Dehumidifiers are necessary in keeping a house cool and dry by removing excess moisture from the air within the home.
Many home dehumidifiers are of the portable variety, meaning that they can moved around a home as required. Moisture collected as water is therefore stored within a water tank, typically located at the bottom of dehumidifier units.
The water tank on a dehumidifier will need to be manually emptied once full before the dehumidifier can continue operating. The frequency of emptying can depend on the current humidity level, the type of dehumidifier being used, and the size of the dehumidifier.
However, many dehumidifiers can also be set up with continuous drainage using a hose to prevent the need for emptying on a regular basis.
We manually empty our own dehumidifier, which are after a full day of operating while we’re awake can be almost full.
If you don’t currently have a dehumidifier in your home, or have just had one installed, then continue reading to learn how to maintain a dehumidifier and how to properly empty one.
Dehumidifiers need to be manually emptied.
This is true if the dehumidifier is not attached to a hose hookup (similar to how washing machines are hooked up to dispose of dirty water).
Dehumidifiers that are hooked up to a hose will automatically drain the collected water out, leaving only manual clean up and maintenance to attend to.
For example, the water collected within the tank in our own dehumidifier needs to be emptied every 16 hours or so (we discuss how long it can take for a dehumidifier to fill up in another article here).
This tank can be removed by pulling it out from the base of the unit.
The water tank can then be carried using the handle for disposal of the water.
Not every dehumidifier is made the same, with different sizes designed for different homes and weather conditions. For some, humidity is mostly an issue during the summer months, while other homes experience humidity for the majority of the year.
The higher the humidity, and the smaller the dehumidifiers, the more frequently the dehumidifier will need to be emptied.
Dehumidifiers come in different sizes to accommodate different levels of humidity, ranging in capacity for how many pints of water it can hold.
Capacity size can range between 25 pints to 70 pints of water. The amount of water a dehumidifier can hold will either decrease or increase the frequency the number of times the machine will need to be emptied.
Emptying a dehumidifier is not difficult as there are typically two easy methods of removing the excess water. Most dehumidifiers have one of two options:
- Removable water storage compartment
- Water disposal through a hose
The hoses tend to be short, so the dehumidifier would need to be positioned as close as possible to a floor drain, similar to one of a washing machine. Hoses remove the need to remember to empty the dehumidifier by providing consistent drainage.
If attaching a hose to a floor drain is not possible, then emptying the water container is not a hassle, if emptied when it is full. Most dehumidifiers will not continue to run if this container is full, and often will come with a light to signal that the machine needs to be emptied.
Dehumidifiers can have a clasp or door on either the side or the front, toward the bottom of the machine, which opens to expose the water compartment. Remove the compartment to empty the water.
The water that is collected is technically clean, so it can be repurposed for watering plants, but is not safe to drink by humans or pets. It can be considered to be distilled but it’s not properly distilled. For other uses see our article on dehumidifiers and distilled water.
Our dehumidifier also has a slot where a hose can be installed for continuous drainage but we haven’t yet needed to use it.
Dehumidifiers come with a pre-installed filter that is reusable and washable that needs to be cleaned from time to time, depending on when you use the dehumidifier the most.
Overall, the maintenance required for a commercial dehumidifier is low, but there are potential issues to avoid, such as
- Leaving doors or windows open
- Forgetting to empty the water bucket
- Neglecting to clean the dehumidifier
- Not adjusting to the right humidity level
- Placing the dehumidifier in a poor spot
- Choosing the wrong size of dehumidifier
These mistakes are easy to avoid with preparation. Before installing a dehumidifier, it would be beneficial to consider how to avoid making these mistakes.
Dehumidifiers are designed to keep enclosed areas clear of moisture.
Keeping the doors and windows open while the dehumidifier is running can cause the machine to fill faster and the filter to become dirtier faster. Both of these results lead to emptying the machine and cleaning the filter more frequently.
See our article on dehumidifiers and windows for more information.
There are other ways for extra moisture to come into the household, besides open windows and doors. Staying up to date with house repairs is another way of keeping additional humidity out, including:
- Foundation holes
- Leaky outdoor faucets
- Vent fans in kitchens and bathrooms
- Air conditioning
Cracked seals between windows and doors are sources of additional air and potential moisture, as well.
For the listed sources of additional moisture, check for drafts from these sources regularly, and either fully close or seal if possible.
For air conditioning units, it is also recommended to install them in the basement, as they also collect humidity that can be detected by a dehumidifier.
Since often the best place for a dehumidifier is in the basement, it can be easy to forget about it. Although most dehumidifiers have indicator lights to signal when the container is full, they may not have indicator sounds (ours does however).
You can hear when the dehumidifier runs and stops, so make sure to listen for it on an occasion. If the machine does not kick on one day, there is a good probability that the water container needs to be emptied.
Besides the washable filter, dehumidifiers can also have an indicator light for when the machine needs to be disassembled and cleaned.
If possible, you should plan on cleaning your dehumidifier once a week, to keep mold, pollen, and dust particles from brewing bacteria.
Cleaning the dehumidifier is simple, as you only need to clean the water compartment, the air filter, and the bucket filter.
Remove each part from the dehumidifier and wash with warm water and soap. Let the parts air dry and vacuum out any remaining debris from the inside of the dehumidifier.
If you are not sure about how high the humidity levels in your house get, then it is worth considering having an HVAC thermostat or hydrometer on hand.
By checking the humidity level often, the dehumidifier can always be kept at an optimal level. Often, the optimal humidity level for a dehumidifier is between 30 and 50 percent, or 30 to 40 in colder temperatures.
The best spot for most dehumidifiers is the basement, as the humidity is typically highest in the basement.
However, not all houses have a basement or the basement is not an option for those living in shared living arrangements. When picking out a dehumidifier, make sure to mention what kind of living situation you have to work with to the store personnel.
If the dehumidifier is placed in a room that collects moisture, like the kitchen or bathroom, then it is recommended to keep your humidity level meters elsewhere, to get proper readings.
If you keep these meters in the room with the most humidity, you can risk over-drying your home by constantly adjusting the dehumidifier to higher humidity levels. Over-drying your home can lead to respiratory issues.
What Happens If You Don’t Empty The Dehumidifier?
Modern dehumidifiers with sensors will automatically shut off when the tank is full to prevent it from overflowing. A dehumidifier won’t be able to continue collecting moisture from the air until a full water tank is emptied.
See our article on whether a dehumidifier can overflow for more information.
Dehumidifiers that use a collection bucket for the water will need to be manually emptied before it can continue operating.
Many dehumidifiers also offer options to install a hose to the water tank for continuous drainage and remove the need to manually empty.
Depending on the weather, size, and type of dehumidifier you are using, you may have to empty your dehumidifier more or less frequently.
Dehumidifiers are useful in keeping the air in the home clean, and are recommended to have in any household.
Excess moisture in the home can lead to mold and mildew growing in the structure of the home, which can lead to health issues if left to fester. Dehumidifiers prevent this from happening, which is why they should be emptied regularly.