The two things that Phoenix residents keep close at hand year-round are bottled water and hand lotion. This climate is one of the driest in the country and in the summer, air conditioner use makes humidity fall even lower. Although dry air feels cooler, anytime the indoor humidity drops below 30 percent, people and structures suffer.
As the temperature climbs, the humidity drops in the deserts, causing static electricity and dry skin. Static electricity isn’t harmless. It can burn out low voltage components in appliances and electronics and cause annoying sparks whenever you or your pet touches something. Anything made from wood starts to dry out and eventually crack.
Overly dry skin causes chapping, itching and skin cracks. Sinus problems and sore throats aren’t uncommon when nearly constant air conditioner use makes humidity levels fall.
Problems associated with frequent air conditioner use and low humidity aren’t limited to summertime. During the fall and winter cold and flu season, medical researchers have discovered that overly dry air enhances the ability of viruses and bacteria to infect your body.
How HVAC Systems Dry the Air
Air conditioners remove humidity, also called water vapor, from the air as a natural byproduct of cooling. When the air hits the cold evaporator coil inside the air handler, the air conditioner makes the humidity condense on the coil and drain into the pipe that exits outdoors. There is nothing you can do to prevent this condensation except to turn the A/C off or turn the temperature up.
Forced-air heating systems dry the air in the winter by heating it. Warmer air holds more humidity and unless you add it to your home by bathing and cooking, the level will continue to drop as long as your furnace runs.
Increasing Seasonal Furnace and Air Conditioner Humidity Levels
Forgo using the kitchen and bathroom fans whenever you can. This is an effective strategy if you live in a small home and cook on a routine basis. However, it may not work well in larger homes or those with small household sizes.
Add a humidifier. You can use portable humidifiers throughout your home to increase the humidity. Choose cool-mist humidifiers if you plan to use them with the air conditioner to make humidity levels higher in summer. While portable humidifiers will increase indoor humidity, they’re a high maintenance appliance:
- They need weekly cleaning.
- You have to add water frequently.
- They use electricity and cords may be a tripping hazard.
- They’re noisy.
A whole-house humidifier solves all the problems associated with portable units. It attaches to your air handler for the HVAC system and blows moistened air through the ductwork to each room. The amount in the air is controlled by a humidistat, similar to a thermostat, and you can set the air conditioner humidity level most comfortable for your summer, as well as the heating humidity level in the winter.
A typical whole-house humidifier works like an evaporative cooler. It has an absorbent pad over which water trickles and when the air from the blower fan goes through it, some of the water evaporates. A whole-house system fills automatically from a water line that connects to your home’s plumbing. The unit uses little electricity and there are no dangling cords. The unit needs cleaning once or twice a year.
If you’ve noticed that the air in your home is uncomfortably dry, call Forrest Anderson to discuss system humidifiers or other AC air quality concerns.