Curse you, dehumidifiers! At a cost of $200 or so, can't you last longer than one or two summers in the basement?
Normally, I have a good track record with long-lasting appliances. I check Consumer Reports' ratings of the products and the reliability of the manufacturer before I buy. But the past two summers I have purchased LG dehumidifiers from Costco. One lasted five months and the other lasted eight months before they both quit removing water from the air. (The fan still worked.)
Each dehumidifier cost about $200, but I am not out any money. I returned both models for a refund when they died. Did I feel guilty about returning them after 90 days? Yes and no.
Most retailers have conditioned us to believe that returning anything past 90 days is the customer's responsibility. I accept that to a point, but I think a $200 appliance should last longer than one or two seasons. Not returning it would be like telling manufacturers that it's OK to make an appliance that doesn't last. Don't they have responsibility, too?
Costco might have gotten the message I was trying to send. The LG model I returned twice has been replaced in stores by a DeLonghi model. I hope it's more reliable, but I decided to go with Consumer Reports' recommendation instead. In its June issue, the magazine rated a 60-pint Danby model a "best buy."
Note for readers who think Consumer Reports' ratings are "overrated": The magazine also gave a "best buy" distinction to a 45-pint LG model. While it's not the same model or size I returned to Costco, it does raise the point that Consumer Reports tests manufacturers' overall product reliability on large appliances but not small appliances. That's a weakness, in my opinion. A product's reliability over time is as important as its immediate effectiveness.
In online attempts to find a local Danby dealer, I discovered that Costco.com sells Danby's newer model with an auto-restart function. The model that lists for $250 can be ordered at Costco.com for $193 including shipping and tax. Nonmembers can also order it online for an additional 5 percent. After Sunday, when the sale ends, the price will be $40 higher. The website also offers a 25-pint model from Danby.
I chose to buy my dehumidifier from Costco because of its unconditional return policy and the low price. If it quits working later this summer, I will return it. (Warehouse locations accept Costco.com returns.) But if the Danby makes it into next summer, I don't plan to return it even if it fails.
According to Mark Benedict of Appliance Care repairs in Minneapolis, manufacturers aren't making dehumidifiers cheaper, just more energy-efficient. The newer models are so efficient that they're more sensitive to dirt and dust, causing breakdowns. Benedict said that new models require more maintenance.
"Every two years, the coils need to be cleaned out with compressed air," said Benedict. Unfortunately, most appliance repair shops told me that the average repair on a dehumidifier runs about $100. (Do-it-yourselfers can ask how to clean the coils at RepairClinic.com.) Many manufacturers will also replace the unit if it's within a year of purchase.
Benedict said that I'm not the only one having issues with dehumidifiers. "About half of my customers complain that newer models don't seem to last as long," he said. Before buying a potentially trouble-prone appliance like a dehumidifier, know the retailer's return policy and the manufacturer's warranty. Most retailers will not take back an appliance after 90 days. Some manufacturer's warranties last one year, but find out for sure what's included in the warranty and if the repair can be done locally. No one wants to pack and ship a dehumidifier back to the manufacturer. Ask an appliance repair shop about the availability of parts for the model you're considering.
Retailers such as Menards, Home Depot and Lowe's all sell models ranging from $120 for 25- or 30-pint models and $165 to $280 for 50- to 70-pint models. You can buy from them and take your chances with the manufacturer if the unit quits running next summer. Or you can take the easy way out like I did and buy from Costco (or Sam's Club), which stands behind most of its products indefinitely.