Recently you’ve been trying to escape the heat and humidity by heading inside, only to experience the same muggy feeling. With that in mind, you are probably wondering how to reduce humidity in a house in summer. What can you do to create a cool, comfortable sanctuary that will keep your family, pets and guests happy?
A humid indoor environment is a warning sign that your air conditioner is not working properly. What most homeowners don’t realize is that your AC system not only circulates cool air, but also dehumidifies incoming air. If it’s uncomfortably damp inside, you may have an oversized unit, leaks in your ductwork, insufficient refrigerant or a mechanical problem in your system.
In very humid climates, your system could have a hard time reaching an ideal level of humidity, even if it has no other underlying issues. In those situations, while buying a dehumidifier is an option, your energy use and costs will increase. A better alternative may be to retrofit your system with a dehumidifying heat pipe. These devices, which an experienced HVAC technician can install, can remove up to 91% more water vapor than a traditional evaporator alone.
Your best course of action to correct high indoor humidity is to call in a trusted AC professional to troubleshoot the problem and provide you with recommendations on which approach would work best for your particular situation.
There are a few other tactics you can try to combat a sticky feeling while your AC is on. While these tricks won’t make a significant difference if you have other air conditioner problems, you may want to try doing the following before calling in an expert:
- Avoid doing laundry until you have a full load, as washers and dryers can add to the moisture in your home, and if possible, air dry your clothes outside.
- Try moving some of your plants outside for the summer, since they release moisture as they open up their pores to take in carbon dioxide.
- Ensure that your home is properly ventilated by having fans blowing as often as possible. When cooking or taking a shower, leave your exhaust fans on for longer periods of time than you would in the winter or early spring, and keep your time in the shower to a minimum.
- Fix leaky pipes and faucets and remove any other sources of excessive moisture indoors.
Now that we have offered some ideas on how to reduce your indoor humidity, let’s discuss how your AC keeps your indoor air comfortable.
What Will I Learn?
- Does Air Conditioning Reduce Humidity?
- Ideal Indoor Humidity: Summer and Year-Round
- Why Should You Reduce Humidity in your House?
- Air Conditioner Not Removing Humidity? Here’s What’s Wrong!
- Other Air Conditioner Issues
- Get Professional Help to Keep your Home Cool and Comfortable
Does Air Conditioning Reduce Humidity?
While air conditioners are not technically built to remove higher levels of humidity, they can reduce humidity generally just by doing their jobs.
An AC unit works by sucking warm air in and blowing cold air out. Within your unit are evaporator coils that are approximately twenty degrees colder than the temperature you have your thermostat set to. The evaporator coils have two very important functions. The first is to evaporate your refrigerant from a liquid into a gas, to get blown out of your vents and keep your home cool. The second is to condense the moisture in the air that has been sucked into your system from a gas into a liquid, so it can be collected and drained away from your property. This is very similar to the process you see when water droplets condense on a glass of ice cold water.
While having the lowest levels of humidity possible might sound like an ideal home environment, having too little moisture could actually increase your risk of respiratory infections and viruses.
If that’s the case, what is the ideal amount of moisture in your home?
Ideal Indoor Humidity: Summer and Year-Round
Optimal humidity lies somewhere between 40% and 50%. Summer humidity levels tend to stay closer to the 50% range, while winter humidity usually dips lower. When your indoor humidity begins to reach 60%, the indoor air will probably start to feel a bit stuffy and steamy.
Of course, you probably can’t walk into a room in your house and guess the exact level of humidity. But there are ways to measure it beyond assessing how damp you feel or how long it takes your hair to dry.
If you want to put a number to the level of comfort that you are feeling, buy a hygrometer. This is just a fancy name for a device that measures humidity. You can get a combination hygrometer and thermometer at your local hardware store, and some digital thermostats now show both your temperature and your humidity levels.
If your hygrometer shows that your house experiences 60% humidity or higher for several hours, it’s time to take action and reduce humidity in your home. Keep in mind humidity fluctuates greatly throughout the day, so be patient when measuring humidity in the home.
Don’t want to buy a hygrometer? Use the ice cube test.
To complete this test, you will need four ice cubes and a drinking glass. Place the ice and the glass in a room that is not the kitchen or the bathroom. (Humidity levels tend to change greatly depending on who is cooking, showering and washing their hands.) Walk out of the room for three minutes and stay out of the area.
After three minutes, check the outside of the glass. If there are drops of condensation on the outside of the glass, you are probably experiencing normal levels of humidity. If no drops show up, then it’s time to make some changes to reduce humidity in your house.
Other signs of high humidity include:
- Condensation on the inside of your windows
- Wet stains inside the ceilings and walls
- Increased mold or mildew
- Muggy, heavy feeling throughout the home
- Bad smells throughout the home
Are you surprised about that last one? Water vapor in the air binds to stinky molecules and particles. This allows the particles to travel farther and reach more noses in the house.
While high levels of humidity may feel uncomfortable, reducing the humidity in your home can be a lot of work—particularly so if your AC isn’t working as it should. Is it really worth it to take additional efforts to reduce humidity?
Why Should You Reduce the Humidity in Your House?
For health reasons, you should be monitoring the amount of humidity in your home. Levels that are too high can cause problems for you, your family and your home, including:
- Increased severity of symptoms caused by snoring and sleep apnea
- Asthma attacks
- Swelling and warping of wood throughout the home
- Increased risk of mildew, mold, rust and corrosion
- Water damage in drywall
On the other hand, low levels of humidity may cause the following:
- Warped wood
- Dry mouth or dry eyes
- Dry and cracked skin
- Increased risk of cold, flu or other respiratory infections
Of course, if you are already researching high humidity in a home, chances are that you already have a problem. If you have determined your AC is the likely culprit for your issues, what could be going on?
Air Conditioner Not Removing Humidity? Here’s What’s Wrong
As we already mentioned, there are a few different reasons why your unit may not be removing humidity.
For starters, your AC unit might not be the right size for your home. If you don’t know how many tons of AC per square foot you need for your home, you could have a unit that is too big, and that can actually increase humidity in your home. This is because an oversized system has a difficult time managing both temperature and humidity and the unit will turn on and off frequently, which doesn’t give it enough time to remove humidity from the air. If this is your problem, you’ll want to have an AC professional come inspect your unit and advise you on the correct size for your home.
Another potential flaw could be air leaks in your home that cause your humidity indoors to be closer than comfortable to conditions outside. On a windy day you can try lighting an incense stick and holding it next to your doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, electrical boxes, outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic openings and other areas air could leak. If you notice the stream of smoke moving horizontally, you may have found a leak. Since it’s difficult to know all the places air might be escaping, you can call in an air conditioning repair company to perform a blower door test. This can help you identify the treated air leak rate from your home and what to do next.
Improper ventilation can create humid indoor conditions. Make sure all your fans in your bathrooms and kitchen vent directly outside. If your dryer ducts become clogged with lint, you could experience higher humidity levels and you could be at higher risk for a house fire. Have your vents professionally inspected and cleaned annually. When your dryer ducts are checked for damage, consider replacing them with metal if they are made of aluminum.
As you already know, air conditioning units are complex and finicky. There are a lot of moving parts and there are many issues that could be wrong with them that could affect not only removing humidity from your home but also cooling it in general.
Other Air Conditioner Issues
There are many other issues you could come across with your air conditioner, such as your AC compressor not working. Additional electrical issues including your outside fan not working or not functioning due to lack of power, contactor problems or sometimes even a faulty thermostat. On limited occasions, it’s an easy fix and your AC unit is just running low on refrigerant after blasting your AC for most of the summer. However, it’s always best to get this checked by a professional as sometimes low refrigerant is a sign that there is a leak in your unit.
Another easy fix could be replacing your air filters. Clogged air filters can actually make your evaporator coils freeze up by restricting air flow to them. Try replacing your filters and see if your unit is working as it should.
A more serious issue is when the drain lines that flow the condensed water away from your home get clogged over time, due to outdoor dirt and soot. When the water in the pan can’t flow out, it could potentially cause water damage to your unit.
ABC Can Keep Your Home Cool And Comfortable
Homeowners can take steps to reduce the humidity in their home, but if those solutions aren’t working, it’s time to call in the professionals. The team at ABC Home & Commercial Services can assess, repair and replace any parts that may be keeping you from enjoying a comfortable home. We can also set up a schedule for routine maintenance to prevent your system from having any serious and costly problems. With ABC’s help, you can stay cool all year long, even in when the humidity is oppressive outside.