Although air conditioners are largely valued for the constant cooling they provide on the hottest days of the year, their ability to regulate indoor humidity is just as impressive. If you’re struggling with heavy, oppressive air in your Sacramento, CA home, you may need to try your AC unit’s dry mode setting. This function extracts excess humidity from the indoor air, but it doesn’t lower indoor temperatures.
What Air Conditioners Do While in Dry Mode
Contrary to what many people think, air conditioners don’t actually produce cold air. Instead, they draw warm air from the building’s interior and use refrigerant to extract its heat. When warm indoor air passes over an air conditioner’s evaporator coil, its heat is absorbed by AC refrigerant and then transferred outdoors. Time spent on an air conditioner’s evaporator coil causes air to become chilly. When the heat transfer process is complete, the chilled air is distributed throughout the building.
As air moves through the cooling cycle and its heat is removed, excess moisture is extracted as well. Humidity regulation during the cooling cycle ensures that residents are comfortable. After all, humid, heavy air can make a building’s interior feel warm even though its registered temperature is low. The humidity that AC systems extract is collected as condensation and routed out of both the AC system and your home via an attached condensate drain.
When your air conditioner is in dry mode, the process works much the same. The only difference is that refrigerant isn’t being circulated throughout the air conditioner when this setting is in use. Moist indoor air is extracted from the building and then moved through the system. Excess moisture is collected as condensation and sent down the condensate drain. The drier air is then distributed through the home’s air registers or air vents.
Why the Air Coming From Your Vents Feels Cool During Dry Mode
Running your air conditioner in dry mode won’t have an impact on your indoor temperature even though it will affect how comfortable you feel. If you place your hand near your air vents, you might feel cool air being released. This air is essentially the same temperature as the air around you. It will only feel a bit cooler because it has just had its humidity removed.
Given that refrigerant isn’t being pumped throughout an air conditioner that’s in dry mode, a lot less work is performed and far less energy is used. Using dry mode for humidity extraction on cool days won’t have the same impact on your energy bill that standard cooling does. In fact, you should hardly notice a difference in power consumption at all. Moreover, although you might use your air conditioner all day, every day during summer, you probably won’t need to use dry mode more than once or twice a week and for more than an hour at a time.
Balance Is Important When Using Dry Mode
Balance is of the utmost importance when using dry mode. Having too much humidity in the home is certainly uncomfortable, but having too little can be equally so. Excessively dry homes are prone to experiencing problems with dust mites. In dry homes, residents are more likely to have frequent nosebleeds and congestion. Having overly dry indoor air can also result in symptoms like itchy eyes, dry lips, dry skin, and periodic bouts of sneezing.
To avoid removing too much humidity from your indoor air, try not to run your air conditioner in dry mode for more than an hour. It’s also important to learn more about how your dry mode setting works. Before turning it on, take a minute to read through your air conditioner’s manual. When air conditioners are in cooling mode, their thermostats send stop and start signals to initiate and end cooling cycles. As long as your thermostat is working and set to your preferred temperature, no human intervention is needed. Conversely, dry mode may require action from you. Most air conditioners do not turn themselves off while in dry mode after balanced humidity has been achieved.
Why Fall and Spring Are the Best Times to Use Dry Mode
In fall and early spring, the outside temperatures are rarely hot enough to justify using your air conditioner. However, low temperatures don’t always mean that humidity is guaranteed to be low as well. In fact, the opposite is often true. Indoor humidity tends to increase just before and during seasonal rains. Given that many homeowners open their windows during times of temperate weather, outside humidity easily finds its way inside.
Fall and early spring are also the times when homeowners tend to do the most indoor cooking. If it’s too cool to keep your windows open and you choose to boil water for a hot beverage, cook pasta, or prepare soup, your home could become muggy. These and other activities can leave your windows coated in condensation if your home isn’t properly vented. These are all great times to turn your air conditioner on and use its dry mode setting. This is also true after a steamy shower or when you’ve got a house full of guests and lots of indoor movement.
Running your air conditioner on dry mode will keep the building interior comfortable. It will also minimize unpleasant indoor odors and prevent problems like mold and mildew from developing.
There’s also the fact that fall and early spring don’t generally entail much HVAC use at all. These months are too cool for air conditioning but not cool enough to warrant turning on your heater. When your HVAC system is on and running, your indoor air is constantly being cycled through its air filter. This removes common airborne particulates like dirt, pollen, dander, and pet hair. Periodically using your AC system in dry mode during these seasons is an easy way to give your indoor air quality a nudge in the right direction.
Utilizing Dry Mode Has Many Benefits
The dry mode setting on your air conditioner can protect your home, your health, and your wallet. Having too much moisture in your home can set the stage for widespread problems with mold. Excess moisture also allows bacteria and other pathogens to thrive. It can soften building materials, undermine their integrity, and diminish both indoor comfort and indoor aesthetics.
Being able to use your AC system in dry mode means that you don’t have to pay the high costs of repeated cooling cycles during times of the year when indoor cooling isn’t really needed. It also limits the likelihood of you having to pay for mold remediation services or major moisture-related building repairs. Best of all, everyone in your household can breathe a bit easier. Dry mode can be especially helpful in homes where residents suffer from issues such as COPD, asthma, allergies, or other respiratory ailments.
For more than 30 years, Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning has been a trusted provider of heating and air conditioning services throughout Sacramento and the surrounding areas. We also offer duct cleaning services, water heaters, and indoor air quality solutions. If you need heating or AC maintenance, repair, or installation, we’re the company to call. To schedule an appointment, get in touch with us today.