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Bad Hair Days & More: Humidity and Air Conditioning Problems

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Last Updated on July 9, 2015


Humidity and Air Conditioning Problems Cause More Than Just Bad Hair Days

July in New York City can feel like we’re living in the tropics. The temperatures pushing 90 degrees or higher are compounded by sticky air that makes it feel even worse. If your air conditioner is not doing a great job getting rid of the humidity, it can have all kinds of nasty consequences beyond comfort and uncooperative hair.

Here’s what you need to know how to tackle humidity and air conditioning problems.

What you don’t know about humidity and air conditioning can hurt you

Humidity is a key component of air quality. According to Green Building Advisor, humidity and air conditioning are directly related to air quality.

More and more business owners, as well as their employees and customers, are concerned about air quality because it can dramatically affect a person’s health, comfort, and ability to function at his or her best.

Here’s something you may not know: too little humidity can be as damaging as too much.

What happens when the air has TOO MUCH humidity:

  • Mold spores, dust mites and other allergens thrive and grow in high humidity.
  • Higher humidity can increase the levels of noxious chemicals in the air, including ozone (from copiers) and formaldehyde (released from indoor building materials).
  • Bacteria and viruses that cause respiratory infections can more easily multiply and spread in humidity conditions that are very high.
  • You may experiences headaches and an increase in allergy symptoms.

What happens when the air has TOO LITTLE humidity:

  • Surprisingly, bacteria and viruses can also spread rapidly when humidity is too low.
  • You experience symptoms like extremely dry itchy skin, dry eyes, and you get those annoying electric shocks every time you touch something metal.
  • People with asthma and breathing difficulties may experience an increase in symptoms.
  • Dry air can be damaging to valuable things like furniture, paintings, floors and woodwork.

4 Strategies to Fix Humidity and Air Conditioning Problems

Humidity and air conditioning problems go hand in hand. In most cases, your uncontrolled humidity problems can be fixed by a properly designed and maintained HVAC system.

Humidity and air conditioning strategy #1: Get the right sized air conditioner

If your air conditioner is doing a poor job of removing the humidity in your space, there’s a good chance that it’s too large. Back in the day, installers often made the mistake of assuming “bigger is better.” Unfortunately, that’s turned out to be a mistake. Oversized air conditioning units don’t provide consistent cooling and also use more energy.

Air conditioners that are oversized for the space turn on and off repeatedly and run in short bursts. As a result, they never run for a long enough period of time to effectively remove humidity. Believe it or not, you might need to downsize your unit to increase comfort and improve everyone’s health.

It takes experience and the right tools to accurately determine the correct capacity for your space. Certified commercial HVAC companies will perform a load analysis to calculate the necessary capacity for your heating and cooling equipment. This service takes many factors into account, including the square footage of your space, design elements, energy-efficiency features, building occupancy patterns and how the space is used. Most quality HVAC service providers use a software tool to do this calculation.

Related article: New York HVC Systems: 8 Reasons Bigger Is Not Always Better.

Humidity and air conditioning strategy #2: Update your system design

As building uses and occupants change, the insides are often reconfigured in ways that decrease the effectiveness of the HVAC system. This is especially true of large open office spaces with cubicles. A qualified HVAC contractor can perform an analysis of your equipment and ventilation system using ASHRAE guidelines to make sure the design is adequate for the space and building occupants. Sometimes minor changes in design can make a big difference in air quality and comfort levels.

Related article: 4 Reasons You Need HVAC System Design For Your Air Conditioning Install.

Humidity and air conditioning strategy #3: Add humidity control devices

Dehumidifiers can be a help in controlling excess humidity in damp areas such as basements. To add more humidity to your space if it’s too low, you can install central humidification systems that work with your air conditioner.

A central humidifier is attached to your heating and air conditioning unit and your plumbing. The humidifier unit uses a device similar to a thermostat (called a humidistat) to monitor the humidity levels in the air. The ideal humidity level for comfort is between 35 and 50 percent. When the air is too dry, the humidifier adds moisture in the form of water vapor to the air being circulated throughout your space by your HVAC system.

So, unlike standalone humidifiers that can only work in one room, these permanent installations humidify the entire space at once, making them extremely efficient. Not only that, but you never need to worry about safety or having an ugly unit in the middle of your conference room. The equipment is completely out of sight.

Humidity and air conditioning strategy #4: Don’t neglect maintenance to prevent humidity and air conditioning issues

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), some of the most common causes of poor indoor air quality include high humidity and poor upkeep of ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems.

Particularly in the spring and fall when air conditioners and heaters are turned on and off, your systems need to be cleaned and serviced to keep them working as designed and properly controlling humidity. Filters and belts need to be cleaned or replaced, condenser and evaporator coils need to be cleaned, parts need to be lubricated, and electrical connections tested. Clearing any standing water, checking air flow, testing humidity levels, checking refrigerant levels and checking for leaks will keep your system working well and prevent air quality issues.

It’s critical to have regular inspections and preventative maintenance done by an expert to keep your system in good working order. The most convenient and cost-effective way to do this is by signing up for a yearly maintenance agreement. To learn more, take a look at our free guide: HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.

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