Humidity, Heating, And Cooling: What You Need To Know

Make sure to get annual maintenance on your HVAC systems to uphold your warranties.

Humidity, Heating, And Cooling: What You Need To Know

Humidity, Heating, And Cooling: What You Need To Know

23 October 2015
, Articles

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

About Me
It's More Important Than You Think

I used to routinely get calls from HVAC contractors in my area offering annual maintenance contracts. As soon they would identify themselves, I would quickly say no thank you and hang up. After all, my heating and cooling system was working fine. Why would I spend money on services I clearly didn't need? Boy was I wrong! A few years ago, my AC unit suddenly stopped working. I called my HVAC contractor to have it repaired and assumed that my warranty would pick up the bill. That was until I learned my warranty was voided due to a lack of maintenance. Out of nowhere, my decision to ignore those maintenance calls was about to cost me more than a $1,000. I know there are others out there like me. It is my hope that this site will provide them with the knowledge they need to avoid the mistakes I made.