When To Run Dehumidifier In Basement? Check Out These 6 Alarming Signs!

If you are from Illinois or other states with high humidity then you probably know the drill this spring. And that is to plug in the dehumidifier, but, when is the best time to run your dehumidifier, especially in the basement?

When the humidity level in the basement reaches 80% or more, it’s best to plug in the dehumidifier to keep a balanced environment. During the heating season, it’s best to maintain a 50% relative humidity level to keep it warm.

So just before the real summer begins, you might want to protect your home from excessive air moisture that can flare up your allergies or asthma as the spring starts in most parts of the globe.

If your basement has excess moisture, molds and mildew will thrive and cause more havoc than you expected. A basement exhaust is not enough to reduce humidity, although it helps, the best you can do is install a correct dehumidifier for your basement.

Find out how and when to use your dehumidifier to make the most of your device.

6 Alarming Signs You Need a Dehumidifier in the Basement

signs you need basement dehumidifier

Most houses in the Midwestern states, both old and new have basements. Basements add home value since they can be used for extra living space, bedroom, and recreational use. However, basements are pretty challenging to maintain especially if you live in cities with high humidity.

Fortunately, the issue with high humidity in the basement is easily remedied by the dehumidifier. Once you notice that your basement starts to get damp, you might want to consider turning a dehumidifier on. But, are there signs you need to look for?

The best thing you can do is to understand the indoor relative humidity level, this will give you the signal when to run a dehumidifier in the basement. Using a stand-alone hygrometer is more effective in giving you accurate humidity readings rather than rely on dehumidifiers with humidistat included.

This is because high humidity is not always visible and when it does, it might already be in the final stage or has already caused damages.

Since high humidity is hard to detect, here are some of the signs that you need:

  • Nasal irritations and constant allergies - People with nasal irritations and allergies will find it uncomfortable to move inside the basement when it is too humid. You might find yourself scratching your skin more and it might cause further sensitivity because humidity levels above 50% make you feel hotter, making your body difficult to sweat.
  • Musty Odor - Mold spores, rotting wood, dust mites, and animal waste are just some of the odors going through the entire home and throughout the basement.
  • Mold Growth on various surfaces - It could be the leaking pipes or poor basement ventilation that run from the basement to the ground floor that causes mold growth on walls, ceilings, and floors.
  • Bugs - Because most basements are damp, tiny and creepy crawlers love to play around and grow their legion.
  • Wall and Window Condensation - Another obvious sign of a very humid room is the condensation on walls and windows, especially on the glass. It does look like fog or ridges of water droplets.
  • Water markings on the floor - When humidity is rising from the basement, you will notice random or spread out water stains on the floor. Before it’s too late, act on it by making sure you plug in the dehumidifier in the basement.

What Kind of Dehumidifier to Use in the Basement?

Now that it’s clear that you can run a dehumidifier in the basement anytime there is excess moisture down there, your next concern would be, what kind of dehumidifier to use. There are actually two options, installing a whole-house unit or conveniently use a portable type.

A whole-house unit is ideal if you have higher humidity all-year-round and when you are using the basement on a constant basis such as turning it into a bedroom, living room, office, or any functional space.

Otherwise, you can opt for a portable type if you are using the basement as storage for seasonal stuff and belongings. Portable dehumidifiers can be easily transported anywhere in the house in case you suffer from high humidity during springtime and summertime in any other room.

Basement Dehumidifiers

basement dehumidifier

Basements are usually colder than the rest of the rooms at home. And since it is below the ground, the soil enclosing the basement insulates the area with a temperature of 55° or more throughout the year, depending on the room’s structure if it is fully submerged or not plus the outside weather conditions.

Science says that there are three sources of moisture at home that can affect your basement:

  • Groundwater or water from rain
  • Outside humid air that goes through the basement and condenses
  • Interior moisture sources

Regardless of the moisture is caused by an interior or exterior air, using a normal dehumidifier will work but will not really perform at its optimum because it is not dedicated to your basement’s temperature. So a typical whole-home and a portable dehumidifier just aren’t effective for moisture removal.

To better rule out high humidity issues, you need a basement dehumidifier that is designed to work efficiently at any given temperature as long as your hygrometer reads more than the normal.

There are specialized basement dehumidifiers that offer excellent performance, especially in damp and cool environments to guarantee that excess moisture is completely removed.

If you want to pull out the extra water effectively, start by using a larger dehumidifier. There are models that offer to reduce air moisture of 70 pints per day.

You need a powerful dehumidifier that can remove moisture as much as possible. I honestly don’t recommend smaller units unless you are dehumidifying smaller areas like cabinets, cupboards, or closets.

Where in the Basement Should You Place Your Dehumidifier?

where to place dehumidifier

The quickest solution in combatting extra moisture is having a dehumidifier in the basement. High humidity does not only have negative health impacts but may also damage your home’s structure.

However, it will take a while before your device can completely eradicate extra moisture if not placed in the right location.

Location is the next thing you have to consider after placing a dehumidifier in the basement. Just because it needs to pull off extra moisture, doesn’t mean you can simply put it anywhere in the room. Like everything else, strategic location matters.

Your dehumidifier will be more effective when you put it close to the center of the basement and at least a foot away from walls and furniture. Dehumidifiers work best when there is enough airflow around the unit.

However, if you are using a larger dehumidifier with a manual pump, it will be a challenge emptying the drip pan every now and then, why not place it near the sink or toilet so it won’t be a hassle carrying around.

Better yet, choose a dehumidifier with an automatic draining system so you don’t have to spend much time emptying your unit.

Tips on How to Have a Healthy Basement Environment

Keeping your basement dry and free from mold is the most crucial thing especially this season. Here are some tips that you can do to keep a healthy basement.

Maintain a Balanced Humidity

maintain balanced humidity

Molds and mildew grow when there is high humidity. In order to get rid of these annoying parasites from damaging your basement, you need to treat the high humidity problems first.

Dehumidifying is the most effective solution you can do to eliminate moisture and by that, you need a dehumidifier to quickly save you from hassles.

50% of the household air actually comes from basements and crawlspaces and then spread through the entire home; this is why it is important to dehumidify especially the basement to balance the humidity that can affect the indoor air quality.

Keep the Temperature Warm in a Finished Basement

keep temperature warm in finished basement

Basements can be finished or unfinished, depending on its use. Usually, unfinished basements are damp and prone to mold growth while a finished one suffers from high humidity which can be bad for your health and home furniture.

During the heating season which begins this spring, maintaining your finished basement at a consistent temperature of least at 58 to 60 ℉ will help you reduce the growth of molds and get rid of allergies.

Store Things Properly in an Unfinished Basement

Store Things Properly in an Unfinished Basement

The usual scene of an unfinished basement is full of boxes and other mess. Most of these materials are biodegradable and are prone to decomposition in aid of excess air moisture.

Apart from that, molds will love the sight of the boxes decaying on the concrete grounds. It’s best to cover the floor and walls with laminated foil sheets to avoid the boxes from having contact with the cold ground.

Otherwise, you can place them on shelves which is at least 20 inches from the floor. This way, you can avoid the contact and also organize the stuff inside your basement.

Avoid Using Carpets on the Basement Floor

avoid using carpets in the basement floor

Carpets are such a sight to behold and they often add points to the overall interior decoration. However, carpets can be a breeding ground for dust, molds, and bacteria when placed in the basement.

Even though your basement should be considered and used as a functional part of the house, it has a different temperature from the rest of the upper-level rooms. As an alternative to carpet flooring, you can opt for tiles or vinyl types.

Install Basement Ventilation

install ventilation

Some basements have windows but these are not enough to enforce proper ventilation. I suggest that you install mechanical basement ventilation to bring in fresh outdoor air.

Unventilated basements have musty odors and once you smell them, it’s guaranteed that this space is suffering from extremely high humidity conditions.

Having mechanical basement ventilation provides flexibility and automation compared to installing windows or exhaust fans only. It works by placing an exhaust fan with a ventilation pipe on both ends of the room.

Extend Downspouts

extend downspout

A snow melting and pouring rain have something in common- water. And this water then goes through the roof downspouts and seeps through the soil or near the foundation, causing condensation in the basement.

Once there is condensation, I bet you already know what’s next, and you wouldn’t like it. Another way to have a healthy basement is to extend the roof downspouts to at least 6 feet.

This will reduce the amount of water going through your home’s foundation, thus avoiding the chances of having high humidity in the basement.

Fix Leaking Pipes and Crack Walls

fix leaking pipes

You can’t just blame the weather for the high-humidity levels in the house. Sometimes, minor home issues such as crack walls and leaking pipes can be the discreet culprits.

If your home has a basement, you may want to repair these issues in due time before it will start to get worse and cause further damages.

Leaking pipes can cause a significant amount of condensation and extreme moisture underground. In order to fix the issue, begin by inspecting your water pipes and wall cracks. It’s best if you can follow through the main pipeline and the entire walls.


Ignoring home issues such as high humidity can lead to expensive damages. If your hygrometer shows that your basement suffers from high humidity, then it’s best to run the dehumidifier right away.

Finding an efficient basement dehumidifier is pretty easy, you need to look for the one that is compatible and right-fit with your needs. Two important features you need are an automatic draining and an air filter, the rest will depend on varying conditions such as the room size and energy efficiency.

As for me, basements are valuable parts of the house and maintaining it should also be a priority. Reducing indoor humidity coupled with some of the tips I gave above, is the most effective method to bring out the best comfort in your basement.

However, these are not permanent solutions, you need to have an expert examine your basement structure and wait for their recommendations on what kind of renovations you can do to get rid of high humidity.