Those hot and humid days around central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland make all of us thankful for air conditioning. However, it’s the hottest and most humid days that seem to bring on the problems. How exactly does humidity affect how your air conditioner runs, and what can you do about it?
The Basics of Humidity
To understand how humidity affects your air conditioner, you need to first understand what it is. Simply, humidity is the measure of how much moisture is in the air. However, it is measured in two different ways.
The actual humidity is known as absolute humidity and is measured in grams of water per cubic meter of air. This tells you the volume of water the air actually contains. As the heat goes up, the air will hold more water.
What is more commonly reported is relative humidity. This is the percentage of water in the air compared to what it can hold at a certain temperature.
How It Affects AC Effectiveness
Your air conditioner actually does two jobs to make your home more comfortable. The obvious job is circulating cool air throughout your home. However, as it removes the heat from the air, it also removes some humidity.
The evaporator coil, which is the inside part of your air conditioner, circulates extremely cold refrigerant. As the temperature drops, humidity condenses from the air because it can no longer hold the same amount of moisture. This excess moisture drips out of the air and drains from the drip pan under the evaporator coil.
Your air conditioner has a specific cooling capacity. This is regulated by how much air it circulates and how cold the evaporator coils get.
As the temperature and humidity go up, your unit must work harder to provide the same level of comfort. As both the heat and humidity rise, your system will struggle to dehumidify as effectively as at lower temperatures. This means that while your temperature may be right, your home may feel muggier.
Additional Effects on Air Quality
Humidity also directly affects your air quality, which then affects your air conditioner. The EPA suggests the ideal indoor relative humidity is 30% to 50%.
When your humidity is higher than the recommended 50%, you create an environment that encourages biological and spore growth. These then release into the air, leading to more allergies and more HVAC contaminants.
Having too little humidity in the air causes just as many problems. Without the right amount of moisture, the particles in the air dry out. This causes those particles to be lighter and stay airborne longer.
Further, when the air is drier, you will experience drier skin, and things around your home dry out and crack. Both of these lead to additional dust forming and circulating around your home.
The increase in particles in your air decreases the service life of your air filter. It also causes airflow restrictions at your heat exchanger, evaporator coil and circulating fan. Altogether this leads to additional operational strain, leading to more repairs and a shortened service life.
How to Manage Humidity
As previously mentioned, your air conditioner will naturally dehumidify your air as it runs. However, during the more humid summer months, this may not be enough to bring your humidity to the ideal level.
To help support further dehumidification, you may want to consider an additional dehumidifying unit. You have the option of portable units you can set up around your home, or you have the option of adding one to your HVAC system.
In the winter, your furnace will already dry air to lose even more moisture. This means that running a humidifier will help keep your family healthier and your home in good condition. Like dehumidifiers, you can choose between a portable or system-wide unit.
The benefit of a system-wide humidifier or dehumidifier is the control it gives you. The portable units have much less capacity, only affecting the immediate area. On the other hand, the in-line units work to condition all the air moving through your HVAC system.
Don’t forget about routine maintenance to keep your air conditioner working effectively and providing the most dehumidification possible. During these visits, a technician will clean your heat exchanger, evaporator and circulating fan, allowing it to work efficiently.
People in Harrisburg and Maryland have turned to HB Home Service Team for AC maintenance and repair for over 100 years. Customers have also turned to us for heating and plumbing installation, maintenance and repair services. Call to schedule your AC maintenance with one of our experts today.