How to Choose the Best Placement for a Dehumidifier
Tips from a Crawlspace Industry Expert
To most people, the location of a dehumidifier inside a crawlspace may not seem all that important. Some installers place them close to an electrical outlet that already exists. Others place them as close as they can to the crawlspace entry door, for quick servicing when necessary. I have seen some very creative thinking when it comes to installing dehumidifiers in a crawlspace.
If you’re not dealing with this type of thing frequently, these might seem like inconsequential decisions. But ultimately, choosing the right location will determine how effectively and efficiently the dehumidifier works for you and your client. A blocked or restricted air flow will not allow the dehumidifier to operate efficiently inside a crawlspace. Moreover, the life expectancy of the unit will suffer, causing you and the client to be disappointed in the results.
What can be done to avoid that? Keep reading to find out!
The Case of the Noisy Unit
A couple of years ago I was called in to evaluate a situation where a homeowner was unhappy with their dehumidifier. They wanted a third-party opinion. Their complaints were as follows: it was too noisy, and it ran all the time - morning, noon, and night. They had never smelled a moldy odor before the dehumidifier was installed, and now there was an odor. And finally, their power bill had increased.
All in all, a pretty bad situation. After listening to their concerns, I agreed to take a look and see if I could find some answers for them.
Investigation the Problem
After a brief inspection of the home’s interior, I suited up and went into the crawlspace. Right away, I could hear the dehumidifier running. A little further into the crawlspace, I realized why the client was complaining about it being too loud. The dehumidifier had been set up under the client’s master bedroom. At night, when everything was quiet, it would have been even louder.
This is why I don’t ever install a dehumidifier under a bedroom. It is almost a guarantee you will get a noise complaint.
Next, I noticed that the dehumidifier’s intake port—where the humid air is sucked into the unit—was installed less than 10 feet from the foundation wall. With the unit being so close to the exterior foundation wall, and the wall being a single brick curtain wall, the unit was sucking in moisture-laden air nonstop.
Remember: A unit must be placed at least 10 feet away from an outside wall and the intake should not be oriented toward the foundation wall.
A Costly Error
Most dehumidifiers are very inexpensive to operate. However, if the unit is improperly installed or the controls are not calibrated correctly, the unit can run constantly, impacting the clients power bill, not to mention the life of the unit.
The ground in this area was very uneven and the installing company had not placed the unit on any solid base. The condensate was leaking out of the unit back into the crawlspace and not going into the exterior condensate pump to be diverted out of the crawlspace. This was cycling the moisture back into the crawlspace defeating the purpose of the dehumidifier. This was not only causing the unit to run continuously but the excessive moisture, mildew, and mold growth was still active causing the musty, moldy odors inside the house.
That brings me to my next word of advice: A dehumidifier must be installed on a level base, preferably raised off the crawlspace ground level at least 4 to 6 inches, so that the condensate can drain properly into a condensate pump or a gravity drain carrying the condensate out of the crawlspace.
One Final Note About Wiring
Fortunately for the homeowners, I didn’t see any electrical issues when I was doing my inspection, but the proper wiring is equally important. The electrical hook up should be on a separate 20-amp dedicated ground fault circuit. I suggest either using a duplex GFCI receptacle with a water-resistant cover, or a single receptacle with a light installed on the same circuit. The electrical installation should meet all local and federal codes and should be installed by a licensed electrical contractor. An installed light near the dehumidifier comes in handy when inspecting and/or servicing the dehumidifier.
Small Solutions, Big Results
On that fateful day, in just a matter of a few minutes, I had answers to the homeowner’s questions. The good news was the solutions to these problems were just simple adjustments.
The dehumidifier was a very dependable model and adequately sized for the amount of square footage in the crawlspace. I suggested the homeowner contact the company that had installed the unit and ask them to make the adjustments I recommended, and that it should be done at no cost.
That’s just what happened. The homeowner contacted the installing company, who came and made the adjustments I had recommended (at no additional cost to the homeowner), and the homeowners came away happy with an effective and efficient dehumidifier in their crawlspace.
Location, Location, Location
The biggest thing to remember is this: Location is very important when installing a dehumidifier. Think about the crawlspace, how it is designed. Are there any walls and piers that could block or obstruct the air flow? Is there proper clearance, on level ground, where you want to install the unit? What direction do you want the moist air to be pulled from and what direction do you want the dry air to be blown to? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself when installing a dehumidifier.
To learn more about dehumidifiers, condensate pumps and proper installation systems and processes, I suggest reaching out to the professionals at Your Crawlspace Inc. This team has years of experience and has developed crawlspace systems that will assist you and your team. They have “How To” videos available as well. www.yourcrawlspace.com.
Don Richards ACE, CPI
Don Richards Services, LLC