If you feel like your home is not comfortable despite room-temperature readings from your thermostat, you might be wondering if your AC, furnace or thermostat is in need of repairs. However, the problem may not be with your HVAC system at all-- the problem could stem from having too high or too low moisture levels in the air. Taking the time to make sure that the humidity levels in your home are ideal for the time of year could make all the difference.
The Connection Between AC And Humidity Levels
Your air conditioner works to cool the air in home, but it also works to remove humidity to make the air in the house easier to cool. Air conditioners use condensers to remove moisture from warm air, which is why you can often see condensation on the metal coils of your unit. Sometimes, the dehumidifying portion of the air conditioner is not large enough for the house or powerful enough for the environment, which can make the house seem warmer than it actually is. You will need to check with an air conditioning service to make sure that your unit is sized right for your home. In very humid environments, an additional dehumidifier may be needed to optimize the performance of your cooling system.
The less effective your AC system is at removing moisture, the less comfortable your home will feel, even if the thermostat reads that the indoor temperature is quite cool. Water has a high heat capacity, so when the air is humid, the air is more able to "trap" heat. It becomes more difficult to cool the air, and your AC unit will have to work harder to achieve a comfortable indoor temperature. Furthermore, a wet 71 degrees feels warmer than a dry 71 degrees, simply because the water in the air is able to trap heat from bodies and appliances before it is cooled.
How Humidity Affects Heating
Unlike cooling, heating depends a great deal on higher moisture levels in order to be effective. The problem is, cooler air is less able to sustain higher moisture levels, even in humid climates, so dry winter air is much more common and, therefore, must be rectified in order to achieve a healthy and warm indoor temperature. Running a warm furnace can also further dry out the air. The drier the air becomes, the colder it will feel, regardless of the reading on your thermostat.
In order to make the most of your heating, it's best to have an indoor humidity level of around 40-60%. This level of humidity will help to maintain a balmy, instead of chilly, indoor temperature. Keeping humidity levels higher in winter can help to prevent skyrocketing heating bills when the weather gets chilly, and it will also help some of the physical symptoms that come with dry winter air. Nosebleeds, rashes, chapped skin, dry coughs, eye irritation and other minor reactions can come from dealing with air that is too dry.
There is, however, a need for balance. High indoor humidity levels can lead to moisture damage in the home. Condensation on windows can cause mold growth on wooden window frames, and trapped humid hot air in attic spaces or basements can promote rot. If you are having trouble with gathering moisture while still experiencing symptoms of dry air, this could indicate that your furnace and ducts needs cleaned or updated. Talk to an HVAC specialist about the specific trouble you have balancing your home humidity level with the dryness of your outdoor environment. They will be able to test what size of unit and what levels of humidity would be best for your needs.
For more information, contact a local heating and air conditioning service.