You were comfortably sitting in your air-conditioned home and you suddenly felt a throbbing headache, which started as mild but then it became more intense. You took an aspirin and probably thought nothing of it. But when your headaches became more frequent, especially when you were at home, you started to wonder: "Is my air conditioner giving me headaches?"
Air conditioning can cause headaches. The four most common reasons this happens is 1) Our bodies get dehydrated 2) We experience “Brain Freeze” 3) Dirt or mold triggering allergies 4) Noise.
You know for certain that you cannot go on without your trusty air conditioner to cool you off especially during the blaring summer heat. But you also cannot endure one more headache that disrupts even the simplest activities and upsets you each time it happens.
The good news is there are things you can do to help. You do not have to make the difficult decision between getting rid of your air conditioner and having headache free days. Read on to know how each of the problems mentioned above has solutions.
We feel comfortable in a place with an air conditioner running because it eliminates two of our body’s worst enemies: heat and humidity. Besides making us extremely uncomfortable, the notorious tandem of too much heat and excessive moisture in the air can be the root of serious health problems.
WebMD, a reliable online source of useful health information, listed heat exhaustion, heatstroke, dehydration, and heat rash as some of the adverse consequences of prolonged exposure to hot weather.
Meanwhile, a high level of humidity is the culprit of the growing number of allergy-triggers in most homes like mold, mildew, and dust mites. If left unchecked, these organisms can set off an allergy attack or asthma to children, as the Healthline organization warns.
It is not surprising then that 90% of American residences have air conditioning systems. More and more people in developing countries such as India, China, and Indonesia are following suit to install air conditioning in their homes, according to The New York Times.
On the other hand, there is a fine line between feeling cool, comfortable, and dry from potentially being dehydrated due to extreme cold. Yes, dehydration can go both ways: too much perspiration due to heat or low humidity if AC is left on for too long.
Our nasal pathways and also our skin require some level of moisture to stay healthy. If you are left sitting in a room where the air conditioner is running nonstop, it can lower the humidity in the air and interfere with the inner functions of the nose. If that happens, headaches, colds, and other sinus issues are inevitable.
Medical experts also suggest being in a cold environment also tricks our mind that we do not need water to rehydrate our body. People usually associate being thirsty to being hot, and since you are not feeling hot at the moment while air conditioning is chilling the room, you could be parched and in desperate need of some water. Your only trigger that you are very thirsty will be a hammering head pain.
The International Journal of Research in Engineering, Science, and Management published a study that focuses on the effects of air conditioner use on health, sleep, and environment among dental students. Although the research recognizes the improved productivity of students with air conditioning, they also noted that “the intensive use of air conditioning causes the increased inhalation of cold dry air which has side effects on human health.”
A significant number of the respondents, 53.5%, confirmed that their air-conditioned classrooms and accommodations caused them headaches and dehydration, along with breathing problems. An even higher percentage, 57.5%, believes that the air conditioner should not be left on for the whole night while you are sleeping.
The Solution: To avoid dehydration, especially while sleeping with the air conditioner on, it is best to drink water regularly throughout the day and before going to bed. Additional benefits are it can help you get rid of harmful toxins in your body and improve your mood, Healthline says.
Another great way to prevent dehydration from your air conditioner is steam inhalation or steam therapy. Simply put, it is the inhalation of water vapor. The purpose of this therapy is to “loosen the mucus in the nasal passages, throat, and lungs.” Science experts admitted that steam inhalation on its own cannot cure a cold or flu, but it can alleviate the agonizing symptoms such as dry nasal passages, breathing problems, and of course, headaches.
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If you hear the words “brain freeze”, you might remember the shockingly painful sensation you got when you ate ice cream or slurped a very cold beverage too quickly. What you don’t know is you can also catch this blow to your temple even without eating or drinking anything.
The cold air exhaled by your air conditioner may also cause a slight brain freeze, or some call it the “ice cream headache”. But, doctors such as Dr. Mark Brown from Austin, Texas, refer to it as the "cold stimulus headache.”
In an interview with Dr. Brown by CNN Health, he revealed that brain freeze happens when the trigeminal nerve is stimulated by cold temperature. This nerve is responsible for sending “sensation information for most of the face, head, mouth, throat, and neck.” It will then trigger the blood vessels to constrict and be interpreted as a headache or a migraine.
The Solution: Although the longest possible duration of a brain freeze is from 20 to 30 seconds up to the maximum of 5 minutes, it can still catch you off guard and rob you of well-deserved rest. The easiest way to deal with it is to raise the temperature to 75-78 degrees. Your AC will still prevent you from sweating yet it would keep the cold stimulus headache at bay. In cases where you have no control over the thermostat, covering your head, neck, and ears with hat, scarf, or earmuffs may alleviate the head pain.
Headaches can also be brought about by allergy attacks. Healthline reveals that three common allergies can lead to headaches: 1) Allergic rhinitis, or commonly known as hay fever; 2) Food allergies, especially those with pungent smells such as aged cheese, artificial sweeteners, and chocolate; and 3) Histamine-induced allergies, the chemicals your immune system naturally makes to get rid of allergens.
A fully functioning air conditioner should at least minimize the chance of you being bothered by 1 and 3. After all, an air conditioner filters the air removing pollen, animal dander, dust, and mold from your indoor air.
The disaster starts when the very machine that you trust to keep you away from allergies, accumulates mold and dust within its inner workings. Because of poor maintenance, your air conditioner will not be able to do its job properly of cooling the room and removing the humidity to healthy levels. Do you know what comes with uncontrolled high humidity? Mold growth! And the vicious cycle of allergy attacks continues.
The air conditioner’s filter could also have been neglected and amassed a buildup of harmful organisms. This could lead to further nasties growing on the filter and getting drawn back into the indoor air.
The Solution: To keep allergies and their miserable side-effect headaches from happening, you need to address the origin of the issue. Have you air conditioning system cleaned by a professional technician. In most cases, cleanup of the system and replacement of the filters will do the trick in making your home allergy-free again.
An air conditioning system can produce many different sounds. It ranges from a persistent low humming to full-on thumping or banging. While some people tune it out, others cannot tolerate the noise as it triggers a painful headache.
Verywell Health, another reputable online resource for up-to-date medical topics, discussed the results of the study where an outstanding upturn of 79% of participants in an experiment exposed to 50dB of white noise developed a headache. Additionally, 82% of them stated that the headache due to the noise they felt was similar to migraines or tension-type headaches.
Imagine being exposed to an AC which could be as loud as 70dB to 80db! There is no surprise then that a noisy air conditioner is a typical nuisance to homeowners and their neighbors as well.
The Solution: Again, properly maintaining your air conditioner can be the fix. Get a professional HVAC technician to help you. A noisy air conditioner could just need a few tweaks of loose nuts and bolts. Or they can help you install sound abatement materials or find a more suitable place for your outdoor unit to reduce noise. If it’s a matter of age of the system it could be more cost-efficient to have it replaced. A good and honest contractor can make that call, so be mindful of which contractor you count on.
In an effort to reduce energy consumption or save money some folks wonder "Can I use a dehumidifier instead of an air conditioner?"
If you are living without air conditioning and the humidity is making you feel uncomfortable or your current air conditioner is not reducing humidity levels enough, it is a valid question. Before you toss out your air conditioner and go all-in with just a dehumidifier, we want to let you in on some essential information first.
The right kind of dehumidifier can effectively work WITH an air conditioner to make your home more comfortable but in most circumstances, it cannot replace an air conditioner. A dehumidifier and an air conditioner both remove humidity from the home, but they differ in how they do the job.
A dehumidifier draws in the damp air and removes the moisture by moving the air through tubes and fins that are kept colder than the dew point of the incoming air. The dew point is the temperature at which moisture in the air will condense from a vapor back to a liquid.
After the moisture is removed the air is then reheated before being sent back into the home. This mean the air returned to the home will be warmer and drier than it was when it was removed.
An air conditioner also draws in the warm humid air from your home, but it removes both the heat and moisture. By moving the air across coils containing refrigerant it cools the air so that the moisture is condensed and drained away and the heat that is absorbed is released through the air conditioner’s outdoor unit. So, the air returned will be cooler and drier than it was when it was when it was removed.
Before you decide which system would work best for your situation let us first discuss what exactly humidity is, how it impacts the comfort level in your home, and how it affects your health.
Then, we will dig into the merits and limitations of using a whole-home dehumidifier versus an air conditioner. In what circumstances you can use a dehumidifier by itself, when you would not need one, and why you might consider both a dehumidifier and air conditioner.
Have you noticed any small black spots or water stains on your walls and ceilings? Or maybe you have observed condensation on your windows. There could even be an unpleasant musty smell from bathrooms, the basement, or kitchen. If you experience one or more of these signs, you may have a high level of humidity inside your house.
While enduring high heat can make you uncomfortable, it is high heat combined with elevated levels of humidity that can feel truly unbearable. Why so? The Scientific American publication explains that our body has its own process of releasing heat by evaporating moisture through our skin. If there is already too much moisture in the air, like in places with high humidity, sweat will evaporate much slower, if at all. This will leave you feeling sweaty, sticky, and too hot.
More than just feeling unpleasant, high humidity can actually cause serious health problems. A high level of moisture in a living space is a potential breeding ground for molds, mildews, dust mites, and other allergy triggers. Fungus and bacteria live and thrive in damp places. When inhaled, mold and mildew can cause a person with an allergy to suffer from coughing, itchy eyes, and restricted breathing.
Another problem with excessive levels of humidity and mold growth in your home is that food items such as bread and cereals can quickly go bad and become inedible. As mentioned at the outset you may also see evidence in your home furnishings. If left unresolved it can do permanent damage.
In a showdown between a whole-house dehumidifier and an air conditioner there is no clear winner because it depends on the unique needs of your house, climate, and personal preference.
Science experts from the Asthma and Allergy Foundations of America (AAFA) state that keeping the level of humidity to 50% or less will reduce the potential health risks. During hot weather that 50% humidity level is also the most comfortable. A whole-home dehumidifier can effectively help you reach that desired level of moisture.
However, after removing the moisture from the air by condensing it, the dehumidifier will REHEAT the dry air before it releases it back to your house. Now, why would it do that? It is, in fact, another way to deal with any extra moisture left in the air. That is how a dehumidifier is able to reach the precise humidity level set by you.
Using only a whole-home dehumidifier will do the simple task of lowering the humidity which can make you feel comfortable if you live in areas with cooler temperatures. For example, if you reside in a heavily wooded area, dampness could be a constant concern, but the climate is not very warm.
If that describes the climate you live in, then a whole-house dehumidifier alone could be the right choice for you. A dehumidifier costs less to purchase and operate than an air conditioner. Additionally, there is no outdoor equipment you will need to find space for in your yard.
However, if you live in a place where summer heat can get very intense, yet you also want to solve a humidity problem, a dehumidifier will not be enough. The warm air that it constantly releases, although dry, will do little to alleviate your discomfort from hot weather.
The benefit of an air conditioner is that you can get the best of both worlds. An A/C also draws in warm air, removes the heat and moisture, and releases conditioned air back to the home. The biggest difference is an air conditioner is designed to control the temperature in your house but also removes humidity as a by-product of that process.
So, the A/C performs two key functions: lowers the temperature in your home environment and removes the humidity. This means, some of the benefits you hope to get from a whole-house dehumidifier—a comfortable feeling, inhospitable environment for the growth of mold and allergens, getting rid of those damp and musty smells—you also get with the air conditioner, minus the resulting heat most people are desperate to get rid of.
Plus, air conditioning systems can have high efficiency air filters that serve as additional protection from airborne allergens and dust in your living space. While whole-home dehumidifiers have filters, they are for the protection of the equipment.
If you live in an area with hot and humid summers, then a properly sized air conditioner is the best way to get relief from the heat and humidity. In most circumstances you should not need a whole home dehumidifier.
There is no “I” in team but there is in whole-house dehumidifier AND air conditioning because sometimes they really are better together! In some cases, if you still feel sticky and clammy despite having a well-running air conditioner you may benefit from adding a whole-home dehumidifier. This may be because the air conditioner is oversized for your house. It cools it down to temperature before it can properly dehumidify.
The humidity levels inside your home are also influenced by the location of your residence, how well it is shaded, and ventilated. If you feel those factors are keeping the humidity levels in your home at an uncomfortable level, then a whole-home dehumidifier in addition to your air conditioner is worth considering.
As mentioned previously, faster dehumidification can also result in better indoor air quality. Additionally, a whole-house dehumidifier will quickly and permanently resolve the stale smell and molds in your cold damp basement, kitchen, or bathrooms.
In cooler months like early autumn or in damp weather conditions such as after a downpour of rain, the general temperature is low yet moist. In this case, a dehumidifier can come to your rescue while giving your air conditioner time to rest.
Of course, if you are using both a whole home dehumidifier and an air conditioner you will see a rise in your monthly energy costs. A dehumidifier does use less energy to run than an A/C so with the right balance, it is possible to still be cost-effective while enjoying a more comfortable home.
Using a dehumidifier by itself works best in cooler climates, or if you live in a mostly shaded area yet the humidity level is high. The best solution for the common household is to rely on an air conditioner for both cooling and dehumidifying. A whole home dehumidifier in combination with an air conditioner is only recommended when you find your air conditioner is not reducing humidity levels enough for your needs due to climate, an oversized air conditioner, or health concerns.
Lightning strikes are common during a thunderstorm and can cause severe damage to your air conditioner and other electrically powered systems inside your home. Since lightning DOES strike the same place twice, it is best to rethink how your family and your air conditioner can be protected from this natural but dangerous phenomenon.
While it is unusual for lightning strikes to hit an air conditioner, the more critical threat is the power surge that frequently follows it. A power surge is a sudden increase in energy in your home’s electrical current. Another common problem is brownouts (low voltage) that can occur during and after a thunderstorm.
A power surge brought about by lightning striking a power line near your house can boost electrical force by millions of volts. The damage to appliances such as your air conditioner can be instantaneous. It can fry the circuits or melt the plastic and metal parts of the machine.
Even mild power surges can gradually damage electronic devices in your home when they occur briefly but frequently.
We all want our air conditioners to last as long as possible so here are two ways to protect it and other electronically powered systems in your home from lightning strikes, power surges, and brownouts:
Are lightning strikes a serious problem?The National Severe Storms Laboratory reported that lightning strikes the ground an estimated 25 million times each year in the United States. As much as we want to protect ourselves and our family from these frightening occurrences, we also want to protect our belongings that make our home safe and comfortable.
First, we would like to know more about lightning and how this tremendous work of nature could impact homeowners.
Lightning is defined by the National Geographic as “an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground, or within the clouds themselves.”
Clouds have positive and negative charges within themselves that pull toward each other like a magnet. In normal conditions, these two charges balance each other out. However, when there is a storm, the turbulence in the wind moves the elements of rain, ice, or snow to clash with each other inside the storm clouds.
This commotion inside the cloud separates particles with different charges from each other: positively charged particles are pulled in the upper portion of the cloud and the negatively charged ones are pushed to the lower reaches of the cloud.
Most lightning happens inside the clouds so how and why does it strike the ground?
The Earth and almost everything in the ground become positively charged. Since the negatively charged particles are attracted to positive ones, they race their way down in a step-like fashion. It is called by scientists as a “stepped leader”. Its rapid movement is measured at about 300,000 kilometers per hour (kph).
The stepped leader from above is eagerly met by what experts call an “upward leader” or a “streamer”, positive charges coming from the ground and through tall objects such as towers, buildings, and trees. When they finally meet, a very bright flash of electrical current flows that shoots upward into the clouds at 300,000,000 kph. This astonishing transfer of electricity is what we typically refer to as a lightning strike.
The heat from a single lightning strike is very intense. The National Geographic explains that a flash is capable of heating the air temperature around it to “five times hotter than the sun’s surface.” Due to the extreme heat, the air quickly swells and trembles which results in thunders.
Although an air conditioner is rarely directly hit by a scorching lightning strike, we should not discount the possibility of it ever happening.
What you should be more worried about is the power surge produced by a lightning strike to nearby power lines. If your air conditioner is running when it happens, a power surge can send an enormous amount of electrical current through it and ruin it instantly.
The costs to repair your air conditioner after a lightning strike can be significant. Some repairs needed will become apparent immediately. On the other hand, the effects of power surges on your air conditioner unit could show up much later. After some time your air conditioner could even suddenly quit due to the damage it has sustained. Here are some common problems and their costs:
The compressor is a crucial component of your air conditioner. It is responsible for compressing the refrigerant that removes the heat from the warm air inside your living space. Replacing it can range from $800 to $2,800.
The capacitor’s role is to conduct energy to the engine that powers your air conditioner. It is the most susceptible part of the air conditioner when power surges occur. If damaged, it can cost you somewhere between $100 to $400.
The job of an air conditioner fuse is to prevent electrical overload. If lightning strikes a power source where your A/C is connected, the fuses could be blown because of the huge amount of electricity it suddenly has to control. It will cost you around $15 to $300 to replace A/C fuses. Although not as pricey as other components, it is still an inconvenience to replace.
Like a blown fuse, wiring in an air conditioner can be overwhelmed by an abrupt upsurge of power due to a lightning strike. This may lead to the burning of electrical wires. The cost of replacing the wires depends on the extent of the damage. Depending on the damage it may cost somewhere between $100 to $400.
Prevention has been and will always be better than cure. Although lightning strikes are terrifying and can cause long-term damages, you can save your air conditioner and other electrical devices with these simple steps:
It could be tempting to crank up your air conditioner before a thunderstorm begins because of the muggy and sticky feeling an impending storm brings. However, turning the air conditioner off is the easiest way to reduce the potential for damages from lightning strikes.
While this solution is the easiest and free it’s also the most likely not to work. You can’t always predict when a power surge or brownout will occur. It’s also why I don’t recommend relying on this solution.
This is called point-of-use protection. From the name itself, surge protector shields your air conditioner from voltage spikes. The ideal choice is one that protects from both high and low voltage to the air conditioner. The best ones I’ve found and have used for years is the Intermatic CD1-024R Compressor Defender and the Intermatic AG3000 for the air handler or furnace.
Protects Central Air Conditioner and Heat Pump Compressors and their Circuit Boards
120/240 VAC Universal HVAC Surge Protective Device
They are easy to install for an HVAC technician, electrician or someone who has previous experience working with electric panels. If you don’t have any of those qualifications I highly recommend hiring one of those professionals to install these devices.
This surge protector can sense if there are surges, spikes or brownouts in the voltage it receives. The surge protector will divert the extra energy to the grounding system and away from the air conditioner.
You can identify a quality surge protector if the description provides a joules energy rating. The higher the joules rating is, the better performing your surge protector will be. Additionally, a reliable surge protector should come with a warranty. Intermatic devices, for example, are protected by a $7,500 connected equipment guarantee. The peace of mind it provides is priceless.
Small add-ons like these keep your air conditioner around as long as possible and money in your wallet. Read this information on covering your air conditioner in the winter for another recommended accessory.