When you picture home heating and cooling, you probably think of raising and lowering the temperature to keep your home comfortable. However, there’s more to home comfort than just the temperature – humidity plays an equally important role. Learn how humidity affects HVAC performance and home comfort in all seasons.
High Humidity in the Summer
In Florida, high humidity is commonplace. The air often feels muggy and heavy outside, and you can’t wait to rush into the nearest air-conditioned building. It’s important to understand that air conditioners don’t just remove heat from your home – they also dehumidify. This occurs naturally as a side effect of the cooling process.
The evaporator coil housed in the interior portion of your AC unit grows very cold as chilled refrigerant flows through it. As air blows over this coil, it’s stripped of heat. Moisture in the air also condenses on the evaporator coil, the same way water forms on the outside of an ice-cold glass of lemonade. This moisture drips off the coil and into a condensate pan where it drains away.
While your AC unit removes some moisture from the air, it might not be enough in Florida’s humid climate. Here are some signs that you should take measures to combat high indoor humidity:
- Cool but clammy feeling – Sweating is your body’s natural ability to cool itself. If the air is already so saturated with moisture that your sweat doesn’t evaporate quickly, you’re left with a clammy feeling, even if you set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature. You may be forced to turn the temperature down further, increasing your cooling bills as a result.
- Musty odor – High humidity promotes mold growth, especially in moisture-prone areas such as the basement and bathroom. If these areas have a lingering musty smell, you should get the humidity under control before any damage occurs.
- Foggy windows and plumbing fixtures – Air conditioners can remove humidity because moisture condenses on cold surfaces. At room temperature, glass and metal feel cool to the touch, so water condenses here first. Check your windows and plumbing fixtures for a layer of moisture. That’s a clue your humidity level is too high.
- The reading on a hygrometer is 50 percent or higher – The goal is to keep indoor relative humidity below 50 percent. When it rises above this level, people tend to feel uncomfortable. An inexpensive, handheld hygrometer lets you measure the moisture content in the air so you can find out for sure if it’s too high.
How to Control Humidity in the Summer
In some buildings, running the air conditioner is enough to lower the relative humidity to 50% or lower. If you discover this isn’t the case in your home, which is common in Florida’s subtropical climate, here are the steps you can take to control humidity:
- Install a whole-house dehumidifier – The most effective option is to integrate a dehumidifier into your HVAC system. This allows you to control the moisture content in every room with an easy-to-program humidistat. A whole-house dehumidifier works in tandem with your air conditioner, but it can also run independently to remove excess humidity on mild days. This maximizes home comfort while keeping your utility bills as low as possible.
- Place a portable dehumidifier in problem areas – If certain rooms are more prone to high humidity than others, a portable dehumidifier may solve your problem. Just remember, this small unit can only control the moisture in one area at a time. You’ll also need to empty the condensate pan manually when it gets full.
- Generate less humidity – To reduce the amount of water introduced into your home, cook with covered pots, take shorter showers, and run the kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans while cooking and showering. Also, make sure the dryer vents directly to the exterior, not the attic or basement, and reduce the number of houseplants you have.
- Seal leaky areas of your home – If hot, humid air sneaks in through gaps and cracks in your home’s outer envelope, your air conditioner and dehumidifier are forced to work harder. Seal leaky windows, doors and attic floor penetrations to keep conditioned, dehumidified air inside where it belongs.
Low Humidity in the Winter
Humidity levels drop naturally in the winter because cold air can’t hold as much moisture as hot air. Still, in Florida’s subtropical climate, the air stays warmer and more humid throughout the winter than other parts of the country. This may have you wondering whether your Tampa home needs a humidifier. Look for these signs of low humidity to help you decide:
- Dry skin, lips and nasal passages – If you find yourself reaching for lotion or lip balm in the winter when you never need these products in the summer, you’re experiencing the drying effects of low humidity. Irritated nasal passages and waking up with a bloody nose are other signs that the humidity level is low.
- Increased instances of static shock – Dry air carries an electrical charge more readily than humid air. This makes you prone to static shock when you touch a doorknob, reach for a light switch or pet the family cat.
- A feeling that it’s colder than it really is – Low humidity causes moisture to evaporate from your skin at a faster rate than usual, creating a cooling effect. If you can’t believe how cold you feel despite the thermostat reading, adding a little humidity to the air could be just what you need.
- Higher heating bills – Because low humidity makes you feel cold, and the natural response is to turn up the thermostat, you could be left with higher utility costs. Remember last winter when temperatures in Tampa, FL were much colder than usual? The relative humidity was lower than normal as well. Prevent another shock this winter by taking steps to increase indoor humidity.
- A reading of 30 percent or lower on a hygrometer – The ideal indoor humidity level in the winter is between 30 and 40 percent. Any lower than this and you’re bound to experience signs of dry indoor air.
Regulating Humidity in the Winter
If lack of moisture has caused comfort issues in the past, take control this winter with these tips to increase indoor humidity:
- Install a whole-house humidifier – As with the dehumidifier you use in the summer, a whole-house humidifier integrates with your HVAC system. This delivers moist air to every room when the furnace runs according to the setting you program into the humidistat. This way, you can carefully control the relative humidity level to reach the ideal 35 percent.
- Place a portable humidifier in your bedroom – Low humidity affects people the most while they’re sleeping. To keep your nose and throat moist, run a humidifier at night. You can do this whether you have a whole-house humidifier or not. Just remember to fill the reservoir and turn on the unit before you go to bed.
- Introduce moisture to the air – Natural evaporation increases humidity. Hanging your clothes to dry inside and leaving wet towels out are two low-tech options for doing this. However, the strength and control of natural evaporation is limited, and you must continually rewet the items you leave out, which could lead to mold growth.
Whether you’re struggling with high humidity in the summer or low humidity in the winter, the experts at Air Rescue can help. We install whole-house humidifiers and dehumidifiers to help our customers’ homes stay comfortable in every season.
To learn more about humidifiers and dehumidifiers, or to schedule installation services, please contact Air Rescue today at (813) 375-9982. We have over 70 years of experience serving residents of Tampa, Largo and the entire Bay Area.
Aside from your home’s heating and air conditioning (AC) system, two “accessories” some homeowners use are humidifiers and dehumidifiers. These optional components provide different benefits to ensure indoor air quality is maintained year round. They help enhance the efficiency of your home heating and cooling system, as well as help keep ducts cleaner so you need less frequent air duct cleaning .
The objective of both humidifiers and dehumidifiers is to regulate and control the amount of relative humidity in the air inside the home. Ideally, you want to have indoor air humidity levels between 35% and 50% relative humidity. In the wintertime, you will want the humidity levels to be closer to 50%, while in the warmer months you want to keep the percentage of humidity in the high 30s to low 40s.
Let’s take a look at what humidifiers and dehumidifiers are, the benefits they provide, and why you need one for your Tampa Bay Area home.
What Is a Humidifier?
A humidifier helps add humidity to indoor air. It is perfect for dry air conditions that can cause humidity levels to drop below 35% relative humidity. There are small units that work well in small, individual rooms. You will also find larger units that help humidify multiple rooms or bigger areas in open floor plans. In addition, there are humidifiers that can be connected directly to your home’s central heating system to humidify the entire home.
What Are the Benefits of a Humidifier?
During the colder winter months, the relative humidity in outdoor air drops significantly. This drop also occurs inside your home. As the humidity levels drop, it can cause a variety of problems, from dry skin to colds and flu. Using a humidifier offers these benefits:
- Helps keep skin soft and moist. If you notice your skin cracking, peeling, or feeling itchy in the winter, you most likely have low humidity levels.
- Helps keep indoor plants healthy. Even your houseplants can suffer from reduced humidity levels in the winter. While they do get some moisture when you water them, they also draw in water from the surrounding air. If you notice your plants do not seem happy in the wintertime, it could be caused by insufficient humidity in the air.
- Helps reduce the spread of illnesses. Bacteria and viruses are unable to spread as easily in humid air. This is why people rarely get a cold or flu in the summer.
- Helps prevent sinus infections/problems. If you have sinus problems or get regular sinus infections in the winter, increasing the amount of humidity in the air can help. As you breathe in the humidified air, it restores moisture to the nasal and sinus passages.
- Increases recovery time should you get sick. In the event you do get a cold, flu, or sinus infection, using a humidifier can help shorten the time you are sick. Symptoms like sore throat, running nose, coughing, and sneezing are also reduced with higher humidity levels.
- Makes it feel warmer inside on those cold and brisk days. Dry air will feel colder than it really is because of the lack of humidity. Humidifying the air helps add moisture and this also helps make you feel more comfortable. As such, you may not need to keep the thermostat set as high and could reduce your heating bills.
- Eliminates static electricity from the air. If you have problems with static electricity in the wintertime, this is because there is not enough humidity in the air. Using a humidifier will get rid of static electricity and those surprise shocks!
Why Do I Need a Humidifier in Tampa?
Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area tend to be warm with humid air conditions most of the year, although, from November through mid-to-late February, temperatures can become unseasonably cold without any warning.
Whenever the jet stream drops and pulls the cold northern air down from Canada, it can reach all the way to the Tampa Bay Area. If it remains around for several days, the humidity levels quickly drop.
In addition, with cooler winter temperatures and shorter days, the humidity levels will also drop on their own. This is why an 80-degree day in January feels much more comfortable than an 80-degree day in April.
This past winter, temperatures were much colder than they have been in quite some time. If you experienced a shock when you opened your January heating bill, you definitely should consider getting a humidifier before next winter—not to mention all the other benefits it can provide to improving the indoor air quality during the wintertime in your home.
What Is a Dehumidifier?
A dehumidifier helps remove humidity from indoor air. It is well-suited for humid conditions where indoor humidity levels are higher than 50% relative humidity. There are small dehumidifiers that can be used in a single room and are perfect for small rooms in the home. There are also larger capacity dehumidifiers that work well in open floor plans and larger rooms. You will even find whole-home dehumidifiers that can be connected to or built-in as part of your home’s AC system.
What Are the Benefits of a Dehumidifier?
Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air which provides many benefits for homeowners. Most modern portable units are quieter than previous generations. While some of these units do require you to empty the water pan when it is full, others can be connected directly to a discharge drain. You also do not have to worry about emptying the water pan on whole-home systems.
Some of the more common benefits gained include:
- Better indoor air quality. It is important to maintain the right humidity levels in the home year-round. During the warmer spring, summer, and fall months, humidity levels are much higher, so the air inside can also be more humid.
- Reduces and eliminates musty odors from the home. If your home smells musty, this is a sign you have high humidity indoors. Regularly using a dehumidifier can help get rid of this odor and make your home smell better.
- Helps alleviate allergies. If you suffer from allergies, higher humidity levels can sometimes trigger reactions. Lowering the amount of humidity will help those with allergies to dust, pet dander, pollen, dust mites, mold, and mildew.
- Helps reduce asthmatic symptoms in people with asthma, as well as other respiratory conditions. Increased humidity levels can irritate respiratory conditions, including asthma. Reducing humidity levels makes it easier to breathe and avoid having an attack.
- Reduces the likelihood of mold and mildew in the home. Mold and mildew thrive in moist, damp, and humid environments. This is why both are typically found primarily in bathrooms. Yet, if you have problems with mold and mildew in other rooms of the home, you will want to reduce humidity levels to resolve this issue.
- Slows the growth and spread of dust mites. Dust mites are small microscopic creatures that feed on pet dander and dead skin cells. They thrive and increase in numbers when there are higher humidity levels inside the home. Reducing the amount of humidity in the air helps reduce their numbers.
- Helps reduce condensation problems within the home. If you notice condensation on your walls, windows, or other areas inside the home, this is often caused by the cooled indoor air reacting with the humidity in the air. As it cools, it turns from a water vapor into a water.
- Makes you feel cooler when indoors. Removing excess humidity will make the indoor air feel cooler naturally since a dehumidifier does help cool a room . When you feel cooler, you may not need to turn down the thermostat as much and could save on your cooling costs.
Why Do I Need a Dehumidifier in Tampa?
Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay Area are next to the Gulf with numerous inlets and other freshwater rivers, marshes, and streams nearby. Being near a constant source of water typically results in higher humidity levels from the early spring through the late fall.
Not only is the outdoor air more humid, but also the air inside your home. A good sign humidity levels have risen indoors is if the air feels “stuffy” even while the air conditioner is cooling the home. If you want to come home to better quality air that is not “stuffy” after a long day at work, then you will want to get a dehumidifier for your home.
Air Rescue recommends a whole-home dehumidifier solution for homes in the Tampa Bay Area. A whole-house solution makes it easy to remove humidity from multiple rooms more efficiently compared to portable units.
To learn more about humidifiers and dehumidifiers for your home, as well as heating and AC maintenance and repairs, and air duct cleaning, repairs, and maintenance , please feel free to contact Air Rescue at 813.375.9982 today! We have been serving the entire Bay Area since 1946 and offer 24-hour emergency services.
Florida is already humid anyways, but the wet and rainy summer time makes humidity levels higher than normal. This humidity can make you uncomfortable and create more problems for your air conditioning system. One of the most important duties of your AC system is to remove any moisture.
What to look for at home
If you air conditioning system is turning off 4 to 5 times an hour during the hot Florida summer, it’s not performing efficiently. Your AC system should run continuously 40 to 50 minutes to maintain the temperature in rooms as well as keep the humidity at a comfortable level. When the system first begins cooling it will use the most energy, more than it will us in the next 30 minutes. If it is turning on and off multiple times within an hour it would be using more energy than it would running for a consistent 2 hours.
Mold and mildew
Humidity can make you uncomfortable in your home, it can also allow mold and mildew to grow. You may find this in bathrooms and on walls and ceilings. If wood floors and windows begin to warp this is also a sign of high humidity levels. The high level of humidity must be reduced or mold and mildew will occur.
One thing that comes from short air cycles is uncomfortable humidity level in your home. If you have the right sized system for your home, it will allow you to feel comfortable even if the temperature is set at 76. If the humidity levels are low then it will be much more comfortable. The humidity level in your home should not be above 50%.
Schedule an appointment to have the humidity levels in your home checked, we can help you keep your home safe by informing you on ways to control moisture and avoid mold growth.
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