This model is powerful enough for spaces up to 1,200 square feet, its built-in pump offers lots of drainage options, and design details make it the easiest dehumidifier to live with.
The Frigidaire FFAP5033W1, a pump-equipped 50-pint machine, is our top pick among dehumidifiers. It is powerful enough to keep most basements and living spaces comfortably dry, up to about 1,200 contiguous square feet. It’s also quite quiet. On low, at about 47 decibels, you can watch TV with it on nearby. More important, the noise it emits is not noisome: Where other dehumidifiers emit an intrusive chug, the Frigidaire just hums. And the pump allows you to place it almost anywhere, because it can direct the condensed water up and into a sink or out a window. (We tested the pump at a vertical lift of 10 feet, enough to get water out of most basements; it had no problem doing so, and like all our pump-equipped contenders it is rated to go farther, to 16 vertical feet.)
But if you know you don’t need a pump—that is, if you don’t mind emptying the tank on a daily basis or you’re certain you can passively direct the water into a basement-floor drain or safely place the machine above a sink—we recommend the otherwise identical, pumpless Frigidaire FFAD50331W as a less expensive option. Frigidaire makes it easier than most other manufacturers to connect a passive drain hose, placing the attachment point on the outside of the machines instead of in the confines of the tank compartment.
The FFAP5033W1 reduced the humidity in our 135-square-foot test space by 12% in one hour on high, from 59% to 47%, while fighting against a powerful humidifier that was also running on high—our approximation of a challenging space, like an unsealed cellar in the midst of a heavy rain. On low, with the humidifier also on low (approximating a less-challenging space, like a spare room or enclosed porch that’s attached to air-conditioned spaces but not directly served by the HVAC system), it reduced the humidity even more, by 15% in one hour. And in informal overnight testing in a 3,100-square-foot-space—a torture test, since that’s far bigger than what it’s designed for—during which the ambient humidity was about 65%, it completely filled its 16.9-pint (2.1-gallon) tank in under 12 hours on high, an indication of its long-term air-drying ability.
During real-world use, in which dehumidifiers run more or less 24/7, even larger drops in humidity can be expected. In our earlier testing, the predecessor of the top-pick pumpless FFAD5033W1 excelled in a pair of large, very damp, unsealed basements in Buffalo, New York, reducing the humidity from more than 70% to 45% overnight when set on high, and thereafter holding the humidity at 50% to 55% on its lowest setting, even during rainy weather. In a brief confirmation test in Los Angeles, the predecessor of the pump-equipped top-pick FFAP5033W1 dropped the humidity from 72% to 58% in just half an hour on high in the equivalent of a 400-square-foot space, even with a humidifier continuously replenishing the moisture in the air. In short: We’re confident our current picks would perform similarly.
We tested the pump for the FFAP5033W1 by slinging its drain hose over a sprinkler pipe, 10 feet off the floor. The pump had no trouble getting the water up that high—it is rated to push water upwards as much as 16 feet—and drained the full tank in half an hour. And setting up and operating the pump is straightforward, once you manage the needlessly tricky removal of the plug that comes installed. The hose automatically seals and locks in place—no need for any tools. Then you activate the pump via the control panel. (Note that the pump doesn’t turn on immediately: It activates only once the tank is full. Also notable, and in a rare nice touch, Frigidaire attaches the plug to the machine via a handy plastic leash. You’ll need to reinstall it if you later decide to turn the pump off and drain the machine by another method, and the leash means you won’t lose it.)
The FFAP5033W1 measured 57.2 decibels on high and 47.6 on low at a distance of 6 feet. You wouldn’t want to sleep, work, or watch TV near it when it’s on high, but on low it’s quiet enough that you can live with it reasonably comfortably. As well, compared with some machines—even those that measured very similarly on decibel output—the chugging of its compressor was much less noticeable; the noise was dominated instead by the more pleasant whooshing of air from its fan.
But the fact is, most dehumidifiers of a given pint capacity performed about the same in our testing—not surprising, since they all have to meet the same tough Department of Energy standards. And for that reason, most draw about the same amount of power, 545 watts. (Under current DOE standards for dehumidifiers, that’s a weighted average of their draw with the energy-intensive compressor on and during idle periods, when only the fan is running.)
So beyond their consistently good performance in our testing, the Frigidaires are our pick for a few user-friendly design elements that other dehumidifiers lack.
The FFAP5033W1 and the FFAD5033W1 both have a sturdy tuck-away handle on the top of the machine. That makes them easier to move around than other similar dehumidifiers, most of which have shallow pocket handles on their sides. (Fifty-pint humidifiers typically weigh 45 to 50 pounds.) And both Frigidaires have built-in cord storage—again, almost unique. Being able to wrap the cord out of the way makes them easier to move around, as well as neater to store in a closet when they’re not in use.
The Frigidaires make hooking up a garden hose, for passive draining, easier than most other manufacturers: The coupling is outside the body of the machine, so screwing the hose on is a snap. That seems like a design no-brainer, but every other dehumidifier we have ever tested puts the coupling inside the machine, in the tight confines of the tank pocket. Attaching a hose (or in some cases, a plastic coupling extension) in there is a fiddly, knuckle-scraping hassle.
And the Frigidaires’ air filters, which need a rinse every couple of weeks to keep the condenser running at its best, are mounted on the outside of the machine, so they’re easy to see, remove, and reinstall. Some competitors hide their filters inside the machine, making them slightly harder to service and, more important, putting them out of sight and out of mind. (The filters don’t have any air-purifying ability—they’re there only to catch pet hair and dust bunnies and keep them from clogging the condenser.)
Last, the control panel on the Frigidaires is laid out logically and clearly, with a minimum number of clearly labeled, single-function buttons. Other dehumidifiers have multifunction buttons, cluttered layouts, and, at times, odd labels. (The runner-up GE, below, for example, shows a red Empty when the tank is full. It means “time to empty the tank,” of course, but a straightforward Full would have been clearer.)
The additional versatility the pump provides makes the FFAP5033W1 our pick as an all-around best dehumidifier. But a malfunctioning pump is also a common source of owner complaints; see Flaws but not dealbreakers below for our thoughts on this and other concerns. And if you need to dehumidify only a single bedroom, laundry room, or other small space, check out our smaller, cheaper 30-pint Frigidaire pick below.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Many owners of pump-equipped dehumidifiers, of every brand, report difficulty removing the plug from the pump socket when initially setting up the pump operation, including multiple instances of the plug breaking off when they resorted to using force. Their frustration is understandable: You have to depress a small collar to release the plug, and it’s almost impossible to do with your fingers alone. The collar is too thin to grasp, and furthermore it’s obstructed by the plug itself. A coin or flathead screwdriver can get into the narrow gap behind the plug and depress the collar, after which the plug comes out easily. But these acrobatics only spotlight the crappy design. And again, the crappy design is common—not unique to Frigidaire.
The other common complaint in negative reviews of pump-equipped dehumidifiers is that the pump itself fails within a few months. For what it’s worth, many customers leaving negative reviews about genuine pump failure on prior Frigidaire models say they were able to get a replacement unit under Frigidaire’s warranty. We’ll long-term test the FFAP5033W1 to see if we experience a pump failure ourselves.
Last, manually draining the Frigidaire’s tank is a somewhat sloppy affair. The tank features a lid that keeps water from splashing out as you carry it to the sink—but that also means there’s just one small hole to pour the water from. And when you tip the tank to do so, a considerable amount of water also leaks out around the lid’s edges and onto your hands. Bring a towel.