It’s been a wet spring and some weather forecasting models are predicting a cool, wet summer too. That could tax any dehumidifier, except the older ones.
Consumers are finding that models 20 years or older last years longer than the ones built after 2005. Many of the older, energy inefficient models are still in use today. Some perform better than a model purchased only one or two years ago that may already be fit for recycling.
The number of dehumidifiers shipped in the U.S. in 2017 and 2018, about 2.4 million units each year, has doubled since 2011 and 2012 when about 1.2 million units were shipped, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Part of that increase in shipments over the past 15 years may also be due to climate change, according to a spokesperson at AHAM.
Another sign that late model dehumidifiers are failing faster is the number of them being recycled. In the last four years 1.65-2 million dehumidifiers are being recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That's nearly double the number that were tossed to the curb from 2007-2014.
Some consumers think the fault of the shorter life span lies in newer energy efficiency standards, but one appliance expert said it’s more than that. “The whole product is built cheap,” said John Zeien, co-owner of J.R.’s Advanced Recyclers in Inver Grove Heights. “It develops a small hole in the system, the Freon leaks out, and it costs more to fix it than replace it.”
That leaves consumers with few good choices to keep a damp house dry unless they’ve got an older model. Many new dehumidifiers cost between $200 and $300 but last only one or two years.
What can be done about it? Consumers can always look at online reviews, but most of them only discuss the appliance’s immediate performance. It’s more important to check for favorable reviews after a year or two of service. Best Buy’s reviewers and Consumer Reports have liked select models by Frigidaire and Whynter. CR recently recommended two small-capacity units, the Frigidaire FAD301NWD for $180 and Whynter RPD-321EW. Both 30-pint units are available at Bestbuy.com. Larger units that get high marks are the 50 pint Frigidaire FAD504DWDE ($210) and the 70 pint Insignia NS-DH70WH9 ($225).
Rarely do consumer experts recommend buying an extended warranty, but short-timer dehumidifiers may be an exception. Best Buy’s Geek Squad warranties on dehumidifiers are $35 for two years and $65 for four years.
Another option is to buy a dehumidifier from Costco, which has a liberal return policy. Nonmembers can also make purchases at Costco.com and pay slightly more. Keep the box, accessories and receipt for easier return.
Consumers can also use the manufacturer’s warranty, which is usually one year. Free replacement within one year may be offered, but after 12 months the buyer may be responsible for shipping, parts or labor costs.
Buying a used dehumidifier is not generally recommended for several reasons. It’s difficult to know if a unit at a garage sale is working properly, for example. More important, 6 million units were recalled in 2017 due to fire danger, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
For a list of models recalled check www.cpsc.gov, http://www.greedehumidifierrecall.com (1-866-853-2802), or www.recallrtr.com/dehumidifier (1-800-600-3055). Recalls have involved nearly all brands, such as DeLonghi, Frigidaire, Danby, GE and Kenmore. Consumers may be eligible for a partial refund, a full refund or a replacement model, depending on the manufacturer.
To make a dehumidifier last longer, clean the filter as recommended. Some models include a "clean filter" indicator light. Check the owner's manual or call the manufacturer if a filter is not apparent. Occasionally vacuum the outside of the unit for any dust accumulation.