If you've recently relocated to the coastal South from a drier, more arid climate, you may have had some trouble adjusting to the high levels of heat and humidity that can occasionally take your breath away. However, for those who deal with real breathing difficulties -- such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, or allergies -- this humidity can feel (and be) downright oppressive. Short of returning to your old climate, do you have any options that won't leave you feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest? Read on to learn more about some of the air conditioning systems and home air treatments that can help you breathe easier in even the most humid climates.
What types of air conditioning can help improve the breathability of humid air?
If you feel as though your lungs immediately constrict when exposed to humidity, you may be correct -- studies have shown that asthma patients have a nearly instant physiological reaction to hot and humid air, with a level of airway restriction not seen in non-asthma sufferers. Because this physical reaction to humid air is magnified by heat, keeping your home at a cool temperature while minimizing humidity can be key to pulmonary comfort.
While most air conditioners work equally well at cooling hot air, some are better than others at removing humidity. An air conditioner's size (relative to the space to be cooled) and efficiency can be key factors in the amount of moisture it is able to remove. Whether you're interested in a window air conditioner, a central HVAC unit, or even a swamp cooler, you'll want to focus your search on a unit that will run fairly constantly during peak periods (rather than an oversized or energy-efficient unit that needs to run less frequently) to ensure that moisture is constantly being removed from the air.
Another key feature you'll want to look for is a variable cooling unit -- by decreasing the speed at which air flows over the compressor to be cooled, you'll be able to increase the amount of moisture extracted from this hot air. Some newer units even include moisture control sensors that allow you to specify the household humidity level you'd like to achieve.
Can an in-home air purifier bring additional relief?
Although switching the type of air conditioner you use can help reduce the average humidity level within your home, you may find that you still have occasional breathing troubles -- particularly when coming inside from outside, getting out of the shower, or engaging in other activities that involve a sudden and extreme temperature change. If this is the case, you may benefit from the installation of a whole-house dehumidifier along with an air filter or purifier.
If you've ever used a warm-mist or cool-mist humidifier to help ease a croupy child's breathing, you're already familiar with how this device operates. A dehumidifer operates in reverse, using a compressor to extract moisture from the surrounding air and deposit it into a canister to be periodically emptied. When using a dehumidifier in your home for the first time, you may be amazed at the amount of excess moisture this small machine can extract on a daily basis -- especially when considering how much of this moisture may have previously made its way into your lungs.
While an air purifier or HEPA filter won't have much of an effect on household humidity levels, it can help remove the dust, pollen, and other airborne particles that can inflame your sinuses and contribute to breathing difficulties. Combining a high-quality HEPA filter with a dehumidifying air conditioner can ensure your lungs are protected from the onslaught of hot, humid air all summer long.
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