Seeking the Bosch of dehumidifiers. Bonus if it's also the Prius.
July 2, 2013 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Can you help us pick a super-reliable, long-lasting dehumidifier for our damp basement? It would be fantastic if it's also unusually energy-efficient.

We have a damp-to-wet basement that floods a couple of times a year. (High water table; nothing to be done about it.) Eighteen months ago we had some serious mold abatement work done, which we would really really prefer not to repeat, so high-quality, high-reliability dehumidifying is essential.

We've had a 50-pint capacity Kenmore dehumidifier down there for about 5-6 years, and it's on its last legs, so we need to replace it. Given the importance of reliability, and the troubles we've had keeping the Kenmore going, we're thinking it's worth spending a little more for a really high-quality, robust, reliable unit -- but we have no idea how to identify which one to buy.

We've looked at the most recent Consumer Reports ratings on dehumidifiers, from June 2012, and they rate a number of models from both familiar brands (Frigidaire tops the rankings) and unfamiliar ones (Sunpentown? Soleus Air?), but they don't rate reliability, and don't really provide a clear sense of "buy this one, stupid, not that other one." Is there a particular brand that, for this kind of household appliance, is known for quality and reliability in the way that Bosch is known for their washing machines?

As an added by-product of all this, we've become increasingly aware of the power consumption of the Kenmore unit that we have, and we'd like to minimize that in any way possible, while also not sacrificing the actual humidity of the basement. I realize that all dehumidifiers operate on the same basic principle, but are there ways we can increase the efficiency of our dehumidifying protocol? Will a larger unit (70-pint) running less often actually use less power than a 50-pint unit running nearly continuously? Are dehumidifiers like fridges, where a new one will automatically be more efficient than an older one? All the 70-pint units are rated as "excellent" or "very good" on efficiency by CR, so is there really much difference here?

Or, should we just a) buy whatever's on sale or b) buy the highest-rated model from CR?
posted by spamloaf to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
See the paragraph on Energy Factors at the bottom of this page. Download the Excel sheet at the "product list" link in that paragraph. You want to choose based on what it says there, liters of water removed per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed.

But keep in mind also (and you've probably heard this), that sucking water out of the basement air is probably just going to pull more moisture in from the outside. So the bigger the unit, the more water it pulls out, the faster water will wick in through the walls and floor. The only real solution is to prevent the entry of water.
posted by beagle at 6:08 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Where are you located? An energy recovery ventilator might help by transferring moisture from the intake air to the exhaust air, leading to dryer air coming into the basement, but it won't be super useful if the outside air is super hot and humid.

And as beagle says, infiltration can be abated, through things like grading, installation of a sump pump, replacement of the house drain, etc.; sometimes there are incentive programs for that at the municipal level.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:50 PM on July 2, 2013

Over the eleven years I've been in my house, I've had three dehumidifiers shit the bed on me. This year, after the third one didn't come back to life this spring, I decided to see if I could cobble one working unit together out of the three. As it turns out, two (a zenith and a kenmore) were identical once you take off the shrouds. The third, a no-name, was utterly toast inside.

If the unit isn't corroded to hell, and runs but doesn't dehumidify, you may just need to recharge it. A fridge repairman should be able to do this.

If it runs, but the compressor never kicks in, it's probably the sensor harness (the three sensors are temperature, humidity, and bucket full, and are all on the same harness). I wound up stealing the sensors from one unit whose coils were corroded - thus they wouldn't hold a charge - and putting the sensors in another unit to make one, completely working unit.

You may have to consider a french drain, sump, and sump pump around your foundation to ultimately ameliorate the problem, or at least get an appliance type, rather than the common roll-around style dehumidifier.
posted by notsnot at 7:40 PM on July 2, 2013

Hooking your dehumidifier to a drain can also make things more practical, if you haven't done that yet.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:49 PM on July 2, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the link to the Energy Star product list, beagle, that's really helpful. From that, it looks like the vast majority of consumer-level products have precisely the same energy factor (1.85 L/kWh), so it's pretty much a toss-up in that department.

We do have a hose from the unit going to the floor drain, and we do have sumps in the basement. Grading won't help because the water isn't coming in from the surface; it literally seeps up from below the floor; I've watched it happen in real time. We're in Indiana, so during prime dehumidifying season (summer) it's generally more humid outside than inside.
posted by spamloaf at 6:43 AM on July 3, 2013

If you want the TRUE Bosch of dehumidifiers, try to see if you can get a Mitsubishi dehumidifier. They make them for various markets, including Japan, so they're available in 110v & 230v versions. It's just a matter of trying to figure out how to get one in the USA, or finding someone in Japan who can ship one stateside cheaply.

Superior design & engineering, not to mention almost dead silent on low.

If you do manage to figure out a way to get one into the US, please let me know -- I want one too.

For now I'm running Frigidiaire FAD704DWD dehumidifiers which have replaced all of the various brands of dehumidifiers I had which were recalled. Prior to that I had a Soleus Air (recalled), Maytag (not recalled but just too damn noisy), LG/Kenmore (recalled), and Home Depot's house brand (recalled). The Frigidaire's not bad. Not a tremendous design by any means, but light years above everything but the Soleus Air model, which was truly quiet. BUT, the Soleus unit's bucket full sensor never worked right and Soleus' tech support was useless for it. Similarly, the Soleus unit was only a 20 pint unit, which might explain why it was so quiet.
posted by OTA at 1:01 PM on October 2, 2013

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