Effects of humidity on HVAC performance

Have you ever considered what role moisture in the air plays in heating and cooling your house? How about the effects of wet and sticky weather and your HVAC working efficiently? 

Maybe you have thought about it, done some research and now you’re worried humidity might be an issue for your air conditioning system, especially as we are on the verge of entering those hot Georgia months. As the season begins to change into the summer, the heat and humidity in the outside air rises and homeowners will start to switch from using their furnaces to heat their homes, to using central air conditioning to keep their homes comfortable.

But what are the effects of humidity on my HVAC?

Humidity directly affects our comfort. Most of us feel more comfortable on a dry summer day than a muggy one, even if the temperature is actually lower on the muggy day. So it makes sense that humidity in your house would play a role in the performance of your HVAC system. In fact, moisture in the air in your space has such a powerful influence on your heating and cooling system, you might think you need HVAC repair, when really it’s just humidity issues.

But how does humidity work for or against your HVAC exactly? The effect of humidity levels on your HVAC doesn’t need to be a mystery. Once you learn a little about humidity in your space, it’s easy to make adjustments, be more comfortable and even lower your monthly utility bills.

How to determine whether or not you have humidity issues

It all starts with you. Do you feel comfortable in your home, or do you notice that things are starting to feel heavy? You keep adjusting the thermostat, but the house just does not feel cool. Do you need air conditioning repair for your home, or is this a humidity problem?

Air conditioning works by cooling and removing moisture from the air. If there is too much moisture in the air, then it is difficult for your HVAC system to keep up.

Signs you could have water vapor or humidity issues:

  • condensation on the windows or mirrors
  • Mold/mildew in bathrooms/kitchens/laundry rooms
  • wet/musty smell
  • Wet spots on ceilings or walls

When your HVAC can’t get rid of the excess moisture in the air, it can’t effectively cool the house. Even though the AC unit is failing to get your humidity to a comfortable level, the issue may not require a full HVAC repair.

One thing you can try first for any moisture or humidity problems inside your home is purchasing a hygrometer for humidity monitoring. With the monitor, you can track humidity levels in specific areas and spaces and start to understand the severity of the humidity and moisture issues before you make any big decisions regarding your HVAC system. Once you’ve pinpointed the issue, there are a few different plans of action to fix it.

Does the size of my HVAC affect humidity levels?

If you have a large home or area to cool, you might be tempted to bite the bullet and install the biggest, baddest HVAC system for maximum efficiency. However, an HVAC thats efficient at cooling, but an oversize for your home can lead to humidity issues.

Okay, here’s why.

The HVAC unit is able to cool your space to the set temperature so efficiently that it runs much less frequently throughout the day. When it’s humid outside, or you’re doing moisture-producing activities inside, the humidity level rises despite the temperature remaining constant.

It’s essential that your HVAC is designed to service the size of your space to work most effectively and you should always have an accurate measurement before installing a new HVAC system. Homes and businesses with moisture issues can often benefit from having their space measured by professionals.

Utilizing a dehumidifier and your air condition simultaneously

Okay, we mentioned previously that your air conditioning works both by cooling and removing moisture from the air. When the humidity in your house is at an average level, the cooling plus the dehumidifying function of the HVAC works great, but when your house is too humid, the air conditioning will work until the temperature setting is reached and then stop, even when humidity levels are still at an uncomfortable level. 

  1. Deal with it. Even though the space is uncomfortable, decide that you’ll just adapt. The issue here is that moisture problems can either indicate or cause serious problems that shouldn’t be ignored. An unsafe and expensive mold problem would be first up on the list of “happened because of the humidity.”
  1. Counterbalance the humidity issue. Turn the thermostat to a lower setting to help your house feel more comfortable and dry. This can get expensive, cause excess wear on your HVAC and is ultimately just a bandaid on the problem.
  1. Call or consult with a professional on the best dehumidifier for the space in your house or business.

Adding a dehumidifier to work alongside your HVAC will help with any moisture issues you are experiencing. Utilizing a dehumidifier alongside your air conditioning will help the HVAC work more efficiently. 

If you have a damp basement, or work that creates a lot of water vapor, a dehumidifier for a single room could be enough to solve your moisture problems. Having an experienced Connell’s Heating and Air contractor to survey your space will help you identify the problem and start to address it correctly from the start.

What should my humidity level be?

To accurately measure your humidity, you’ll need a hygrometer, a thermometer that also provides a humidity reading, or a smart thermostat that provides a humidity reading. Some of these gadgets will indicate if your humidity is at a good or comfortable level automatically for you, but it’s still good to know about where you should be. 

In general, you want to be below 60% humidity in the summer time to keep your space comfortable and avoid overuse of your AC unit. In winter, the average outdoor temperature really affects the humidity you want for your space, but you’ll usually want to be in the range of about 30-40% throughout most of the chilly season. 

Here is a detailed description regarding preferred humidity levels. 

  • Outdoor temperature above 50˚ F – Humidity below 60-50%
  • Outdoor temperature between 20 and 50˚ F – Humidity below 40%
  • Outdoor temperature between 10 and 20˚ F – Humidity below 35%
  • Outdoor temperature between 0 and 10˚ F – Humidity below 30%
  • Outdoor temperature between -10 and 0˚ F – Humidity below 25%

If your indoor humidity level varies significantly from these guidelines, your HVAC system performance could be negatively affected.

Has humidity already affected the performance of your HVAC?

Not only does the humidity level affect comfort and your HVAC’s efficiency, it can also directly affect the mechanical elements of the HVAC system. Excessive wear or a buildup of debris from moisture issues are the two major concerns for potential damage to your HVAC system. These can all stem from moisture and humidity problems.

What can you do to detect and correct these issues if it’s happening to you?

  • Check on scheduling an HVAC tune-up to ensure maximum efficiency fot your HVAC system.
  • Duct Cleaning: your air filter does a lot to keep debris and allergens from getting into the air in your home, but dirty ducts can affect that directly.
  • Equipment Cleaning: your outdoor equipment can get gooey and gunky, even if the humidity inside is perfect. Getting a professional clean will keep your system running more like new for years to come.

Take control of the humidity in your home!

Now that you know how moisture affects your HVAC system, you are better prepared to get back in control of the humidity in your house. Keeping the humidity at a safe level has many benefits including greater comfort indoors, more efficient HVAC performance, lower utility bills, less mold and mildew growth and a longer HVAC lifespan!

Take action against the humidity levels in your home before it affects the functionality and efficiency of your air conditioning in the hot summer months.