Friday, 15 September 2017

Too Much Humidity

When we built the house I refused to add an air conditioner for two reasons. First because I didn't think we needed to spend money on cooling when the house was not going to be so hot, and secondly because I'm from Yorkshire where we don't use air conditioners. Actually that's probably just one reason.

It may be global warming, acceptance of reality or weakness to luxury, but I think we need take active measures to remain comfortable in the peak summer heat. I need to take a closer look at passive house and high-temperature high-humidity in a different post.

The temperature is not a huge problem. It rarely goes over 28 degrees, and when it's 35 degrees outside, 28 degrees is a relatively pleasant temperature. The problem is when it is humid, and when it gets over 70% humidity it starts to feel really hot.

A de-humidfier would make the house more comfortable without making it cooler. In terms of thermal efficiency, de-humidification is a good idea since heat gain depends on temperature difference, so taking moisture out of the air makes it feel cooler without encouraging more heat to come in. On the other hand, making the house cooler means a bigger temperature difference, and more heat leaking in from outside.

Actually, we do have an air conditioner in one room, and that air conditioner does have a dehumidifier. But the de-humidify function just seems to work by cooling the air, and that room was not designed for the air to circulate through the rest of the house, so it just gets very cold in there when the dehumidifier is on.

Most dehumidifiers work by running air over a cooling element so that humidity condenses out of it. They differ depending on what happens to the heat that was taken away to cool the air. Either the heat can be put back into the air, or it can be taken out of the building. Our air conditioner does the latter, sending out cold, dry air. If you have a dehumidifer for a basement that gets damp in the winter, you want the former.

So do we want a dehumidifer that transfers the heat out of the house, or one that keeps it inside?

Should we try to dehumidify the air as it comes in through the ventilation system or should we get a standalone dehumdifier?

Would it just be cheaper and easier to get an air conditioner that can de-humidify?

Even if it was more expensive, would we be better off getting an air conditioner that can also cool and heat and do other fancy stuff? Maybe we could even get one that humidifies as well, since we need more moisture in the air in the winter.

Can I fit another air conditioner unit to the compressor that spends over 360 days of the year idle on my roof?

Or will it be cheaper to get another air conditioner with its own compressor?

How much moisture are we talking about?

The last question is easy.

If it's hot and humid outside, the ventilation system is going to be adding saturated air to the house. If it's 28 degrees, 60% humidity inside, with the ventilation system working at 150 cubic metres per hour, that is going to add 1.6 litres per hour. This is how much the dehumidifier needs to remove at peak load.

A closer look at some actual data for temperature and humidity here in July and August shows that the outside air was never actually hot and humid enough to come in saturated. But with a more comfortable 50% humidity at 28 degrees, the peak dehumidification load is 24 litres per day.

One very simple solution would be to switch off the ventilation system, or at least turn down the flow. This is a short term measure, because we do need fresh air in the house, but at night time and in the morning we open the windows and get plenty of fresh air in anyway. In fact the main demand for ventilation is to remove the moisture that we produce when we breath, wash and cook. If there are just a couple of people and a cat in the house, then we should be OK for a few hours. Turning down the ventilation would also be a good solution on cold winter nights when there is a risk of freezing in the drain from the ventilator.


​Assume on a hot day ​the air coming in is humid and hotter than the inside air, so humidity will rise to saturation as it passes through the heat exchanger in the ventilation. (Actually this is a pessimistic assumption.)
28 degree air at 100% humidity holds 27 grammes water per cubic metre.
Assume 60% humidity inside. That means an extra 11 g/m3.​
Air flow of 150 cubic metres per hour.
That's 1.6 kg of water per hour to get rid of.

Humans breathing out humid air:
In one hour we breathe in about 450 litres of air.
Assuming exhaled air is 100% humid at 36 degrees C; inhaled air is 60% at 28 degrees C.
1 cubic metre of exhaled air holds 42g of water vapour.
1 cubic metre of inhaled air holds 16g of water vapour.
We each contribute about 12 grammes of water per hour. Is that all?