How To Tell If A Dehumidifier Is Working – Dehumidifier Facts To Know

If you live in a very humid area or notice that there is a lot of moisture in the air, you may turn to dehumidifiers to increase the comfort of your home.

Here, we give you all the details of how to tell if a dehumidifier is working, when you should (or shouldn’t!) use dehumidifiers, and best-use tips.

The basics first: How does a dehumidifier work?

the basics first how does a dehumidifier work

Before we get into the details of dehumidifiers and how they work, let’s go over real quick what a dehumidifier is. These appliances reduce the amount of moisture in the air, which is also known as humidity. These appliances can be used in industrial and commercial properties and even in houses and apartments.

Basically, dehumidifiers help to make the air easier to breathe.

What does a dehumidifier do?

Humidity levels are about how much water is in the air.

When there is too much water vapor in the air – levels above 50% – your home or building will feel damp. High levels can also lead to dust mites, mold, mildew, asthma, and many other health problems.

When your home reaches 40% or more humidity, you will notice that your basement or room feels sticky or damp. The more moisture that’s in the air, the heavier it feels.

That’s where a dehumidifier comes in: these machines use a fan to move the humid air in the room over refrigerated coils. This process removes moisture (known as water vapor) from the air, which is collected in a tank. Then, it pushes the dry air back into space, which reduces the overall amount of humidity.

Dehumidifiers are advertised by the amount of water they can remove from the air daily, usually in pints. Small units will remove around 25 or fewer pints, medium around 30 pints, and large 40+ pints of moisture per day.

Dehumidifier vs. air conditioner

dehumidifier vs air conditioner

Both of these appliances suck in air and then push air back out. They both use coils, evaporators, and condensers. But there are a few other similarities.

Dehumidifiers are often used in cool rooms, such as basements. Unlike an air conditioner (which pushes cool air), these machines release warm air back into the room. This warm air has much less water vapor.

Air conditioners are often large and require a fresh air source (which is why they are usually outside or in windows.) Dehumidifiers are typically small and portable, designed to be used for a room.

While an air conditioner will maintain a room’s temperature and remove small amounts of humidity, a dehumidifier can remove a very large amount of water vapor from the air.

Benefits of dehumidifiers

benefits of dehumidifiers

There are many benefits to using dehumidifiers. Not only can this handy appliance make your home more comfortable, but it can also help to reduce stubborn health problems.

Other top dehumidifier benefits include: 

  1. Reduce Allergens: The top benefit of these appliances is that they reduce allergens. Dehumidifiers can help reduce allergy symptoms such as sneezing, chest pain, a wheeze that won’t go away, constant eye irritation, itching, or trouble breathing. People with asthma will benefit from dehumidifiers because the drier, low-humidity environment puts less stress on the lungs, making it easier to breathe.
  2. Keep Pests Out: Creepy crawlies and other pests will move to moist, cool environments. Spiders, roaches, ants, and other pests will seek out areas with high moisture levels. Making these spaces dry will make your home less attractive to bugs!
  3. Lower the Moisture: Humidity can be hard on more than just your lungs – it can cause metals to rust. Dryer environments will help in clothes drying faster, and non-refrigerated foods staying fresh longer. Your electronics, tools, and computer equipment will thank you, too – they will be less likely to rust and corrosion!
  4. Save On Energy Consumption: When used with your air conditioning, you can actually reduce your total energy costs. When it is humid, your AC must work double duty, both cooling the air and removing the humidity. When paired with a dehumidifier, the AC can cool the air, helping it run better.
  5. Improve Your Comfort: Have you ever heard the “dry air vs. humid air” debate? That is because the more humid an area is, the warmer it feels – whether it actually is that temperature or not. Dehumidifiers will reduce the moisture in the air, making you feel more comfortable.

How to tell if your dehumidifier is working

how to tell if your dehumidifier is working

A properly functioning dehumidifier will have all its lights on, make a low or slight noise, and pushes warm air out.

Why do dehumidifiers stop working?

There are many reasons your appliance has stopped working – after all, it’s a high-use electronic.

The first sign your dehumidifier is not working is that it will not turn on at all.

If your dehumidifier seems to turn on or off, or operate very less often, it might have problems with its thermostat or humidity control. Try setting the humidistat to a drier mode.

One reason it might have stopped working is that the water tank is full! This is a common problem with a simple and easy fix. Check the water tank. If it is empty, but the machine says it is full, there might be a problem with the water detection or water level switch.

A common reason your dehumidifier has stopped working is that the intake or exhaust grilles are clogged. Every month or two, use a vacuum with a brush attachment and clean the outside of the grilles. If you can, safely remove the outside casings and use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the dust or debris that has been sucked into the unit.

What are the signs I need a dehumidifier?

what are the signs i need a dehumidifier

If you are not sure if a dehumidifier is right for you, here are a few signs that the handy appliance might be a good fit for your home:

  • Excess condensed water on windows or patio doors
  • Moldy spots on the walls or ceiling
  • An overall musty smell or an everyday odor
  • Constant dampness from groundwater
  • Water stains or marks that won’t dry out

Dehumidifier Facts To Know

dehumidifier facts to know

Dehumidifiers are simple appliances that make a huge impact.

How long does it take for a dehumidifier to work?

A dehumidifier is not an instant fix. When it first kicks on, it can take 12 hours or more to work and reach top levels! However, once it is in place and running correctly, it can lower water vapor levels in a room in a few hours.

Many experts suggest that you run your dehumidifier for 12 hours a day. Some units will come with auto-on/off or auto-detection features and only kick on when a room reaches a specific level.

How long do dehumidifiers last?

The average dehumidifier will last around 5 years, but many will reach the 10-year mark. If you use and maintain your unit correctly, you can extend that range to 15 years or more.

To what percentage should you set a dehumidifier?

Ideally, you should aim for 45% or less humidity in your room.

A setting of 40% is standard, but a range of 30% to 50% is usually considered safe and comfortable.

Over 50% leaves your home at risk for mold, mildew, and other allergens.

Start at 45% and then adjust up or down depending on your comfort level.

If your unit does not have a built-in sensor or humidity reader, you may want to buy a hygrometer or standalone humidistat.

Dehumidifier size and capacity ratings

Dehumidifiers are classified by how much water vapor they can remove from the air within a 24-hour period.

They have pint capacity or pints of water they can remove from the air.

For a 300 sq ft space, you will want a unit that can remove 20 – 30 pints at 60% humidity.

The best way to use a dehumidifier in your home.

Get the best from your dehumidifier by using these tips:

  • Set the level to 40%
  • Ensure that it is placed in a spot that allows air to flow in – and out – of its vents
  • Close windows and doors to the room
  • Make sure the tank is empty before use
  • Keep the internal filters clean, and regularly clean the outside grille, filter, and housing
  • Remove any wet items from the room, such as damp laundry or carpet
  • Turn off any running water in the room, like a sink that drips continuously

When should you not use a dehumidifier?

when should you not use a dehumidifier

If you live in very dry areas, like the desert, a dehumidifier may not be the best fit for you. Since these appliances make the air dryer, you could actually dry out the air too much.

People who have pneumonia or eczema can actually make their symptoms worse if the air gets too dry. Check with your doctor before using a dehumidifier in your room.

Take a look at the ambient temperature, as well. During the winter months, the air is usually much colder – and dryer. Some units will not work in rooms that are below 60 degrees.

James Marshall

About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »