Using a dehumidifier is important in homes where there are high levels of humidity. It can grow extremely uncomfortable to live in an incredibly humid space, causing excess sweat, sticky feelings, and musty smells. But having too much moisture leads to more dangerous health hazards. With the use of a dehumidifier, you can easily negate these issues. But then you face the issue of having tanks full of water that you’re regularly emptying, and you may feel as though you’re wasting this water. What can you do with it to feel like you’re making good use of it?
What is a Dehumidifier?
A dehumidifier is a mechanical device that removes moisture from the air. Consider that some homes may be extremely dry, while others are considerably humid. When you walk in, you smell must or feel stuffy and sticky. In these homes, a dehumidifier will take some of that moisture out of the air so that the humidity level is more normal and comfortable. This fluid is collected in a tank that then has to be dumped on a regular basis to make room, so the unit can continue running.
Benefits of a Dehumidifier
Aside from the general comfort level of the space, there are several other advantages to running a dehumidifier in your home, not the least of which is the health factor. One of the worst aspects of a space that contains too much moisture in the air on a regular basis is the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus. These growths release spores into the air that can be irritating and unhealthy for those who don’t have breathing problems and downright dangerous for those with allergies, asthma, COPD, and other breathing conditions.
Removing the excess moisture negates the hazards of having these grow in your space and become problematic, while also allowing you to be more comfortable overall. The water found in the tank is what is referred to as ‘gray water’ – it’s still good for some purposes. And those are the purposes we want to consider for recycling since it seems a waste to simply dump that fluid without finding another use for it.
What is Gray Water?
Gray water is water that has been used but may still be considered ‘usable’. For example, when you fill your sink and wash a few dishes (a light use of the water), this liquid has been used and dirtied but isn’t deemed ‘black water’, like that in a used toilet. In fact, there are efforts in many communities to recycle gray water through a sprinkler system to hydrate lawns during very dry climates.
Because the water in your dehumidifier has passed through a filter and has come into contact with plastic, metal, as well as carried some of the dirt, dust, and other air particles in it, this is considered gray water. That means it’s suitable for some things, but it’s not drinkable. This is because it’s passed over copper and other heavy metals in the coils without any sort of barrier (consider that the FDA regulates, for example, the coating required on the insides of plastic bottles and aluminum cans to keep food and drink from coming into contact with those materials). It is never recommended to consume anything that comes directly into contact with heavy metals and plastics.
Keeping it Clean
A factor to consider is how often you clean your dehumidifier. In order to assure the fluid is safe for use, you’ll need to make sure you follow a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule on your unit, paying special attention to the water collection tank. Aside from dumping it regularly – and saving that water – you’ll have to clean it on a regular basis. If you don’t, you run the risk of allowing microorganisms to flourish in that tank, which will then become hazardous to the environment should you use that fluid.
To avoid most of the debris removed from the air contaminating the fluid, be sure to change your filter regularly in the dehumidifier and to clean the grilles on the intake and exhaust of any collected dirt and dust. All of this will help assure that you get the most out of your dehumidifier as well as keep the gray liquid you collect usable for multiple purposes.
Uses for Dehumidifier Water
You can’t drink the water and you certainly don’t want to bathe in it. However, there are plenty of other ways to recycle that collected liquid so that you feel like you’ve done your part in conserving it. Not only will this be more environmentally friendly; you can actually save money as well.
Watering plants. Whether indoors or outdoors, you can use the gray water you recycle from your dehumidifier to water plants. Get a barrel or large plastic bin of some kind, and empty your dehumidifier tank into this. You’ll be able to source this collection year round, even during the dry summer months when you would use more water. Just dip in your watering can and have at it.
One caveat to this is that you don’t want to use the recycled water on anything you’re going to eat. Just like you can’t drink the water, your plants could absorb some of the things you don’t want to drink, and then they aren’t acceptable for consumption.
This is a great way to save money, especially if you have a large garden or a lot of plants. Your water bill will improve significantly by using gray water rather than drinking water for most of your plants.
Adding a cleaning solution, like dish washing liquid or bleach, can make gray water safe for a number of cleaning purposes. You can mop your tile floor, clean some counters and surfaces, rinse your sinks, and even wash your car. One word of caution when doing the last is to assure that you’re careful of anything that might scratch or chip the paint on your car. Still, it’s a fairly safe assumption that nothing is going to harm your vehicle in this process.
Flushing the toilet. Yes, we have indoor plumbing, and it’s a great advantage. However, think about the gallons of water we use every time we flush. There are two ways to make use of your dehumidifier water to flush the toilet.
a. Fill the tank. In order for this to work, every time you flush, you’ll want to have the lid off the back of the tank. As the toilet flushes, use a bucket full of your dehumidifier water to fill the tank so that the water doesn’t run to fill it. Do this every time you flush, and you’ll conserve the clean, running water by only using the gray water to flush your toilet.
b. Pour it into the bowl. If you use enough force when pouring a bucket of gray water into the bowl, you get the same flushing action as you do when you pull the handle. This is a more direct way to keep the water from running and assure that you’re reusing as much of the gray water as you can. However, without the right force, you may end up overfilling the bowl, so if you aren’t practiced, try the tank method.
Iron your clothes. For many applications, having steam in your iron makes a big difference in the results of how you iron. Interestingly enough, despite the hazards of things like heavy metals in the dehumidifier water, this particular water – which has been through filters in the dehumidifier – is often cleaner in terms of chemical content than water from the tap.
That means less clogging and buildup in your iron, which translates to less chance you’re going to have stains appear on your clothing when you iron. However, if you are concerned with the level of heavy metals in the gray water here, maybe this is one of the uses you want to skip.
Fill your radiator. Unlike living organisms, your car won’t have the same issues with what contaminants gray water may contain. Therefore, this is an excellent source of water for filling your radiator, as well as supplementing windshield wiper fluid, if you need to. Gray water will do a fine job of washing your windshield as well as keeping your car cool as needed by working through the radiator.
Use it with décor. Do you have a tabletop fountain in your house? Maybe you have a birdbath outside. These are prime opportunities to reuse the gray water from your dehumidifier. Because no one is drinking or eating out of your fountain, and you don’t need to waste good running water for this purpose, you can simply pour some of your dehumidifier water into the fountain and let it flow.
When it gets low on water because of evaporation, which happens now and then, simply supplements with more of the gray water. The same is true of outdoor fountains and birdbaths, where birds are mostly rinsing and cooling themselves off.
Contaminant Re minders
Remember, you need to care for, clean, and maintain your dehumidifier in order for even the gray water to be recyclable. There are a number of problems that can arise based on an unclean machine, which can negate your ability to safely use the output of your dehumidifier. Here are some of the contaminants you have to worry about when collecting and using the water.
Airborne contaminants – Remember that the water here comes from the air around you, which contains allergens and other particles. To keep these from infesting your water supply, be sure to change your dehumidifier filter regularly and to clean the intake and exhaust grilles on your dehumidifier. This will avoid deposits of such materials into the water collection tank.
Microorganisms – You must regularly clean the water collection tank, not just empty it. This consistently damp or wet environment is a breeding ground for nasty microorganisms that can contaminate water and food. While you shouldn’t be watering plants that you intend to eat anyway, it’s important to make sure you aren’t breeding these harmful agents, as well as assure that you don’t have mold, mildew, or fungus growing in your tank.
Copper and aluminum – The coils in the dehumidifier contain both copper and aluminum. These heavy metals can leach into the water supply. How? As the water condenses, it sticks to the coils prior to dripping into the water collection tank.
When it drips into the tank, it’s possible to carry microscopic amounts of these metals with it. This is why canned foods require a wax coating inside them so that there is no direct contact that can cause leaching of the aluminum into the food supply.
While you can avoid damage to your health by not consuming the water and by not watering plants you’re going to eat with the water, you should still be cautious of this particular problem. If you wash with the gray water from a dehumidifier, it’s best to use gloves or to wash your hands immediately when done to avoid contact to your eyes, nose, or mouth with any remaining trace elements.
With several different uses for dehumidifier water, it’s not hard to find ways to save money and conserve water overall. There are just some precautionary measures to take in doing so that will keep you and your family safe and healthy along the way. If you keep those things in mind, you can get a lot of use out of the gray water you produce, especially since you’ll probably have to empty the tank at least once a day. That can go a long way, especially watering plants or cleaning parts of your home, so take advantage of every drop, and make sure you carefully recycle so that you’re safe but efficient!