Understanding Air Conditioning in Arlington: Dehumidifier FAQ

Understanding Air Conditioning in Arlington: Dehumidifier FAQ

To end our series on humidity and dehumidification for Arlington residents, we’ve culled a few frequently asked questions (FAQ in tech terms) from Arlington and North Texas homeowners.

Doesn’t my air conditioner dehumidify?

Yes, window air conditioners, portable AC units, and central air conditioners remove moisture from your home. Sometimes, however, it’s not always enough, including these situations:

  • If your home “energy envelope” is super tight and efficient, the air conditioner will not run as much and there is less active dehumidification in the home (resulting in a clammier, warmer feeling to residents). Ironic, isn’t it?
  • In Arlington and North Texas the “swing seasons” of spring and fall don’t require air conditioners to run as much as in summer. Like the super-energy-efficient home, the AC runs less and there is less active dehumidification.

Additionally, if parts of your home feel warmish or clammy, if you notice condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and moldy scents, you probably have a humidity problem. If ignored, many problems may arise, including:

  • structural damage to the home
  • allergic reactions from residents
  • respiratory problems
  • and other health issues

What do I do about it?

As with anything HVAC related, call your Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor for an inspection. A tech will come to your home and evaluate the condition and performance of your heating and cooling system, including the equipment, ductwork, and performance (including humidity).

If the problem is serious enough, the service tech may recommend installing a whole-home dehumidifier, but that’s not always necessary. There are other stand-alone and portable options available.

What does a dehumidifier do?

Simply, a dehumidifier is designed to pull the damp, sticky moisture out of the air in your home and run in through the machine, rapidly cooling and condensing the moisture, and redistributing drier, dehumidified air back into your environment using a fan.

What happens to that water?

Depending on the type of dehumidifier used, the water collected will drain into a dedicated receptacle like a floor drain or through a hose into a nearby sink or tub.

What if those draining options are not available to me?

Certain dehumidifiers have removable water reservoirs that you need to empty throughout the day, which can be a hassle if you’re not at home.  If you’re away or you forget to drain, these machines will automatically shut off.

Condensate pumps are also available and allow homeowners to remove excess water and drain it across further distances.

Where do I put a dehumidifier?

Most people in Arlington and North Texas locate dehumidifiers in kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms where most of the moisture is found, although the machines can also be used in basements (not really applicable here), crawl spaces, spas and indoor pool areas, and workshops.

Can a dehumidifier control or relieve my allergies?

In theory, yes. In practice, the jury is still out.

One of the main culprits behind allergy symptoms in homes is excess moisture. Too much is a breeding ground for mold, mildew, dust mites, and bacteria, which can irritate allergies, cause itchy eyes, skin and respiratory problems, and other allergy symptoms. Many homeowners with ongoing allergy issues report some improvement when using a dehumidifier. Success depends on many variables.

What is the ideal humidity level for my home?

HVAC service contractors recommend between 40 to 50 percent for residents in Arlington and North Texas. Anything above 50 percent will create an environment where mold spores, dust mites, bacteria, and bugs thrive, as well as unpleasant odors and accelerated decaying and staining of the home’s structure and interior.

Can humidity be too low in the home?

Yes, especially in the winter when cold air cannot hold as much moisture. A relative humidity level below 30 percent can be damaging as well, leading to increase in cold and flu viruses, irritated skin and sinuses, cracked ceilings, separated wood floors, among others.

How can I tell what the humidity is in my home?

There’s no need to call an Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor or specialist for help.

If you have a relatively new “smart” thermostat, check the interface to see if there’s a humidity tab. It may also be listed as “more.” Tap it (for touch screen models) and there will be a tab or menu item labeled humidity, which will tell you what the current reading is and allow you to change it. (Of course, this sequence varies by thermostat manufacturer and model. It’s provided here as a general use scenario.)

If your thermostat does not provide humidity information, purchase an inexpensive hygrometer from a home improvement center like Lowe’s or Home Depot anywhere in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas. These automatically measure the humidity in your home.

What do I look for in a dehumidifier?

Figure out how much moisture you need to remove from what space (measure the square footage of a given room).

Dehumidifiers are divided into four categories based on capacity.

  • Small Capacity: These remove about 25 pints of excess moisture each day. They are best suited for small, damp spaces.
  • Medium Capacity: These remove 45 to 50 points of moisture per day and are great for dehumidifying damp medium- to large-sized spaces.
  • Large Capacity: These remove up to 75 pints of moisture a day and treat a wider range of humidity problems from excessively wet to damp conditions.
  • Whole-house Capacity: This can be integrated into the home’s existing HVAC system and can remove excess moisture in space up to 3,000 square feet.

Are there any other types of dehumidifiers?

Yes, depending on the space you want to dehumidify. Crawl space dehumidifiers are designed to tackle moisture problems in tight crawl spaces. Indoor pool dehumidifiers help keep indoor swimming areas comfortable and reduce moisture-related structural damage. There are also dehumidifiers for extreme moisture removal (flood damage cleanup).

What features are important?

For single-room: User-friendly design and features such as digital humidistat, programmable timer, easy to adjust controls, full-bucket overflow protection, caster wheels for moving, and continuous drainage options.

For larger models: automatic dehumidification control that allows homeowners to select a desired humidity level and forget about it. Continuous drain capability and internal condensate pumps are also popular features.

For any appliance you purchase, you’ll want to make sure the dehumidifier is energy-efficient and is Energy Star approved.

Because the refrigerant R-22 is being phased out (it is known to deplete the ozone layer), you’ll want to use a refrigerant like R-410A. Replacement R-22 refrigerant is becoming more expensive as supplies dwindle.

Should the dehumidifier be “duct?”

Ducting a dehumidifier is a great idea for those needing to remove excess moisture from multiple rooms. An Arlington air conditioning repair or service tech will incorporate the dehumidifier into your existing air conditioning and heating system. Ducting also allows you to hide the dehumidifier out of sight.

Are dehumidifiers noisy?

Yes. Dehumidifiers require a fan to pull in, release, and circulate the dehumidified air throughout the environment. As with any appliance that uses a fan, the higher the fan setting the more noise. Dehumidifiers using a compressor make slightly more noise than a fan. Many new dehumidifiers are significantly quieter, outputting more white noise than annoying noise.

How much does it cost to operate a dehumidifier?

An accurate estimate depends on many variables: the actual appliance, the amount of time it is operating each day, and your local electricity rate. Expect to spend $5 to $30 a month on additional electricity costs because operating a dehumidifier for eight to 10 hours a day can be expensive.

How long do these machines last?

Some industry surveys estimate the average life of a dehumidifier is approximately eight years, but much depends on its use and maintenance. Is it used constantly, even in the winter? Is it well maintained and service, either by the homeowner or an HVAC tech? Most residential dehumidifiers typically last three to five years with constant use under normal operating conditions.