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Basement Dehumidifiers Demystified: How to Choose the Right One

dehumidifier drawing

Here in the north, our weather tends to be drier than what people get living nearer the equator.

Yet oddly, below ground in our basements, it sometimes feels quite tropical!

Basements just naturally tend to be more humid year-round. This can bring with it the threat of mould, mildew, damage to home furnishings and more.

Even when it is dry and pleasant aboveground, you may find it helpful to add a dehumidifier to protect your basement space from excess humidity.

In this post, learn how to choose the right dehumidifier for your needs and goals.

What Does a Basement Dehumidifier Do?

Have you ever noticed that even the simplest home appliances are getting a lot more complicated today?

For example, you might go to a store or online thinking you will just pick out a dehumidifier to use in your basement.

But when you start researching, you soon discover that many dehumidifiers do a lot more than just dehumidify!

At its most fundamental, you want to choose a dehumidifier that performs its primary task very well. So start there.

Look for a dehumidifier that earns the highest marks at extracting excess moisture.

Then consider which extra features might make sense to make it easier to maintain your basement and your new dehumidifier.

Optimizing Your Basement Dehumidifier Performance

Overall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that indoor air maintain an optimal relative humidity level of between 30 and 50 percent.

What happens when the humidity creeps higher than 50 percent?

Mould, mildew, insects, damage to organic matter (paper products, home furnishings) and odour can all occur when humidity levels rise in your basement.

People who struggle with allergies may also experience more respiratory symptoms due to the higher bacterial, viral and fungal content in the environment.

What happens when the humidity drops below 30 percent?

While this problem isn’t common in the average Canadian basement, it can be quite common in your aboveground spaces, especially in the dry air of winter.

When humidity drops below 30 percent, the first sign is often dry, cracked skin, especially in the lips and fingers. Overly dry air can also cause respiratory illness, which is why it is associated with winter’s traditional “cold and flu season.”

Too-dry air can cause cracks in organic furnishings (musical instruments, wood floors, furniture) and static electricity, which is a leading cause of home fires.

Portable (Room) Versus Whole Home (Central) Dehumidifier

Two basic dehumidifier models exist today: portable and central.

Portable dehumidifiers

A portable or room dehumidifier is designed for use in small spaces.

Some of these smaller, easy-to-carry models can still extract a not-insignificant amount of moisture – up to 22 ounces or more.

If you have a smaller basement or your basement space is broken up into a number of smaller rooms, using multiple portable dehumidifiers may actually make better sense for you.

Central dehumidifiers

While it may not feel that way at first, it is actually normal to feel a noticeable difference in the humidity between your aboveground home and your basement.

This is due to the soil surrounding your basement, which attracts and holds moisture, not allowing it to evaporate easily.

As long as you battle humidity only in your basement, a portable dehumidifier is probably a smarter and more economical choice. But if you also have seasonal or year-round humidity issues in your home above ground, you may find installing a central dehumidifier to be the best choice.

Special Dehumidifier Features You May Find Handy

As we mentioned earlier, you may not need all the extra bells and whistles built into many modern dehumidifiers today.

When in doubt, the simplest is always best.

But in some cases, certain special features can really come in handy and you shouldn’t hesitate to make use of these.

Defrost mode (low-temperature operation)

The goal of adding a dehumidifier to your basement is to help keep the humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent. In most cases, a dehumidifier will work well only when air temperatures are at least 15 to 20 degrees Celsius (59 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.

However, some dehumidifiers will have a defrost mode. This allows the dehumidifier to continue to extract water from the environment at much lower temperatures.

If you do not heat your basement in winter but are battling a humidity problem, you may find this special feature useful.

Auto shut-off or auto-drain

One of the main goals of extracting extra moisture from your basement is to prevent costly water damage repairs.

So the last thing you want or need is a dehumidifier that operates in manual mode and could potentially overflow while you are away from the house!

The auto shut-off feature that many modern dehumidifiers offer will guard against this.

For bigger spaces with more substantial dehumidification needs, you may want to consider the upgraded version of auto shut-off: auto drainage. The simpler version of this will incorporate a hose and a handy nearby sink. The fancier version will use a condensate pump.

Air filtration

If anyone who regularly uses the basement suffers from allergies, choosing a dehumidifier with an inbuilt air filtration function can help ease health symptoms.

Auto humidistat

A humidistat is the humidity equivalent of a thermostat. With this sweet feature, you can tell the dehumidifier when to work and when to power down.

Auto restart

For geographic areas subject to more frequent power outages, choosing a dehumidifier with an auto restart feature may come in handy.

Get in Touch

Remember, a dehumidifier is at best a temporary solution to the threat of basement water damage. Ask us about affordable basement waterproofing to put an end to water worries.

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.

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