Excessive humidity is one of the greatest enemies of home comfort. Imagine going home after a tiring day at work on a hot summer afternoon. You are looking forward to putting your feet up in your cool cozy living room but instead are greeted by the sweaty, muggy atmosphere as soon as you enter the door.
So while having a lower indoor temperature is important, reducing excess moisture from the air is equally essential to have a comfortable indoor environment. Lower levels of humidity also decrease the chance of mold in your home which is notorious for triggering allergies. So should you run a dehumidifier and air conditioner at the same time?
Having both home devices work together and at the same time will provide the most favorable home environment for you and your family. The correct kind of dehumidifier has the potential to work with an air conditioner to provide more comfort for most homes, it cannot replace an air conditioner with regards to lowering the temperature.
Many turn to air conditioners for cooler air, yet many others use dehumidifiers to solve the relative humidity problem.
If you are after the optimum comfort for yourselves and your family, you might wonder now whether you can run a dehumidifier and an air conditioner simultaneously. Will it cost more to run two home devices simultaneously? Can you have just one without the other?
Before we dive into these questions, let’s look at first how an air conditioner and a dehumidifier work and see if there is any overlap with their functions nor can either home appliance interfere or contribute to the other’s job.
How Does an Air Conditioner Work?
From the term itself, an air conditioner “conditions” or processes the air to the desired temperature set through the thermostat, a small device attached to an indoor wall. Once you determine your preferred level of temperature, the thermostat will send a signal to the air conditioner to initiate its cooling process to lower the temperature.
Contrary to what many people think air conditioners do, the AC does not put cool air in the room, it removes the heat from the same air it has pulled in.
The cooling process starts with the air conditioner blower drawing in the warm air from your living spaces and circulating it through the evaporator and the ductwork. The condenser and the compressor, normally situated outside the house, pumps the splendid chemical compound called the refrigerant. This liquid-gas substance absorbs the heat from the air as it passes the evaporator.
Once the air is chilled, it is released and distributed through the ducts. This process repeats itself several times until the desired level of temperature is reached.
What happened to the heat removed from your indoor air? It is continually expelled outdoors.
The comfortably cool air indoors despite the blazing heat outside is the best part of having an air conditioner. Some modern HVAC designs also integrated heating functions into ACs so they can serve as heat pumps during the winter with minimal energy consumption than conventional heating systems.
How about a dehumidifier? How does it contribute to the general indoor air quality of your home?
How Does a Dehumidifier Reduce Excess Moisture?
The process by which a regular dehumidifier eliminates the excess humidity from your home is very similar to an air conditioner.
The dehumidifier draws in the humid air from your home, circulates it over coils with refrigerant running through them, and releases the air back into the room with lesser moisture and considerably lower temperature. Meanwhile, the water collected from the moist air is contained in a bucket underneath.
Some modern dehumidifier designs take a different approach by using a desiccant, a water-absorbent material attached to a wheel. When the warm, humid air passes through the desiccant wheel, the moisture is removed from the air and collected in a tank. The noticeably cooler air is now produced by the dehumidifier.
Wait. If a dehumidifier takes away the humidity and also cools the air, isn’t that the same as what air conditioners do but likely at a lesser cost? Not exactly.
Air Conditioners Remove Humidity from Indoor Air Through Cooling
Dehumidifiers and air conditioners may appear to operate in the same way on the surface. But a closer view of how AC lowers the temperature may convince you that it is still the boss of the home comfort.
Air conditioning systems’ main job is to lower the indoor temperature to whatever level you desire and no matter how high the actual temperature in the space is. The AC’s cooling prowess is so superior that despite the smoldering 100 degrees Fahrenheit heat outdoors, your home can still manage to feel like it’s around 75 to 80 degrees cold.
Besides the capability of lowering the temperature to at least 20 degrees, another great thing about air conditioners is how it impacts the overall humidity inside your home. A happy coincidence is as your AC lowers the indoor temperature by extracting the heat, it also reduces the moisture from the air in the process.
So while cooling is AC’s primary function, getting rid of the humidity from the air is its side job.
A Dehumidifier Increases Air Conditioner Efficiency
So if an air conditioning unit seems to have it all–cooling and managing the humidity–why would you still consider running a dehumidifier?
The simple answer to why you should run them together is that the combined dehumidification processes of the air conditioner and a dehumidifier will give you the most ideal cool and dry environment. This is especially true if you live in areas like Texas, Florida, or Louisiana where it can be extremely hot and humid.
While you can trust that the AC will do its task of chilling the air and moderately removing the humidity, a dehumidifier can add to your air conditioner efficiency as its sole focus is eliminating a significant amount of moisture from the air. It eases the pressure from the cooling unit to perform two duties at the same time.
Dehumidifiers are also extremely useful when you reside in areas where there is less need for cooling but the humidity is very high. These places include Boston, San Francisco, and Alaska where you would not dare use air conditioning but there is a great demand for reducing humidity.
Can I Run a Dehumidifier Instead of an Air Conditioner?
The crucial question still remains: Can you just use a dehumidifier and do away with your air conditioner?
Many homeowners want to learn a definite answer to this obviously to economize on their home comfort. To be fair, the upfront price of an air conditioner unit and its installation is remarkably higher than most home appliances, ranging from $3,000 to $8,000. Not to mention, the operational and potential repair costs can be quite costly, too.
Meanwhile, a dehumidifier costs strikingly less to purchase and install than an air conditioner, averaging from $800 to $2,000. It also needs a lesser amount of electricity to run.
While a dehumidifier does not necessarily remove or filter mold like air purifiers, running a dehumidifier in especially high humidity areas in the house helps prevent mold and mildew growth. Mold spores are one of the most common causes of allergies in the US.
However, keep in mind that no matter how reliable a dehumidifier is in terms of eliminating impressive amounts of humidity, it cannot compete with the cooling power of an air conditioner.
All in all, the best response to the debate, “Can I run a dehumidifier instead of an air conditioner?” It depends.
There are at least three factors to consider: where you live, what is your budget, and what are your ideal conditions for comfort.
Your place of residence will dictate whether you require air conditioning or dehumidifying. Hot and humid locations would demand the use of an air conditioner, while areas that are not necessarily hot but have extremely high humidity would benefit more from a dehumidifier.
Your budget dedicated to fighting humidity and controlling temperature in your house also play a huge role in deciding which device to keep. As mentioned, the overall cost of running an air conditioner is more expensive than having to buy and only run a dehumidifier.
Finally, your preference in terms of home comfort will influence your choice between an air conditioner or a dehumidifier. If you like your house cool and comfy, you will likely favor an air conditioner. If high levels of humidity bothers you a lot but not as much if your space is cold, then the dehumidifier is for you.
In view of the points presented above, both the air conditioner and the dehumidifier have their share in promoting comfort inside the house.
An air conditioner concentrates on lowering the temperature and lessens the humidity as a consequence. While running the dehumidifier will help the AC eradicate excessive moisture from your house.