The amount of water in the air is referred to as humidity. Even though we cannot see the water droplets, water vapor is always present all around us—both outside and even inside our homes.
Dehumidifiers are devices that help us remove or minimize this water vapor surrounding us. Let us look at how these devices function and what we can do with the water that they accumulate from the air, and is water from a dehumidifier safe to drink.
Uses of a Dehumidifier
Ideally, your homes should have a humidity level of 50%. This level ensures a comfortable living environment free from allergies and pests. Let’s take a look at some of the uses of dehumidifiers.
Reduces Allergic Reactions
Biological pollutants in the air can trigger allergic reactions. They can cause sneezing, watery eyes, shortness of breath and digestive problems. They can even transmit airborne infectious diseases like influenza, measles and chickenpox.
Mold, dust mites, pollen, and animal dander are common allergy triggers. Most of these contaminants require a humid environment to survive and multiply. Dehumidifiers help get rid of the excess moisture and the filters in the device also collect these pollutants. This will help keep allergies at bay.
Helps Control Asthma
When there is more moisture in the air it makes the air heavier. The density of the air makes it difficult to breathe, especially for people suffering from breathing problems like asthma.
Dehumidifiers remove the moisture, making the air drier and lighter. This will help make the work of lungs easier, creating a more hospitable environment for people with asthma.
Keeps Other Pests at Bay
Most household pests need a moist and humid environment to survive. Using a dehumidifier keeps the environment cleaner. Without any dust or mold accumulating in your house, pests like silverfish, cockroaches, woodlice, moths and fleas will not be able to set up camp.
How Does a Dehumidifier Work?
Dehumidifiers draw in warm and humid air, remove the excess water vapor from it and release cool, dry air into the atmosphere. Water vapor is converted into liquid form either using the method of condensation or absorption. This will depend on the type of dehumidifier used.
The water vapor which is converted into water is collected inside the storage tank of the dehumidifier. Depending on the levels of humidity you will have to empty your dehumidifier every two days to twice a day.
At a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius and humidity levels of 85%, a dehumidifier can collect around 10 or 20 liters of water a day. This water that is left behind is called condensate.
These are the two types of dehumidifiers you can use:
This type uses a refrigerator mechanism to remove or minimize humidity. The warm air is pulled in and passed over cooling coils. The water vapor in the air condenses on the cooling coils. These droplets then drip into the storage tank.
These kinds of dehumidifiers are suitable in areas with high levels of humidity. They will produce larger quantities of liquid condensate.
A desiccant is a chemical substance used to create a state of dryness. Silica gel is a kind of desiccant that is used to absorb moisture.
The humid air is passed over a wheel coated with this chemical. When a stream of warm air is passed over this wheel, the absorbed water collects in the tank. This dries the wheel out for further use.
This kind is suitable for areas with lower humidity. The water collected may contain toxic chemical residues from the desiccant used.
Dehumidifier Condensate: Classified Gray Water
Gray water is a class of gently used wastewater. Generally, it refers to any used water without fecal contamination. So, most wastewater—except toilet water—comes under gray water.
Water from domestic activities like bathing, dishwashing and laundry is classified as gray water. Technically, the condensate from dehumidifiers also falls under the gray water classification.
Gray water is reusable and reduces dependence on freshwater sources. They are a sustainable water source that can be put to a variety of uses, especially in times of drought.
Can You Drink the Condensate from a Dehumidifier?
Dehumidifiers can generate condensate in large quantities, especially if you live in humid areas. It just feels wrong to throw 10 or 20 liters of water down the drain every day.
The environmentally conscious among us would want to use up this water in a sustainable manner. Moreover, the physical appearance of the water can be misleading. It might look crystal clear and fit to drink, but there are some things you need to know about dehumidifier condensate before gulping it down!
When water evaporates and becomes water vapor, it usually leaves all the minerals and impurities behind. So if the cooling coils and storage tank are kept squeaky clean, shouldn’t you be able to drink this water? The answer is no!
Even though the condensation of water is similar to the distillation process, the water has not been heated or boiled. This means that it does not kill any of the microorganisms found in the atmosphere.
One of the main functions of a dehumidifier is to remove pollutants from moist air. You usually get a dehumidifier when you start noticing mold or fungal growth in your homes or when your allergies get out of hand.
This means that the air that is going through the dehumidifier contains biological contaminants like fungal spores, animal dander and dust mites. So even though the water looks visibly clean it will contain traces of these contaminants. Drinking this water might cause you to fall ill or trigger allergies.
Leaving the water to stagnate in the storage tank will also make the condensate an ideal breeding ground for contaminants like mold, mildew and algae.
The water can also contain lead and metal residue as a result of coming into contact with parts of the dehumidifier.
It’s safe to say that water from a dehumidifier is highly unstable and can contain a lot of contaminants even if it appears clean visibly. Therefore, I advise you not to drink condensate.
Alternative Uses of Dehumidifier Condensate
Just because you can’t drink it, doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. You can also reuse the water and reduce wastage in the following ways:
- Flush Water: You can use the gray water from your dehumidifier to fill your flush tanks. This way, you no longer have to flush away freshwater.
- Watering Plants: Condensate is relatively clean and can be used to water your ornamental plants—indoor and outdoor. But it’s better to keep condensate away from vegetable gardens, especially if you are growing underground vegetables. The metals and other contaminants can accumulate in the vegetables and make their way into your body.
- Fill Batteries: You can filter the water from the dehumidifier and use it to fill up batteries.
- Fill Car Radiator and Windshield Wiper Tank: Filtered condensate can also be used to fill car radiators and windshield wiper water tanks.
- Fill Steam Iron: A steam iron does not require fresh water, if the condensate is visibly clean you can go ahead and top up your steam iron with it.
- Clean Surfaces in Your House: You can use condensate to mop up your dirty floor and countertops. Just mix it with cleaning agents and you are good to go.
- Wash Clothes: If you live in very humid areas, your dehumidifier will produce liters and liters of condensate. If the water is visibly clean you can pour it into your top load washing machine the next time you are doing a load of laundry. You can also use condensate to handwash clothes or dirty rags used for cleaning.
- Water the Lawn: Using condensate is an excellent way to reduce your dependence on freshwater sources for watering your lawn. This is a useful tip to keep your lawn from dying on you especially in the summer or drought-ridden months.
Can You Make Dehumidifier Water Drinkable?
Some machines have a filter or a UV light as an additional step to purify the water, but not all dehumidifiers come with this setting.
If the tank and the coils are cleaned regularly, you can filter the condensate, boil it and drink it. Although drinking condensate in any form is not recommended, based on the level of contaminants you can try it out, especially in emergencies.
Even if the atmosphere is clean and the parts of dehumidifiers are clean, you should know that boiling and using a simple paper filter will not eliminate metal contaminants like copper, mercury or iron.
Is It Possible to Convert Air into Drinking Water?
Many devices use the basic principle on which dehumidifiers function to create potable water from the water vapor in the air.
They combine a dehumidifier with a water purifier, as a dehumidifier alone does not create safe drinking water. These devices make sure that the condensate goes through an additional purification step like ozonation, filtration or addition of minerals to make the water drinkable.
Food-grade dehumidifiers whose primary purpose is to create drinking water is one such device. Dehumidification is seen as a secondary function of this device. Atmospheric water generators are also devices that perform a similar function.
If you are looking for a sustainable option that will help you reduce freshwater consumption these are the options available to you!
The Final Word
While it is highly unsafe to drink water from a dehumidifier, there are lots of different ways to use up all that water without it going to waste. Moreover, many companies manufacture devices that convert air into water. So if you are so keen on trying it out make sure to get a food-grade device. After all, health is wealth!