Don't Sweat It: Choosing The Right Dehumidifier For Your Caravan Or Camper Trailer
Purchasing a dehumidifier for your caravan can benefit you the whole year round, keeping you home-away-from-home dry and comfortable in the summer, and free of mould and damp in the winter. However, no two dehumidifiers are the same, and it's important to choose the right dehumidifier for your needs.
When shopping for caravan accessories like a new dehumidifier, you'll find a seemingly endless array of different models and makes on offer; the vast majority of these dehumidifiers can, however, be sorted into two rough categories:
These dehumidifiers run on the same principles as those little packets of silica gel you find in the box when you buy a new bag or shoes, albeit on a much bigger scale. These dehumidifiers contain desiccant crystals that absorb ambient moisture and damp from their surroundings, keeping the trapped moisture in liquid form in an internal reservoir. These dehumidifiers are available as small, unpowered models intended for smaller spaces, and larger fan-assisted configurations designed to dehumidify larger caravans.
The great advantage of desiccant dehumidifiers is that you can set them up and forget about them -- mains-powered models use very small amounts of power, while unpowered dehumidifiers can essentially be left in a caravan or trailer for the whole winter with minimal oversight. They also tend to be considerably cheaper than compressor dehumidifiers, and the smaller, unpowered models are ideal for compact caravans and trailers where space is at a premium. If you intend to leave your caravan or trailer in storage for the winter, placing a few powered dehumidifiers inside can keep damp and mould away for the entire winter.
However, desiccant dehumidifiers do require some oversight -- eventually the desiccant crystals will become saturated, turning into a gel that must be emptied and replaced with fresh crystals. For this reason it's important to choose a desiccant dehumidifier suited for the size of the space you want to dehumidify, as small unpowered models required to work in large rooms will be quickly overwhelmed and need to be changed much more frequently. Replacement crystals can also be quite expensive, and caravan/camping sites may prohibit emptying of the saturated crystal gel into their waste water drains, making disposal a messy hassle.
Most dehumidifiers you see in home or office settings will be compressor dehumidifiers. These machines use compressed refrigerant gas and fans to draw in humid air, cooling the air until the moisture condenses on special fins, which guide the water down into an internal reservoir. The newly-dehumidified air is then warmed to ambient temperature before being expelled.
The great advantage of compressor dehumidifiers is that they are much more effective at higher temperatures than desiccant models, obviously a real boon for the Australian summer camper. Many higher-end models come with adjustable temperature controls for the dry air they expel, allowing them to pull (limited) double duty as air coolers or, in colder months, as small space heaters. Compressor dehumidifiers also require less maintenance than desiccant models, with no crystals to empty.
Unfortunately, compressor dehumidifiers, even ones intended for portable use, are powerful machines that require some oversight to use safely. You should always spend a few extra dollars and invest in a model with automatic restart functionality, allowing them to restart themselves in the event of a power fluctuation or failure. They are also much harder to maintain than desiccant models in the event of a malfunction, particularly when you bear in mind the dangerous, compressed canisters of toxic refrigerant held within -- in the event of a malfunction it's often far better to call in a professional repairman, but this naturally costs considerably more.