Understanding Air Conditioning in Arlington: Using Dehumidifiers
One way to combat the raw heat and high humidity of a North Texas summer is to use a dehumidifier.
The best thing about using dehumidifiers is that they are, for the most part, simple to understand and relative easy to use and care for.
In this post we take an in-depth look at using dehumidifiers not only during the summer but throughout the year to combat North Texas weather.
Introduction to Dehumidifiers
A variety of stand-alone dehumidifiers are readily available at home improvement centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot throughout Arlington and North, as well as at retail stores like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy.
Low-end dehumidifiers range from $150 to $500, mid-range between $500 and $1,000, with upper-end whole-house, industrial, or special-use (pools, spas) machines running from $1,000 to more than $3,000.
Whole-house, industrial, and some special-use dehumidifiers should be installed by an Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor. Otherwise, you can install, operate, and service stand-alone and portable machines without the need to call a professional.
When to Use a Dehumidifier
- Use a dehumidifier when the room feels damp. Rooms that feel damp and smell musty have a relatively high humidity level. Using a dehumidifier can restore the room to ideal relative humidity.
- A quick-experience aside: If you have a room or rooms that feel damp, check your thermostat humidity setting. Up-to-date “smart” thermostats have a “humidity setting” often buried in the user interface, which most homeowners don’t know about or remember if they do. It’s possible that the humidity setting is too high — 50, even 60 percent – for the Arlington and North Texas summers.
- Use a dehumidifier if the walls feel damp to the touch or you discover moldy patches in the home.
- A dehumidifier is also necessary if you’ve experienced flooding. With continued use it will help remove excess moisture from the air.
- Use a dehumidifier to improve health problems of the home’s residents. People suffering from asthma, allergies or colds, can (but not always, there are no guarantees) benefit from a dehumidifier. A dehumidified room can help some people breathe more easily, clear up sinuses, and improve coughs.
- Especially relative to residents of Arlington and North Texas: Use a dehumidifier in the spring and fall to help maintain a more ideal relative humidity level inside the home. This is the “swing season” when air conditioners don’t run as much, therefore do not provide as much dehumidification.
- You can use a dehumidifier if your home is super tight and energy efficient, meaning (again) that your air conditioner doesn’t run as much and does not provide as much dehumidification.
Dehumidifiers in Cooler Weather
Humidity is less of a problem in the winter as cooler air cannot carry as much high moisture content. Some equipment, such as compressor dehumidifiers, are not efficient when the air temperature is lower than 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooler weather increases the possibility of frost build-up on the dehumidifier’s coils, impairing efficiency and potentially damaging the machine.
Dessicant dehumidifiers are made for working at lower temperatures and are a possibility if you need to dehumidify a cold space.
Size and Capacity
As with anything HVAC related in your home, it’s important to understand your environment and needs. “Wrong-sizing” air conditioners and furnaces do more harm than good. The same can be said for dehumidifiers.
Too small and the equipment can’t do the job expected of it. Too large and it still can’t do the job expected of it — and it costs more money to operate.
Start with measuring the square footage of the room where you want to use the dehumidifier.
Choose the right capacity for the dehumidifier, which are usually categorized by:
- room size
- level of moisture in a given room.
Level of moisture is measured in the number of pints of water that will be extracted from the environment in a 24-hour period.
For example, a 500-square-foot room that smells musty and feels damp requires a 40-45-pint dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers can accommodate up to 44 pints per 24 hours in a space as large as 2,500 square feet.
Large dehumidifiers are best for large rooms and basements, which are not commonly found in Arlington and North Texas. Large dehumidifiers can potentially remove moisture more quickly and you will not need to empty the reservoir as often, but they do cost more to purchase and operate.
There are dehumidifiers designed and engineered for special needs around the home — a spa room, a pool house, a warehouse/work room, an exercise room/gym.
If you are unsure of your needs, ask your Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor or visit a home improvement/supply store in the Arlington area for advice and to see what’s available.
Buy a portable dehumidifier if you plan to move it from room to room. These often have wheels on the base and are easier to move, although some models can still be quite heavy.
If you need dehumidifying in multiple rooms, consider ducting a dehumidifier into the home’s HVAC system instead of buying a single-room unit. You’ll definitely want to call your Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor for assistance with whole-home dehumidifying.
As with any electronics, the more expensive the machine, the more options. These are a few you should consider:
- Adjustable humidistat: This allows you to control the level of moisture in the room. Set it to your ideal relative humidity level and, once it reaches, the machine automatically shuts off.
- Built-in hygrometer: This instrument reads the room’s humidity level, which helps you accurately set the dehumidifier for maximum water extraction.
- Automatic shutoff: Most dehumidifiers will automatically shut off when they reach the desired humidity level or when the water reservoir is full. Just check to make sure the one you are considering does.
- Automatic defrost: If a dehumidifier is used too much, frost can build up in the coils — not unlike a freezer. This can damage the components. Auto defrost will keep the machine’s fan running to melt the frost.
Most dehumidifiers are simple to maintain, so you will not need service calls from your Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor. However, as you have semi-annual maintenance checkups made, you can always ask the tech to look over the dehumidifier and make sure it’s operating with the air conditioning and heating equipment as expected.
- Dehumidifiers can be positioned against a wall if they have top-mounted air discharge. If not, you’ll need to leave room on each side (up to six to 12 inches) for the best air circulation and efficient operation.
- If you are using a hose to drain the water reservoir, place it so it rests in a sink or tub and will not side off on to the floor, causing another set of problems. Keep the hose away from electrical outlets.
- Keep the dehumidifier away from heavy dust sources like woodworking equipment.
- Set up the dehumidifier in the most humid room, including bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements. Use it in a room with the windows and doors closed. If you install it on a wall between two rooms and the door is open it can detract from the machine’s efficiency, causing it to work harder and cost more money to operate.
- With some portable models, placing the dehumidifier close to the center of the room — if that’s even possible — will help the machine work more efficiently.
- It’s also possible to install a dehumidifier directly into your HVAC system with duct kits and other installation accessories. This is best accomplished by using an Arlington air conditioning repair or service contractor.
- Measure the humidity level with a hygrometer to determine the amount of moisture in the air. The ideal level for residents in Arlington and North Texas is between 40 and 45 percent. Going above 50 percent may start mold growth and below 30 percent can contribute to housing structural damage such as cracked ceilings, separated wood floors, and other issues.
- Plug into a grounded outlet.
- Do not use an extension cord.
- Run the dehumidifier until you reach the ideal level of relative humidity, which can take a few hours or days (even weeks in extreme circumstances) to achieve. The first time you use the equipment will be the most productive because that’s when there’s the most moisture in the air.
- If you close off a room with a dehumidifier inside, it will only work to remove moisture from that room. If the machine is located in a bathroom, keep the toilet lid down so the dehumidifier doesn’t draw water from the toilet.
- Empty the water reservoir frequently, maybe every few hours if it’s especially humid.
Dehumidifiers are relatively easy to care for, requiring no service or repair calls to the home from an Arlington air conditioning specialist.
- Wash the water reservoir regularly (every two weeks is recommended) with warm water and a mild dishwashing liquid. Add an odor-eliminating tablet if there is a small that remains in the reservoir. These are available at home supply stores throughout Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas.
- Check the dehumidifier’s coils for dust, which hampers effectiveness and efficiency.
- Check the coils for ice build-up.
- Check the air filter and replace regularly.
- Wait 10 minutes before restarting the dehumidifier.
Frequently asked dehumidifier questions from Arlington homeowners.