Commercial and Industrial Dehumidifiers – What’s the Difference?

If you’re searching for a high capacity dehumidifier for your property, you’ll likely see the words “industrial” and “commercial” describing those heavily built models. Often when referring to dehumidifiers, industrial and commercial are interchangeable, but are they really the same?

Commercial 

The Oxford Dictionary defines commercial as something “connected with the buying and selling of goods and services” and “making or intended to make a profit.” The word commercial can describe any business whose sole motive is to sell a product or service for a profit. An example of this is a commercial building which houses retail businesses such as the traditional brick-and-mortar stores, shops, and restaurants. Thus, a commercial dehumidifier is simply a dehumidifier used to reduce humidity in any of these commercial areas.

Industrial

On the other hand, “industrial” refers to anything connected with industry or the production of merchandise to a great extent or amount. It can be used to describe any kind of enterprise which manufactures goods from raw materials. This includes factories and warehouses for the production of common household items. An industrial dehumidifier is used for humidity control in these establishments.

Do You Need an Industrial/Commercial Dehumidifier?

The type of dehumidifier you need depends on many factors. One of which is the size of the space. This is especially important when dehumidifying large areas for commercial or industrial use. 

Exposure to high humidity for extended periods can compromise the health of employees and customers. It can also cause irreparable damage to merchandise, electrical equipment, and other materials. Furthermore, structural repair and maintenance can incur huge costs if humidity issues are not addressed accordingly.

Portability

Commercial and industrial dehumidifiers are built for constant humidity control in a commercial or industrial space with many different prerequisites. These units are able to operate in extreme temperatures and weather conditions. They are commonly used for repairing water damage, structural or construction drying, and in other humidity-prone businesses. 

Portable units usually have wheels and handles for maneuverability. These rugged industrial dehumidifiers can also be stacked on top of each other for easy storage and transport.

Dri-Eaz-F203-A-1200-Commercial-Dehumidifier

Moisture Removal Capacity

The volume of moisture in the air you need to remove per day also plays an important role in determining the right dehumidifier for a business. This capacity is measured in two ways.

The AHAM capacity is the amount collected at the average condition of 80°F and 60% RH, as recommended by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. This is closer to the actual performance of the dehumidifier in real life settings. The maximum capacity is the largest amount that it can extract per day at saturation (90°F and 90% RH).  

Crowd-drawing commercial places like malls, supermarkets, sports halls, restaurants, and museums are vulnerable to excessive moisture. This can lead to poor air quality and mold growth. Prolonged exposure in this kind of environment is both unpleasant and harmful for anyone. 

Indoor facilities where water is always present in huge amounts, such as pools, spas, and greenhouses, as well as cooking and catering services, require high capacity dehumidifiers to prevent humidity problems. Water treatment plants employ a system of industrial dehumidifiers to protect equipment.

Temperature and Humidity Level

The ambient temperature and relative humidity must also be taken into account when choosing a dehumidifier for any occasion. Some may have very specific requirements. Manufacturing sometimes calls for extreme operating temperatures or humidity levels. 

Organic products like fruits and vegetables thrive in different levels of humidity. The same is true for other perishable foods and consumables. Spaces for storage and transport need to be kept at the right humidity level at all times to perfectly preserve the products. In any case, make sure that the dehumidifier you use can work in the exact environmental conditions required. 

How Do Commercial Dehumidifiers Work?

Commercial and industrial dehumidifiers are classified into two: refrigerant and desiccant. These two main types of dehumidifiers are differentiated by the methods they use in collecting moisture from the air.

Refrigerant Dehumidifier 

A refrigerant dehumidifier uses the refrigeration cycle to reduce humidity levels. It works by pulling the humid air in and passing it through the cold metal surface. As the air cools, the moisture condenses into water. This water is collected into a tank or pushed out through a drain or pump. The dry air is reheated and exhausted to the room to collect more moisture.

Since this type of dehumidifier relies on refrigeration to remove moisture, its performance declines dramatically in lower temperatures. Dehumidifiers generally perform well in temperatures 65F and above. This is especially true for the refrigerant type. However, some commercial or industrial models are designed to operate effectively in colder areas.

Refrigerant dehumidifiers are the conventional type used for water damage restoration and drying applications in after-flood repairs, building maintenance, and new constructions. These models come with a portable and rugged design. They can be stacked and loaded into vehicles for easy transport.

Commercial grade refrigerant dehumidifiers use a hot gas valve defrosting system to allow operation in lower temperatures with less downtime. This saves energy and ensures that the unit is working as desired.

On initial purchase these models are typically less expensive than their desiccant counterparts. They are the basic dehumidifiers used in most applications, unless you need to operate in extreme temperatures or humidity levels. In that case, a desiccant is the better choice.

AlorAir Storm LGR Extreme 190PPD Crawl Space Dehumidifier

Desiccant Dehumidifier  

A desiccant dehumidifier uses a substance that absorbs moisture from the air until it is saturated. Humid air from the room is drawn into the dehumidifier and runs through the process zone of the desiccant rotor. The desiccant removes excess moisture from the process air. 

At the same time, a heater warms the second air stream before it passes through the remaining part of the rotor. Moisture is then transferred to the warm air, renewing the desiccant so it can take more moisture. These processes occur continuously and simultaneously and the cycle repeats.

Since desiccant dehumidifiers use adsorption instead of condensation, they remain efficient in low temperature conditions even down to subzero levels. They can also dehumidify way below the ideal range of 30-50% for the average person – as low as 0% RH. Various industries find applications for desiccant dehumidifiers due to their versatility. 

In the food industry, temperature requirements need to be met strictly. Food items are sometimes processed, preserved, or packaged at extremely high temperatures. This can produce excess moisture, which can affect the shelf life and safety of the products. Similarly, pharmaceuticals demand strict control over the air temperature and moisture content. Failure to meet these requirements may change the composition of the product. Spaces for storage and transport also require different humidity levels for different items. 

Extremely low humidity levels may be needed to remove moisture from materials that are very difficult to dry. This includes construction materials, structures, and water restoration sites. Hardwood floors, walls, and water damaged basements or crawl spaces that refrigerant models cannot handle may need a desiccant dehumidifier.

Ecor Pro EPD200-PRO Desiccant Dehumidifier

How Do You Size Commercial and Industrial Dehumidifiers?

For residential dehumidifiers, the capacity you need mainly depends on the size and condition of the room. But for commercial dehumidifiers, you need to make a few more considerations to find the right size. 

Some factors that may affect your decision are the air temperature and relative humidity in the site. Different businesses also call for different environmental conditions depending on the nature of the industry.

If you work in water damage restoration or construction sites, portable commercial dehumidifiers are probably your best option. Mobile businesses like catering and cleaning services may also need portable dehumidifiers.

On the other hand, if you need a solution to humidity issues in your workplace year-round, it may be best to install an industrial dehumidifier permanently.  If your location experiences extreme weather conditions year round, you may also find it helpful to invest in a good commercial dehumidifier early.

The next thing to consider is the size of the area you need to dehumidify. Multiply the length and width of the space to get the area in square feet or meters. Multiply the length, width, and height to get the volume in cubic feet or meters.

A larger space requires a larger capacity dehumidifier. At the same time, higher moisture content calls for a more powerful dehumidifier. However, this doesn’t mean that you should get the highest capacity you can find. Use only the right size for your space to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of your commercial dehumidifier.

Ebac CD30E Crawl Space Dehumidifier

How Do You Choose the Best Commercial Dehumidifier?

Commercial dehumidifiers are commonly used for drying applications in the cleaning, building maintenance, and restoration industries, and to control humidity levels in offices, warehouses, and other commercial spaces. 

They vary greatly in terms of capacity and coverage. Some of the best commercial dehumidifiers have the capacity to absorb up to 160 pints of moisture per day at saturation or 90F and 90% relative humidity. This capacity may consume energy as high as 1,000 watts or more. 

Industrial dehumidifiers, as you may have already guessed, take a lot of space and tend to be louder than residential dehumidifiers. Although some models may be used in different settings for various purposes, such as dehumidifying a huge garage or basement or even the whole house, keep in mind that most commercial units are designed to operate in highly humid commercial spaces instead of residential houses.

Choosing the best dehumidifier for your space relies on multiple factors. Before you make a decision, you must first consider what you need a dehumidifier for. Different needs call for different types of dehumidifier. For commercial purposes, it is especially important to consider the cost of the initial purchase, the corresponding cost of your energy consumption, and other expenses you may incur in maintenance.

Capacity

A standard 50- or 70-pint dehumidifier may work well in residential areas, but most commercial spaces need much more than that. It depends on the size of the area and the level of dampness, but for reference, an 85 PPD AHAM capacity should be around average for a commercial dehumidifier. For extremely wet conditions, you may opt for something around 90 PPD or higher.

COLZER 140 Pints Commercial Dehumidifier

Coverage Area

You want a dehumidifier that can cover as much space as you can. This is important because the wattage you need in order to run your dehumidifier depends on the product’s energy efficiency and the amount of space that it has to cover. 

The airflow, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM), is the rate in which the dehumidifier processes the air. A higher airflow rate typically means a larger coverage area, but this isn’t always the case. It can vary greatly between different brands and even different models within that brand. For good measure, a standard commercial dehumidifier can cover anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 square feet. 

Drainage

Most commercial dehumidifiers have the option for continuous drainage via gravity. Simply attach the drain hose (may be included with the unit) onto the outlet port and direct the water to a floor drain. Make sure that the dehumidifier is elevated from the drain and the hose is positioned downward to prevent water leakage.

Some heavy duty dehumidifiers also come with a built-in condensate pump. This allows for automatic draining farther away or above the unit up to a certain height. This is a useful feature for spaces without a floor drain. If you’ve already found a dehumidifier you like but it doesn’t have this functionality, you may also purchase an external condensate pump. They work in the same way and you will have even more options for the distance and height limits.  

Energy Efficiency

It’s also important to check the energy efficiency of your dehumidifier. Look for the energy factor expressed in liters per kilowatt-hour (L/kWh). It tells you the volume of moisture the unit extracts using one kilowatt-hour of energy. A higher energy factor means a more energy efficient dehumidifier. You can find the energy factor of your device and compare it with others on the Energy Star website.

Aloroair Sentinel HDI90 Crawl Space Dehumidifier

Can You Use a Commercial or Industrial Dehumidifier in a Residential Area?

Commercial and industrial dehumidifiers are mostly made of steel or heavy duty plastic, in contrast to the less durable residential units which consist of lightweight plastic. These high capacity dehumidifiers may also be used in large residential spaces in humid climates. In fact, some of the smaller models are designed specifically for home basements or crawl spaces, and indoor swimming pools.

Frigidaire FFAD5033W1 Dehumidifier

For large houses that suffer in high humidity levels throughout the year, commercial grade whole-house dehumidifiers are the best solution. They can effectively remove excess moisture and maintain a comfortable relative humidity of 30% to 50%. Additionally, they are much more durable and resistant to extreme weather conditions than the typical residential dehumidifiers. A whole-house dehumidifier is often installed in the crawl space or connected to the HVAC system for automatic control.

Aprilaire 1820 Crawl Space Dehumidifier

It’s important to note that commercial and industrial models are usually bulkier and noisier than the standard residential dehumidifiers. Most of them, especially the larger ones, also feature a rugged looking exterior that may not blend well with your interior design. This isn’t a big deal anyway since it’s unlikely that you’ll place a large dehumidifier in plain sight. In any case, always make sure that you use the right dehumidifier for your space to get optimal results. 

To summarize, commercial and industrial refer to the same class of heavy duty dehumidifiers. By definition, they are synonymous and differ mainly in the extent to which the unit operates. But, in essence, when talking about dehumidifiers, commercial and industrial are interchangeable.