Your air conditioner works hard all summer to keep your home cool, but it can also dry out the air. Adding a humidifier to the mix can counteract that dryness when necessary. Knowing when and how to use a humidifier with your air conditioner helps both work efficiently.
You can use a humidifier and air conditioner together, but you usually don't need to. If you live in a dry area or your air conditioner removes too much moisture from the air, a humidifier can add it back to improve comfort.
How Air Conditioning Works
You know that air conditioning cools your home, but the system also pulls moisture out of the air as it cools. The warm air from your home gets drawn into the HVAC unit and goes over the evaporator coils where the refrigerant soaks up the heat and moisture in the air. The cooler, drier air comes back into your home through the vents.
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If you live in a humid climate, this moisture removal is beneficial. When the humidity is too high, it can make you feel warmer because sweat can't evaporate off of your body. Excess moisture also makes your home feel clammy and uncomfortable.
But if you live in a dry area, such as a desert, pulling moisture out of the air can make your home too dry. This can also leave you feeling uncomfortable and can affect various materials inside your home. Having an ideal humidity level can take some coordination of different tools.
How Humidifiers Work
Humidifiers increase the humidity in your home's air while also slightly improving indoor air quality. There are different types of humidifiers, but they all have a water reservoir from which the unit draws moisture to increase the humidity in the air. Common types of humidifiers include evaporative, steam, impeller, and ultrasonic. You can choose between whole-house and portable humidifiers to add moisture to the air. Whole-house units attach to your HVAC system to spread moisture through the ductwork, while portable humidifiers work in a single room.
Ideal Home Humidity
When deciding whether or not to use a humidifier and the air conditioning together, it's important to understand ideal home humidity. The general recommendation is to keep your home's humidity between 35 and 55 percent. You can use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels in your home.
You can also use how you feel as a guide. If your air conditioner is drying out your home too much, you'll likely notice that your skin feels dry and itchy. You might also experience eye or sinus irritation, chapped lips, headaches and nose bleeds due to the dry air. Consistent low humidity can also dry out wood and other materials in your home, causing them to crack or shrink.
Using Humidifiers and A/C Together
You can use a humidifier and air conditioner together if you need them both. However, in most areas, you probably won't need a humidifier in the summer. It's more common to run it in the winter when the air is naturally much drier. The most important thing to remember is to only use a humidifier with the air conditioner when it's necessary. That means you should only run the humidifier if your home's humidity is low.
Don't run the humidifier nonstop as it can create a burden on the air conditioner. The two units end up competing with one another. The humidifier is adding moisture to the air while the air conditioner is trying to remove that moisture. If the humidifier adds too much moisture to the air, it can force the air conditioner to work harder to remove the humidity.