A heat pump is a more cost-efficient home HVAC system than traditional furnace-based options. Utilizing the air outdoors, it can naturally heat and cool your home, saving you thousands of dollars in the process.
But for those thinking about switching, one question remains—does a heat pump also dehumidify year-round?
This article will explore how heat pumps pull moisture out of the air. We’ll also compare heat pumps to traditional HVAC systems to show why they are a tremendous dehumidifying solution.
So let’s begin!
Table of Contents
Does a Heat Pump HVAC Also Dehumidify?
Heat pumps do function as dehumidifiers. They naturally pull moisture out of the air as part of their cooling process, leaving your home dryer. What’s more, heat pumps are more effective at dehumidifying than air conditioners and furnaces.
How Heat Pumps Dehumidify a Room
Heat pumps function by moving cool air into a warm place or warm air into a cool place. By utilizing a condenser and an evaporator coil, a heat pump can warm or cool the refrigerant used to change the air temperature in your home. The condenser is also responsible for dehumidifying the air.
A condenser draws heat out of the air by condensing it into a liquid. The resulting liquid is significantly cooler than the air it started as. This process results in condensation on the condenser, which is then sent down a drain.
It’s important to note that this process also occurs in furnaces, air conditioners, and dedicated dehumidifiers. However, unlike these devices, a single heat pump can dehumidify a wider area. Such power is partly due to the heat pump utilizing a much larger condenser.
Most heat pumps even feature a mode called “drying mode” that serves to enhance this effect. Drying mode maintains the humidity level in your home by switching between heating and cooling modes while maintaining the desired temperature.
Your heat pump will dehumidify your home no matter the season. Since its operation is based on circulating air (through the refrigerant), it will pull in cool air, heat it, and send it into your home. This functionality means that in winter, you can maintain a comfortable humidity level in your home.
Of course, dehumidifying your home during colder seasons isn’t always necessary. Humidity is the result of the air holding moisture.
Consequently, the prevailing temperature determines how much vapor can be held, with higher temperatures resulting in more significant moisture.
If temperatures are already low, dehumidifying isn’t necessary and could harm your home. You risk damaging wood, paint, wallpaper, and even your skin by making the air too dry. To minimize damage, you should only seek to dehumidify your home when temperatures are above 60°F (15.5°C).
Issues That Could Prevent Your Heat Pump Reducing Humidity
You should be able to notice when your heat pump is working correctly. However, if you find that the air is still humid despite the pump running, there could be a few culprits.
Issues that could be affecting your heat pump include:
- Your unit is too big or small for your home – this problem plagues traditional HVAC systems too. The coil size determines how much air can be cooled at a time, a determination made during installation.
Professional installation significantly reduces the chances of encountering this problem. If you need a different-sized coil, you may need to replace other components to make it fit. Still, you need not replace the entire HVAC unit.
- Air is leaking into and out of your home – when air freely travels through cracks in your home, it becomes much more challenging to regulate the temperature. To fix this, fill all the gaps to keep air circulating the way you want it to.
Leaks could also occur in the connecting ductwork, preventing the air from reaching the pump and vice versa. You can repair such leaks with duct tape or call a professional contractor to make the fixes.
- The refrigerant lines are leaking – the components that make up your heat pump HVAC will break down over time. However, when the lines that carry the refrigerant begin to leak, the system will inevitably stop doing its job—the refrigerant is useful for chilling and heating air.
In addition to the HVAC system struggling to heat or chill your home, you may hear the leak as a hissing sound. In this case, it’s best to call in a professional to fix the issue.
- Your evaporator coil needs cleaning – though mostly protected, the internal components of your heat pump HVAC system have some exposure to the elements. Excess moisture can corrode the coil, and any debris covering it limits its ability to do its job.
Professionally cleaned coils work as well as new but severe damage may warrant a total replacement in the case of corrosion. Have a professional assess the harm.
Why High Humidity Is a Problem
As described, a heat pump system is more efficient at removing humidity than other systems. But is that important enough to warrant making the switch? To answer this question, we must explore what humidity does to your home.
High humidity makes us feel physically uncomfortable, partly because moisture plays a significant role in how we sense air temperature. It can create oppressive dampness that leaves us feeling more easily exhausted. And, of course, it causes us to sweat more.
When air humidity is above 60%, your home suffers as well. Mold, mildew, and other allergens grow much faster in humid conditions.
In addition, wood will naturally absorb moisture in the air, allowing these things to grow in places where you may not immediately notice them—this can be disastrous for your health.
Even if you don’t suffer from allergies, a high presence of mold and mildew can create respiratory problems. Additionally, airborne illnesses tend to thrive longer in humid conditions.
Finally, any chemicals released in the air will linger much longer, thanks to the high moisture concentration.
Most furniture and upholstery release chemicals used in the manufacturing process, albeit in tiny amounts that are difficult to notice. These accumulate in a humid environment, causing detrimental health effects.
If left unchecked, high humidity can be fatal. It’s also hazardous if you have pre-existing respiratory health conditions. Fortunately, you can combat high humidity by improving and maintaining air circulation in your home.
Advantages of Using a Heat Pump
So far, we’ve illustrated how a heat pump HVAC system can heat, cool, and dehumidify your home. When used alone, it can replace your traditional HVAC system, your air conditioner, and a dedicated dehumidifier, all at the same time.
However, if you still need more reasons to switch to a heat pump, consider the following benefits:
- Lower operational costs – heat pumps do not require oil or gas to run. In addition, you’ll save money since you’ll no longer need to run an air conditioner and dehumidifier.
- Less noise during use – heat pumps are designed to make as little noise as possible. Moreover, the significant components get installed outside, keeping what little noise exists outside your home. Hence, you won’t notice when the heat pump switches on.
- Greater energy efficiency – what little electricity a heat pump uses is dwarfed by the amount of warm and cold air it generates. For this reason, homeowners looking to reduce their environmental impact turn to heat pumps.
Disadvantages of Using a Heat Pump
While powerful and convenient, heat pumps come with obstacles that can make them challenging to adopt. Besides the high upfront cost of installing a new system, there are a few other common problems new users often experience.
As a result, potential drawbacks to keep in mind when making your final decision include:
- Heat pumps experience more challenges in colder climates – they work by pulling warm air out of the ground, where the temperature is higher than above the surface. However, the system struggles to function if temperatures drop below 0°F (-17.8°C).
The evaporator coil could also freeze and cease to work while prolonged exposure to low temperatures could cause extensive damage. Therefore, check the temperature range of your region.
- A power outage will knock your system out – while heat pumps don’t rely on fossil fuels, they need electricity. So if there’s a power outage in your area, you’ll be without your HVAC system for the duration.
The only way to avoid this is to have an emergency generator. Though the extra cost can be hard to justify on top of the installation fee, you will need to decide if it’s a risk you are comfortable living with.
Heat pump HVAC systems are an excellent way to cool, heat, and dehumidify your home. A well-maintained heat pump can control nearly every aspect of your home’s climate.
All you need to do is ensure that air isn’t escaping from your house in a way that it shouldn’t.
Once you do, your heat pump will work at maximum efficiency, making your living space comfortable all year round.
- HPAC Climate Control: “The dehumidifying benefits of heat pumps”
- Jamison Air: “Does a heat pump dry out the air?”
- Guide 2 Dehumidifiers: “Heat Pump vs Dehumidifier”
- Vedantu: “Humidity”
- Chads AC Direct: “How to Know When Evaporator Coils Need Cleaning”
- Popular Science: “It’s not your imagination, humidity really is killing you”
- Achoo! Blog: “The Effects of Humidity on the Human Body”
- Life Hacker: “How to Find the Ideal Humidity Level for Your Home (And Why It Matters)“