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.
Increased demand comes as tougher environmental regulations are forcing manufacturers to build greener dehumidifiers. We 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 our 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:
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 our test that use it, Haier's DM32EJ-L and Frigidaire's LAD254NTL, scored low in our Ratings (available to subscribers).
Energy Star specifications vary by capacity, so smaller units can cost more to operate than larger ones and still qualify for the Energy Star. We 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.
Our energy-use test compares dehumidifiers across all capacities by measuring the watts needed to remove a pint of water. As a result, models that score poorly in our energy-efficiency tests still sport the Energy Star.
For the next Energy Star update this year, we suggest that the program consider a one-size-fits-all approach so that consumers can easily compare efficiency across capacities. We also think that the bar should be raised so that only around 25 percent of products qualify, which was the original design of the program. Currently about 70 percent of dehumidifiers qualify for Energy Star, so it's hardly a measure of exceptional efficiency.