High humidity coupled with high temperatures can feel uncomfortable, sticky, and hot. One of the easiest ways to make conditions better is getting rid of the humidity. Without humidity, heat can feel more bearable. Both air conditioners and dehumidifiers handle problems with air quality in an indoor space, but which one should you pick?
UPDATED Saturday, March 25th 2023:
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Both machines might seem similar, but they control two different issues. You will need to understand their functions and how they are different to decide which one to select or if you might need both.
What Their Functions Are
A dehumidifier dehumidifies the air, removing excess moisture without causing a significant temperature change; the effect will be dry, warm air. On the other hand, an air conditioner reduces the humidity and cools the air temperature, the effect being cooled dry air.
How They Work:
An air conditioner functions by taking in warm, moist air, then the air passes over an evaporator coil and condenser coil. As the air passes over the condenser coil, the heat created from this process is released through a pipe, outside the room and out of the building.
This is different from a dehumidifier, as dehumidifiers are kept in the space they operate in while the air conditioner's partial unit is fitted outside.
Dehumidifiers work similarly; warm, moist air passes through a condenser coil, cools onto the coil, creates heat as the machine works, and releases this heat into the room. At the same time, the water that collects from the cooling will be collected in a tank.
Dehumidifiers are perfect for situations where excess moisture is an issue, but cooling the air temperature isn’t required. For example, they’d be perfect for flats suffering from dampness due to excess moisture in cool weather. Or in situations where reducing moisture in the air is needed to target mold and structural damage in a building or area of space.
On the other hand, an air conditioner is suited for when the aim is to cool an area of space during warmer periods, and as a default, it also dehumidifies.
To give you a better idea about the two units, the table below gives a general outline of the advantages and disadvantages of both machines. It should be weighed up against other factors that are addressed below. So, continue reading to make sure that you make the right choice.
Gets rid of foul odorsMaintains humidity levelsDoesn't always need to be emptied of water
Provides more comfort by easing the effects of heat and humidity simultaneously
|Can be expensive to run if needed for extended periods|
Prevents possible mold growth
Portable - you can set it up wherever
Consumes less electricity on average
Suitable for homes with limited natural ventilation
Can add warmth to the room, not ideal for warmer weather periods
Can be inefficient if needed to be running for long periods
Read more: Is a window air conditioner a dehumidifier?
Do Dehumidifiers Use Less Electricity Than Air Conditioners?
On average, yes, dehumidifiers use less electricity than air conditioners, and if they were both running all day, you’d definitely notice that the air conditioner consumes more power.
Are Dehumidifiers More Efficient Than Air Conditioners?
The amount of power consumed by either depends on the efficiency of the machine. New machines have better functions and are more energy-efficient.
For instance, purchasing a dehumidifier with a higher capacity and sensors could lower your electricity usage because of the power-saving features. Whereas having a dehumidifier that has lower capacity would run up your energy bill as you’d need to have it switched on all day.
On the other hand, purchasing an air conditioner that's got the power to cool a room faster and, therefore, be switched off quicker could be more efficient in the long run. Alternatively, inverter air conditioning units consume much less electricity and can cut your energy bills by more than half.
In short, it's not always true that because dehumidifiers consume less electricity that they’re necessarily more energy-efficient, and therefore, cheaper in the long run. The energy consumption of these machines depends on their capacities and running times.
Can I Use a Dehumidifier Instead of an Air Conditioner?
It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t simply get rid of your air conditioner and replace it with a dehumidifier, as they each have their function, as highlighted. Since dehumidifiers remove humidity and add warmth to a room, they are best suited for when the general temperature isn’t too warm, and that would be the most cost-effective choice.
However, if the weather is hot, a dehumidifier won’t provide the cooling relief you’d need and instead could make things worse due to the extra heating effect it gives. An air conditioner would be the best-suited cost-effective solution at this point.
What Situations Would Work for a Dehumidifier?
Dehumidifiers can be an effective solution in wet weather as they work well to remove dampness in a room. Areas that don’t have good natural ventilation, like lofts, or basements could benefit from a dehumidification machine.
It’s a more cost-efficient solution to cool your area of space by first removing humidity than going ahead and trying to heat or cool the air, but this depends on how hot it is.
Humidity isn’t always found in cooler months, it's an all-year-round issue, so it can be worth having a dehumidifier around to prevent mold and dampness and guarantee a drier environment in your area of space. Using it alongside an air conditioner could create a comfortable environment and effective removal of humid air.
A Cost-Effective Solution!
It’s hard to pick one over the other, especially if you live in an area of the world with temperamental weather patterns. You could consider a portable air conditioner that has a function that separates the cooling and dehumidification systems.
Portable air conditioners are efficient because you could use the same machine as a powerful dehumidifier in winters in any room of the house since it’s not a mounted unit. Then, during warmer periods of weather, you can switch to using it as an air conditioner by fitting the hose pipe to release the warm air out of the window or through a hole in your wall that reaches out externally.
We've unpicked how both dehumidifiers and air conditioners have their functions in their own right and come with advantages and disadvantages. It's not fair to say that one is better than the other since that depends on what you want from it and the nature of the environment you are in.
In colder weather, dehumidifiers are handy, providing solutions for dampness in the home, while in warmer weather, they may not work so well due to the heat they give off.
Air conditioners simultaneously provide both cooling relief and dehumidification but potentially a high electricity bill. There are factors at play regarding energy consumption and efficiency, with both, as highlighted above.
There are cost-effective solutions with machines that provide the portability of dehumidifiers and the benefit of air conditioners. They do, however, have an initial cost. But this could be seen as an investment and last into the future, giving you a lowered electricity bill in the long run.