During the latter 20th century, the market was dominated by refrigerant dehumidifiers. In recent times, however, desiccant technology has improved to the point that it's a genuine alternative for extracting water from the air. A desiccant dehumidifier also has a number of advantages over refrigerant models - especially in cooler environments.
In this article, we'll go through the basics of how a desiccant model works. We'll also compare this type to refrigerant dehumidifiers (also known as compressors) to help you decide which is best for your home.
Finally, we've listed our best desiccant dehumidifier reviews below. We think these are the top models of 2017 and are a great place to start if you're not sure which to buy.
How do Desiccant Dehumidifiers Work?
Desiccant dehumidifiers use a completely different method to extract water than refrigerant models. Instead of using a compressor to cool refrigerant coils, these machines use a desiccant wheel (moisture absorbing) to soak up water.
A heater inside the machine is then used to "renew" the desiccant material. This allows the machine to repeatedly extract water using the same wheel.
As you can imagine, the average desiccant is quieter due to the lack of a compressor (although not every desiccant model is quieter than every refrigerant). Getting rid of the compressor also means they are considerably lighter. It's not uncommon for refrigerant models to weigh over 13kg, while desiccant dehumidifiers are often around 6-9kg. This might not sound like a huge difference, but can make a dehumidifier much more portable.
There are a number of other advantages to a desiccant machine. As air is warmed by the heater before it's released, desiccant models act as a mild heater. They are much more effective in cooler conditions.
Why are they More Effective in Cooler Conditions?
This is more to do with why refrigerant models are not suitable for cooler environments.
As we explained in our article about refrigerant models, these machines rely on a temperature difference between the air and coils. If temperatures drop too low, the dehumidifier's coils start to freeze. This triggers a defrosting program. As temperatures drop further, refrigerant models spend more and more time and energy defrosting rather than dehumidifying.
Desiccant dehumidifiers don't rely on cooled coils, so they provide consistent performance at low and high temperatures.
In short, if you need to dehumidify environments that regularly drop below 10 degrees Celsius, a desiccant is nearly always the more effective choice. This makes them a great choice for unheated garages, conservatories and outhouses.
Are Desiccants Always the Best Choice?
Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Desiccant dehumidifiers are great for dehumidifying low-temperature environments, but they have drawbacks too.
The main disadvantage is greater energy consumption. In general, a refrigerant dehumidifier will consume less energy to dehumidify your home. This is especially true of models that have been optimised for low energy consumption. Desiccant models also tend to have a lower overall capacity (a measure of the maximum extraction per day).
However, it's important to remember that these are only general rules. In cooler environments a refrigerant model wastes energy defrosting its coils. Desiccant models also provide a mild heating effect (around 5x more than a refrigerant). But for pure energy efficiency, a refrigerant is probably the best option.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- Consistent water extraction in both cool and warm environments
- Lack of a compressor reduces weight by up to 6kg
- Also means most desiccant machines are quieter than refrigerant
- They provide a greater heating effect than refrigerant
- Not as energy efficient as refrigerant
- Have a lower maximum extraction capacity (this becomes more noticeable in warmer and humid conditions)
- They are still less widely available, so there isn't as much choice
The Best Desiccant Dehumidifiers of 2017
1. Meaco DD8L Zambezi
One of our favourite desiccant dehumidifiers is the Meaco DD8L Zambezi. It's a powerful model that provides great water extraction at both low and room temperatures. It also has a range of useful features that aren't found on other dehumidifiers.
Meaco claims to have spent three years developing the Zambezi. We'd usually dismiss this as marketing hype, but considering the number of interesting features we're inclined to believe them.
For example, it's the first desiccant to include a digital display for current temperature and selecting your target humidity. It's also the first to include a daily run timer and Meaco's "Energy Saving Laundry+" mode.
Most importantly, the Zambezi excels at extracting water. It's great at room temperature, so it's a true competitor to refrigerant models, yet is just as good in cooler conditions. If you're looking for a desiccant dehumidifier for your garage or conservatory, it'll do a great job.
Other features include a child lock and anti-mould water tank coating. An interesting features is the "Turn Me On" function. This "asks" you to switch the machine on when humidity hits the 70% mark, allowing you to leave the dehumidifier plugged in when not in use. It also has a sterilising ioniser, which Meaco claims has been clinically proven to kill bacteria, mould, viruses and dust mites while removing odours from the air.
Overall, the Zambezi is one of the best dehumidifiers on the market in 2017. It has a range of unique features, such as the daily timer and sterilising ioniser, and is great at extracting water in a variety of conditions. The biggest drawback is the price, as it's not a cheap dehumidifier.
- Range of unique features for a desiccant, including a digital display and daily timer
- Energy saving laundry mode
- Excellent at extracting water in cool and warm conditions
- Relatively expensive
- One of the loudest desiccants when the fan is on full power
- Type: Desiccant
- Noise: 50dB
- Tank: 3 litres
- Power: 660W
- Max Extraction: 8 litres/day
- Price: £££ - Premium
2. EcoAir DD122FW MK5 Classic
The EcoAir DD122FW MK5 is another excellent desiccant dehumidifier. Its 7 litre per day capacity is slightly smaller than the Zambezi and it doesn't come with many of the advanced features. If, however, you're looking for a dehumidifier with strong performance without breaking the £200 barrier, it's a great choice.
One of the best features of the DD122FW is its ability to automatically manage humidity whilst saving energy. It has built-in sensors for monitoring humidity and temperature, and automatically switches between standby, economy and full power as needed. EcoAir estimates this reduces energy bills by up to 40%.
Unlike many other dehumidifiers, it also has "overdry" protection. This stops the air becoming too dry, especially when on laundry or high power modes. As the DD122FW can react to ambient humidity, it knows when to stop the dehumidification process. It also has a "3D Louvre," which allows you to either channel air across a wide area or "spot dry" specific areas.
Additionally, it's one of the quietest desiccant dehumidifiers we've seen. With a 34dB noise output, it's not too loud to be in the same room with.
There are a few drawbacks to this model though. The two litre water tank, for example, is relatively small. This means you'll need to empty it more often - especially if your house is very damp. It's also not the most energy efficient, even with the auto mode.
Despite these drawbacks, however, we think the EcoAir DD122FW is an outstanding dehumidifier that's available for a very reasonable price. If you're looking for a desiccant dehumidifier for your conservatory, garage or other cold area, it's a great choice. The DD128 is also a similar model with added swing louvre, although it's slightly more expensive.
- Excellent at removing water from the air in cool rooms
- 3D louvre
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Tank is smaller than more expensive models
- It's not as energy efficient as other desiccants
- Type: Desiccant
- Noise: 34dB
- Tank: 2 litres
- Power: 580W
- Max Extraction: 7 litres/day
- Price: ££ - Mid-Range
3. Meaco DD8L Portable
If you're looking for a portable desiccant dehumidifier, the Meaco DD8L is one of the best options. It's a different model to the DD8L Zambezi and doesn't come with the same advanced features. It's cheaper, however, and is highly effective at removing damp from almost any environment.
Weighing just 6.4kg and with dimensions of 50cm x 35.1 cm x 18.8 cm, this is a truly portable dehumidifier. It's great for caravans, garages, boats or just moving around your home when you need it most. Considering refrigerant dehumidifiers can often weight 13kg or more, there really is no comparison when it comes to portability.
Like all desiccant dehumidifiers, the DD8L can remove water effectively in both cool and warm conditions. At 20 degrees Celsius, for example, it can extract up to 7.5 litre per day on the highest fan speed - although this also increases power usage to 650W.
While we mentioned it doesn't include many advanced features, it's also not a barebones machine. The DD8L comes with features such as a laundry drying mode, timer and continuous drainage system. There are also three fan speeds, allowing you to reduce the noise output to 39dB at the expense of water extraction rate.
A downside of the DD8L compared to the Zambezi is the smaller 2 litre tank. This isn't tiny, but means you'll need to empty it regularly - especially in humid environments.
Overall, the DD8L Portable is an excellent desiccant dehumidifier. With its wide operating temperature range, three fan settings and an on/off timer (up to 8 hours), it's a versatile model that's just as suitable for boats as it is for homes. Most importantly, it's great at quickly extracting large quantities of water despite its compact size.
- Highly efficient at removing water from the air
- Three fan speeds
- Compact and lightweight design
- Two litre tank is relatively small
- Doesn't come with the advanced features of the Zambezi (such as a digital panel)
- Type: Desiccant
- Noise: 48dB
- Tank: 2 litres
- Power: 650W
- Max Extraction: 7.5 litres/day
- Price: ££ - Mid-Range
4. EcoAir DD322 Classic
The DD322 Classic has a capacity of 10 litres per day, making it one of the most powerful desiccant dehumidifiers on the market. It's not cheap, but provides excellent extraction at both low and warm temperatures.
Note: The DD322 Classic has a new official name: the DD3 Classic. Many shopping sites still use its original name though.
As you would expect from a more powerful dehumidifier with a larger water tank than most desiccant models, the DD322 Classic is heavier at 10kg. This is still lighter than many refrigerant models, but it's not as portable as other desiccants. It's also larger than the portable Meaco DD8L - especially in height and depth - but still retains a relatively compact design.
There are several dehumidifier modes. The economy mode, which aims to keep humidity between 50%-60%, is great for saving energy. There is also a high mode if you want to bring humidity down further to around 45%. A handy auto mode is included, which monitors the humidity and switches between modes as needed.
Most importantly, it can quickly remove moisture from the air in a variety of conditions. The 3.5 litre water tank also means you won't need to empty it as often as some of the 2 litre models on this list.
Other features include a delay timer, which allows you to run the machine for two, four or eight hour periods, and a continuous drainage function. A downside is that wheels aren't included, so you'll need to use the handle to carry it when moving rooms.
The DD322 Classic is another excellent desiccant dehumidifier. While it's not cheap and doesn't include built-in wheels, these are minor complaints as it provides great value for money. It's also simple to use and the auto mode is a handy feature.
- Quickly removes water from warm and cold rooms
- Eco, High and Auto modes
- Relatively large 3.5 litre tank
- Not cheap
- Heavier than other desiccants and no wheels
- Type: Desiccant
- Noise: 42dB
- Tank: 3.5 litres
- Power: 670W
- Max Extraction: 10 litres/day
- Price: £££ - Premium
If you need to remove water from the air of cooler environments, or just want to have the option of doing so, a desiccant dehumidifier is probably the best option. While they don't have as large capacities as refrigerants and are less energy efficient, their versatile operating temperatures make them a popular choice. Desiccant dehumidifiers are also usually lighter and quieter.
Our recommendation for the best desiccant dehumidifier is the excellent Meaco DD8L Zambezi. While all the models on this list provide outstanding value and water extraction, the Zambezi's advanced features - such as daily timer and energy saving laundry mode - give it a slight edge. The original DD8L is also a great option if you're looking for a portable desiccant.