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Is an Air Conditioning System Enough to Control Humidity?

flushed-man-in-front-of-fanWhen your air conditioning system is running during a humid summer day—and we get plenty of those in Chicagoland—you’ll occasionally hear a dripping sound coming from the unit. This isn’t because the AC uses water to help cool down the house. The only type of cooling system that does that is an evaporative cooler. What you’re hearing is the water moisture the air conditioner has drawn out of the air with the evaporator coil dripping down into a condensate pan and then being drained outside through a condensate drain line. This collection of moisture is a natural result of the evaporator coil absorbing heat from inside the house to cool the air.

This makes it sound like the air conditioner is also a dehumidifier. But this is not really the case. An air conditioner on its own usually isn’t sufficient to properly dehumidify a house. It can provide cooling to help you feel cooler, but when the relative humidity is above 60%, the AC won’t do much to lower it to comfortable levels.


Technically, an air conditioner has dehumidification properties. But as we explained above, this is more of a side-effect of how it runs rather than a dedicated dehumidifier. An air conditioner that isn’t working well or has leaky ductwork will often allow humidity to get worse. But in peak condition, an air conditioner won’t be able to balance humidity around 45%, which is the ideal level for comfort.

The Whole-House Dehumidifier

If you have trouble with humidity in your home and feel that you have to run the air conditioning system almost constantly to stay cool, we recommend you have a dedicated whole-house humidifier installed. There are portable dehumidifiers for individual rooms, but many present a fire hazard. A whole-house dehumidifier is integrated into the HVAC system and works in conjunction with the air conditioner.

The way a whole-house dehumidifier operates is on the same principle as an AC: it circulates refrigerant and evaporates it to draw heat and moisture from the air. However, the whole-house dehumidifier re-heats the air back to its original temperature so it doesn’t interfere with the air conditioner’s operation, and it also has a much larger moisture removal capacity.

The whole-house dehumidifier is controlled through a device called a humidistat. Installers will usually put in a new thermostat for the HVAC system that includes the humidistat so you can control both humidity and temperature levels in your home from one panel. We recommend putting the humidity level around 45%, which is the right spot between too humid and too dry. (Too dry is something you want to avoid as well.)

Professional Whole-House Dehumidifier Installation

You can have a dehumidifier installed for your house as an upgrade for the current AC. If you are planning on a new air conditioner installation, you can make humidity controls a part of the job—just ask the installers. But keep in mind that installing a whole-house dehumidifier is a job for a professional HVAC contractor in Glenview, IL. You can contact our team to arrange for the work.

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