During the heat of the summer air conditioning can seem like a godsend -- that is, until the electric bill shows up. Paying for electricity is the price we all have to pay to make our home livable. I know you've thought how nice it would be to cut down on the amount of power your air conditioner uses. You can help your air conditioner out (and more importantly, keep money in your pocket) by reducing humidity so your air conditioner doesn't need to deal with it.
How an air conditioner cools your home
An air conditioner makes your home feel more comfortable by doing two things:
- It lowers the air temperature.
- It removes humidity from the air circulating in your home (because cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air).
Air feels comfortable when the humidity level is between 30 and 50 percent. During the summer the air in your home can easily have humidity well over 80 percent. This makes it uncomfortably hot and muggy, whereas lowering the humidity makes the air feel cooler.
Lowering humidity levels in your home
You can control the humidity level in your home in a number of small ways. Together they can significantly reduce your electric bill. Here are some ideas:
- On hot muggy days, keep your windows and doors closed. Also try to limit the amount of going in and out that you, you kids or your pets do. Every time you open a door, humidity comes in.
- Use exhaust fans in your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. They will blow moisture-laden air directly outside your home so the air conditioner won't have to do it.
- Ensure your dryer is vented directly to the outside so any moisture from the clothes dryer doesn't add to the humidity inside.
- Check to be sure you don't have any plumbing leaks or drips. If you do, fix them. Otherwise, the water from the leaks will evaporate and add to the inside humidity levels.
- Be sure you don't have any water from outside seeping in through your foundation. Down spouts and drainpipes should direct rainwater well away from your home.
- Adapt your cooking to the weather. On really hot days try not to cook meals that require boiling water on the stove.
- If you have houseplants, putting them outside for the summer can actually reduce humidity levels inside. Plants pass moisture out through their leaves and into your home.
Finally, buy a dehumidifier.
- Residential dehumidifiers only cost $100 to $300 and do a great job of taking moisture out of the air. In fact, in a single day a small dehumidifier can remove at least 10 quarts of water from the air, while a large one could take out over 25 quarts.
- An energy efficient dehumidifier (look for the Energy Star label) will use a lot less electricity than an air conditioner.
When the weather gets hot, minimizing the humidity in your house won't guarantee you'll never need to turn on your air conditioner. But here's one guarantee you can take to the bank: If you lower the humidity levels in your home, you will have lower electric bills.
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Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over numerous articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics, but specializes in home-related topics.