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Everything You Need to Know About Dehumidifiers

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Mar 14, 2022

Unless you live in hot, arid regions such as Arizona or New Mexico, the chances are that your home could suffer from high humidity levels sometime during the year. Even in dry areas, households with an airtight building envelope and inadequate ventilation might suffer from humidity problems. We define humidity levels by the amount of water vapor in the air.

Table of Contents

  1. What Causes Humidity in a House?
  2. Is Humidity in Your House Bad for You?
  3. How do Electronic Dehumidifiers Work? 
  4. Do You Need a Dehumidifier?
  5. Do Dehumidifiers Make Homes More Comfortable?
  6. Will a Dehumidifier Get Rid of Mold?
  7. Is a Dehumidifier Bad for Your House?
  8. Will a Dehumidifier Reduce My Electricity Bill?
  9. What Is the Best Type of Dehumidifier?
  10. Are Dehumidifiers Expensive to Operate?
  11. Bottom Line
apartment with plants

What Causes Humidity in a House?

Several everyday household activities contribute to higher humidity levels within the home. Taking a shower, washing the dishes, and even boiling a cup of water for your morning coffee all release moisture into the air of your home. Without proper ventilation, this humidity can build up and affect your home and health. While certain humidity levels are beneficial for both your health and the stability of your home, too much moisture can lead to many serious problems.

Is Humidity in Your House Bad for You?

Homes with high indoor humidity levels will most likely suffer from unhealthy interior air quality. Signs of high humidity levels within the home include visible signs of mold or mildew growing on the walls, “stuffy” smells, and moisture accumulating on windows or around interior pipes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that exposure to molds and mildews can be the cause of several health issues, including "nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation.” 

Materials that are consistently exposed to wet air and absorb moisture can rot and decompose. Therefore, excessive humidity inside your home can also negatively affect the structural integrity of your home. 

A simple dehumidifier—a low-energy appliance—quickly and effectively reduces high moisture and humidity levels in your home. Below, we offer a complete rundown on how you can find the best dehumidifier for your home.

How do Electronic Dehumidifiers Work? 

A dehumidifier is an inexpensive household appliance that makes it easy for homeowners to maintain optimum humidity levels. Electronic dehumidifiers work like an air conditioner but in reverse. Instead of cooling ambient air, a dehumidifier draws moist air from a room over several coils. The first set of coils is refrigerated or cooled, while the second set of coils is heated. As the moist air passes around the chilled air, the moisture (water vapor) is condensed into water and collects in either a drain hose or a collection chamber. This dehumidified air passes through the heated set of coils before being blown back into the room as dry, warm air.

Most experts agree that the best range for home humidity is somewhere between 35 and 50 percent, though the best span will depend on your climate and your preferences.

Do You Need a Dehumidifier?

The most obvious sign of high humidity levels in a home is visible mold and mildew. Mold can appear especially in areas where you use water frequently, such as bathrooms or kitchens. Unfortunately, mold and mildew tend to grow in inconspicuous areas underneath carpets or behind drywall. You can use a simple, two-pronged moisture detector in your home to check for areas of high moisture. Any reading over 19 percent will mean that mold will soon grow. It would be best if you immediately started to run a dehumidifier to get rid of excess humidity when moisture levels reach this level.

Other signs that might warrant the use of a dehumidifier include:

  • Wet stains on walls or ceilings
  • An uncomfortable, stuffy feeling
  • Condensation on windows
  • Musty odors
humidity control

Homeowners should consider investing in advanced ventilation technology such as an HRV or ERV for optimal comfort levels. But small, portable dehumidifiers that can be moved to target specific rooms in the house are a less expensive option. Even in well-ventilated homes, individual rooms such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, or basements can suffer from high humidity levels and benefit from electronic dehumidifiers. Homeowners can measure the humidity levels with a humidity monitor, which only costs around $10.

Do Dehumidifiers Make Homes More Comfortable?

Dehumidifiers allow our homes to achieve improved comfort levels. Buildings with high humidity levels will inevitably feel sticky, even when the air conditioning is on. High humidity levels work against our skin's natural cooling mechanism, which relies on moisture evaporation to cool down. Thus, 80-degree temperatures in high humidity regions such as the Southeast are often much more uncomfortable than 100-degree temperatures in arid areas such as the Southwest.

Will a Dehumidifier Get Rid of Mold?

By lowering humidity levels in the home with a dehumidifier's help, homeowners can reduce mold or mildew growth risk. Mold growth can contribute to several allergies and potential respiratory illnesses.

Is a Dehumidifier Bad for Your House?

Dehumidifiers can prolong the lifespan and durability of several elements in your home. Drywall, floorboards, and other wood items that warp and bend due to quick changes in interior humidity levels are all at-risk elements.

Will a Dehumidifier Reduce My Electricity Bill?

High humidity levels can also lead to higher air conditioning bills, as humid homes will inevitably feel warmer. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates savings of about 1 percent for each thermostat adjustment degree per 8 hours. Thus, the relatively modest investment of a portable humidifier (or two) will allow you to not run your air conditioner as hard during the summer. This, in turn, will lead to much lower energy bills.

What Is the Best Type of Dehumidifier?

Most portable electric dehumidifiers are relatively simple to set up and operate and only require you to plug in the cord. However, when considering the best dehumidifier for your household needs, you should consider the following elements:

  • Collection Tank versus Drain Hose: most inexpensive options include a collection tank. This option does require the relatively easy maintenance of emptying the bucket once it fills up (usually once or twice a week in moderately humid homes). Humidifiers that connect to a drain hose will be more expensive to install and not be moved around the house. However, they might be the best option for homes that are left unoccupied for extended periods.
  • Collection Tank Size: for humidifiers with a collection tank, you will need to choose the pint capacity for the bucket. Smaller containers will need to be emptied more often but are generally smaller and lighter.
  • Pint Capacity: pint capacity refers to moisture quantity that a specific type of dehumidifier can remove from the surrounding area in 24 hours. Most homes up to 3,000 square feet in size only need dehumidifiers of 70 pints or less, while smaller portable options will be much lower in capacity.
  • Low-Temperature Option: if you plan to use a dehumidifier in non-insulated areas of your home, such as basements or attics, you should look for dehumidifiers with low-temperature options that will allow these models to work in temperatures down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Air Filter: it would help if you also looked for dehumidifiers that incorporate high-quality air filters. The warm, dry air that is blown back into your home will benefit from an additional screen that can improve the air quality inside the walls of your house.

Are Dehumidifiers Expensive to Operate?

The cost of running a dehumidifier varies greatly depending on the model's size and how often you run in. Small, portable units will most likely only cost you between $30 and $50 a year to run. For homes that opt for a larger model with a capacity of 70 pints, operation costs might be upwards of $350 per year.

Obviously, the less you run your dehumidifier, the lower the energy cost. One way to naturally lower your home humidity levels is by planting certain plants that absorb excess moisture. Certain ferns and orchids don’t only purify your indoor air but can also lower humidity levels while enlivening a dull corner of your kitchen.

Bottom Line

For mold prevention and physical comfort, dehumidifiers are an essential element of a more sustainable home.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2022-07-13T14:49:06+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.

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