Dehumidifiers come in a myriad of different shapes and sizes and each model is equipped with different features and functionality. If you’ve just started looking at dehumidifiers you probably have more questions than answers as you start the process of determining which dehumidifier will fit your needs the best. You may be asking questions like what size dehumidifier do I need? What features do I really need and which features can I live without? Do I need a unit with a built-in pump?
You may already have scoured the web for hours trying to find the best buying option (you may have already read several reviews and more than a few buying guides) and you already know what features to look for. If this is the case you may simply be asking which dehumidifiers we recommend in each particular size class. Rest assured, no matter how much research you’ve done already, we hope to meet you where you’re at and help you choose the absolute best dehumidifier for your particular humidity problem.
Where in the buying process are you?
“I know what what I’m looking for and want to see which dehumidifiers you recommend. Where can I find your dehumidifier reviews?”
If you already have a fairly good idea of what features to look for and just want to see which units we recommend please see any one of our size specific buyer’s guides below.
Note: our general buying advice may differ from what you’ve read elsewhere in other dehumidifier reviews and you might find it helpful to read through the rest of our guide below even if you’ve already done plenty of research before visiting our site.
“I just started looking at dehumidifiers and I don’t quite know what size dehumidifier to get or what features to look for.”
If you’ve just started looking at dehumidifiers and you aren’t sure what size unit you need, what features you’re going to want included with your purchase, etc. we highly recommend that you read through our general guide below and only then move on to our size specific buyer’s guides and corresponding reviews which we linked to above.
General Buyer’s Guide
Our Approach – Testing and Comparing
We personally tested over 30 different dehumidifiers to determine which were the best performing models on the market. Manufacturer specifications are normally taken in a highly controlled environment to maximize the performance of the dehumidifier and get the absolute best results. Our tests simulated real world environments and conditions that weren’t always ideal to determine how each unit would really perform in your home or at your place of business. We tested each unit to determine how quickly it removes moisture, how much noise it produces, how much energy it uses, and just how accurate its built in hygrometer (used to read humidity levels) really is in the home environment and at humidity levels that you might be dealing with in your particular situation.
After conducting these four in-house real world performance tests we took the time to compare each unit’s build quality – how well it’s constructed, the quality of the parts used to construct the unit. Next, we looked at each unit’s features, how well it executed these features, and which features each particular unit lacked – missing features that might be the difference between your buying that particular unit or not. We also assessed each unit’s portability, adjustability, versatility, and how easy it was to input settings and generally use each particular unit. Finally, we compared and contrasted each unit’s warranty, its price, and consumer feedback. As you can see, much time and research was put into each individual unit to find what it did well and more importantly, to determine what it didn’t do well – all so that we could write the most complete in-depth review possible.
More on the Review Process
We broke down each review into 13 different categories including portability, versatility, energy efficiency, moisture removal rate, etc. We then rated each unit as having either above average, average, or below average performance in each particular category. We also attached a score to each category’s general rating to further illuminate just how well it did compared to the competition. See the table below for our rating rubric.
|2.0||Below Average||Our worst rating indicating poor and unacceptable performance|
|3.0||Below Average||Below average but acceptable performance|
|3.5||Average||The unit's performance was up to par compared to the industry standard|
|4.0||Above Average||Only slightly above average performance|
|4.5||Above Average||More than slightly above average but also not perfect|
|5.0||Above Average||Perfect. Nothing could have been done better|
First Time Buyer’s Guide
If you know absolutely nothing about dehumidifiers we hope to help you get started and make the best possible purchase decision by using our guide below. If you’ve already read buying advice elsewhere, our opinion below might surprise you.
We’ve divided this guide into two sections, namely primary considerations and secondary considerations. Primary considerations involves the first and foremost decision you’re going to have to make before purchasing a dehumidifier, that being determining what dehumidifier capacity (or size) is right for you and your particular situation. Secondary considerations involves other important decisions you’re going to have to make before making your purchase, namely whether you need a unit equipped with a built-in pump and/or whether you need a unit that can be operated at lower temperatures. Let’s get started.
Primary Considerations – Dehumidifier Size
A Primer On Dehumidifier Capacity
The term dehumidifier capacity refers to how many pints of moisture a particular dehumidifier is rated by the manufacturer to be able to remove per day. A 70 pint dehumidifier is rated to remove up to 70 pints of moisture per day, a 50 pint dehumidifier is rated to remove up to 50 pints of moisture per day, and so on. 70 pint dehumidifiers are commonly referred to as large capacity dehumidifiers. We refer to 50 pint dehumidifiers as medium capacity dehumidifiers and 30 pint dehumidifiers as small capacity dehumidifiers.
Most dehumidifiers are 70 pint, 50 pint, or 30 pint units. Also abundant in the marketplace are dehumidifiers that stray somewhat from these general standards. You’ll see dehumidifiers rated to remove 32 pints per day, 45 pints per day, 65 pints per day, etc. In these cases we group the particular dehumidifier with the standard capacity that it is most close to. For example, we would classify a 32 pint unit as a small capacity dehumidifier, a 45 pint unit as a medium capacity dehumidifier, and a 65 pint unit as a large capacity dehumidifier.
What Size Is The Right Size?
Any other dehumidifier buying guide will tell you to first measure the size of the space you plan on dehumidifying. They’ll make the claim that only then will you be able to determine what size/capacity dehumidifier you’re going to need. We respectfully disagree with this advice.
Our recommendation is that you buy the largest dehumidifier your budget will allow for no matter what size space you are dehumidifying – in other words we recommend that you buy a 70 pint dehumidifier, if you can afford it. Even if your budget is limited there are great options in the 70 pint size class that are similarly priced to 30 pint dehumidifiers. For example, the Keystone KSTAD70B is one of two most recommended units in the 70 pint size class. It retails for about $190. Compare this pricing to an average price of about $160-170 for most 30 pint units on the market. Granted, the Keystone is the most inexpensive 70 pint unit we tested but our point remains – you can buy a 70 pint dehumidifier for close to the same price as much smaller capacity dehumidifiers.
Why do we recommend buying as large a dehumidifier as you can afford? There are several reasons but let’s first quickly take a look at reasons why you might want to not heed our advice and go with a smaller capacity unit.
2 Reasons Why You Might Want To Buy A Smaller Capacity Unit
#1 Better Portability
If you’re looking for a highly portable dehumidifier you might be leaning toward buying a smaller capacity unit. Here are the facts for the dehumidifiers we tested.
|70 pint||43.9 lb|
|50 pint||38.2 lb|
|30 pint||31.5 lb|
As you can see there really isn’t a large discrepancy between the average weight of 70 pint units and 50 pint units. There is a substantial margin between the average weight of 30 pint units and that of 70 pint units, however. We note here that the lightest 70 pint dehumidifiers we tested weighed in at about 40 lb, the lightest 50 pints were 37 lb and the lightest 30 pint we tested was 29 lb.
If you really do need the most portable unit possible then you would be correct in leaning toward buying a smaller capacity dehumidifier. However, in our own experience (during testing) we found the difference in weight between the lightest 70 pint units at 40 lb and that of the 30 pint units we tested to really not be that much of a difference at all. 40 lb is quite heavy but it should be manageable for most consumers. Only consider a 30 pint unit for improved portability if you really cannot manage to lift over 30 lb or so.
We find it appropriate to note here that while the difference in size and weight between 30 and 70 pint units was noticeable, the same cannot be said for 70 and 50 pint units. As you can see in the chart above the 50 pint units really weren’t much lighter than the 70 pint units we tested. You might find it surprising also that the 70 and 50 pint units we tested were almost exactly the same size and dimensions. The Frigidaire FAD704DWD and FAD504DWD, for example, look identical except for the badge on the back of unit showing the model number. The same was true for the 50 and 70 pint Danby, ArcticAire, Friedrich, SPT, and Delonghi units we tested. The extra weight is solely because of “beefier” internal components to facilitate faster moisture removal, hence the difference in capacity rating (50 pint vs 70 pint).
The difference in size and weight between 30 and 70 pint units is substantial but this doesn’t mean that a 70 pint unit can’t still be portable. We recommend going with a 30 pint unit only if you really cannot lift more than about 30 lb.
The difference in size and weight between 50 and 70 pint units is really not much of a difference at all. We recommend that you go with a 70 pint unit unless you’re looking for more features and functionality at a lower price point. If this is the case, go with a 50 pint unit.
#2 Better Energy Efficiency
You might be inclined to think that smaller capacity dehumidifiers are more energy efficient.
Average Power Draw
|70 pint||612 watts|
|50 pint||454 watts|
|30 pint||371 watts|
As the chart (note that the numbers above are for power draw at 50% relative humidity) above shows larger capacity units do draw substantially more power than smaller capacity units. However, as we further discuss below, they do so for a much smaller period of time. The dehumidifier only draws power close to these measured values when the compressor has cycled on and the dehumidifier is actively dehumidifying the ambient air. Once the unit has achieved the set desired humidity level its compressor cycles off and energy usage drops dramatically. As you’ll read about in the next section larger units actively dehumidify (compressor cycled on) for a much smaller period of time to remove the same amount of moisture which means that these units draw maximum power for a much smaller period of time. This evens out the smaller capacity units’ energy efficiency advantage making it really not much of an advantage at all.
Don’t buy a smaller capacity dehumidifier over a larger capacity unit expecting better energy efficiency. Larger units draw more power per unit time but their compressors are cycled on drawing this max power for a much shorter period of time than smaller capacity units’ compressors to remove the same amount of moisture.
Why We Recommend Large Capacity (70 pint) Dehumidifiers
#1 Less Stress For A Smaller Period Of Time
First and foremost is the fact that a smaller capacity unit is going to work much harder and for a much longer period of time to dehumidify the same space at the same humidity level. For example, if you have an average size basement that is constantly at 70% relative humidity, you would need to run the smaller capacity unit for hours on end with it never automatically turning off to dehumidify the space. The larger capacity unit might reach an acceptable humidity level within a few hours, then shut off, only to automatically resume operation when the humidity level goes up again. In this scenario you might have to run the large capacity (70 pint) unit for let’s say 6 hours a day while the smaller capacity unit (30 pint) would need to be run for at least 18 hours up to 24 hours a day to achieve the same desired humidity level.
Not only is the smaller unit’s internals being put under more stress to alleviate the humidity problem, but these internal parts (compressor, condenser, etc.) are working many more hours a day. You should know before you purchase a dehumidifier that any unit you buy won’t last longer than a few years if it is used continuously (no matter which unit you buy). The unit’s longevity isn’t determined by how long you’ve had it but rather by how many hours it has been operating. The math is simple. A smaller capacity unit has to operate for more hours and is put under more stress than a large capacity unit to dehumidify the same space with the same amount of moisture. If you are at all concerned about the reliability and/or durability of the dehumidifier you plan on purchasing we highly recommend a larger capacity unit.
#2 Faster Moisture Removal
The second reason why we recommend a large capacity unit no matter the circumstance is moisture removal rate. As our own in-house tests show, a 70 pint unit will dehumidify the same space at the same initial humidity much faster than a 50 or 30 pint unit under the same conditions. The faster moisture is removed, the faster a reasonable desired humidity level is achieved, and the sooner you can enjoy a comfortable living environment. The fact that the larger capacity unit achieves the desired humidity level much faster means that it will cycle off its compressor faster, saving energy, making the unit more quiet (with only fans running), and reducing wear on internal parts (as we discuss in the previous paragraph). Speaking of noise output, many of the 70 pint units we tested were at least as quiet if not more quiet than the 50 pint units we tested even with the compressor on. Most 70 pint units were much quieter than the 30 pint dehumidifiers we tested.
#3 Larger Water Tank Size
The third reason why we recommend a larger capacity unit is condensate collection bucket size. As the dehumidifier removes moisture from the air it condenses onto the unit’s evaporator coils. The same “condensate” collects in a bucket that fits into the bottom of the dehumidifier’s plastic housing. Each dehumidifier is equipped with a float switch that automatically shuts off the dehumidifier when the condensate collection bucket (water tank) is full. Most of the 70 pint dehumidifiers we tested had a water tank size of at least 14-16 pints. Compare this capacity to 8-10 pints for the average 30 pint dehumidifier.
What does a smaller water tank mean for you? First, you’ll need to remove the bucket and empty it much more often on a 30 pint unit than on a 70 pint unit. Second, should you place the unit in a basement or if you’re simply not going to be at your home or in the room where the dehumidifier is located you won’t become aware of the fact that the bucket is full and needs to be emptied until minutes, even hours after it happens. This is precious time that the dehumidifier could be operating and removing moisture when it isn’t because the condensate collection bucket is full.
#4 More Features And Improved Functionality
The fourth and final important reason why you should seriously consider a larger capacity unit (even if you feel like you don’t necessarily need it for a smaller space) is the fact that most larger capacity units include features and functionality not present on smaller less expensive units. Most notably, many 30 pint units only include a mechanical control panel which requires you to turn a knob to set the humidity. Doing so makes for very imprecise settings. The unit most likely doesn’t come equipped with an hygrometer either if this is the case. Large capacity units, on the other hand, all come equipped with digital LED displays that are easy to program and set to a precise desired humidity level.
It should be clear to you at this point that the extra $20 to $30 it’s going to take to upgrade to a large capacity 70 pint dehumidifier might very much be worth your while should you need to dehumidify any space larger than a closet or laundry room.
Now that you’ve come to a decision as to which size dehumidifier you want to buy, it’s time to delve a little bit deeper and consider some other factors involved in the buying process that will further differentiate between the different options available and hopefully narrow down your search even further.
#1 Do you require pump drainage?
All dehumidifiers come equipped with a condensate collection bucket that collects the accumulated moisture that is removed from the ambient air. Larger capacity units have larger buckets and smaller capacity units have smaller buckets as we discussed in the previous section.
All dehumidifiers also come equipped with a gravity drainage port, normally found on the back of the dehumidifier. To utilize gravity drainage you simply need to unscrew the cap covering the drain port and connect a garden hose (or an included gravity drain hose) to drain the dehumidifier using gravity. Nothing else needs to be done. The collected condensate will automatically be directed through the drain hose instead of dripping down into the condensate collection bucket.
Not all dehumidifiers come equipped with a built-in pump. Those units that do are normally more expensive than those units that do not come equipped with this added functionality. Why would you require pump drainage? Let’s say you want to drain the collected condensate into a sink that’s next to the dehumidifier. You can’t do so using gravity because the sink is at a higher elevation than the drain port on the dehumidifier. You need a pump to pump the condensate up through the hosing and into the sink. Maybe you plan on using the dehumidifier you end up buying in a basement but need to drain the unit to a location at a higher elevation than where you plan on putting the dehumidifier. If this is the case you would also require pump drainage. The built-in pump units we tested can be drained (via pump drainage) to a location at an elevation as much as 16 ft above that of the dehumidifier. A pump drain hose of at least 16 ft is also included with the purchase of each built-in pump unit we tested.
Note that you can still employ pump drainage using a dehumidifier that does not come equipped with a built-in pump. A condensate removal pump can be purchased separately. The pump is connected to hosing connected the unit’s gravity drain port. Another hose is then connected to the condensate removal pump to facilitate pump drainage. The truth is that buying a highly rated non-built-in pump unit and a separate condensate removal pump may be a better option than buying a built-in pump unit, depending on what’s important to you.
If you want a compact solution and don’t want to have to deal with purchasing and installing additional equipment we definitely recommend going with a built-in pump dehumidifier. To connect hosing on these units is as simple as clicking in the included pump drainage hose on the back (or front on the Delonghi) of the dehumidifier. It truly is a “plug and play” installation. (VIDEO)
If you want to buy the best rated unit and you’re willing to buy a pump separately and install it, we certainly wouldn’t recommend against doing so. The advantage here is that you can buy the overall best rated unit. You can purchase it at a more affordable price point. And should the pump break, all you need to do is buy another one.
We do want to address a common misconception among buyers regarding built-in pump dehumidifiers. These units can still be used if the built-in pump fails. If it does you can still use the unit’s condensate collection bucket. Furthermore, you can still employ pump drainage, the same as you would for a unit that doesn’t come equipped with a built-in pump. Simply connect the external pump and hosing assembly to the gravity drain port of the built-in pump unit the same way you would for a non-built-in pump dehumidifier. In summary:
Built-In Pump Advantages
- more compact solution
- no extra parts to buy
- no extra parts to install
Non-Built-In Pump Advantages
- you can buy the best rated unit overall – you’re not limited to buying a built-in pump unit
- buying a non-built-in pump unit plus an external pump may cost less than a built-in pump unit
#2 Do you require low temperature operation?
Note: For an updated much more detailed analysis of this topic please see our basement dehumidifier buyer’s guide.
Before we discuss low temperature operation we need to quickly review how a dehumidifier works. A dehumidifier operates on many of the same principles as an air conditioning unit. In the simplest terms, warm air is pulled onto metal plates (the technical term for these metal plates is “evaporator coils”) that are cooled by a chemical refrigerant running through them. The moist warm air that has been pulled onto these evaporator coils by the dehumidifier’s external fan cools and when it does water is removed from the air. This water condenses onto the evaporator coils and then drips down into the dehumidifier’s water tank.
Now imagine a very cold environment. Instead of warm moist air the dehumidifier is pulling cold moist air onto its evaporator coils (the metal plates). Let’s say the ambient air temperature is around 50° F. Refrigerant is being pumped through the evaporator coils making them cold. The air is cold. And, to no surprise, the moisture that is removed from the air doesn’t accumulate as liquid water on the evaporator coils but instead freezes up accumulating as frost.
This is the exact scenario in which a dehumidifier’s defrost mode will automatically kick in. What is defrost mode? Quite simply all it does is cycle off the dehumidifier’s compressor. This increases the temperature of the dehumidifier’s evaporator coils as the compressor is no longer “pumping” cold refrigerant through the unit’s evaporator coils. The fans on the dehumidifier still run to pull in air. This air is warmer than the frost that has accumulated on the coils and helps to melt the frost. Once the frost has melted the defrost mode will cycle back off and the unit’s compressor will cycle back on.
Most of the units we tested can be operated at temperatures ranging from about 41° F up to about 96° F. Note that frost can accumulate at temperatures as high as 55+° F, thus defrost mode is very helpful in improving the efficiency of the dehumidifier even at moderately cold temperatures. Should frost start to accumulate, the dehumidifier will automatically cycle onto defrost mode until the frost is melted. Many of the units we tested do not come equipped with a defrost mode but can still be operated at temperatures as low as 41° F. For these units you will have to keep a close eye on their efficiency if you do operate them at lower temperatures. What do we mean by this?
If frost does accumulate on these units the compressor will continue to run and the unit will continue to attempt to dehumidify. However, you will notice that very little water collects and/or the room’s humidity level stops decreasing at the rate it did before frost started accumulating. If you notice any signs of decreased efficiency you will need to manually turn off the dehumidifier and wait a few hours until the frost has melted. Then you will need to manually turn the dehumidifier back on for it to resume normal operation.
Compare this process to what you’ll need to do with a unit equipped with a defrost mode in which case the unit will automatically cycle onto defrost mode, take care of the frost and then cycle the compressor back on to resume normal operation. Many units that include defrost mode also include a defrost mode indicator light that will turn on when its defrost mode is activated. Note that some units do not include this helpful indicator light so look out for this functionality as you read through our reviews.
Caution: you shouldn’t operate any dehumidifier below the recommended temperature range as certain internal parts will freeze up causing permanent damage to the same parts and/or the dehumidifier itself.
If you require built-in pump functionality and/or defrost mode (for greatly improved low temperature operation) your choices have been narrowed down considerably. If you want to buy a unit with built-in pump functionality there are only three possible options in both the 70 pint and 50 pint size classes, respectively. If you plan on using the dehumidifier you end up buying in a basement that gets cold in the winter or in any other environment where the temperature can get below 55° F we strongly advise you to only consider units that come equipped with a defrost mode. Definitely look out for this feature as you read our individual product reviews. All in all, you should now feel much better equipped to read through our size specific buyer’s guides and reviews. If you want to find out more about other specific features and functionality to look for please see the review parameters overview page here. If you want more information on the conditions and tools we used to test each unit we reviewed please see our how we tested page here. Otherwise, take a look at any one of our size specific buyer’s guides for much greater insight into each size class and which units we recommend in each respective size class.