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Is a Basement Dehumidifier Necessary?

As a homeowner, dealing with dampness in your basement can be frustrating. High humidity levels often cause dampness.

Unfortunately, high humidity damages your property and can pose a serious health risk as it promotes the growth of mold and mildew. Dehumidifiers can help resolve this issue.

But is a basement dehumidifier necessary?

A basement dehumidifier is necessary as it removes the excess moisture from the air and prevents mold formation and any moisture damage to your property.

Basement dehumidifiers also improve the overall air quality in your basement.

You may wonder if there is a specific time you should use a dehumidifier and what signs indicate it’s time to get one.

Read on to learn more about basement dehumidifiers, when to use one, and much more.

When Is a Basement Dehumidifier Necessary?

A basement dehumidifier is essential as it:

Protects Your Basement From Damage

Moisture can damage your basement wall and any cabinetry or woodwork inside. You may notice that your furniture, trim work, and basement door may start warping from excess moisture. 

High moisture can also cause rust if you have metallic frames or decorative trims. Any stored electronics can also be corroded. If you have clothes stored in your basement, they may also accumulate mold and mildew, which can further spread to other stored items.

A basement dehumidifier prevents property damage, ensuring everything is just as you stored it. 

Removes Musty Odors

A dehumidifier also improves the odor in your basement

Dehumidifier with touch panel

Damp basements tend to have a musty and moldy smell that can be difficult to eliminate. Using a dehumidifier can help improve odors in the home. 

Reduces Allergy Triggers and Respiratory Problems

High moisture levels lead to mold formation. As mold grows, it releases spores that float in the air and land on any warm or dark area to grow into a new colony. 

While you may not notice that you’re breathing in these spores, you’ll notice that you may have an allergic reaction every time you go into the basement. 

A basement dehumidifier reduces humidity levels, reducing mold growth and any chance of spores accumulating in the air. 

man having allergy and sneezing in tissue at home

Although a dehumidifier won’t wholly eliminate allergic reactions, it reduces the frequency and severity. 

Reduce Your HVAC’s Workload

Your HVAC has to compensate by drying the air if you don’t have a basement dehumidifier.

Excess moisture makes it challenging for your unit to heat or cool the surroundings effectively. The HVAC will have to run often and for an extended period to regulate the humidity.

A quality dehumidifier allows your HVAC to run more efficiently and quickly. 

Do Most Basements Need Dehumidifiers?

That depends on the location and climate.

Basements in hot locations tend to have high humidity, which further contributes to high moisture levels. Such basements would benefit from a dehumidifier. 

However, you may not need a dehumidifier if you live in a cool area and your basement is dry and has normal humidity levels. 

When to Use a Dehumidifier in the Basement

You should use a dehumidifier in your basement if:

There Is Water Damage

Wall damaged by water leak

Your basement may experience water damage if it tends to flood or leak. Sometimes water damage won’t be visible, but it can seep into the material and cause moisture problems. Unfortunately, severe water damage can also lead to mold and pests. 

Running a dehumidifier helps to remove the excess moisture that causes water damage. 

The Basement Hasn’t Been Inspected For Months

Sometimes it may take months before you step into your basement. Such basements may have trapped moisture, which could have led to mold growth. 

Apart from cleaning it up, you also need a dehumidifier to eliminate trapped moisture. 

Your Basement Has a Damp Feeling

You may be dealing with trapped humidity if you get a cold or clammy feeling each time you enter your basement.

Sometimes the pipes could be sweating and causing excess moisture. However, in most cases, high humidity contributes to dampness, and a dehumidifier could help fix this problem. 

There’s Condensation on Basement Walls

Heavy Mold on Walls

You may need to invest in a dehumidifier if your walls feel damp when you touch them. Sometimes you may notice water bubbles that settle on your wall, or paint could start peeling. 

Those are signs of high humidity levels. 

You Notice a Musty Smell

Another sign that it’s time to get a dehumidifier is when your basement has a funny odor. The odors come from mold growth, and failure to address this can lead to respiratory problems. 

You can tell if the musty odor comes from your basement if there’s also discoloration on the walls. A dehumidifier sucks up excess moisture and ensures mold spores don’t spread to other parts of your home. 

Pest Infestation

Pests love dark and moist areas, and the basement is one of the most convenient places for them. 

Cockroaches on white wall.

Start by removing the pests and using a dehumidifier to remove the moisture. 

Rust is Present

Too much moisture can cause rust on metal items in the basement. The metal could corrode when left over a long period as iron reacts to moisture and oxygen. 

Running a dehumidifier can help reduce rust. 

Should You Run It All Year or Only Some Months?

 It will help if you run your dehumidifier during early fall, late spring, and summer. However, this depends on your location and climate.

During summer, the basement’s relative humidity is high, which can lead to more moisture accumulating in your basement. You may also find that the high humidity impacts indoor air quality. You’ll likely need the dehumidifier most during this season.

Remember to check your water reservoir as the dehumidifier tends to collect lots of water and may need emptying often compared to other seasons. 

Early fall also tends to be a bit warm as it follows summer. Investing in a dehumidifier is recommended to prevent high humidity levels. 

You may also need to operate the dehumidifier until late spring as the air gets warm. That means you’ll still have to deal with high humidity levels because of evaporation.

Some places get lots of rain during spring, leading to seepage in the basement. In such a case, you need to have the dehumidifier running. 

According to the US Department of Energy, the months of June, July, and August require a dehumidifier the most. 

Early and mid-fall, which is September to October, and Late spring, April to May, account for the shortest dehumidifier operation. 

Can You Run a Dehumidifier During Winter?

Experts do not recommend running a dehumidifier during winter as the air in the house is dry. The low temperatures can also damage the dehumidifier, and HVAC experts advise unplugging the unit when winter approaches.

Nonetheless, if you’re dealing with a damp basement during winter, you may need to have the appliance running. 

How Do You Know If You Need a Dehumidifier in the Basement?

Some of the signs that indicate it’s time to get a basement dehumidifier include:

Condensation on Surfaces

High humidity levels lead to trapped warm, moist air that accumulates into condensation. You’ll notice water bubbles on your windowpanes, doors, and surfaces. That is an indication that it’s time to get a dehumidifier. 

 Moisture indoors and the appearance of mold

Peeling Wallpaper and Paint Bubbling

If you’ve recently noticed that your wallpaper is peeling and paint seems to be bubbling up, that’s a sign of excess moisture in your basement. A dehumidifier can help resolve this problem before it worsens. 

Peeling paint on a decaying white ceiling

Visible Mold Growth on Walls, Floors, Ceiling

Your basement may have a moisture problem if you see moldy patches on wall corners and ceilings.

The excess moisture results from high humidity levels, and when that moisture falls on surfaces, it can lead to mold and bacteria growth. 

A Musty Smell

Does your basement feel stuffy and has a musty smell on furniture and other items? That could be a result of excessive moisture that’s in the air.

Although you may overlook the excess moisture, the musty odor indicates moisture issues. 

Choosing the Right Dehumidifier For Your Basement

The dehumidifier you choose will determine its moisture removal success. With multiple options and brands, it can be confusing to know how to pick the right one.

Below are some factors to have in mind when shopping.

The Capacity of the Dehumidifier

You should get a dehumidifier that matches the size of your basement. 

Experts recommend getting a five-liter capacity for every 500 square feet of the basement floor. However, if your basement is waterlogged, you can choose one with a bigger capacity. 

Don’t forget to check the water reservoir size. A big-capacity reservoir is ideal for non-continuous and overnight drain operations. 

Drainage Method

Most portable dehumidifiers have inbuilt reservoirs that require manual draining. 

Dehumidifier for water infiltration

You can still find dehumidifiers with a continuous drain if you have a big basement. These are primarily available in large units. The water flows into a continuous drain rather than going into a reservoir. 

Inbuilt Humidistat

A dehumidifier with an inbuilt humidistat allows you to set a particular humidity level. That prevents drying out the air as the unit shuts down once the target humidity level has been reached. 

Final Thoughts

Some basements tend to have high humidity levels that can cause hidden damage and even expose you to certain respiratory conditions. Getting a basement dehumidifier prevents moisture damage to your home and items in the basement.

It also improves overall indoor air quality. Remember to find a dehumidifier that matches the size of the basement, has a convenient drainage option, and features that make the unit simpler to operate.