Air Conditioner vs Dehumidifier: What You Should Know

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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air conditioning units on the side of a homeYou may be surprised to learn that air conditioners and dehumidifiers operate on the same principles. Both work to remove moisture from the air, but have different methods of doing so. This article will compare the air conditioner vs dehumidifier to help you determine which is best for your home.

Air Conditioner Functions

An air conditioner removes moisture by pulling air over an evaporator coil and a condenser coil. As air passes over the condenser coil, the warmth it creates is released to the outdoors, leaving cool, drier air inside your home.

Dehumidifier Functions

Like the air conditioner, a dehumidifier removes moisture from the air by moving it over an evaporator coil and a condenser coil. Unlike the air conditioner, however, the dehumidifier releases the warm air back into the room. The warmth helps to further dry out the air.

To summarize the primary differences, the air conditioner reduces the humidity levels inside your home by cooling the air, while the dehumidifier reduces the humidity levels by making the air warmer.

Additional Differences Between Air Conditioner vs Dehumidifier

Depending on the climate you are in, an air conditioner may be adequate to make your home comfortable, but a dehumidifier may be a desirable add on nonetheless. It can deliver benefits that your air conditioner cannot provide. Here are some other important differences between a dehumidifier and an air conditioner:

Cooling the Air

An air conditioner is what you need to lower the temperature inside your home during the hot season. Cooling the room is what it is designed to do. A dehumidifier can make a room more comfortable by reducing the humidity, but it does not actually cool the air. Operating a dehumidifier with an air conditioner can improve the comfort level and efficiency of the air conditioner because the air conditioner only has dryer air to cool.

Energy Use

a dehumidifier in a homeWhen it comes to power usage, the dehumidifier will use less than an air conditioner. Keeping a dehumidifier running to lower the indoor humidity will cost you less than running the air conditioner to do that job. While newer model air conditioners use less power than older models, a dehumidifier is more energy efficient. In fact, dehumidifiers consume 1/10th of the power used by an air conditioner large enough to cool the space.

Removing Moisture from the Air

Why is dehumidifying your home important? Proper humidity is important for your comfort and your health. The Environmental Protection Agency notes indoor air quality is a significant health threat. If the humidity is too high, you can have problems with mold and allergies, but if it’s too low, you can experience dry skin and annoying static electricity. Keeping the humidity level in check is key to preventing the growth of mold and mildew.

Whether an air conditioner or a dehumidifier is your best option for dehumidification of the indoor air depends on a number of considerations, such as the outdoor humidity levels in your climate, the size and configuration of your indoor space, and the sensitivity of the occupants of the space, to name just a few of them.


If you live in an area where the humidity is high, your home is about 1500 square feet in size, and your basement is below ground level, you may benefit from a dehumidifier in the basement and central air conditioning for the entire home. On the other hand, if you live in a hot climate with low outdoor humidity, an air conditioner may be enough to achieve the comfort level you want.

Benefits of Using Both an Air Conditioner vs Dehumidifier

High heat and humidity can wear out your air conditioner. Why is that? It is because your air conditioner cools your home by removing the moisture and heat from the air. The more moisture is in the air, the harder your system has to work to achieve a comfortable environment. Sometimes, the humidity levels are so high, your air conditioner cannot get on top of it.

Humidity impedes the air conditioner’s cooling effect. When your air conditioner cannot remove the humidity, your home will feel warmer than it actually is. That means your air conditioner will keep running but you will not get all of the cooling benefits from using it. Yet you will pay more to cool your house without effectively cooling it.

Ways to Determine the Need for a Dehumidifier

foggy windows in a home that has an air conditioner but needs a dehumidifierHere are three signs that your air conditioner is not eliminating the humidity in the air inside your home:

1. Your windows get fogged up. Foggy windows are a clear sign that your air conditioner is not removing the moisture in the air.

2. You notice musty odors. Moisture in the air can lead to mold and mildew growing in your home. It can cause unpleasant odors and can even become a safety hazard especially for those with allergies and respiratory disorders.

3. The air feels clammy. Have you ever entered a home or business where the air was freezing cold but still felt damp? When you can feel the humidity indoors but you are still uncomfortable at cooler temperatures, and your air conditioner seems to run constantly, your air conditioner is likely to be overwhelmed by the moisture levels.

In high humidity areas, you can achieve the optimal comfort level and energy efficiency by using both an air conditioner and a dehumidifier in combination. When you pair a dehumidifier with an air conditioning system, you can easily adjust the temperature and humidity level of your home. Using both will dehumidify the air faster than using just one by itself. Also, the combination will also better purify the air. An added plus is that you can run the dehumidifier before the hot weather begins and after it ends to keep humidity levels lower. You will not need to operate your air conditioner during those months.

Contact the HVAC Professionals at Presidential for More Information

Dehumidifiers and air conditioners are available in a wide range of configurations. Some air conditioners have a dehumidifier component built-in. The perfect system for your home or office is only a phone call away. Speak with the experienced HVAC technicians at Presidential Heat and Air for more information about dehumidifiers and air conditioners.

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