Can I Use A Regular Dehumidifier In A Crawl Space?

You see a few people in your area doing it. However, you’ve also read elsewhere that having a dehumidifier in your crawl space might not solve the excess moisture problems in your home. So now, you’re undecided whether to buy a crawl space dehumidifier or not. More specifically, you’re wondering whether investing in a regular dehumidifier for your crawl space is worth it.

The short answer is – no. Humidifying the crawl space is critical to the overall air quality in the home. It may not solve all your excess moisture issues. However, it goes a long way to improving air quality in the home.

Unfortunately, the regular dehumidifier is rarely enough to keep the crawl space dry and cozy. Although it may remove some moisture, specially designed crawl space dehumidifiers are more powerful and specially designed to withstand the difficult conditions in the crawl space.

Let’s find out why the crawl space is typically damper than the rest of the home, why a specialized crawl space is better than a regular unit, and what else you can do to eliminate the moisture issues.

Why’s the Crawl Space Damper than the Rest of the Home?

Very often, especially during the warmer months (and sometimes even in the colder season), you’ll notice that the crawl space and basement are damper than the rest of the home. In many cases, you’ll even find that the area is musty and has mold growing everywhere.

The good news is that it’s not just you. All crawl spaces are damper than the rest of the home and, without regular maintenance, can become covered in mold, often resulting in a musty smell. Unfortunately, though, the damp, moldy conditions of your basement can be a health risk to the occupants of the home, the property, and even the environment.

Many homeowners encapsulate their crawl space to minimize moisture buildup. Most people also install vents to help the crawl space “breathe,” thus reduce moisture buildup. However, you may still see moisture in the area. The following are four common reasons why you may have excess moisture in the crawl space;

Poor Surface Water Drainage

Surface water drainage occurs when rainwater falls on a property and drains away. If your home has proper grading, the rainwater will drain away without any issues.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, especially where the grading is unsatisfactory. Poor grading can cause surface water to be trapped up against the foundation. If this happens and there’s flash flooding, the water may get into the home through the crawl space.

Sometimes the situation is so bad that the vents to help expel excess moisture from the crawl space become entry points for surface drainage. This can result in significant water buildup in the crawlspace.

Even if the water doesn’t seep into the house, the walls will become wet, and eventually, the moisture will enter the crawl space.

Cracks or Gaps in the Foundation

This problem is most common in older houses. As the house ages, it goes through what’s known as settling. Settling is a term used to describe a house’s gradual sinking into the ground. It usually happens when the soil beneath the foundation begins to shift.

Although it’s not always something to worry about, settling can cause cracks within or entirely damage the foundation. Cracks within the foundation compromise the foundation’s ability to withstand water. This can result in water seeping into the house, precisely the crawl space.

The problem often starts small but becomes a bigger issue over time. Over time, you may see the cracks on your foundation walls.

Here too, you shouldn’t just be worried about water damage. Cracks can also allow humid air to enter the house during the sunny season, thus raising the moisture levels inside the crawl space.

Leaking Window and Vent Wells

Most crawl spaces and basements have special vents and windows recessed into them to foundation vent wells are critical in providing adequate airflow while keeping debris out. Vent wells also prove easy access to the foundation while preventing moisture buildup.

If the window or vent wells are compromised, you may have water seeping into the crawl space. Perhaps the vent well isn’t installed correctly. If it has gaps around it, water may enter the crawl space via the gaps.

More importantly, window and vent wells can become damaged or worn out due to natural wear and tear. A leaky window or vent wall can let in water or excessively moist air, thus causing dampness in the crawl space.

Groundwater Issues 

Finally, the soil beneath and around the foundation contains moisture and sometimes water. This moisture can find a way into the crawl space through several methods.

First off, just as moisture from outside can enter the crawl space and basement via cracks, so can moisture from the ground beneath. So if the foundation has cracks, you’ll undoubtedly experience moisture issues from groundwater.

Additionally, moisture can also seep through the concrete walls into your crawl space. This is especially true when there’s a higher moisture concentration in the ground beneath than in the basement inside the house.

Why Choose a Specially-Designed Crawl Space Dehumidifier

Humidifiers are designed to help address the moisture issues above. Of course, you’ll need more than the dehumidifier to tackle issues such as water damage. However, the dehumidifier is the first line of defense.

The following are four reasons a regular dehumidifier isn’t cut for the job and why crawl-space-specific dehumidifiers are better.

Higher Moisture Removal Capacity 

Dehumidifiers work by drawing moist air into the unit and passing it through refrigerated coils to extract the moisture. The condensation is then left inside the humidifier as the dry air is pumped out and back into your home.

The capacity to remove moisture or the rate at which the dehumidifier extracts moisture from the room into which it’s placed depends on the unit’s power. The smaller dehumidifiers used in bedrooms and other living areas aren’t that powerful. Most of them can’t remove more than 40 pints per day.

Considering the there’s a lot more moisture in the crawl space, you need a stronger performance from your dehumidifier. And that’s where specially-designed crawl space dehumidifiers come in handy. These units can remove a lot more moisture per unit of time. A few advanced models remove 90 pints/day and some over 100 pints/day.

A Higher Area Coverage 

Perhaps you’ve never thought about it. However, crawl spaces aren’t small in area. The average crawl space is two feet high, while some are up to four feet high. Considering that crawl spaces span the entire floor plan, you can see that it’s not a tiny space. For example, if you live in a two-story building, the crawl space could be just under a fifth of the entire volume of the house.

Regular dehumidifiers aren’t designed to serve such a large area – unless you’re talking about a whole-home dehumidifier. Large living room dehumidifiers, for instance, are designed for spaces up to 500 square feet (assuming a standard ceiling height of eight feet). So a 500 square-foot room with an 8-foot ceiling works out to 4,000 cubic feet.

Now, think about the volume of the crawl space. At, say, a 3-foot height and spanning 2,531 square feet, the volume comes to over 7,500 cubic feet – almost twice the size of a large living room. It means you need a dehumidifier with more extensive coverage. Only a whole-home or specially designed crawl space dehumidifier can do the job.

Advanced Features and Functions 

Finally, specially-designed crawl space dehumidifiers are fitted with unique features and functions not present in a regular dehumidifier for better overall performance in the demanding conditions down in the crawl space.

Two things immediately come to mind. First, as we’ve seen, the crawl space is so much more humid than the rest of the home. It may even have water standing in the area, further worsening the moisture issues as the water constantly evaporates.

It means you need to be prepared to drain more water from your dehumidifier. Specially-designed crawl space dehumidifiers have larger condensate tanks to hold more water and are typically equipped with drain pumps, so you don’t have to worry about manually emptying the tank.

Secondly, the crawl space and basement can become extremely cold during the winter. This can cause the coils inside the dehumidifier to freeze. Frozen coils can compromise dehumidifier function or damage the unit altogether. Therefore, crawl space dehumidifiers are designed with a special defrost function to shake off ice buildup and effectively prevent freezing.

Other Reasons to Buy a Specialized Crawl Space Dehumidifier

Dehumidifiers explicitly designed for the crawl space are also more resilient and typically have odor control features.

For instance, most crawl space dehumidifiers feature internal corrosion mechanisms to prevent internal damage due to rust and Freon leakage. Most of them are also designed such that the entire dehumidifier body can be completely submerged in water without adverse consequences. This makes sense, considering that the crawl space can have standing water from time to time.

A regular dehumidifier, if submerged in water, can malfunction due to damage to electrical components. The internal components may also corrode within days.