Modern air conditioners perform three very different yet equally important functions. To start, they cool down homes when indoor temperatures rise too high. To a far lesser degree, they also filter the indoor air by removing several airborne particulates. Finally, these units are designed to extract excess humidity. If you’ve been wondering what “dry mode” is on the air conditioner in your Las Vegas, Nevada home, read on to find out when and how to use this feature.
Your Living Environment Can Feel Both Cool and Clammy
People often associate overly humid conditions with high temperatures. Surprisingly, air-conditioned homes are often both cold and muggy, even in relatively arid environments like Las Vegas. If the temperature reading on your thermostat is low but your skin feels moist and sticky to the touch, it’s probably because you have too much moisture in your home.
There are many things that can make a home feel simultaneously cool and clammy. For instance, certain indoor activities like major cooking projects and hot, steamy showers might create more indoor humidity than you’re used to. If you’ve got a full house, even having lots of people moving around can add moisture to your living space.
Outside conditions can affect indoor humidity levels as well. If your air conditioner is off and a cool rain comes rolling in, opening your windows or doors to appreciate the sound and smell of a passing shower can add humidity to your home. In fact, whenever it’s cold and humid outside, it will likely be cold and humid indoors as well. During these times, you won’t need your air conditioner, but you’ll still need your AC system’s ability to remove humidity.
Your Air Conditioner’s Cooling Cycle and Humidity Removal
During your air conditioner’s standard cooling cycle, it constantly extracts humidity from the indoor air. Warm indoor air is drawn into your AC unit and passed over its evaporator coil. The refrigerant within this coil absorbs the heat and expels it outdoors. Any moisture that’s extracted from the air during this process is routed through the condensate line, into a drain, and out of your home.
What Dry Mode Is on an Air Conditioner
Dry mode is a special setting found on central AC systems and ductless mini-split air conditioners whose sole purpose is to remove excess moisture. When your air conditioner is in dry mode, it will still emit relatively cool air, but the air conditioner won’t be expending any energy in the process. During each cycle, the air conditioner will extract indoor air and move it through the entire system, without exposing it to any refrigerant along the way.
After excess moisture has been removed, the air will be distributed throughout your home via your HVAC air ducts or wall-mounted air registers. Any collected condensation will be routed through the condensate line and released into your air conditioner’s drain, just as it would in cooling mode.
Although this process looks very much like the standard cooling process, it doesn’t use as much energy. Thus, if you have a cool, clammy home, you can get rid of the extra humidity without driving your energy bill up. Using dry mode is the most efficient and cost-effective choice in this instance.
If your air conditioner settings are represented by icons, cooling mode or standard cooling mode is likely represented by a small snowflake while dry mode is likely represented by a water drop.
The Benefits of Using Dry Mode
Humidity will often make a home feel hotter than it is and can affect residents’ comfort, even when the interior of a building is noticeably cool. No one likes the feeling of moist, sticky skin, and it is hard to relax in heavy, wet air.
In addition to increasing your comfort, there are many benefits to using dry mode in your home. For instance, mitigating humidity is the first and most important measure in ongoing mold prevention. Excess moisture and the warmer, muggier environment it creates provide the perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria. Thus, knowing how and when to use dry mode can help you maintain a cleaner and safer living environment overall. It can also protect and improve your indoor air quality.
Understanding the Limitations of Dry Mode
Dry mode on your air conditioner should not be confused with whole-house dehumidification. The dehumidifying abilities of your air conditioner in dry mode are limited. This setting exists to provide the same level of humidity control that you get when your air conditioner is on and actively cooling, but it isn’t meant to correct excessively humid conditions.
If you have naturally high levels of humidity in your living environment, you may need to consider adding a whole-house dehumidifier to your HVAC system as an integrated accessory. Whole-house dehumidifiers are often recommended for large, busy households that do lots of cooking, retain large amounts of moisture from hot baths and showers, and have struggled with mold problems in the past.
AC systems should never be left in dry mode for long stretches of time. Just as too much humidity can make you uncomfortable, having air that is too dry can cause problems as well. Most HVAC professionals recommend using dry mode for just one to two hours at a time. If you’re constantly having to run dry mode when your regular cooling mode is off, whole-house dehumidification is likely the right choice for you.
Why Is My Home So Humid?
Apart from the more obvious factors that increase indoor humidity, like having lots of active people in the building, there are several other things that could be contributing. For instance, you may need to check for hidden plumbing leaks or clean out the following:
- Your range hood vent
- Your dryer vent
- Your bathroom exhaust fan
All bathrooms have either functional windows or overhead exhaust fans. You should open the window or turn on the exhaust fan whenever you take a bath or shower. When cooking food, be sure to turn on your range hood fan to eliminate smoke, steam, and residual heat.
In some instances, air conditioners might have a hard time extracting excess humidity from highly efficient homes. Homes that have excellent insulation, multi-pane windows, and adequate weatherstripping often have limited cooling demands. As a result, their air conditioners rarely cycle on, and when they do, they often cycle off rapidly after completing short cooling cycles. If this is the case in your home, your HVAC technician may be able to resolve the problem by lowering your air conditioner’s fan speed. This will extend your air conditioner’s cooling cycle and give it adequate time to remove excess humidity.
Get Help From Experts Near You
Polar Air & Heating, Inc. proudly services the Greater Las Vegas, Nevada area. We offer heating and cooling installation, maintenance, and repair services. We also provide indoor air quality services, ductless mini-splits, and germicidal UV lights. If you have questions about your air conditioner or if you need AC service, give us a call today.