Dampness can be a big problem in basements, and this includes many finished basements. Dank basements not only feel unpleasant, the high humidity can lead to mold and mildew problems, and serious damage to items stored in the basement. One very effective way to deal with moisture problems is to use a dehumidifier.
Dehumidifiers draw in air and pull out the moisture. The water that is collected from this usually ends up in a designated receptacle, called a drip pan, within the unit. This receptacle is usually easily removed so the water can be discarded. Most–if not all-of these machines have an automatic shut off to prevent water from overflowing. Many also have design features, allowing you to hook up a hose to draw the water from the machine–for instance, to a designated site outdoors or to an indoor drain.
Using a dehumidifier is, in most cases, simply a matter of plugging the machine in to a grounded outlet and pushing the unit’s “on” button. Humidifiers will cycle on and off, depending on how you have it set. Similar to how home thermostats operate regarding temperature–they detect when things are getting a bit chilly and prompt the heater to come on–dehumidifiers gauge how much moisture is in the area and cycle on when moisture levels are unacceptable. Like with a thermostat, you must choose what is acceptable and set the machine accordingly.
You’ll have best results if you choose a unit that has a high enough capacity for the size of your basement and the extent of the moisture problem. For example, if your basement is very small and you have only a moderate moisture problem, you won’t need a high-capacity machine. If your basement is large and you have a severe moisture problem, you’ll need the best dehumidifier you can buy. On the manufacturer’s label, it will usually specify how much moisture (pints or gallons) the unit can withdraw per square foot.
Only plug humidifiers into grounded outlets. Follow manufacturers instructions fully to prevent accidental shock or machine malfunction.
If you use your dehumidifier all year long, you should unplug it and clean the filters, drip pan and coils (usually located in the back of the unit) twice a year, at the very least. A dirty dehumidifier is not as efficient as a clean one. Check manufacturer’s recommendations for your particular machine; but in general, a clean soapy sponge for wiping grime from the coils and the drip pan, and clean water to rinse the filter may be all that you need to do.
In cold basements, some dehumidifiers may stop working properly. If your basement gets cold, consider getting a humidifier that specifies it is suitable for cold environments.
If you have a severe basement moisture problem and need a high-capacity machine, you may be unhappy about the higher price. However, it may be helpful to remember the mold damage these machines can prevent–a dehumidifier can save you money (and possibly your family’s health) in the long run.