Desiccant or compressor dehumidifier?

Even though desiccant and compressor dehumidifiers have similar functions, they work best in different indoor environments due to their unique mechanisms.

Desiccant or compressor dehumidifier?

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In Australia, desiccant and compressor dehumidifiers are the two most common types of dehumidifiers used in homes. Much like the distinctions between iOS and Android operating systems, these dehumidifiers have similar primary functions— removing moisture from the air—but they operate with different mechanisms. That said, each type of dehumidifier has its own unique properties that determine its suitability in certain indoor environments.

Properties of desiccant dehumidifiers

Using the hygroscopic properties of desiccants in adsorbing the moisture from the air, desiccant dehumidifiers are a rather new technology that requires minimal maintenance due to their ability to regenerate the desiccants for repeated use.

  1. Heat is released when operating

    Desiccant dehumidifiers can increase the surrounding temperature up to 3-5°C when they are in operation. This is because heating is required to strip off the stored moisture from the desiccants so that they can collect more moisture from the air. This property is especially beneficial during the winter as the heat released warms up indoor environments.

  2. No maintenance required

    Since desiccants can be regenerated infinitely through heating within the dehumidifiers, no maintenance or replacement is needed.

  3. Not affected by the surrounding temperature

    As desiccant dehumidifiers do not rely on temperature differences to condense moisture from the air, they work all year round, making them highly effective even when the weather is cold.

  4. Low noise level

    Since desiccant dehumidifiers do not have a built-in compressor, they are quieter in operation.

  5. Portable

    Desiccant dehumidifiers weigh anywhere from 5 to 9kg. This makes it easy to move them around the house to deliver optimal dehumidifying performance according to your needs.

Properties of compressor dehumidifiers

Compressor dehumidifiers are what many consider to be ‘legacy’ humidifiers as they have been used for decades since the early 1960s. These humidifiers utilise a condensation mechanism that effectively turns water vapour in the air into its liquid form when warm, humid air comes into contact with cold surfaces.

  1. Work best in a warm climate

    As a temperature difference is required for condensation to happen, compressor dehumidifiers work well at temperatures above 20°C. They are suitable for indoor environments that are warm.

  2. Low energy consumption

    Compared to desiccant dehumidifiers, compressor dehumidifiers use less energy to operate; hence, they are cheaper to run.

  3. Bulky in size

    Since compressor dehumidifiers have more working components, they are bulky in size and usually weigh more than 10kg.

Direct comparison between desiccant and compressor dehumidifiers

When we compare the properties of desiccant and compressor dehumidifiers directly, their differences can be seen clearly.

  1. Best working temperature

    While desiccant dehumidifiers perform well regardless of the surrounding temperature, compressor dehumidifiers do not perform well at temperatures below 20°C. During winter, the evaporator coils can freeze over, leading to inefficient energy usage at the expense of defrosting its coils rather than dehumidifying the air. However, a compressor dehumidifier can outperform a desiccant dehumidifier when the climate is very warm.

    Hence, a desiccant dehumidifier is more suitable if you live in a climate with four seasons, while a compressor dehumidifier is an excellent choice for those living in year-long warm climates.

    Dehumidification rate vs temperature of desiccant and compressor dehumidifiers

  2. Maintenance requirements

    Without compressor and refrigerant flowing through the coils, desiccant dehumidifiers require no maintenance under normal circumstances as their mechanism is much simpler compared to compressor dehumidifiers.

    Compressor dehumidifiers require regular maintenance, similar to the maintenance of an air conditioner, for optimal performance.

  3. Energy consumption

    Desiccant dehumidifiers require more electricity to operate compared to compressor dehumidifiers. However, the heat released when the dehumidifiers are running helps warm up indoor environments during winter, so you can save electricity on heating.

    Compressor dehumidifiers can save 50% more electricity than desiccant dehumidifiers when they are operating optimally at a warm climate.

  4. Noise level

    Desiccant dehumidifiers operate much quieter compared to compressor dehumidifiers which have a compressor running. The noise level of desiccant dehumidifiers can go as low as 35 dB while compressor dehumidifiers can have a noise level of over 45 dB.

  5. Portability

    Desiccant dehumidifiers weigh anywhere from 5kg to 9kg while compressor dehumidifiers usually weigh over 10kg, with few exceptions. It is easier to move a desiccant dehumidifier around the house.

Desiccant dehumidifiers Compressor dehumidifiers
Best working temperature Both warm and cold Warm only
Maintenance Generally not required Required since a compressor with refrigerant is used.
Energy consumption High, but the heat released contributes to indoor heating during winter. Low
Noise level Low High
Portability Yes Not really

The key factor to consider when choosing between a desiccant or compressor dehumidifier is the climate. Desiccant dehumidifiers are versatile and work well in both cool and warm climates. They are suitable if you live in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, or parts of Western Australia where there are four seasons. On the other hand, compressor dehumidifiers are suitable in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and parts of Western Australia where it is warm all year round.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.

Josephine Gan

Josephine Gan

As a customer service manager for more than 5 years now, Josephine has assisted numerous customers in purchasing the air treatment device that best fits their needs. From moisture damage issues to allergens in the air, she understands the indoor air quality issues most commonly faced by Australians and provides practical tips in resolving them.