How Humidity Affects Your Air Conditioner

How Humidity Affects Your Air Conditioner

Why Does Humidity Matter?

Humidity is a measurement of the amount of water vapor in the air.  It's that sticky, heavy feeling in the air that can make a hot day stifling and difficult to breathe.  Outside humidity isn't something we can control, but inside of our homes it's a condition we want to avoid.

Dealing with humidity is important for both your comfort and the health of your home.  Understanding how humidity affects your air conditioner and home begins with a few simple questions we're going to answer here:

1) Does humidity affect my air conditioner's performance?

2) Can humidity harm my home?

3) How do you control humidity levels?

Does Humidity Affect My AC's Performance?

does humidity affect air an air conditioner's performance

Oftentimes customer questions include asking how humidity impacts their air conditioner's performance.  The concern is whether high moisture levels strain their AC and drive up their power bill.

Does High Humidity Strain Your Air Conditioner?

It's not entirely accurate to say that higher humidity strains your HVAC causing it to work 'harder', but it is true that it can cause it to work longer because humid air takes longer to cool.  As a result, this could shorten the overall lifespan of the system.  The even larger concern with a home that is consistently humid is the deterioration that is caused by excessive moisture settling in the air handler which causes rust to develop.  Over time this will lead to refrigerant leaks and mechanical failures.

Does Humidity Drive Up Your Power Bill?

Air conditioners can cost between $36 and $216 per month to operate according to Forbes.  This is impacted by the size and type of air conditioner, the condition of your home's insulation, building material, and duct work, as well as local climate, especially humidity levels.  Understanding that high moisture levels can cause your unit to run longer, it makes sense that it will drive up your power bill.

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Can Humidity Harm My Home?

can humidity harm your home

Water in the air is never a good thing.  There are a number of health and home-damage issues that can arise from consistently high moisture levels.

Mold and Mildew

If you're wondering how humidity affects your air conditioner, stop and ask instead how it affects your whole home.  Increased, sustained moisture levels in your home can lead to mold and mildew growth.  Spores from these growths will ultimately hurt your home's indoor air quality and cause potential health and safety issues.  Once this happens, it can be expensive and time-consuming to resolve.

Mold and Mildew in Your Duct System

Unwanted growths can especially be a problem in your duct work.  Your duct system can become infested with mold and mildew, which leads to your central air conditioner recycling those spores constantly through your home.  Duct cleaning can resolve this issue, but if it is too bad you may have to replace your entire duct system.

Actual Damage Can Occur

Humidity levels over 60% can damage furniture, wallpaper, paint, and other items inside of your home.  Even if mold and mildew don't set in, you may find yourself dealing with wood rot and other issues that are equally troublesome.

Excess Water

As your air conditioner pulls moisture out of the air, it drips into its drain pan and runs out the condensate line.  When moisture levels are very high, this leads to excessive amounts of water being pulled from the air and into the drain pan.  Even if your drain line isn't clogged, you run the risk of having more water than your drainage can handle.  Excess water could run over the sides of your drain pan and result in water damage to your home.

Accumulation of Dirt and Debris

Water attracts dirt and dust particles.  Dealing with a lot of water in the air means more water is going to settle on various parts of your inside air handler.  This leads to dirt and debris building up in places you don't want it, and this isn't good.  A dirty system can lose years of life expectancy and untimely, costly repairs.

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How Do You Control Humidity Levels?

control humidity with a dehumidifier

Now that you know how important it is to keep humidity levels low, it's time to learn how to keep them low.  Fortunately, there are a few different ways to get your high humidity under control.

Portable Dehumidifiers

Whether searching at Lowes, Home Depot, or Amazon online, portable dehumidifiers are readily available for consumers to purchase.  Most of these units draw air in over a cooled coil to extract moisture from the air.  There will be a bucket or trap of sorts to catch the moisture it extracts that you will have to manually empty, possibly as often as once each day.

While portable dehumidifiers are effective, they suffer from a few shortcomings.  The need to manually empty the water makes them both an inconvenience and ultimately not a solution you can set and forget about.  Additionally, if your home is larger or your humidity levels are substantial (like what you might deal with living at the beach) then these portable units usually aren't sufficient to handle the job.

Whole-Home Dehumidifiers

When a smaller, portable dehumidifier isn't up to the challenge of controlling your home's humidity levels, a whole-home dehumidifier may be the right solution for you.  In most homes and standard climates, your home's central air conditioner can do the job of extracting enough moisture from the air to keep your humidity at an appropriate level.  But in coastal climates and other high-humidity areas you often need an extra hand helping keep moisture under control.  Whole-home dehumidifiers can handle a large area as a permanent solution, not requiring any manual emptying of a water trap like portable dehumidifier need.

Improved Insulation

Should your insulation be insufficient or your home plagued with several areas of exposure to outside air, this can lead to outside humidity creeping inside.  Making sure your home is properly sealed and insulated is a great step toward controlling humidity levels.

Upgrade Your Air Conditioner

Your central AC works hard to pull moisture out of your air while simultaneously bringing it to your desired temperature.  If your air conditioner is struggling to accomplish this on its own, it may be because it is old and outdated.  A newer HVAC unit will be more efficient at extracting moisture and keeping your home comfortable and at an appropriate humidity level.

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Dealing With High Humidity?

Humidity control and indoor air quality are just a phone call away from being a problem of the past for you.  If you're dealing with high humidity, our team can help.  Just give us a call and we will come out for a free assessment.  We'll inspect your current air conditioner and humidity controls and make recommendations from there.

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