When optimizing the atmosphere in your home, the two main factors to consider are temperature and humidity. At Windmill, we love air conditioning; after all, it’s our business! But we understand that some people require a little something extra to keep their home atmosphere optimized. So today we’re going to cover an air conditioning adjacent product: humidifiers. We’ll cover the benefits of a cool mist humidifier versus an air conditioner, discuss the benefits of using both products, and definitively answer the question, “Is an air conditioner a humidifier?”
What Humidifiers Do
Humidifiers are devices that add humidity to the air of a room, home, or environment. Humidity—by which we mean relative humidity—is the measurement of water vapor in the atmosphere. Humid air often feels hotter than dry air even if both are at the same temperature. That’s because your body cools down by producing sweat, and then having sweat evaporate. Humid air slows down the evaporation process, leaving sweat on your body and leaving you feeling warmer.
So do humidifiers make you feel warmer? It’s not that simple. While humid air slows the evaporative cooling process, humidity has other benefits for the human body. Humidifiers alleviate dry and cracked skin, dry eyes, colds, and certain respiratory conditions.
But it isn’t just your body that feels the effects of a humidifier. Your furniture will also react to changes in the level of humidity. In particular, as humidity increases, wood absorbs water vapor from the air and expands. Conversely, wood furniture will actually shrink in extremely dry conditions. You might be wondering—what about the varnish or sealant applied to furniture? While sealant prevents some moisture from entering or escaping wood (as does varnish, to a lesser degree), humidity levels will still affect your furniture.
Humidifiers and Mold
While there are several types of humidifiers, all have one thing in common: they all release water vapor. As a result, humidifiers are ideal breeding grounds for mold and bacteria. Mold grows quickly in damp environments, feeding off of organic materials. A moldy humidifier is a health risk for everyone. Even in people who are otherwise healthy, prolonged exposure to a dirty humidifier can cause flu-like symptoms.
You can prevent the build-up of mold in your humidifier in a few simple ways. Make sure to regularly change the water in your humidifier and rinse out the tank when changing water. As a good rule of thumb, you should clean a dehumidifier every three days. When you aren’t using your dehumidifier, keep the water reservoir empty and dry.
If possible, fill your dehumidifier’s reservoir with distilled or demineralized water. Since humidifiers convert water into steam, if there are particles in the water, they may be circulated by the humidifier. This can lead to a fine, dust-like covering spreading around your home and settling on furniture.
Humidifier vs. Air Conditioner
Air Conditioners—as we’ve covered elsewhere—naturally dehumidify the air while lowering the temperature. That’s because air conditioners work by transferring heat into vapor and then evaporating the vapor. So, is an air conditioner a humidifier? No, it’s the opposite.
So while an air conditioner is running, it dehumidifies your home. Pitting a cool mist humidifier versus an air conditioner sounds like an inefficient use of electricity that won’t positively affect the climate in your home. However, even though air conditioners and humidifiers perform opposite functions, they actually can function together effectively.
Earlier, we discussed some of the benefits of humidity, like keeping your skin from drying out. Therefore, when there’s no humidity, there’s a greater risk of dry skin and these other health issues. Furthermore, we discussed how changes in humidity can even affect the size of your furniture. So while an air conditioner lowers the temperature in your home, it also lowers the humidity level, putting you at higher risk for these negative effects. Thus, running a cool mist humidifier alongside your AC can preserve humidity levels, keeping your skin from drying out and your furniture from shrinking.
When to Run a Humidifier vs. Air Conditioner
As we’ve established, an air conditioner is not a humidifier. There are different reasons to operate each appliance. To wrap things up, we’ll list some of the conditions that should prompt you to run a cool mist humidifier versus an air conditioner, and some reasons not to run the devices.
Run a humidifier if:
You’re experiencing dry skin, chapped lips, or irritation around your eyes while at home. If you experience these issues in a controlled environment, it’s a good idea to add some more humidity to the air.
You suffer from asthma. Respiratory issues (particularly juvenile asthma) are aggravated by dry, dehumidified air. Running a humidifier while sleeping will help control asthma symptoms and lead to better sleep.
You own wooden furniture. If you own expensive wooden furniture, run a humidifier while you run your AC to prevent the wood from dehydrating. Also, during dry winter months, run a humidifier (even though you probably won’t be running your AC)
Don’t run a humidifier if:
There’s recently been a lot of precipitation in your area. Running a humidifier after it rains will expedite mold growth.
You find yourself sweating more than usual. Humidifiers make it harder for sweat to evaporate, which means you’ll stay sweaty longer.
You’ve just taken a shower. Just like after it rains, there’s no need to run a humidifier after a large amount of moisture has been added to the environment.
Run an air conditioner if:
You want to lower the temperature inside your home. Pretty straightforward, but we’re listing it here just to cover our bases.
You’re experiencing uncomfortable levels of humidity. While there are specific appliances (called dehumidifiers) to remove unwanted humidity from the air, most modern air conditioners function as dehumidifiers. If you find yourself uncomfortably sweaty, consider lowering the humidity level with your AC.
Don’t run an air conditioner if:
You’re happy with the temperature of your home. Again, we expect you know this, but it’s good to check the temperature to make sure your AC is only running when you need it.
You’re experiencing severe dry skin, dry eyes, a sore throat, or a bout of asthma. Removing moisture from the environment will exacerbate all of these issues.
Now that you understand the benefits of a humidifier versus an air conditioner, you can make the optimal decision for your home climate. Remember to maintain good appliance hygiene whether you run a humidifier or an AC, and to pay attention to weather reports before deciding to modify your home client. For more AC questions, you can chat with our support team seven days a week. We hope you stay cool and comfortable, and as humid as you desire.