- What happens if you run a dehumidifier in winter?
- Should I use a dehumidifier during winter?
- Switch to a humidifier instead!
- How to run your dehumidifier during winter
- How to pick the right dehumidifier for winter
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final words
Dehumidifiers are unmatched when it comes to removing excess moisture in the air. But do you need a dehumidifier in the winter when the air already feels dry?
It’s crucial to know when to unplug your dehumidifiers to prevent triggering respiratory problems and irritations due to very low moisture levels. At the same time, you should run it properly to combat mold growth due to trapped moisture and lack of sunlight.
Here, we will discuss this topic, so you’ll be a more informed homeowner who’s trying to weather the harsh winter. Read on to know how you can utilize your dehumidifier during the cold season.
What happens if you run a dehumidifier in winter?
Since winter air is already dry, have you ever wondered what will happen if you keep on running a dehumidifier? If you do so, the following will be the result:
❄️Static electricity will start to build.
When a dehumidifier makes your indoor air too dry during winter, static will start to build up. This is the reason why you sometimes get zapped when you touch someone.
Aside from its electrifying sensation on your skin, the excessive static buildup is also bad for your electronics. Small or sensitive electronic devices may malfunction or become fully damaged when exposed to a high-static environment.
Your phones, laptops, Ethernet cables, and similar items are highly susceptible to this damage. So if your indoor air quality is already too dry because of winter, you shouldn’t run a dehumidifier.
Unfortunately, many households don’t know that this risk actually exists. If your phone’s keypad started malfunctioning or your laptop suddenly stopped working, you may want to check your home’s humidity.
❄️Your lips and skin will be chapped.
Running a dehumidifier during winter can also make your skin and lips chapped. Take note that aside from the moisture in the air, the dehumidifier will also draw out moisture from your body. Over time, you’ll notice your lips cracking and bleeding. Your skin will also feel rough and itchy all the time.
Those with skin problems like eczema will experience flare-ups due to the extremely dry air. Others would have an acne breakout as their facial skin is deprived of the much-needed moisture.
Overall, very dry air is uncomfortable and can cause sick-like symptoms among your family members. The effect would be much worse for infants who have sensitive skin.
❄️Your nose will bleed or become stuffy.
Aside from dry skin, running a dehumidifier in winter can also make your nose bleed or runny. This is because the absence of moisture will dry the nasal passages.
In this case, your body will produce more mucus to compensate for the dryness. This will make your nose stuffy as if you’re experiencing an allergy. Take note that this condition can be dangerous for newborns.
Another potential scenario is nose bleeding. The dryness of the nasal passage makes the skin prone to cracking. So if your nose is bleeding more often when running a dehumidifier, you may be making the indoor air too dry.
❄️Your wallpaper/paint will peel off.
Running a dehumidifier during winter also has an impact on the structure of your home. As the dehumidifier makes the air drier, the adhesive of your wallpaper will lose its tackiness. As a result, it will crack and cause the wallpaper to start peeling from the seams.
The same goes for painted walls. Excessive dryness for long periods will cause paint to peel off. This is why you should be modest when using your dehumidifier when your region experiences intense winters.
❄️Your wooden floor or walls are warping.
Lastly, a dehumidifier in winter can make wooden floors and walls warp. Since the dehumidifier is extracting all the available moisture, the wood material will start to contract. This will manifest as warping, which will get worse over time.
If your wooden floors start creaking or being uneven, you should check the humidity of your home. Your dehumidifier might be making the winter weather much worse for your house.
Should I use a dehumidifier during winter?
Using a dehumidifier in winter is a two-edged sword. It can worsen dry winter air, but it can also combat mold growth due to trapped moisture. In the end, it’s about knowing when and how to run your dehumidifier to limit the adverse effects.
It can be confusing to know when to run a dehumidifier during winter. In that case, you should check these two aspects first:
❄️How cold is winter in your region?
The intensity of winter varies widely in the United States. Some barely see snow, while others have to deal with life-threatening blizzards. With this, the winter condition in your area will widely affect if you need to use a dehumidifier or not.
Overall, dehumidifiers should only be operated in temperatures not lower than 60F. Unfortunately, that means your dehumidifier will only be handy if you live in areas like Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and so on. It’s because these states are known to have the mildest winters.
Take note that running a dehumidifier in very cold weather will make the coils freeze. That will deem your dehumidifier useless since the air can’t get in contact with the coil surface. So if your region experiences harsh winters, it might be best to rest your dehumidifier.
Still, there’s one exception here: your basement. During winter, basements often absorb a lot of moisture. When that happens, mold could grow, and pests will start to invade your house.
However, you should only run a dehumidifier in a heated basement. It’s because the heating system will melt the ice that has seeped through the walls or floors of the basement. This moisture will be trapped in the basement and start a mold infestation, especially if the area is left unchecked for the entire winter season.
❄️What is your home’s humidity level?
Another crucial consideration during winter is your indoor relative humidity (RH) level. RH indicates the amount of moisture present in your home at any given temperature. If the relative humidity is high, you may need to run your dehumidifier, even if it’s the winter season.
Overall, if your home or room’s relative humidity is higher than 55%, you can run your dehumidifier to remove the excess moisture.
Aside from a dehumidifier, I also recommend using a hygrometer. This device measures humidity levels to ensure that you’re not making the air too dry. Even if your dehumidifier has a built-in humidistat, a separate hygrometer will allow you to cross-check the readings.
Switch to a humidifier instead!
Once you notice the symptoms above, it will help a lot to run a humidifier. Unlike dehumidifiers, humidifiers release water vapors to balance out the humidity of your home.
You can also add a drop of essential oil to your humidifier to help ease your clogged nose. However, make sure that you’re not overusing humidifiers since it can also lead to high humidity levels.
Moreover, you should pair a humidifier with a hygrometer. That way, you’ll know when to turn off the device once your indoor air quality has an ideal humidity level. Take note that too much moisture is also bad since it will trigger mold growth and produce a clammy feeling.
How to run your dehumidifier during winter
Knowing how long you should run a dehumidifier during winter depends on a few factors. Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Location of your room. If your room is located near or beside the basement, running a dehumidifier might be necessary. This is to remove the excessive moisture emanating from the basement. But if your basement already has a dehumidifier running in it, your room may not need one.
- Type of dehumidifier you’re using. Most of the time, a desiccant dehumidifier is ideal for low temperatures and low moisture conditions. However, you should still monitor your home’s humidity as desiccant dehumidifiers can still extract a lot of moisture.
- Material of your house. If your home is mainly made of wood, you should be careful in running dehumidifiers. This is to avoid removing the wood’s moisture, which can lead to cracking and warping.
- Consult your local HVAC provider. If you’re worried about your use of the dehumidifier, you can consult a local HVAC provider. They can measure your home’s humidity and provide suggestions on how to use a dehumidifier during the cold season.
- Use it in your laundry room. One place where your dehumidifier can be of good use is the laundry room. It will be a good way to dry your clothes while removing the musty smell left by trapped moisture.
How to pick the right dehumidifier for winter
When choosing a dehumidifier to use for winter, I recommend getting one that’s more resistant to freezing. This way, the coils won’t be covered with ice. Personally, I prefer a unit with an auto-defrost feature, so you won’t have to deal with a frozen dehumidifier.
Also, it’s important to match the capacity of the dehumidifier with your home’s humidity level. For low moisture conditions, a portable or small unit will be enough.
I also recommend checking the moisture extraction rate of the unit. For winter, a slow-running dehumidifier might be a good choice to avoid rapid moisture removal.
Moreover, you should check the size of the dehumidifier’s water reservoir. For high moisture, a large bucket is the best choice. You can also get one with a continuous drain option that you can connect through a drainage pipe in your house.
Lastly, consider getting a dehumidifier that’s made to last. This way, your purchase will see many winters, making every dollar worth the splurge.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What settings should I use on my dehumidifier during winter?
A: During winter, it’s ideal to set your dehumidifier between 45% and 50%. Those who are sensitive to dry air can set it at 60%. Overall, you should consider your desired comfort whatever season it is. Also, it’s best to use a hygrometer to ensure that you’re in full control of your home’s humidity.
Q: Do dehumidifiers work in cold rooms?
A: Refrigerant-type dehumidifiers won’t work on cold temperatures. This is quite similar to how an air conditioner works. Since there’s little to no difference in temperature between the coils and the air, there would be minimal moisture to condensate. It will just be a waste of electricity to run a dehumidifier in this case.
Q: Do I need a humidifier or dehumidifier in winter?
A: During winter, the air is dry, so you’re better off using a humidifier. This device will spew water molecules into the air so that humidity levels will be more comfortable. You can also run dehumidifiers if your home becomes too damp because of too much humidifying.
Q: Are dehumidifiers better in summer or winter?
A: Dehumidifiers can be used in all seasons. However, it’s usually more useful during summer when there’s too much water vapor in the air. Overall, you should always base the usage on your home’s humidity level, whatever season you’re in.
Q: Where should I put my dehumidifier during winter?
A: During winter, you should put your dehumidifier on the room that needs it the most. Usually, it would be your basement or bathroom since these two areas are prone to lingering moisture. You can also use it in your laundry room, crawl space, and indoor pool areas.
Q: How would I know if my room is too dry or humid?
A: To know if your room’s air is dry or moist, you can try placing a glass of iced water on a table. Stir the water and let it sit for four minutes. If the glass becomes sweaty, it means that your room is humid. This is because the condensation came from the water vapors in the air. Meanwhile, if there’s no moisture forming on the glass, your room’s air is too dry, and the temperature is cold.
Do you need a dehumidifier in the winter? The answer to this depends on your home’s humidity level and how harsh winters can be in your region. It’s important to check your home’s moisture level to know if it’s time to run your dehumidifier. If the relative humidity is below 60%, there’s no need for moisture extraction.
Have you ever used a dehumidifier during winter? How’s your experience? Let us know below!
Home Air Quality is founded by Bernard K to provide information on Indoor Air Quality in Homes and enlighten people about what they need to know about creating and maintaining a comfortable and healthy home environment.
We believe that “Quality air brings a healthy life.”