Last Updated: April 26th 2020
There are three major types of dehumidifiers:
- Compressor based dehumidifiers
- Thermo-electric dehumidifiers
- Desiccant dehumidifiers
Full-size compressor based dehumidifiers (such as those in the photo above) are capable of removing several gallons of water from the air each day. Most thermo-electric and desiccant units can remove only a few ounces per day at best.
Compressor based units can be used to dehumidify any (reasonably) sized space at any humidity level. Most thermo-electric and desiccant units can only be used to dehumidify small spaces (like a closet, for example) and only if the humidity level in that space isn’t very high.
Because thermo-electric and desiccant units simply will not work for most people in most situations we’re going to leave our discussion of them for later.
Our focus for most of this guide will be on full-size compressor based dehumidifiers – the only type of dehumidifier that will serve the needs of most people in most situations. This is also the type of dehumidifier that most people traditionally think of when they hear the word “dehumidifier”.
A Critical Step Before You Buy
We’ll get to our top dehumidifier picks (our recommendations of the best dehumidifiers) in just a moment, but before we do, it’s necessary that we first go over new government standards for dehumidifiers.
A clear understanding of these new standards will be absolutely critical for you to determine exactly which model dehumidifier you need to buy.
New Dehumidifier Standards
Dehumidifiers sold in the United States are manufactured according to US government standards. More specifically, the US Department of Energy (DOE) gives certain requirements for manufacturers to follow in order to be able to sell their dehumidifiers within the United States.
There are, broadly speaking, two basic requirements:
- that the pints/day specification be given according to testing standards outlined by the DOE
- that the dehumidifier meets certain energy efficiency requirements
A. The Pints/Day Requirement
In the past, dehumidifiers were officially tested at 80°F and 60% RH. Since June 13, 2019 dehumidifiers are required to be tested at a lower temperature – 65°F – but the same humidity level – 60% RH.
This results in a decrease in the manufacturer pints/day specification for any particular model dehumidifier.
A 70 pint dehumidifier before June 13, 2019 is a 50 pint dehumidifier after June 13, 2019.
Why the decrease? Why the lower pints/day specification?
Because colder air contains less moisture than warmer air at the same humidity level. A block of air at 65°F and 60% RH contains less moisture than the same block of air at 80°F and 60% RH.
A 70 pint dehumidifier tested before June 13, 2019 was placed in a room with air at 80°F and 60% RH. That block of air contained enough moisture for the dehumidifier to be able to remove 70 pints of moisture in a day.
The same 70 pint dehumidifier tested after June 13, 2019 is placed in a room with air at 65°F and 60% RH. That block of air contains less moisture and so the same “70 pint dehumidifier” is now only able to remove 50 pints from that air per day.
Since 65°F and 60% RH is the new official testing standard, what used to be called a “70 pint dehumidifier” is now called a 50 pint dehumidifier.
The Frigidaire FFAD5033W1, for example, removes approx. 70 pints of moisture per day at 80°F and 60% RH. This very same model removes 50 pints of moisture per day at 65°F and 60% RH.
In the past, the FFAD5033W1 would have been sold as a 70 pint dehumidifier. Today, according to new testing standards, it is required to be sold as a 50 pint dehumidifier.
At 80°F and 60% RH (pre-2019)
At 65°F and 60% RH (post-2019)
|Frigidaire FFAD5033W1||70 pints/day||50 pints/day|
|hOmeLabs HME020031N||70 pints/day||50 pints/day|
|Black+Decker BDT50WTB||70 pints/day||50 pints/day|
B. The Energy Efficiency Requirement
Now that you’re familiar with how pints/day requirements have changed over time, we can take a look at how the DOE’s energy efficiency requirements for dehumidifiers have changed over time.
In the past, the requirements looked like this:
Energy Factor (EF) - L/kWh
Beginning June 13, 2019 the requirements are now this:
Integrated Energy Factor (IEF) - L/kWh
Note the differences between these two tables:
- the pints/day categories
- the use of “energy factor” vs “integrated energy factor” in the right column
- the actual energy efficiency requirements – the numbers in the right column
The pints/day categories have changed because pints/day testing and specification requirements have changed as we discussed earlier.
The energy efficiency requirements are now outlined in terms of “integrated energy factor” instead of “energy factor”.
Energy factor simply measures the Liters the dehumidifier removes per kWh of energy use while it is actively dehumidifying.
Integrated energy factor involves a complex equation in which the dehumidifier is tested on various settings and during various time intervals, but basically it boils down to this:
IEF = liters of water removed / energy used while the dehumidifier is actively dehumidifying + energy used in standby and other low power modes
IEF is essentially a more nuanced – a more accurate version of EF. IEF is also the less forgiving metric as it accounts for more cases of energy use than EF (such as when the dehumidifier’s compressor is off and only its fan is running).
The end result is that the latest DOE energy efficiency requirements are more stringent than ever as the DOE is pushing manufacturers towards making more energy efficient dehumidifiers.
All dehumidifiers manufactured AFTER June 19, 2019 HAVE TO adhere to these more strict energy efficiency guidelines to be able to be sold in the United States. This means that you absolutely want to buy a dehumidifier manufactured after this date.
Rest assured, all top rated dehumidifiers we recommend fit this requirement.
New Energy Star Requirements
Completely separate from DOE energy efficiency requirements, are Energy Star energy efficiency requirements.
Energy star certification has been available to dehumidifier manufacturers for close to 20 years now (since January, 2001). Over that time period several different versions of energy star requirements have been published.
Version 4.0 was effective as of October 25, 2016. The requirements were as follows:
Energy Factor (EF) - L/kWh
|< 75||≥ 2.00|
|75 to ≤ 185||≥ 2.80|
Note that the pints/day categories in the table above involved testing at 80°F and 60% RH and EF is used instead of IEF.
Version 5.0 is effective as of October 18, 2019. The requirements now are as follows:
Integrated Energy Factor (IEF) - L/kWh
|≤ 25.00||≥ 1.57|
|25.01 to 50||≥ 1.80|
|≥ 50||≥ 3.30|
Note that the pints/day categories in the table above involves testing at 65°F and 60% RH and IEF is used instead of EF.
All dehumidifiers sold as Energy Star compliant after October 18, 2019 have to fit these new more stringent requirements.
Note that there are still models on the market today that have an Energy Star sticker and are sold as being Energy Star compliant that do NOT meet version 5.0 requirements. At the time that they were manufactured (when the Energy Star sticker was applied) and at the time that they were first sold (when Energy Star compliancy was added to their product description) they may very well have been Energy Star compliant according to version 4.0 requirements.
But they are now no longer Energy Star compliant and their product descriptions simply haven’t been updated yet.
Rest assured that all of the models we recommend are fully Energy Star compliant according to version 5.0 requirements.
Dehumidifier Capacity and Area of Coverage
Note: Even if the concept of dehumidifier capacity isn’t completely new to you, we ask that you bear with us through the next section of the guide as we explain how our view on this concept (and how it should be applied in selecting a particular dehumidifier model) is much different than the view held by most other consumer publications and even many manufacturers.
We mentioned at the beginning of this guide that compressor based dehumidifiers are capable of removing several gallons of water from the air per day.
How much water (moisture) a dehumidifier can remove from the air per day is referred to as the dehumidifier’s capacity. A dehumidifier that can remove 6.25 gallons of water from the air per day is said to have a capacity of 6.25 gallons. Or is it?
Dehumidifier manufacturers generally don’t use gallons to specify the capacity of their dehumidifiers. It’s too large of a volume. Instead, they use pints. Of course, a pint is simply an eighth of a gallon.
So, a dehumidifier having a capacity of 6.25 gallons per day is simply referred to as a 50 pint dehumidifier.
50 pint dehumidifiers are the most common type of compressor based dehumidifier, followed by 35 pint dehumidifiers (35 pints = 4.375 gallons) and 22 pint dehumidifiers (22 pints = 2.75 gallons). There are also dehumidifiers on the market that stray somewhat from these general capacity standards. It’s not uncommon to find dehumidifiers rated to remove 45, 30, or 20 pints of moisture per day, for example.
What Capacity Dehumidifier Should You Buy?
At this point in most other dehumidifier buyer’s guides the author of the guide might point you to a size chart (or table) to help you determine what capacity dehumidifier you need to buy.
The chart might require you to
- Select the dampness of the space you need to dehumidify
- Select the square footage of that space
- Match the selected dampness row with the selected square footage column – this gives the capacity of the dehumidifier you’re advised to buy
Many manufacturers give a more simplified size chart to help you choose which dehumidifier to buy.
- Some charts suggest dehumidifier capacity based on dampness alone
- Other charts only use square footage to suggest which size dehumidifier to buy
Unlike most other consumer publications and many manufacturers, we do not recommend that you use a chart or table to help you decide what capacity dehumidifier to buy.
Why do we disagree with the use of such methods? See the 6 reasons below.
1. Charts/tables usually have a limited range. They may begin at 1,500 square feet and end at 4,500 square feet. What if the space you need to dehumidify is smaller than 1,500 square feet? What if it’s larger than 4,500 square feet? These charts fail to make recommendations for spaces that fall outside of the given range.
2. Charts usually fail to take into account the height of the space you need to dehumidify. Rooms with higher ceilings contain more air than rooms with lower ceilings – something that a chart or table doesn’t take into account at all. Much more appropriate would be recommendations based on the volume (measured in cubic feet ), not the area of the space you need to dehumidify.
3. Charts fail to take into account dehumidifier CFM – the CFM of the dehumidifier’s intake fan (the Cubic Feet of air the fan pulls into the dehumidifier every Minute). We rate dehumidifiers with higher CFM fans much higher than those with lower CFM fans. Why? Because only half the battle in dehumidifying a given volume of air involves the process of actually removing moisture from it inside of the dehumidifier. The other half involves pulling that air into the dehumidifier for it to be dehumidified. A higher CFM fan is able to pull more air from greater distances surrounding the dehumidifier. This is especially important if you want to dehumidify a large space. Charts and tables don’t take into account that a smaller capacity dehumidifier with a higher CFM fan may very well outperform a larger capacity dehumidifier with a lower CFM fan under certain circumstances.
4. Charts and manufacturer recommendations are usually based on an extrapolation of test data obtained in a highly controlled environment. They’re not necessarily based on testing performed in a real world environment.
How can a dehumidifier manufacturer make the claim that their 50 pint dehumidifier can actually remove 50 pints of moisture per day? The manufacturer does so by having the unit tested under very specific conditions (65°F and 60% RH) in a highly controlled environment.
They then use this data (a 50 pints/day moisture removal rate under the given conditions) to make a square footage (area of coverage) recommendation.
But what if the room you need to dehumidify is much different that the test space? What if the room has high ceilings? What if the room has poor vs. good ventilation? What if you’re running an HVAC system in addition to the dehumidifier? What if you place the dehumidifier in your basement vs. a second story?
Charts and tables cannot account for these real world variables.
5. Another issue is that certain manufacturer recommendations contradict each other. Some manufacturers advertise their 50 pint dehumidifier as being able to cover 4,000 sq. ft. Others claim 4,500 sq. ft. of coverage. Which is it if all units are rated for 50 pints/day of moisture removal?
6. Finally, charts and manufacturer recommendations contradict our own research and testing. Take for example, many manufacturers recommending a 22 pint unit for spaces up to 1,500 sq. ft. Our own research and testing has shown that a 22 pint dehumidifier is not at all capable of properly dehumidifying a space as large as 1,500 sq. ft.
Clearly, we believe that dehumidifier sizing charts and tables have a lot of flaws. And, because of those flaws, it is our strong recommendation that you do NOT use these charts and tables to determine what size dehumidifier you should buy.
So, what do we recommend? Our recommendation is simply the following:
Buy the highest capacity dehumidifier you can afford.
In other words, we recommend that you buy a 50 pint dehumidifier – the highest capacity consumer-grade dehumidifier you can buy.
If you have a smaller space or a space that’s not very damp – say you live in an approximately 1,000 square foot apartment and/or a space that rarely gets above 60% RH – then you certainly can get away with a medium (35 pint) or low (22 pint) capacity unit. But, you’ll be doing so at a cost. What exactly is that cost? We explain below.
Why You Shouldn’t Take Our Recommendation Lightly
Our recommendation that you buy the highest capacity dehumidifier you can afford (for consumers this means 50 pint) is based on the following very simple fact:
High capacity 50 pint dehumidifiers dehumidify faster than lower capacity 35 and 22 pint units.
It may sound like we’re stating the obvious here but really think about that statement – a high capacity 50 pint dehumidifier dehumidifies faster.
It’s easy to associate a 50 pint dehumidifier’s actual capacity with a certain volume of water – the volume of water that the dehumidifier removes from the air each day. And the truth is that such an association isn’t incorrect. A 50 pint dehumidifier is certainly capable of removing a volume of 50 pints of water from humid air every day.
But, the much more important association to make here is that a dehumidifier’s capacity relates to the rate at which it can remove moisture. A 50 pint dehumidifier removes any given quantity of moisture – not just 50 pints – at a faster rate in any given quantity of time – not just in 24 hours.
If this sounds confusing, think about it this way. A 50 pint dehumidifier is rated to remove 50 pints of moisture per day. This translates to 2.1 pints of moisture removal per hour. A 35 pint dehumidifier can remove 1.5 pints of moisture per hour and a 22 pint dehumidifier can remove 0.9 pints per hour. Let’s say you have a space that holds a block of air containing 100 pints of moisture. Here’s how fast each size/capacity dehumidifier will be able to remove that moisture:
50 pint – 48 hours
35 pint – 66.7 hours
22 pint – 111.1 hours
Clearly, given a set quantity of moisture, a 50 pint dehumidifier can remove that moisture much faster than 35 or 22 pint dehumidifier.
Another way of looking at it is with percentages.
In order to remove any given quantity of moisture from any given space, a 50 pint dehumidifier, compared to a 35 pint dehumidifier, will be able to remove that moisture 40% faster. Compared to a 22 pint dehumidifier? A whopping 133% faster!
Because it dehumidifies faster, a 50 pint dehumidifier needs to run for a much shorter period of time than smaller capacity dehumidifiers to dehumidify any size space under any conditions.
This is extremely important for the following reasons, which also happen to be the primary reasons why we feel so strongly about recommending 50 pint units:
1. It makes 50 pint dehumidifiers more energy efficient compared to smaller capacity units. 50 pint dehumidifiers do draw more power than smaller capacity units per unit time but they draw this power over a much shorter period of time. We’ve done the math and the end result is that, in real-world conditions, 50 pint dehumidifiers are, overall, more energy efficient than smaller capacity dehumidifiers over time. You should be able to more than recoup the initial cost difference between a 50 pint and a 35 or 22 pint dehumidifier in energy cost savings over time.
2. It makes 50 pint dehumidifiers more reliable than smaller capacity units. This is perhaps the biggest reason why we recommend 50 pint units. You see, every minute that your dehumidifier runs puts stress on its internal parts (its compressor, condenser, etc.). Because 50 pint dehumidifiers have to run for a shorter amount of time than smaller capacity units to dehumidify any given quantity of air, the stress on their internal parts occurs over a much shorter amount of time. This allows them to last much longer than smaller capacity units.
Think of it this way: a dehumidifier’s longevity isn’t determined by how long you own it but rather by how many hours you operate it. The math is simple. A smaller capacity unit has to operate for a far greater number of hours than a large capacity unit to dehumidify the same space with the same amount of moisture.
We’ve surveyed countless consumer reviews for hundreds of different dehumidifiers of all different sizes. It’s actually startling to see how big of a discrepancy there is between the number of consumer complaints about the reliability of smaller capacity units (35 and especially 22 pint) compared to the number of those complaints for large capacity (50 pint) units. The percentage of complaints is much much higher for smaller capacity units.
Our Top Picks for 2020
After several hundred hours of research, testing, and in-depth analysis here are our model recommendations for 2020. These are the very best dehumidifiers we’ve tested so far.
#1 – The Best Overall – Frigidaire FFAD5033W1
Simply put, the Frigidaire FFAD5033W1 is by far the best dehumidifier we’ve tested as of the writing of this guide in 2020. It is unequivocally the best dehumidifier on the market today. Here’s why.
It removes moisture fast – We conduct two different tests to determine how well and how fast a dehumidifier can remove moisture in a real-world environment. In the first, most grueling test we measure how long it takes for the dehumidifier to lower room humidity from 90% down to 40% relative humidity (RH). In the second test we measure how long it takes for it to lower room humidity from 80% down to 50% RH. The FFAD5033W1 was able to lower room humidity from 90% down to 40% RH faster than any other dehumidifier we tested. It was the second fastest lowering room humidity from 80% down to 50% RH.
It has a large water tank – The FFAD5033W1 has the largest water collection tank of any 50 pint dehumidifier we’ve tested in the last several years. This unit’s tank has a capacity of 16.9 pints. The average tank size for a high capacity dehumidifier is about 14 pints.
It produces a pleasing noise output profile – The FFAD5033W1 has three things going for it when it comes to producing as pleasant of a noise as possible. First, it produces less audible compressor noise than almost every other dehumidifier we’ve tested. Ever hear your fridge’s compressor kicking on? If you get really close to your fridge and/or if you have an older fridge you may very well be able to hear its compressor make a buzzing noise. A dehumidifier also has a compressor and it also can produce the same buzzing noise a refrigerator’s compressor can make. The FFAD5033W1′s compressor produced very little compressor noise during testing. The same cannot be said for most of the other dehumidifiers we’ve tested.
The second thing the FFAD5033W1 has going for it, in terms of noise output, is the fact that it exhausts upwards. The little compressor noise that is produced by this unit is easily “masked” by setting the unit to a high fan speed. The exhaust noise is a much more pleasant sounding “wind” noise and it easily overwhelms the compressor noise when this unit is set to high fan speed. The fact that the unit exhausts upwards allows the exhaust noise to evenly distribute throughout the whole room. This masks compressor noise throughout the whole room very well. Most other units we tested have louder compressors and some exhaust through the side. The compressor noise is much more obvious on such units since the exhaust noise is more directional and therefore doesn’t easily distribute throughout the whole room.
Finally, the FFAD5033W1 has a very high CFM – 229 on high fan speed. Most other high capacity units on the market have a CFM in the upper 100s at best on the same high fan speed setting. The Frigidaire’s high CFM on high fan speed is not only good for moisture removal rate but it also produces more “wind” noise than lower CFM fans. This additional wind noise further contributes to masking compressor noise and making for a more pleasing noise output profile.
It’s exceptionally well-built – We’ve had a lot of hours getting hands-on experience with a lot of different dehumidifiers. In terms of build quality and the quality of the materials used for its construction, the FFAD5033W1 is simply a cut above every other dehumidifier we’ve tested so far. It’s actually remarkable how big of a difference there is, in terms of build quality, when comparing the FFAD5033W1 directly side by side with most other dehumidifiers. Placed directly next to other popular dehumidifiers it would be obvious even to someone with far less experience with dehumidifiers than we have, that the FFAD5033W1 is clearly a much better built higher quality appliance.
The FFAD5033W1 does more things better than any other dehumidifier we’ve tested. It dehumidifies faster, it has a larger water collection bucket, it has a more pleasing noise output profile, and it’s better built than any other dehumidifier we’ve tested so far. It earns our highest recommendation as the best dehumidifier on the market today.
#2 – The Best Budget Alternative – hOmeLabs HME020031N
The Frigidaire FFAD5033W1 is by far the best dehumidifier we’ve tested so far but it’s price and availability is often such that it may be out of reach for some consumers. A more budget-friendly alternative is the hOmeLabs HME020031N. Here are the reasons why the hOmeLabs is a great second option.
It also dehumidifies fast – it doesn’t dehumidify quite as fast as the Frigidaire FFAD5033W1 but it’s still faster than average in its size class (50 pint). As noted above, we measure a dehumidifier’s moisture removal rate in two different tests. The hOmeLabs didn’t perform quite as well in these tests as the Frigidaire, but its performance was still above average.
It’s quiet – this hOmeLabs dehumidifier is one of the most quiet dehumidifiers in its size class. We measure the noise output (in dB using a sound meter) for all of the dehumidifiers we test for review. The HME020031N is one of the most quiet 50 pint dehumidifiers we’ve tested so far.
It does have slightly more compressor noise than the FFAD5033W1 and it has a side exit exhaust which doesn’t mask the compressor noise as well as the FFAD5033W1. But, in terms of raw measured dB numbers, the hOmeLabs is technically “quieter” than the FFAD5033W1.
It comes with a great warranty – the hOmeLabs is not nearly as well-built as the Frigidaire but it does come with a longer warranty. The HME020031N comes with a 2 year warranty. The Frigidaire, like most other 50 pint units we tested, only comes with a 1 year warranty.
The hOmeLabs HME020031N removes moisture faster than most other 50 pint dehumidifiers we tested but more importantly, it removes moisture much faster than any 35 pint or 22 pint dehumidifier. This is important because the HME020031N is often priced less than the average 35 pint dehumidifier and only $10 or $20 more than the average 22 pint dehumidifier. If you’re torn between purchasing a 22 or 35 pint unit and this hOmeLabs 50 pint unit, our recommendation, without hesitation, would be the hOmeLabs.
#3 – Black + Decker BDT50WTB
If neither the Frigidaire nor the hOmeLabs are available the Black + Decker is a solid third option.
It performed above average in our most important tests – this unit had the lowest power draw of any 50 pint dehumidifier we tested (554 watts compared to 570 to 600 watts for most other units). It also performed very well in our moisture removal tests.
It has a pleasant noise output profile – like the top rated Frigidaire, this unit exhausts out of the top which covers up compressor noise much better than a side exhaust. The unit’s compressor noise is also not as pronounced as it is on many other high capacity units we tested.
It comes with a gravity drain hose – all 50 pint units have a gravity drain outlet but the BDT50WTB is one of only a handful of such units to come with a gravity drain hose. Normally, you would have to supply your own garden hose to employ gravity drainage. With this unit a hose is included.
The BDT50WTB was an above average performer in our moisture removal tests but it didn’t perform nearly as well as the Frigidaire in our 90% to 40% RH test. It has a pleasant noise output profile but it’s not as pleasant as that of the Frigidaire. It’s also not as well-built as the Frigidaire.
Compared to the hOmeLabs it would be the better option if it weren’t for its shorter warranty. The Black + Decker (like the Frigidaire) only comes with a 1 year warranty while the hOmeLabs can offer up to a two and a half year warranty. The Frigidaire performed well enough in our tests and is sufficiently well-built that we can confidently recommend it over the hOmeLabs despite its shorter warranty. We don’t feel the same about the Black + Decker.
It may sound like we’re being a bit harsh on this unit and we are – we’re comparing it to what we believe are the two best dehumidifiers on the market. All of that being said, this is still a very good dehumidifier and a great third option if both of our two top picks are not available.
Special note to Canadians: None of our top picks are currently readily available in Canada. As such, we recommend the FFAD5033W1′s predecessor, the FFAD7033R1, as the best option for Canadians at this time.
Why You Can Trust Our Recommendations
So far we’ve personally tested over 50 different dehumidifiers. Many other reviewers base their recommendations on manufacturer specifications. These specifications list performance data (namely moisture removal rate and noise output) that is based on testing conducted in a highly controlled environment which maximizes the performance of the dehumidifier and allows it to get ideal results. Our tests simulate real world environments and conditions that aren’t always ideal to determine how each dehumidifier we test actually performs in real-world environments. We rigorously test 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 a typical home environment. This means that our test data is often quite different than what manufacturer specifications indicate.
In addition to the tests described above we also take time to assess each unit’s build quality, its features, portability, adjustability, versatility, and how easy it is to use. Finally, we examine its warranty, price, and consumer feedback and compare it to the other dehumidifiers we’ve tested. This is how we determine the best dehumidifier in each category.
Additional Picks for 2020
Earlier we gave general recommendations for the best dehumidifiers in 2020 – the best unit overall (FFAD5033W1), the best budget alternative ( HME020031N), and the third best option if neither of those units are available ( BDT50WTB). Below we make more specific recommendations.
The Best Small Dehumidifier
Can you get away with buying a smaller cheap dehumidifier for less than $30?
Dehumidifiers in this price range are usually small desiccant units. Desiccant dehumidifiers use a desiccant – a chemical – to remove moisture from the air. This chemical saturates with liquid moisture over time.
The cheapest desiccant “dehumidifiers” are usually just called “moisture absorbers”. DampRid products are of this variety. Moisture absorbers are very cheap (usually only around $10), disposable (you throw them away after the desiccant saturates with moisture), and “wireless” (you can put them anywhere since they don’t need to be plugged in). On the negative side of things, moisture absorbers remove moisture very slowly (they remove only a few ounces every few weeks) and it doesn’t take much moisture for them to become completely saturated (once they do, they’re thrown out). As such, they should only be used in extremely small spaces (closets, safes, cars, etc.) and only in very mildly humid conditions.
More expensive desiccant “dehumidifiers” are rechargeable. A small indicator window shows you when the desiccant is saturated (it’s usually a strip that turns from one color to another0. When this happens, you plug in the dehumidifier to recharge the desiccant. Recharging involves heating up the desiccant so that it releases moisture back into the air. For this reason, you never want to recharge this type of dehumidifier in a space where you wouldn’t mind it releasing moisture back into the air.
Rechargeable units are slightly more expensive than disposable moisture absorbers. They usually cost around $20 to $30 (the Eva-Dry E-333 and E-500 are two examples). The increase in cost is mostly due to the fact that they can be recharged. These units still remove very little moisture very slowly. Most remove somewhere between 4 to 8 ounces of moisture every 2 to 8 weeks (depending on the exact model and environment). Like disposable moisture absorbers, rechargeable desiccant units should only be used in very small spaces (cars, closets, etc.) and only if the space is very mildly humid.
So, can you get away with purchasing either one of these two types of “dehumidifiers”? Yes, but only if the space you need to dehumidify is very small and not very humid. The best disposable option is the DampRid FG50T. The best rechargeable option is the Eva-Dry E-333.
If the space is any larger than even 20 or 30 sq. ft. and if the space is fairly humid, at least a 22 pint compressor based unit like the Frigidaire FFAD2233W1 (the 22 pint version of the FFAD5033W1) is recommended instead.
Can you get away with buying a dehumidifier for less than $100?
Dehumidifiers in this price range are either small disposable or rechargeable desiccant units or thermo-electric units. We discussed desiccant options at length above. Now we’ll address thermo-electric options.
In a compressor based dehumidifier, warm air condenses on ice cold evaporator coils. Condensation drips down into the dehumidifier’s collection bucket at a rate of 50, 35, or 22 pints per day (for most models).
In a thermo-electric dehumidifier, warm air condenses on a cooled down heat sink (the dehumidifier uses the thermoelectric effect to use electricity to cool down the heat sink). The condensation drips down into the thermo-electric dehumidifier’s collection bucket. The issue here is that it drips down – that is to say, the dehumidifier removes moisture – at a rate of only about 0.5 to 1.25 pints per day for most models.
This rate of moisture removal is slightly faster than it is for disposable and rechargeable desiccant units, but it’s still much slower than it is for full size compressor based units. An approx. $50 thermo-electric dehumidifier like the Ivation IVAGDM20 removes only 0.5 pints of moisture per day. That’s 60 times slower than even a relatively small 30 pint compressor based dehumidifier. Larger thermo-electric units like the Ivation IVADM35 (approx. $80) can remove as much as 1.25 pints of moisture per day but this is still well below the moisture removal rate of even the smallest compressor based dehumidifier.
So, can you get away with buying a dehumidifier for less than $100? Yes, but only if the space you need to dehumidify is both very small and only mildly humid. A larger thermo-electric unit like the IVADM35 (it would be the top rated option in this price range) could service a small bathroom, but don’t expect it to quickly lower humidity after a warm shower. It would take days to properly lower humidity under such conditions in stagnant air.
For any room larger than about 50 sq. ft. and any space that’s more than mildly humid, we would recommend at least a 22 pint compressor based dehumidifier like the Frigidaire FFAD2233W1.
The Quietest Dehumidifier
The perceived loudness of a dehumidifier depends on many different factors including:
1. the fan speed and corresponding CFM – higher fan speeds produce more fan noise than lower fan speeds. Higher CFM fans produce more fan noise than lower CFM fans.
2. whether the dehumidifier exhausts air upwards or to the side – if upwards, fan noise distributes evenly throughout the room which increases perceived loudness overall but better masks compressor noise; if to the side, the fan noise can be directed away from you but compressor noise isn’t masked nearly as well
3. whether the dehumidifier produces an audible “compressor buzz” or not and to what extent that buzzing sound is audible – some units have internal compressors that make a louder “buzzing” sound when the dehumidifier is actively dehumidifying than others
At a distance of about 10 ft. (away from the dehumidifier) on high fan speed, expect the typical dehumidifier to produce about 50 to 55 dB of noise. This is about the same level of noise your fridge or AC system produces.
The quietest dehumidifiers exhausts air out of the side and produces little to no compressor noise. The 50 to 55 dB of noise is mostly wind noise produced by dried air exhausting out of the dehumidifier.
Any dehumidifier that exhausts air out of the side and produces little to no compressor noise is a great option if you’re looking for a quiet dehumidifier. This exactly describes the 22 pint version of the FFAD5033W1 – the Frigidaire FFAD2233W1. Because it’s a smaller dehumidifier it has a smaller compressor and this compressor makes less noise than the average compressor on a larger unit. Unlike the FFAD5033W1, it also exhausts out of the side.
The FFAD2233W1 also does well in other areas like energy efficiency and moisture removal rate. Thus, it gets our recommendation as the best quiet option on the market.
A great second option is the FFAD5033W1. It’s technically “louder” than many other options but because of its high CFM fan and upward exhaust it masks compressor noise better than any other large capacity unit on the market.
A third option is the hOmeLabs HME020031N. It produces more compressor noise than the FFAD5033W1 and doesn’t mask it as well due to its side exhaust but in terms of overall perceived loudness (irrespective of whether the noise is pleasing or not) it is technically a quieter dehumidifier than the high capacity Frigidaire.
The Most Energy Efficient Dehumidifier
Dehumidifiers draw a lot of power in order to facilitate removing as much moisture as they do. A 22 pint dehumidifier draws about 300 watts of power. 35 pint units draw about 500 watts and 50 pint units draw about 700 watts of power*.
The most energy efficient dehumidifier takes all of that power and uses it as efficiently as possible to remove moisture. Our testing has shown that larger capacity dehumidifiers are more energy efficient than smaller capacity units in real world scenarios.
Thus, we would strongly recommend a 50 pint dehumidifier if energy efficiency is a priority for you. Among the 50 pint dehumidifiers we’ve tested, the top rated Frigidaire FFAD5033W1 is again our recommendation if you’re looking for the most energy efficient option available.
*For comparison, your TV likely draws about 100 watts of power. A fridge usually draws between 200 and 400 watts of power. Your home AC system likely draws between 1000 and 4000 watts of power.
The Most Portable Dehumidifier
Three factors determine a dehumidifier’s portability:
3. the quality and design of its handles
50 pint and 35 pint dehumidifiers are usually exactly the same size. The only difference between them is their internals – 50 pint units have beefier internals to facilitate their higher moisture removal rate. These units are usually right around 2 ft. tall, slightly more than a foot wide, and about one foot deep.*
22 pint units are slightly smaller. They’re usually about 4 to 5 inches shorter, and ever so slightly less wide and less deep (a few inches at most).
50 pint units weigh upwards of 50 lb. 35 pint units weigh a little less – usually close to 40 lb. 22 pint units weigh the least – usually around 30 to 35 lb.
Two types of handles dominate the market:
1. Side pocket handles
2. A top extendable handle
During testing, we found units with top extendable handles to be much easier to pick up than units with side pocket handles.
Thus, the most portable dehumidifier would be a 22 pint unit (smallest and weighs the least) with a top extendable handle (easiest to pick up). Unfortunately, we have yet to test a unit that meets these requirements and is also a very good dehumidifier in other areas like moisture removal rate and energy efficiency.
Thus, our recommendation here is a 22 pint unit but one that comes with side pocket handles – the Frigidaire FFAD2233W1 as it does well in other areas (other than portability) as well. It’s also energy efficient, quiet, and removes moisture quickly for its size class.
* For comparison, a standard dishwasher is about 10 inches taller and 10 inches wider than a 70 or 50 pint dehumidifier.
Scoring Our Dehumidifier Reviews
Each of our dehumidifier reviews is broken down into 13 different categories including
- Energy Efficiency
- Noise Output
- Moisture Removal Rate
- Hygrometer Accuracy
- Extra Features
- Ease of Use
We use the rating rubric below to give each dehumidifier we test a score out of 5 in each category.
|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|
These 13 scores are then added up to give the dehumidifier a cumulative score. It is largely this cumulative score that we use to determine the best dehumidifier in each size category.
Complete Dehumidifier Rankings
All the dehumidifiers we’ve tested so far, ranked according to their cumulative score (in the right-most column), are listed in the tables below. Note that you can read our full review for each unit by clicking on its model name.
|The best rated dehumidifier overall. Provides terrific all-around performance.|
|A great option for the more budget minded consumer. A solid performer at a great value.|
|A really strong performer in all real world tests except hygrometer accuracy. Also a very affordable option.|
|Good energy efficiency and hygrometer accuracy. Its included gravity drain hose is also a strong positive.|
|A below average performer in our hands-on performance tests. Nonetheless, a good value option if top units are out of stock.|
|Average to below average performance in most tests. Comes with a 2 year "carry in" warranty.|
|Noisy with an inaccurate hygrometer. Also has poor durability.|
|Another poor performer in our performance testing. Does have a large 16.3 pint water collection bucket.|
|9||GE ADEL45LY (ADEW45LY)||42.5|
|The only 45 pint high capacity unit we've tested. High noise output and poor hygrometer accuracy on top of a plastic chemical smell keeps this unit from being recommended.|
|Average to below average performance in all of our tests. Average durability.|
|Finished last in our moisture removal tests even with a higher than average power draw. The one strong positive for this unit is that it does offer above average build quality and durability.|
|The best low capacity option on the market - like its big brother (the FFAD5033W1) it performed very well in our testing.|
|50 Pint (70 Pint 2012 DOE)|
|50 Pint Built-in Pump (70 Pint 2012 DOE)|
|35 Pint (50 Pint 2012 DOE)|
|22 Pint (30 Pint 2012 DOE)|
Commonly Asked Questions
What is the optimal place to put a dehumidifier?
Any location that leaves at least 6 inches of space between the dehumidifier’s intake* and any obstructions (like a wall) will work.
Other strategies you can use for optimal dry air distribution include:
1. Put the dehumidifier close to a return air vent while running your home’s AC system (or at least just the system’s fan). This will allow dry air to better distribute throughout the whole home.
2. In larger spaces place the dehumidifier in a more central location.
3. Use fans to better move air between rooms if necessary.
*The dehumidifier’s intake is where it intakes humid air – usually this is either on the front or back of the dehumidifier.
Will the dehumidifier’s fan continue to run after the desired humidity level is reached?
Yes. On most models it continues to run for about 3 minutes and then stops. Power draw drops from several hundred watts (while the compressor is running) down to 70 or 80 watts when only the fan is running on high fan speed. When the fan shuts off, standby power draw is about 1 watt for most models.
What about the filter? Does it need to be replaced?
Most dehumidifiers come equipped with an air filter. The filter’s job is to filter out large particles (from the air) to keep them from getting inside of the dehumidifier where they could potentially do damage to internal parts like the unit’s compressor, evaporator, etc.
The filter does not need to be replaced. It can be rinsed and/or vacuumed to clean it. This should be done regularly (every 2 weeks or so) if you run the dehumidifier 24/7. If you run it less often the filter doesn’t need to be cleaned as often.
Can I use an extension cord?
Most dehumidifiers have about a 6 ft. long power cord. What do you do if you want to put the dehumidifier further than 6 ft. away from a wall outlet? Can you use an extension cord?
According to the manufacturer, absolutely not. We don’t recommend it either.
Hypothetically, if you absolutely had to use an extension cord, you would need to use no longer than a 3 or 6 ft. 12 or 14 AWG extension cord.
Will the dehumidifier restart automatically after a power outage?
Yes, most dehumidifiers will restart automatically after a power outage with previous settings saved.
Do I need to buy a separate hygrometer (device to measure humidity) along with my dehumidifier?
Almost all dehumidifiers come equipped with a built-in hygrometer. The dehumidifier will tell you the room’s ambient humidity right on its control panel. Some built-in hygrometers are more accurate than others but most will give you a good enough reading for most applications.
The only time you really should consider buying a separate hygrometer is if you’re planning to dehumidify a very large space. You can then use the hygrometer to determine humidity levels at different locations away from the dehumidifier to determine
a. if the dehumidifier has sufficient capacity or if one dehumidifier is enough to properly dehumidify the furthest corners of the space
b. if you need to try putting the dehumidifier in different locations to dehumidify the whole space (eg. does it work better when you put the dehumidifier in this room or that room or does it work better when you add a fan to circulate air, etc.)
What is the lowest humidity a dehumidifier is able to achieve?
Most dehumidifiers can be set to dehumidify room air down to about 35% RH (relative humidity). In most cases you press up or down arrows on the dehumidifier’s control panel to set the desired humidity level. The lowest you can set it to is usually 35% RH. Most of the dehumidifiers we tested were able to achieve this level of humidity without issue.
What is the minimum and maximum operating temperature for dehumidifiers?
Almost all dehumidifiers on the market have roughly the same operating temperature range of approx. 41° F up to approx. 95° F.
In older units frost (ice) can start building up on the dehumidifier’s evaporator coils even at temperatures as high as 65° F. A unit equipped with an automatic defrost mode will automatically cycle off its compressor and only run its fan to melt away the frost. Once defrosted, it will automatically cycle its compressor back on to continue dehumidifying.
More modern units are better optimized for low temperature operation and will prevent frost from building up without employing a separate defrost mode.
If I drain the dehumidifier with a hose, does the size/capacity dehumidifier I buy make a difference?
Yes, it does make a big difference. A dehumidifier’s capacity is the amount of moisture (water) it can remove from the air every 24 hours. It is not the capacity of its water collection bucket.
A 50 pint unit is able to remove up to 50 pints of moisture from the air every 24 hours. It doesn’t matter if it’s draining into its water collection bucket or into a drain.
All dehumidifiers have a water collection bucket capacity that’s much less than their overall capacity. For example, 50 pint units usually have a bucket that’s in the 12 to 18 pint range.
What’s in the box of the typical dehumidifier?
Most units ship with just the dehumidifier and a manual. Some units come with an adapter that connects to the drain outlet. Built-in pump dehumidifiers usually ship with special tubing that connects to a separate outlet for the sole purpose of draining the dehumidifier via the built-in pump.