Whole House Dehumidifier vs Portable Dehumidifiers: Which Is Better?

whole house dehumidifier vs portable

If you have a moisture problem in your house, you should be looking at getting a dehumidifier. As you shop, you’ll find that you are faced with the decision of which type is better, a whole-house dehumidifier or a portable one. There are several factors to consider when you are making your decision, such as where the moisture is located in your house and if the moisture is seasonal or year-round. 

Bowman Mechanical Services, Inc. has expertise in removing moisture from homes. Our focus is to improve your indoor air quality and, in that endeavor, we can assist you in getting the right dehumidifier for your specific needs. In this article, we outline the pros and cons of whole-house dehumidifiers and portable ones, as well as things to consider about your moisture situation.

Assess the Humidity Problem in Your House

A moisture problem in your house leads to a whole host of other problems. High humidity levels allow indoor mold to grow, which affects the health of your family. Issues that result from humidity levels higher than 70% are:

  • Allergies
  • Corrosion
  • Decay
  • Dust mites
  • Termites and other insect infestations
  • Moisture-related deterioration of the house

Is the humidity high in just one room? If so, you may look at a portable dehumidifier being the best solution. But, if the humidity level is high in a larger space in your house, then a whole-house humidifier makes better sense. Additionally, is the moisture seasonal or year-round? Seasonal humidity may make a portable dehumidifier be the better choice.

How a Dehumidifier Works

When the dehumidifier springs into action, it orchestrates a two-step process. Firstly, a powerful fan draws in warm air currents, propelling them towards the refrigerated coils within its core. As the warm air encounters the chilled coils, a fascinating transformation occurs. The air contracts, relinquishing its moisture in the form of condensation.

Marvel at the ingenuity of the dehumidifier as it diligently collects these tiny droplets of moisture, depositing them into a convenient storage tank. This efficient system ensures that your living space remains free from excessive humidity, providing a breath of fresh air.

But that’s not all—a dehumidifier doesn’t stop at extracting moisture. Once it has completed its task, it generously releases cooler, drier air back into your home. You’ll experience the blissful results of its labor as you revel in an atmosphere that feels both refreshing and comfortable.

Keeping a close eye on humidity levels is paramount, and many modern dehumidifiers are equipped with an integrated humidity meter. With this nifty feature, you have the power to fine-tune the relative humidity to your liking, creating an environment that suits your preferences.

Signs You May Need a Dehumidifier

If you have areas in your home where damp air collects, like a basement, you may need a dehumidifier. Signs that you probably need a dehumidifier include:

  • Anyone in the home has a prolonged allergy season each year
  • You have recently moved into the house and your allergies are worse
  • Have a persistent damp smell 
  • The space experiences water leakage after heavy rainfall
  • Muggy air 
  • If anyone has an allergy to dust mites
  • Increase in unwanted pests like spiders, cockroaches, moths, or silverfish
  • Clothes smell damp or moldy
  • Persistent symptoms of respiratory issues like coughing and runny nose

How A Whole Home Dehumidifier Works

A whole-home dehumidifier is a compact appliance that integrates with your HVAC system to effectively control humidity levels throughout your entire house. Once installed as an add-on to your existing system, typically using ductwork similar to your central air conditioner and forced air furnace, it operates seamlessly to maintain optimal humidity levels.

When the indoor humidity surpasses a preset threshold, typically around 50 percent, the home dehumidifier automatically activates. Using a process similar to your central air conditioning system, it draws in moisture-laden air through the return duct, guiding it over a cooling coil. As the air passes over the coil, the excess moisture condenses, transforming into liquid droplets. These condensed droplets are then efficiently channeled either into a collection pan or directly drained into a basement floor drain, effectively reducing the humidity and enhancing comfort levels within your home.

Whole House Dehumidifier Pros

There are several advantages to using a dehumidifier for the whole house:

  • You have the ability to automatically control humidity throughout the entire house.
  • The dehumidifier is located out of sight and has a lower sound level.
  • It is up to 4 times more energy efficient than portable dehumidifiers.
  • There is very little maintenance.
  • Most have better air filters, allowing for fresh air ventilation, than portable dehumidifiers.
  • They are more durable and have better warranties than single room dehumidifiers.
  • They work automatically as needed and can be controlled from a remote humidistat.

Whole House Dehumidifier Cons

There are only a few aspects for a whole house dehumidifier that may be considered disadvantages:

  • Professional installation is required
  • More expensive on the initial purchase, with typical costs between $500 to $700
  • Whole house dehumidifiers can’t be taken with you when you move

How Portable Dehumidifiers Work

A portable dehumidifier functions as a standalone unit designed to dehumidify a specific room or area. Unlike a whole-home dehumidifier, it is not integrated with the HVAC system and can be easily moved from room to room as needed. When operating, a portable dehumidifier utilizes a built-in fan to draw in the surrounding moist air. This air is then directed over a set of chilled coils that are cooled using a refrigerant, similar to the cooling process in an air conditioner. As the air passes over the cold coils, its excess moisture condenses and transforms into liquid droplets. The collected humidity is typically accumulated in a removable container or drip pan, requiring manual emptying. Some portable dehumidifier models offer the convenience of a built-in pump for drainage. Once the dehumidification process is complete, the unit releases the drier air back into the room, effectively reducing the humidity level.”

In comparison to a whole-home dehumidifier, a portable dehumidifier has a more localized approach. While a whole-home dehumidifier is integrated with the HVAC system and serves to dehumidify the entire house, a portable dehumidifier focuses on dehumidifying a specific room or area. Portable dehumidifiers offer the flexibility to target moisture issues in different parts of the home as needed. However, they require manual operation, including emptying the water container and moving the unit between rooms. On the other hand, a whole-home dehumidifier provides comprehensive humidity control throughout the entire house, operating in conjunction with the HVAC system and requiring little to no manual intervention.

Portable Dehumidifier Pros

If your moisture problem is in one defined space, a portable dehumidifier has these advantages:

  • Less expensive than whole-house models
  • Easy to install with a simple plug-in
  • Easy to move around to different areas or take with you when you move
  • Simple to operate with digital controls

Portable Dehumidifier Cons

Cons for portable dehumidifiers include:

  • Only dehumidify one room at a time
  • Require maintenance (for example, dumping collected moisture with a gravity drain or pump)
  • Noisy in the rooms where they are situated
  • Take up space in the room
  • Shorter lifespan than a whole house dehumidifier
  • Louder during operation
  • Often less energy efficient

How to Decide

Again, you first ascertain the area that you need to control the humidity in. If it is a larger area–multiple rooms, floors, or throughout the entire home–a whole-house dehumidifier will address your needs. Additionally, if the humidity issues are year-round, a whole-house option works better. If, on the other hand, the excess humidity problem is primarily seasonal, just in one or two rooms, or in a smaller area, then the portable dehumidifier may be the better solution.

Call Us for Dehumidifier Solutions!

If you have moisture issues in your home, call Bowman Mechanical Services, Inc. to help! We are experts in achieving healthy air quality for you and your family. To learn more about air quality control for your home in Raleigh, Garner, and surrounding areas of the Triangle, call us at 919-679-9583 or contact us via the form below.