Best bets to help combat summer humidity

If this spring’s record rainfalls didn’t get you thinking about a dehumidifier, the dog days of summer should. Soaking, sultry weather has driven dehumidifier sales up when the appliance industry as a whole is down 25 percent from its housing-boom highs, according to Consumer Reports.
Increased demand comes as tougher environmental regulations are forcing manufacturers to build greener dehumidifiers. CR tested 17 new models to see which do the best job of drying out basements and other humid parts of a home.
Almost half earn CR’s recommendation by combining solid performance with high efficiency and lower operating costs. But some are better than others for Mother Earth and your household budget. Here are the details:
— Dehumidifiers go green. R-22 refrigerant, which can damage the ozone layer, has been banned in new models as of this year. The new ozone-friendly dehumidifiers are at least as good at removing humidity as those made with R-22. The majority use R-410A refrigerant, which is also common in new air conditioners. Although R-410A is less damaging to the ozone layer, it still contributes to global warming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Another alternative, R-134A, has less impact on global warming, but the two models from CR’s test that use it, Haier’s DM32EJ-L and Frigidaire’s LAD254NTL, scored low in its Ratings.
— Efficiency is relative. Energy Star specifications vary by capacity, so smaller units can cost more to operate than larger ones and still qualify for the Energy Star. CR compared energy usage, based on an average electricity cost of 11.4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Removing 25 pints of water using one large unit cost 68 cents, and the cost with a small unit was almost twice as much.
Best for large and/
or wet spaces are the GE ADKW65LN, $260; the Kenmore Elite 90701, $300, and the Danby DDR6009REE, $200, a CR Best Buy. Best for medium and/or damp spaces are the GE ADKW50LN, $210, a CR Best Buy; the Frigidaire LAD504TDL, $210; and the Danby DDR5009REE, $200. For small and/or occasionally humid spaces, the GE ADKW30LN, $160, is a CR Best Buy.
How to choose
A dehumidifier is a pretty basic piece of equipment: Chilled coils pull moisture from the air and drip it into a tank. Most models excelled at this task, but CR found differences in accuracy and convenience. Here’s how to get the best results:
— Go larger. A model with a capacity of 60 to 70 pints per day tends to work more quickly and efficiently than one with a capacity of 25 to 40 pints per day. You also might be able to run it on a lower, quieter setting. Consider a small-capacity model only if you need to dehumidify a single room that’s only occasionally damp.
— Consider accuracy. Most dehumidifiers use a built-in humidistat and cycle on and off to stay as close as possible to the relative humidity level you set. Some are more accurate than others, so check CR’s Ratings.
— Weigh the features. Frost control prevents evaporator coils from freezing, a good thing if room temperatures could get chilly. Automatic shut-off, found on all tested models, turns the unit off when its bucket is full; auto re-start turns the unit back on after a power outage.
— Look for rebates. Several states and utilities offer $10 to $65 rebates on Energy Star-qualified dehumidifiers. Go to www.dsireusa.org for details.
— Address underlying problems. If a space has standing water or a chronic musty smell, even the best dehumidifier won’t fix the issue on its own. You also need to address the source of the moisture. That might involve patching foundation walls, installing a sump pump, adding bathroom exhaust fans, or regrading soil near the foundation and maintaining gutters and down spouts to shunt rainwater away from your home.

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