basement dehumidifier

Once you have decided that a basement dehumidifier is right for you, how do you choose between a built-in unit, also called a whole-house or inline dehumidifier, or a freestanding unit? Keep reading to learn what you need to know to make the right choice among basement dehumidifiers.

What’s The Difference Between Freestanding and Built-In Dehumidifiers?

The following chart highlights the differences between freestanding and built-in dehumidifiers to help you make the right choice for your specific application:

Freestanding Dehumidifier Built-In Dehumidifier
Initial Cost Lower Higher
Cost to Operate Higher Lower
Moisture Removed Less More
Maintenance More Less
Portability High Not At All
Area Serviced Smaller Larger
Air Filtering Less More
Installation Homeowner HVAC Technician
Lifespan Shorter Longer

Freestanding Dehumidifiers

A freestanding dehumidifier is one that can be easily moved from room to room, typically weighs less than 75 pounds, and plugs into any normal receptacle supplying 120 volts. Freestanding dehumidifiers are normally controlled with a digital relative humidity setting or a dial that reads dry to wet. An onboard reservoir fills with water as the air is dried. The units will cut off once the reservoir is full and must be manually emptied. Freestanding dehumidifiers can be configured to gravity drain or fitted with a pump for automatic emptying of the reservoir.

Built-in Dehumidifiers

Built-in dehumidifiers are installed in line with the HVAC system utilizing the existing return and supply ducts and the air handler’s fan and condensate drain line. Built-in units are controlled with a dehumidistat, similar to the thermostat that controls HVAC systems. When the dehumidistat detects that the air in the basement has a higher relative humidity than the set point, it turns on the dehumidifier and the air handler’s fan to draw in humid air from the basement through the return ducts, dry it and pump the now dry air back out into the basement through the supply ducts.

This system will operate independently of the temperature, whereas an air conditioner only dries the air if it is cooling the air. If you are not running your air conditioner because the temperature of the air in your basement is comfortable, then the air is not being filtered or dried.

Which Type of Basement Dehumidifier Is Best For Me?

A freestanding dehumidifier is likely the best choice if you have a basement that is smaller than 1000 square feet, and it has no or few interior walls/partitions/rooms. A freestanding dehumidifier should also meet your needs if you don’t mind manually emptying the reservoir on a regular basis, and you do not want to spend more than about $500. Freestanding dehumidifiers can be purchased at most home improvement stores and are installed by simply plugging in the power cord. Units are available with higher volume capacities and higher efficiency, but those units come at a higher cost.

A built-in dehumidifier is likely the best choice if you have a basement that is larger than 1000 square feet, or if it has multiple interior walls, partitions, or rooms. It’s also the better choice if you prefer a unit that automatically drains the reservoir, you want to filter the air, you already have or are willing to install an HVAC system in the basement, and you can afford to spend approximately $2,000-$3,000.

Built-in dehumidifiers are located near the HVAC system air handler and connect to the existing ductwork, so they should be installed by a qualified HVAC technician. As we mentioned, another benefit of built-in units is that the air is filtered — not just dried — as it passes through the HVAC system’s filter.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

At Branch Environmental, we provide comprehensive packages that address the air quality inside your home and basement. We have you covered from inspection to mold remediation to dehumidifier selection and installation.

Contact us today if you would like to schedule a basement assessment, indoor air quality inspection, or simply want advice on which type of dehumidifier is right for your basement.