can pull more moisture from the air and thus are more effective for bigger rooms and areas.

2. Make Sure Your Dehumidifier Settings are Correct

Taking the time to educate yourself about the individual settings of your dehumidifier will allow you to get the most use out of it, depending on the climate it is operating in. Putting in the correct settings may also be giving it the only option it has to function. 

Thankfully some of the more recent dehumidifiers have something called a humidistat. A humidistat allows you to select the exact humidity desired and take out all of the guesswork from using your dehumidifier in the first place.

Most traditional dehumidifiers allow you to modify the general humidity in the area. In most cases, your home’s humidity should be between 30% and 50%. 

Any higher than 50%, and you risk growing bacteria in various spots around your home. Alternatively, if it is too low, the air may feel stagnant and stale. 

Note: If you happen to live within a colder area, especially in winter, you should keep your humidity levels around 30% or 40%. This humidity level should avoid having excess condensation create fog on your windows!

3. Keep Your Dehumidifier Away From Walls

Understanding how your dehumidifier functions are all well and good. The placement of the unit is integral to getting the most or any usage out of your purchase. 

Suppose you place the unit directly next to a wall. In that case, you run the risk of blocking the air intake or exhaust and blocking the air, which will hamper its ability to take moist air in. Conversely, it can expel fresh, warm air into the room. 

You will want to give the dehumidifier a wide birth from any walls or other furniture to give it ample room to operate at peak performance. 

Most units recommend about six inches in every direction for optimal efficiency. Placing the unit itself in a hallway will have the most impact on a home because it can circulate throughout the house more evenly.

4. Empty Your Water Tray

Suppose you want to keep your dehumidifier running correctly and give a boost to its overall longevity. In that case, you are going to want to have some phenomenal maintenance and upkeep on it. 

One of the essential steps is to always remember to empty the water tray for your dehumidifier.

Some units have built-in safety switches that turn the unit off if the tray has too much water. However, other dehumidifiers do not have such features. They can eventually damage the product if you fail to remove the water in time. 

It’s worth noting that not all models come equipped with a water tray design. If they do, they may offer alternative draining methods, such as special hoses requiring a drain nearby to sufficiently expel the accumulated moisture. 

Another essential factor to be wary of is that some units are not exactly the most maintenance-friendly and may require additional steps to keep them clean. 

The humidifier may also have unique products that need to be purchased to keep them functioning correctly. Be sure to research the product extensively to ensure you have everything required for the general upkeep of the dehumidifier.

5. Cold & Warm Weather Have an Impact

Even though a dehumidifier removes excess moisture in the air, the temperature of the location has a massive effect on the unit itself. We mean that it functions and needs to operate sufficiently to remove excess moisture from the air. 

Colder Environments

Suppose you are utilizing your dehumidifier in a colder environment. In that case, you run the risk of the water it stores freezing inside the unit. If the unit freezes, it could stop the system from functioning correctly or damage the unit entirely. 

Now that you are aware of these risks, you can go with the confidence that you’ll be able to purchase a system that will operate year-round safely. You can even alternate between the ones you make use of to carry you from one season to the next.

One of the best options to avoid the freezing situation altogether would be using either a charcoal or silica desiccant-based dehumidifier. 

The reason these are better alternatives to your conventional dehumidifier lies solely in the fact that the desiccant cannot freeze, and as such, can operate at much lower temperatures. 

Warmer Environments

In most cases, warmer weather doesn’t offer any elaborate challenges to your dehumidifier. It is because there is just more moisture in the air than average, which simplified means it has more work. 

Aside from making sure you give the dehumidifier small breaks so it doesn’t overheat, it won’t suffer in performance due to the hotter weather. 

What are the Signs of Needing a Dehumidifier?

There is a multitude of signs that can let you know you need a dehumidifier. Some may be blatantly obvious, like an extreme influx of bugs in your home that flourish in high humidity areas, like ants and centipedes.

Other tell-tale signs may be less noticeable but just as glaring. These could come in the form of; 

  • Mold
  • Allergens
  • Moisture build-up on walls, windows, and other surfaces
  • The air just feeling sick or heavy
  • Too many pests in your living area

If any of the above happens, a dehumidifier is just the solution you are looking for to solve your problems and bring some much-needed comfort to your home. 

The very last thing we will discuss on the subject is insects. If pests were your problem, making your home less likely to be theirs should be a priority. In more specific terms, centipedes love high humid climates. 

Centipedes rely upon high humidity locations of roughly 70-80% to thrive. Suppose you keep managing to remove excess moisture from the air. In that case, they will become irritated and uncomfortable and seek shelter in a more inviting area.

Places I Do Not Need a Dehumidifier

Finally, it’s worth noting there are quite a few situations where having a dehumidifier in your home may be a poor idea. 

Living in arid, dry climates, to begin with would be one of them. Making a home or area that is already dry can often yield inferior results for everyone and everything involved.

Where Can I Purchase a Dehumidifier?

1. Online

Purchasing a dehumidifier that meets your needs can be as easy as going to Amazon or eBay. Still, suppose you were looking for something a little more specialized and informative. In that case, you might want to try one of the many juggernauts in the industry like Eva-Dry, for example.

While shopping for a dehumidifier, take advantage of any promotional codes or offers you see that apply to you to make the most of your purchase.

Go to sites specializing in selling dehumidifiers or even look up YouTube videos regarding the brand you are interested in. You may be able to walk away with some incredible deals!

2. In-person

Suppose you want to get more hands-on experience and the ability to talk with someone directly about the product. In that case, you could look into your local hardware stores or larger general-purpose stores like Walmart, Lowes, Bestbuy, or even Home Depot. 

Suppose you do plan on going to the store in person. In that case, it’s worth having a few personal concerns in hand that you wanted to inquire the floor associate with before showing up, as walking empty-handed might not yield your desired outcome.

How Long is it for a Dehumidifier to Dry a Room Out?

1. Consider the Time

This is a reasonably decent question. For starters, is the time it takes for a room to reach an acceptable level of humidity is determined by a few different factors. The first of which would be the size of the room. 

The larger the room, the longer it will usually take for the dehumidifier to bring the humidity down enough to be considered dried out. 

2. Size of Your Dehumidifier

Secondly, the size of the dehumidifier matters in itself. Suppose you purchase a dehumidifier that is ill-equipped to handle the job given. In that case, your room may never become sufficiently dry. 

The same can be said of smaller rooms and locations. Suppose you buy an extremely small dehumidifier for a large gun safe. In that case, it may only lower the humidity within a specific range.

Ultimately, if everything gets done correctly and you have the correct size dehumidifier for the room. Your settings are optimal, and you could be back on the dry track anywhere between a day and a week. 

Do You Leave Dehumidifiers On all the Time?

To be brief, you should not leave it on constantly. If you are in a colder climate, you only want to have your dehumidifier running until it hits that sweet spot between 30-50% or 30-40%. 

Suppose you allow your dehumidifier to run any longer than necessary. In that case, you can suffer from just as many adverse effects as if you had never purchased one in the first place.

If a location is too dry, it welcomes a different breed of annoyances. These nuisances range from dust mites, mold, bacteria, and any bug or other inhabitant of low humidity areas.

Another problem that can very quickly arise from constantly running your dehumidifier is the energy bill you accumulate from continually needing to be powered. 

Taking everything into account, the safe answer to this question is no. You do not need your dehumidifier on all the time.

Can You Sleep With a Dehumidifier On?

This one ties in slightly with the above question but comes across more on functionality than anything else. It is undoubtedly safe to sleep while a dehumidifier is functioning in your home. 

Almost all modern dehumidifiers come with a built-in safety switch that turns the unit off once the desired humidity level has been reached. 

Having a built-in safety switch essentially means that there should be no harm to your home if you fall asleep with it on. Alternatively, suppose you don’t have this feature. 

In that case, you still won’t be in any danger by having it on overnight, but you may cost yourself more than you’d like if you make a regular habit out of it.

The critical phrasing here boils down to how often you let it happen if your unit doesn’t have an auto-off function. The risks of having a low humidity space can happen to you if you are being wary of what’s going on or regularly checking the moisture when you are awake.

Do Dehumidifiers Use Lots of Electricity?

To answer this question, you need to view which dehumidifier you are using and the size of the unit itself. Large ones that require more energy, 700W of power, can take up their fair share.

According to the US Department of Energy, also known as (DOE), dehumidifiers are filed as “low electricity expenditure HVAC devices.

According to the same source, it roughly costs between $0.03 and $0.16 per hour. In other words, it would run for $0.72 to $3.84 per day to run your unit 24/7 for a particular day. 

We’ve said it doesn’t need to run non-stop for an entire day after your room or location has reached optimal humidity levels. Still, it can become quite costly over time.

Essentially they do not use an overwhelming amount of electricity, especially if there are government mandates that title it “low electricity.”

That being said, what is low for some may be considered high in other places, so take this information with a grain of salt.

Advantages & Disadvantages of a Portable Dehumidifier

As with all things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a dehumidifier, and these lovely humidity reducing devices are no exception to that. Below, we will go over a pro and con chart listing them and help display whether or not you need one in the first place.

PROSCONS
Makes your air more comfortable May not work in dry areas like deserts etc
Removes harmful allergensCertain medical conditions can worsen in dry areas
Prevents mold and bacteria growthCan damage skin and hair if the area is too dry
Makes rooms inhospitable to specific bugsColds/Flu can be made worse while dehumidifiers are running actively
Creates healthier environmentCan hurt children running or tripping over it

Conclusion

Managing the humidity level in your home is something that almost everyone can benefit from. At the very least, particularly seasons throughout the year to make your living areas more comfortable or keep your belongings safe from moisture-based damage.

There are quite a few circumstances in which your life will heavily benefit from making use of a dehumidifier. Some of the things include:

  • Removing mold from a particularly damp bathroom or basement, which can, in turn, save you a substantial amount of money in the long run.
  • Helping out with specific health issues.
  • Keeping disgusting bugs like centipede well and at bay.

Alternatively, the grass may not be greener on the other side if your environment is already dry enough as it is. Suppose you are living in a high-altitude area or a desert. 

In this case, a dehumidifier can severely agitate your skin, ruin your hair, and cause latent medical issues to cause you extreme harm.

Sources

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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