High humidity levels cause discomfort and a slew of other problems inside your home. Excess moisture creates an ideal environment for mold, mildew, dust mites, and harmful bacteria. These pollutants can trigger respiratory conditions like allergies and asthma. Over time, humidity can also damage materials in your home. To prevent moisture and its damaging effects, you need a good dehumidifier that can maintain healthy humidity levels in your home.
Finding the best dehumidifier can be an overwhelming task in itself, but its proper usage and maintenance are another thing. It’s essential to understand how your dehumidifier works and what components comprise the unit so that you know its side effects on the environment. It will also give you an idea of what to do in case it malfunctions.
Depending on the type of dehumidifier, it may require a certain chemical called refrigerant. One such refrigerant is known as Freon. If you’ve heard about this refrigerant gas and are concerned about whether your dehumidifier contains Freon, we’ll answer all of your questions below.
How Does A Dehumidifier Work?
First, you must understand how your dehumidifier works. There are different types of dehumidifiers available for residential use. The two main types are called desiccant and refrigerant.
Desiccant dehumidifiers use hygroscopic chemicals that extract moisture from the air molecules. This type of dehumidifier is further classified based on the unit’s capacity and renewability. The most common desiccant dehumidifiers are either disposable or rechargeable. Disposable units, as you can guess, cannot be recharged. Once the desiccant (usually calcium chloride or potassium chloride) is saturated with moisture, it dissolves into a liquid and you can only throw it out.
Rechargeable desiccant dehumidifiers are small and easy to use. Most brands use silica gel to remove moisture from the air, then the beads will change color to indicate that they have reached their maximum capacity. Usually, you’ll only need to plug the dehumidifier into a power outlet for a few hours.
A refrigerant dehumidifier works in a similar way to your air conditioner or refrigerator. This type uses some type of refrigerant and a compressor to pump the refrigerant from the evaporator coils to the condenser coils, where the fluid evaporates into gas and condenses into liquid, respectively.
First, the dehumidifier pulls moist air through a fan. The air then passes through the cold evaporator coils, which cools the air, resulting in condensation. This condensate drips into a tank or flows out through a hose. Meanwhile, as the warm, humid air blows over the liquid refrigerant inside the evaporator, the refrigerant absorbs the heat and converts into a warm gas. Then, this compressed coolant gas flows through the warm condenser coils and converts back into liquid form, releasing heat into the dry air.
This results in warm, dry air that is exhausted into the room at a temperature about 2°C or 4°F higher than the ambient air. This type of dehumidifier generally performs best in warm climates with temperatures as low as 41°F, while its efficiency starts to decrease at 65°F.
Do Dehumidifiers Have Freon?
Refrigerant units use a chemical compound called a refrigerant or coolant. This chemical is found in fluid or gaseous form, often used in air conditioners and dehumidifiers to help remove excess humidity from the air by absorbing the heat. A few dehumidifiers do contain Freon refrigerant, but it is not as common now in dehumidifiers manufactured within the past decade.
Types of Refrigerant
Dehumidifiers use different types of coolant depending on the brand and the year of production. The term Freon commonly refers to the refrigerant inside the dehumidifier or air conditioning unit. However, Freon is actually a brand name under DuPont company for some of the oldest refrigerant classes used, specifically the R-12 and R-22.
Old air conditioners and dehumidifiers used to contain R-12 refrigerant. However, this type of refrigerant has been phased out due to its high Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), which has harmful effects on the environment and on your health. By the early 1990s, the R-12 refrigerant has been replaced with the R-134A. Today it’s highly unlikely to find a working dehumidifier that works with Freon R-12.
If you have a model from 2010 or earlier, the two most common coolants you can find are the R-22 and the R-410A. Dehumidifiers and other cooling appliances such as air conditioners and refrigerators manufactured before 2010 usually contained the R-22 refrigerant, which is actually under the Freon brand. However, this hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) also contributes to ozone exhaustion.
On the other hand, newer dehumidifiers from 2010 and beyond, started using R-410A, also known as Puron, which is a better alternative to Freon R-22. It is a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC), which does not contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer. Starting in 2020, Freon dehumidifiers are banned from US markets. So, if you’ve bought a dehumidifier recently, it likely doesn’t contain the refrigerant originally under the Freon brand. It does, however, contain a type of refrigerant, typically Puron or the R-410A.
How Do You Remove Freon From A Dehumidifier?
From here onward in this article, “Freon” refers to any refrigerant used in a dehumidifier, whether it’s R-410A or the older R-22. Dehumidifiers containing refrigerants can be “recharged” by replacing the refrigerant in the system.
However, with most refrigerant dehumidifiers today, you cannot remove the Freon. If you have an older unit, you can ask the manufacturer or retailer if it can be recharged or you can look up your dehumidifier model online to check.
Due to the potential harm of Freon, do NOT attempt to remove the refrigerant yourself. Hire a licensed HVAC technician or contact your dehumidifier manufacturer or your local sanitation department for assistance. Although the original Freon refrigerants are no longer produced, Freon from old machines can still potentially be reused by a professional.
To remove the Freon from your dehumidifier, the technician will first cut the cords of the dehumidifier and unscrew its cover. They drain the condenser of the refrigerant using a recovery system that uses two tubes: input, and output. The input tube is attached to the condenser and the output tube to the recovery bottle. The compressor is started and Freon is transferred from the condenser to the recovery bottle.
How to Detect Freon Leakage
Freon is a gaseous compound that compresses into a liquid when cooled. In gas form, Freon is colorless, non-flammable, and relatively odorless, but some note that it can smell sweet or musty. Freon leaks can happen over time due to normal wear and tear of the metal coils.
Freon can be hazardous to your health and it’s essential to detect leakage immediately. Symptoms of Freon exposure include breathing problems, headache, dizziness, and vision loss. If your dehumidifier is not collecting enough water, this can also be a sign of Freon leakage. It can be difficult to detect Freon from the smell alone, so if you suspect your dehumidifier is leaking refrigerant, contact a professional to deal with the problem right away.
What To Do If Freon Is Leaking?
Again, if you suspect a Freon leak, don’t wait any longer and call an HVAC professional to examine the machine. Refrigerant gases can be lethal when inhaled so it’s better to leave the job to professionals. To protect yourself from any harmful effects, place the unit in an open or well-ventilated area. If needed, wear a mask, gloves, or other protective garments.
Refrigerant poisoning is rare but it won’t hurt to take extra care when dealing with unknown, potentially dangerous gas.
Do Dehumidifiers Need To Be Recharged?
Depending on the type of dehumidifier, “recharging” means different things. For desiccant dehumidifiers, recharging can be as easy as plugging the unit into a wall outlet. But for refrigerant units, it means replacing the coolant inside the refrigeration system.
Older dehumidifiers could be recharged using recharging kits available in hardware stores or online. However, you will typically not find these recharge kits anymore because of the environmental regulations on the hazardous effects of refrigerants on your health and to the atmosphere.
If you have an old model (from 2010 or below) with phased-out refrigerants, then the best thing to do is get a new dehumidifier with the R-410A or Puron refrigerant. If you’re already using Puron and think your dehumidifier needs a recharge, you should ask a professional HVAC technician or contact the manufacturer beforehand to make sure your dehumidifier can be recharged. Check out our article on how to recharge a dehumidifier to get a better idea of why this process is best done by professionals.
Can all dehumidifiers be recharged?
Again, not all dehumidifiers can be recharged. Some mini desiccant units can be recharged and reused every few weeks. For refrigerant units, it may be indicated on the unit if it is rechargeable. Contact the manufacturer or look up the unit model. Then, call an HVAC technician to assess whether the unit needs a freon recharge.
Note that you shouldn’t need to recharge a dehumidifier very often. That said, if you have an older dehumidifier model that used to work but suddenly stopped being effective even though it still turns on, this is a relatively common dehumidifier problem covered in our troubleshooting guide.
Can I recharge a refrigerant dehumidifier myself?
Unlike the desiccant dehumidifier, you cannot recharge a refrigerant dehumidifier yourself. While it was possible with older dehumidifiers, today this task must be performed by a professional because refrigerant gases can be toxic.
How much does it cost to recharge a refrigerant dehumidifier?
Usually, recharging a dehumidifier will cost between $50 and $200 depending on the amount of work that your HVAC technician must perform and the type of refrigerant your unit requires.
How long does a refrigerant dehumidifier last?
It depends on the capacity and the brand. With proper care and maintenance, most refrigerant dehumidifiers can last five up to ten years without needing a recharge.