AC Service: Tips for Removing More Humidity from Your Home
Why is removing more humidity from homes such a challenge even with the AC blasting? In suburban Houston and Sugar Land, Texas, we are blessed with a tropical climate. It’s warm much of the year, and our proximity to the coast, even miles inland, means the air is naturally more humid for much of the year.
In addition to many sunny and warm days, Houston and its suburbs average 52 inches of rain a year. We also watch the weather closely June through November during Hurricane season, which can drop a lot of rain in a short time.
When you combine warm temperatures and humidity, it can be a recipe for feeling muggy and uncomfortable outdoors. For this reason, many homeowners consider indoor air conditioning a requirement. Air conditioning removes humidity and cools the air, but sometimes you want to remove even more humidity. The following tips will help you understand the sources of humidity in your house and what you can do to help your air conditioner even more.
How humid do you need it to be indoors?
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, you should shoot for an indoor relative humidity of 60% or less and ideally between 30-50% to feel comfortable. In our area, it’s more typical to be in the 50x range of relative humidity. If the relative humidity is higher than 65%, the air feels heavy and muggy. It may feel uncomfortable because sweat is not able to efficiently evaporate from your skin, disrupting your body’s cooling system.
This is why you sometimes hear weather forecasters talk about the heat index which calculates what the outdoor temperature and humidity feel like in combination. We use the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool app when we are working because it can tell us what the weather feels like so we can adjust how we are working to stay safe. We know if the temperature is in the mid to high-90s outside that we’ll need to be careful how long we work outdoors in the sun or in spaces that are not air-conditioned such as the attic.
How humid is it in your home now?
The easiest way to tell how humid it is indoors is by using a hygrometer which can measure the amount of humidity in a specific area. It is kind of like a thermometer. You can get them as a handheld device with batteries or they can be built-in to your thermostat.
A humidistat, on the other hand, is a device that is built into an appliance such as a dehumidifier or a smart thermostat and is used to control the levels of humidity in the home. Many of the newer thermostats have this functionality built-in, so see if you have this already and maybe didn’t realize it. Ecobee, Google Nest, Honeywell, Ruud Eco Net, and Carrier Cor/Infinity are just a few brands. There are many more.
Keep in mind that the placement of your hygrometer or thermostat is important to get an accurate reading. Placement in a kitchen, bathroom or next to an aquarium is going to give you elevated readings.
What happens if it is too humid inside?
If it’s too humid inside your home, you could feel uncomfortable. That is most apparent when it is hot, but we also see it in cooler months, too. Too much humidity indoors over time can cause mold and mildew, condensation in the walls and windows, and lead to rot and structural damage.
Excess humidity can affect indoor air quality as well leading to respiratory symptoms, allergies and asthma flare-ups for some.
What causes high humidity in homes besides humidity outside?
There are many causes for higher humidity in the home and the good news is that you can take some actions to reduce humidity on your own.
If you have a lot of people in your home, such as a party or a large family, it is naturally going to be more humid indoors. It’s why we turn the AC down when we have people over.
Outside of that, probably the biggest causes of humidity in homes are the following:
- Plumbing and appliance leaks – Look at your dishwasher, refrigerator, water heater, faucets, tubs, toilets, and clothes washer for example.
- Showers and baths – Warm showers and baths add a lot of humidity to the air. Using slightly cooler water and regular use of a properly vented exhaust fan to the outdoors helps a lot.
- Clothes dryer – When was the last time you had your dryer vent properly inspected and cleaned? When a dryer vent isn’t properly ventilated, it can blow warm, humid air into the home.
- Cooking – When you’ve got pots on to boil, you’re adding to the humidity problem. When possible, use lids on pots or consider different ways to cook during the hottest parts of the year. Using a ventilation hood that is vented to the outdoors and doesn’t recirculate back into the house can help lower humidity.
Regular home maintenance can reduce humidity
If humidity is a huge problem, there are other environmental factors you can look into to reduce moisture in your home.
- Flooring – carpeting and rugs naturally absorb more moisture than other types of flooring.
- Paint – You might consider using paint instead of wallpaper or vinyl wallcoverings that can trap moisture behind the walls.
- Roofing and gutters – Have you looked at your roof to determine if there are any hidden leaks that should be repaired? If you have gutters that direct rain and moisture away from the home that they are in good working condition and not depositing extra water near the home.
- Insulation – Adequate insulation can help keep the conditioned air inside and reduce the heat or cold coming from outdoors. Over time, some types of insulation can degrade and new blown-in insulation can improve your home’s energy efficiency and control humidity levels inside.
- Attic ventilation – Attics in the summer tend to heat up which increases the amount of heat and humidity an air conditioner must handle. When that hot air accumulates, it will seep back into your home. Attic vents and fans can help.
- Windows and doors – Weatherstripping, caulking and door sweeps can be added or upgraded to keep the conditioned air you want inside.
- Indoor water features – If you have large aquariums and water fountains, these could be a hidden source of humidity.
- Plants – We are usually a big fan of greenery inside because plants can clean the air. If you have a miniature greenhouse indoors and a humidity problem, you might consider cutting back.
So, why is my house so humid? Do I need AC service?
An air conditioner or heat pump when properly sized for your home should be able to tackle humidity and cooling in your home. If that is not happening, there could be a few things going on.
- Regular maintenance – We recommend servicing your AC and heater twice a year, so your HVAC system is regularly inspected and maintained. During AC tune-ups we identify clogged filters, blow out and treat condensate drains, clean dirty coils, look for electrical problems, check safety gear and uncover airflow restrictions that can cause bigger problems later. An HVAC service contract with your favorite HVAC company can make it easy for proactive homeowners to take care of their air conditioner.
- AC Short Cycling – When an AC is short-cycling, it refers to your HVAC system turning on and then turning off, over and over. It might get cool, but the air feels sticky and uncomfortable. Check your thermostat or hygrometer to verify the humidity level to confirm, but it could be that your air conditioner is not running long enough to remove the humidity from the air. This can mean that your air conditioner is too big for your home.
- Variable Speed HVAC Systems – A variable-speed HVAC system is infinitely more efficient because it only uses as much air conditioning as is needed. It can dehumidify if that is all that is needed or use all its power to dehumidify and cool on the hottest days. They are so adaptable, which is why is harder to size them wrong for a home. They can be a good choice if humidity is an ongoing problem.
- Thermostat Settings – Believe it or not, thermostat settings can cause your air conditioner to be less efficient at removing humidity. In most cases, set your thermostat’s fan to “Auto” not “On” all the time. Especially in the hotter months, this setting will provide better dehumidification. When your fan is set to turn on automatically (i.e. “AUTO”), moisture is pulled from the air drains outside. If your fan is running continuously, it disrupts this process and that moisture can blow back into your home.
- Condensate Drain – Your air conditioner’s condensate drain can be another source of humidity and water leaks when they get clogged. If your condensate drain has a float switch or ceiling saver, it will shut off your AC and prevent leaks. Without those, your AC could keep blowing but the air isn’t cool. We are often called out to repair those but homeowners can maintain condensate drain lines
Ready to feel more comfortable indoors?
When too much humidity builds up in your home, it can be a tricky problem to solve. Contact the experts at Terry’s A/C & Heating which serves Fort Bend County, Sugar Land, Richmond, Katy, Fulshear, Rosenberg and West Houston. We can repair and service your AC system and recommend smart solutions to eliminate humidity problems for good.
Header image: Canva.com/Kaisorn