Dehumidifiers Can Overheat But Can They Cause Fire?

Josh Mitchell

Written By

Josh Mitchell

Expert Reviewed By

Holly Curell

Last Updated On

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Millions of homeowners use a dehumidifier every day to protect their property from mold and mildew, but is it actually safe to be running them?

I have often pondered over this question, as safety for myself and my family is my number 1 priority.

To help make my home a safer environment, I have done the research on:

  • How dehumidifiers can cause fires?
  • How much of a risk it is?
  • What you can do to use your dehumidifier safely?

I’m here to give you all the information you need to keep your home dry without putting your house at risk.

dehumidifier fire

Is A Dehumidifier A Risk Of Fire? Common Reasons

Yes. All dehumidifiers carry some level of fire risk. 

Most modern dehumidifiers are very unlikely to catch fire, but some older dehumidifiers can be a fire hazard.

On average, there are 338,000 home-based fires in the USA every year, so it’s natural to want to protect your family.[1]

Dehumidifiers are important appliances for maintaining your indoor air quality by removing excess moisture.

However, in doing so, they bring together water and electricity in one device, which is a potent recipe for an electrical fire.

Just like any electrical device I use in my home, they can be potential fire hazards.

These are the most common reasons why they can start fires:

Faulty Wiring

Dehumidifiers use several internal parts like a motor, fan, and condenser unit. All of these components need electricity and are connected with wires.

If there are manufacturing defects with the wiring, the device can become a fire hazard.

TL;DR: Faulty wiring and manufacturing defect can be a serious fire hazard.

Poor Ventilation

where to place dehumidifier

The placement of your dehumidifier can also make it a possible fire hazard.

Dehumidifiers need to be placed so that air can flow freely into and out of the dehumidifier.

If the dehumidifier is placed in an area without airflow, it can impact the cooling operation and lead to overheating.

To help stop this from happening, I always place my dehumidifier away from curtains, walls, or doors, which might block the airflow.

TL;DR: Poor ventilation can heat up the internal dehumidifier components making it a fire hazard.

Electrical Surge

Your dehumidifier is likely connected to the main electricity in your house.

An electrical surge into the dehumidifier can cause the electrics to short circuit, leading to an electrical fire.

Professional series dehumidifier units are protected with a surge protector to prevent property damage.

Still, some older models have had issues that have led to product recalls from manufacturers over the years.

TL;DR: A sudden electrical surge can cause a dehumidifier to short circuit which is a fire hazard. Always use protection devices such as surge protectors if your home often suffers from electrical surges.

Blocked Vents

Dust, dirt, and other debris will travel through your dehumidifier in the air.

The dust and dirt can block the dehumidifier air vents and stop them from working properly.

This puts extra strain on the motor as it tries to force air through the dehumidifier, which can lead to the mechanism overheating.

As the device heats up, it can cause a fire in your property, especially if it’s in a small space with limited air flowing through it (like your crawl space).

I like to use a cloth or handheld vacuum on the vents once a month to remove any dust.

This lets the airflow in and out of my dehumidifier and helps to lower the risk of it causing a fire.

how to clean a dehumidifier

TL;DR: Like improper ventilation, if the dehumidifier's vents are blocked due to dust and debris, it can heat up the internal components making the dehumidifier a fire hazard.

Lack Of Maintenance

If your dehumidifier isn’t properly maintained, the internal components can become fire hazards.

Worn-out heating elements, motors, and fans can all put extra strain on dehumidifiers and, in some cases, lead to fires.

This is one of the most common causes I find for dehumidifier fires.

To help reduce the risk of fires, I take apart my dehumidifier once a year and check the internal components to see if they are starting to wear out.

TL;DR: Improperly maintained dehumidifier with worn out components is also a fire risk.

Dehumidifier Recalls

Over the years, there have been lots of dehumidifiers that were recalled because of reported fire hazards.

The latest dehumidifier recall was in August 2021 by AeonAire.[2]

They had to have 2 million units returned after the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that they had caused over 450 fires and $20 million in damage.

Other prominent dehumidifier brand names have also had to recall their products because of fire risks.

This includes well-known names like Honeywell and Perfect Aire, who had to issue refunds for recalled dehumidifiers.

ACLAB Note:

Despite the recalls, it is still only a tiny % of the total number of dehumidifiers sold to consumers, and modern units aren’t often found on the recall list.

If you buy from a reputable company and use the dehumidifier correctly, you should stay safe while you’re getting dryer air in your home.

TL;DR: Perhaps the most effective way to figure out if your dehumidifier model is a fire hazard or not, is to check if it was ever recalled.


How To Determine If The Dehumidifier Has Been Recalled

The easiest way to check if your dehumidifier has been recalled is through the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.[3]

You just need to enter the brand name, model number, and year it was made to see if it’s on any list of recalled items.

All of this information should be on the nameplate sticker.

You can also use the Gree website[4] or Midea website[5]  to check for any issues with your device.

TL;DR: You can check the recalled dehumidifier models using the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.


What To Do If Your Dehumidifier Is On The Recall List

Stop using the dehumidifiers immediately and contact the company that sold you the unit.

Most manufacturers will be aware of the recall and will be on hand to process a refund quickly once you contact them.


How To Protect Your Home From Dehumidifier Fire

Here are some of the best tips for using your dehumidifier safely and preventing any fires from breaking out:

Check The Recall Status

The best way to protect yourself is to ensure the dehumidifier is up to code.

Go online and check whether the dehumidifier is on the recalled list and whether there are any known defects that could be a risk.

I check the website every few months to see if my dehumidifier has been added to a recall list by setting a reminder on my phone.

If you do the same, then it will help to prevent any dehumidifier fires in your home.

TL;DR: Do not use a dehumidifier model which was recalled.

Register Your Dehumidifier For Warranty

Most dehumidifiers and humidifiers sold by reputable brands will have a warranty entitling you to free replacements at no cost if there’s a defect.

You’ll generally need to register for the warranty to apply, but it’s definitely worth doing in case there are any issues that could mean that the dehumidifier needs to be fixed.

TL;DR: Register your dehumidifier for warranty in case things go south.

Position It Correctly

Your dehumidifier needs to be positioned correctly in the room so air can pass in and out.

If the air vents become blocked, it can lead to the dehumidifier getting too hot, causing the internal temperature to rise and potentially causing a fire.

I keep my dehumidifier in a fairly central position in the room, and I recommend keeping it at least 12 inches from any walls, doors, windows, curtains, or other potential blockages.

TL;DR: Place the dehumidifier in a well ventilated area where its vents are not blocked to prevent it from heating up.

Keep It Properly Maintained

Your dehumidifier needs to be cleaned and inspected regularly to prevent dust, mold, or dirt from building up and causing a malfunction in the machine.

You should check the air vents, outer connections, and internal parts for any visible damage or ice.

If any internal parts are damaged, you’ll need to fit a replacement before using it again.

Your device should have a reasonably quiet operation as air flows in and out.

If you notice it suddenly getting louder, it’s a sign that something is wrong, and you need to check it over properly.

TL;DR: Perform thorough maintenance of the unit regularly to prevent build up of dust, mold or dirt which can wear and tear internal components over time causing them to malfunction.

Use It Appropriately

Dehumidifiers and humidifiers are helpful for managing humid air, but only if you use them properly. 

Your device should only be used when the moisture levels are high.

If the air in the room has already reached the ideal humidity (the perfect home humidity is 30-50%), then you should turn the device off.

This will prevent them from working too hard to process already dry air and risking the mechanism reaching too high a temperature, becoming a fire hazard.

when to use a dehumidifier

Some devices have features that will measure the moisture levels in the air and switch off automatically.

This is useful for most homeowners, but if you don’t have this setting, you’ll need to turn it off yourself.

TL;DR: You don't have to use them all the time. Use the dehumidifier when needed.

Don’t Use Extension Cords

Dehumidifiers should be plugged directly into your outlet and not into extension cords.

This limits the risk of electrical fires breaking out and stops any potential injuries caused by tripping over wires.

TL;DR: You must use a dedicated circuit for the dehumidifier. Do not use an extension cord.

Unplug When Not In Use

You can avoid a dehumidifier malfunction by unplugging it when it’s not in use.

This will prevent electrical surges from reaching the device, stopping any dehumidifier electrical fires from breaking out within your house.

Don’t Leave Unattended Around Kids Or Pets

Most dehumidifiers are designed to run for hours, and some can even run 24/7.

Modern models can be left to run unsupervised, but you need to be careful if you have pets or children around.

I’ve got two kids and a dog at home, and I know how easily they can knock the dehumidifier or mess with the controls.

This could damage the internal mechanism and cause a fire, so I never leave it running if I’m out of the room.

Many new models have child lock, or auto shut-off features to prevent any risk from accidental tampering, but it’s not generally worth taking the risk.

TL;DR: Take special care in dehumidifier placement if you have kids or pets around for the safety of the occupants as well as for saving the dehumidifier from damage.


Things To Keep In Mind When Buying Dehumidifier

what size dehumidifier do you need

There’s a lot to consider when buying a dehumidifier, but here are the key factors to protect your home and family from dehumidifier fires:

  • Buy from a reputable company, and always check the recall status before you buy.
  • Follow the installation instructions carefully. I’ve not always been good at this, but by taking a few extra minutes to read the instructions, you can save yourself hours in the future.
  • Buy the right size/capacity dehumidifier for the room. Getting the right pint capacity will stop the dehumidifier from overworking and keep the internal temperatures down.
  • Choose a dehumidifier with a humidistat and timer. This lets you use the dehumidifier only as needed and avoids overworking the device.
  • Look for modern models with safety features like automatic shut off when it tips over and child locking to prevent accidental interference.
  • Cost. I know it’s tempting to buy a cheaper model, but they don’t always have the same build quality and features. Spending a bit more can save you money in the long run and give you a safer device.

TL;DR: Choosing the dehumidifier from a reputable brand and with the right specs will lower the chances of fire hazard to as minimum as possible.


FAQ

Can A Dehumidifier Overheat?

Yes, a dehumidifier can overheat if there’s a problem with the internal mechanism, if it is under strain, or if it doesn’t have adequate airflow.

Overheating can lead to fires, so if you notice your dehumidifier overheating, you should turn it off immediately and contact the manufacturer.

How Long Can You Safely Run A Dehumidifier?

You can run a dehumidifier safely 24/7 if you regularly empty the tank and keep the device clean and maintained.

When Should You Not Use A Dehumidifier?

Don’t use dehumidifiers unless you have high humidity.

You should also avoid using them in temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or it can damage the internal mechanism.

Dehumidifiers Can Be A Fire Hazard

I know that dehumidifiers can start fires and that all the electrical appliances in my home have a certain fire risk.

However, I also know I can safely manage that risk by choosing the right products and using them responsibly.

The best way to protect your home from dehumidifier fires is by avoiding the list of faulty models and by using your device properly.

This will let you manage your humidity levels while keeping your home and family safe.

References: 

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/376918/number-of-home-structure-fires-in-the-us/
  2. https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/2021/Two-Million-Dehumidifiers-With-Well-Known-Brand-Names-Recalled-Due-to-Fire-and-Burn-Hazards-Manufactured-by-New-Widetech
  3. https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls
  4. https://greedehumidifierrecall.com/ProductEntry.aspx
  5. https://www.recallrtr.com/dehumidifier
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Josh Mitchell

Founder

Josh Mitchell
My name is Josh and I am obsessed with home appliances. From portable AC units to heaters and air purifiers, I enjoy testing, learning and using these devices to improve the air quality inside my family home.

My Favorite Home Appliance?

Midea U Shaped Window Air Conditioner

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