Small dehumidifiers score big in latest tests

In past reports on dehumidifiers, Consumer Reports has advised a bigger-is-best approach, since dehumidifiers that remove 65 to 70 pints of water per day have always been more efficient than models claiming 30 to 40 pints per day. Based on our latest dehumidifier Ratings, that advice may be changing, as the effects of new federal efficiency standards start to be felt.

The new standard, effective for the 2013 season, calls for efficiency increases of 13 to 35 percent, depending on the size of the dehumidifier. The steepest increase applies to the smallest units, which also generate the highest sales. In 2012, for example, nearly 60 percent of the 2 million dehumidifiers sold were 30 pints or less, according to Ipsos, a market-research company. That's probably due to the fact that small dehumidifiers typically cost $50 to $100 less than larger models.    

We just finished testing two 30-pint models, the Danby DDR30A2GP, $170, and the Frigidaire FAD301NWD, $190. The results are encouraging, with the Danby earning excellent scores for energy efficiency and the Frigidaire scoring very good. Compare those results with our 2010 report, when efficiency scores for small dehumidifiers ranged from average to poor. The gains in efficiency can save you $50 in annual energy costs, assuming you run the unit six months of the year. What's more, the Danby and Frigidaire were both superb at removing moisture in our tests and their frost controls prevent evaporator coils from freezing—a good thing if room temperatures get chilly.

We're in the process of testing three new small dehumidifiers from Sears, Soleus Air, and Sunpentown. If we see similar results for efficiency and performance, small dehumidifiers will become more prominent on our recommended list, especially for everyday use in smaller living spaces that can get damp. In more extreme conditions, such as big basements with high levels of moisture, we'll continue to recommend larger models, including our top-rated Haier, a Walmart exclusive that sells for under $200. Fortunately, the new efficiency standard applies to these units as well.

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Daniel DiClerico

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