Basement dehumidifier buying and usage tips

Summers in the South are just plain sticky. To keep mold, rust and mildew from creeping into your home,...

Summers in the South are just plain sticky. To keep mold, rust and mildew from creeping into your home, you'll need a basement dehumidifier. Whether you choose a portable unit or an attachment to your central air system, a dehumidifier helps remove moisture from the air. Ready to get one? Here are four things to consider:

1. Capacity of the unit

Dehumidifiers are rated based on the amount of water they can remove from the air in a 24-hour time period. Since basements harbor more moisture than the main floor, consider getting a 35- to 50-pint unit. Don't be fooled by the physical size of the unit. Bigger doesn't always mean more moisture control.

2. Keep it running

Once you plug in a dehumidifier, keep it running. Initially the unit will work to extract moisture from furniture, bedding and other absorbent furnishings in the basement. Then, the unit will start to remove humidity from the air. For maximum efficiency, keep the humidifier away from walls to allow for proper air flow. Once a month clean the grill with a vacuum hose followed by a wipe-down with a bleach-water solution to discourage mold growth.

3. Know when to turn it off

When a cool snap occurs in the winter--and the basement temperature drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit--turn the basement dehumidifier off. Cool temperatures can cause frost to form on the unit's coils, making the machine overwork itself and shut down.

4. Proper drainage

So, where does all that moisture go? Some dehumidifers are equipped with a bucket to collect the water. An indicator light on the dehumidifier will let you know when it's time to empty the water. Other units offer a drainage hose attachment. Direct the hose to a basement drain or guide it into a laundry-room sink. Although the hose option doesn't look as nice, it's your best option if you don't frequent the basement often.

Ready to get a dehumidifier? Call an HVAC professional if you want to add a unit to your central air system. Or, head to your favorite home improvement store for a portable option.

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