Be Cool: Learn How Humidity Affects Your Air Conditioner

The heat may be sweltering outside, but the summer months are cool and comfortable indoors thanks to modern air conditioners. Yet, you may have noticed that sometimes your air conditioner doesn't seem up to snuff. This often coincides with humid weather conditions or moisture in the indoor environment. How does humidity affect your air conditioner? What can you do about humidity to increase the efficiency of your unit? Keep reading to find out.

Humidy and Temperature

Dry air feels cooler than moist air, whereas excess humidity makes it feel several degrees hotter than it is. In the desert regions of the United States, for example, people say the heat is tolerable because it's a "dry heat." In the Southeast, where high temperatures are accompanied by high humidity, the heat can feel suffocating.

Humidity plays a big part in being comfortable, mostly because it affects the body's ability to use sweat as a means to cool off. In general, the body perspires, and the sweat evaporates from the skin, leaving behind a cooling sensation. When the air's moisture content is high, it makes it difficult for more water—or, in this case, perspiration—to evaporate. Without this cooling mechanism, sweat clings to the skin, making people very uncomfortable.

Humidity's Effects on Air Conditioners

In the same way that humidity affects outdoor temperatures and the body, it also has implications for indoor comfort. In short, drier indoor air will help you cool down quicker during the summer, because it helps your air conditioner perform better. In fact, many central air conditioners are equipped with dehumidifiers to counteract humidity. Window units can also remove moisture from the air, but to a much lesser extent.

A quick lesson in how air conditioners remove humidity may be helpful in understanding the principles at play. As hot, humid air passes over the evaporator coils, moisture is condensed and removed by the drain line. More moisture in the air means more condensation forms. However, as the air conditioner removes more moisture, it has fewer BTUs to allocate toward cooling the air. That's why it seems your air conditioner doesn't work well on humid days. Also, using an air conditioner that is too small for the space makes dehumidification even more difficult, making it virtually impossible to cool the room enough to be comfortable.

Signs of High Indoor Humidity

Aside from feeling hot and clammy, recognizing the warning signs of indoor humidity can help you head off an uncomfortable day early in the morning. Here are some telltale signs of excessive moisture indoors:

  • Moist, clammy skin
  • Condensation on interior windows and doors
  • Musty odor caused by dampness

Too much humidity is not only uncomfortable, but it can make it difficult to keep mold at bay. Learning how to decrease the humidity in your home will eliminate many moisture-related problems.

Counteracting Humidity's Effects

Now that you know how humidity is at play in your environment, you can take measures to reduce the air's moisture content. This will improve your air conditioner's efficiency, keeping you cool and comfortable when Mother Nature cranks up the temperature.

Here are some tips for reducing the humidity inside your home:

  • Keep the windows closed on humid days. Pull the shades or close the curtains on any windows exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Cook in the early morning or late evening hours, turning on the exhaust fan to remove humid air around the food.
  • Wash clothes and run the dryer during cooler parts of the day. Better yet, skip the dryer and opt for the clothesline instead.
  • Shower or bathe early or late at night whenever possible. If you must shower during the day, turn the bathroom exhaust fans on to remove the humidity from the room.
  • Turn the air conditioner on first thing in the morning. It's easier for your air conditioner to keep up rather than catch up.
  • Run a dehumidifier, if you have one.

By using these measures, you'll reduce interior humidity, freeing up your air conditioner's energy resources to do what you want it to—cool down your home. Contact an air conditioning contractor for additional information or help.