Dehumidifier vs air conditioner, which one is the best option for me?”

This is a common question our clients ask us. And it is even more common in the summer when the heat is laced up with moisture.

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When the air feels so hot and clammy in the summer, the clamminess is due to the high humidity.

The heat and high humidity make it uncomfortable. This leaves many people wondering whether they need an air conditioner or a dehumidifier. Or maybe both?

We look at the different features of the two. At the end of this head-on, we are convinced that you will know the best option for you.

Let’s go.

How Do Air Conditioners Work?

air conditioner on the wall

An air conditioning system is made up of several parts, with the key ones being the following:

  • compressor,
  • evaporator,
  • condenser,
  • expansion valve,

The liquid refrigerant runs through a series of pipes, absorbing heat and then releasing it outside. This clears the belief that air conditioners produce cold air. They do not; they just absorb heat from the indoor air.

How Does a Dehumidifier Work?

First, you need to know that a dehumidifier removes moisture from the air. It is not meant to cool the air.

So, how come the air feels cool after a dehumidifier’s performance? The dry air lowers the natural feel of the warm air. You, however, need to know that this extent is not as much as that of an air conditioner.

Therefore, if excess humidity is an issue you are battling, you need to buy a dehumidifier.

So, how does a dehumidifier work?

There are several types of dehumidifiers. However, air with excess moisture is pulled into the device in many cases. The air is then cooled to a temperature that lets the air separate from the moisture. This moisture is then collected in a tray or bucket. They, therefore, have to be emptied periodically.

Here are how the different types of dehumidifiers work.

Desiccant Dehumidifiers

With a desiccant dehumidifier, a chemical called “desiccant” is used to absorb moisture from the air.

The good thing about these dehumidifiers is they are good at absorbing moisture. And they are not affected by power fluctuations. They are also energy efficient.

Thermoelectric Dehumidifiers

As their name suggests, this type uses the thermoelectric effect to extract moisture from humid air.

When a thermoelectric material receives an electric supply, one side becomes hot while the other is cold. One side absorbs humidity in the air.

Refrigerated Coil Dehumidifiers

This type works almost similar to the refrigerator. The hot moist air passes through a fan and then over refrigerated coils.

The refrigerated coils trap the moisture from the air, therefore reducing the humidity levels in the house.

Dehumidifier vs air conditioner: Which is the Most Suitable for You?

When it comes to this, many homeowners are left in a dilemma.

Which appliance should you go for? When it comes to air conditioners, they provide superior cooling. And if you have a complete HVAC system, you can even enjoy the heating benefits in winter.

A dehumidifier does provide neither warmed nor cooled air. However, they get you fully covered if you want to remove moisture from the air.

So, what is ideal? We tell our clients to choose their appliance depending on:

  • personal preferences,
  • budget; upfront, recurring bills and maintenance,
  • your location and climate,
  • your house design.

Let’s look at these factors in detail. 

Personal Preference

What do you prefer your indoor air quality to feel like?

Some people emphasize on the temperatures and want to ensure it is cool in the summers. Some are big on ensuring they get rid of humidity; they cannot stand the sweaty and damp-feeling air.

So, what do you prefer?

Remember that high humid conditions in a room can cause more discomfort than less humid conditions in another room, given that the two rooms have the same temperature(1).


What is your budget? This is usually an essential factor when choosing between air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Many times, budget is seen as an issue when dealing with swamp cooler vs air conditioner

But it is also an issue to consider when dealing with the dehumidifier vs AC debate. 

Generally, the cost of buying and installing an AC unit is higher. The cost is even higher if you go for central air conditioners and do not have ductwork.

On the other hand, a dehumidifier does not come with post-buying expenses. It is often portable, and all you need to do is plug it in. Also, they are cheaper to buy.

However, we consider this budget factor a bit vague. This is because these two do not perform the same function.


If you live near a large water body, you will always have to battle humid air. And an air conditioner cannot just remove the moisture from the air if you are near an ocean or a lake. We are saying that if you have a water body near you, a dehumidifier is non-negotiable(2).

We often recommend to our clients to get both an air conditioner and a dehumidifier if they live close to a water body. They do not perform the same function. However, supplementing each other will improve your indoor air quality big time.

Our Judgment: Dehumidifier vs Air Conditioner

You can pinpoint what you need from the above factors to consider.

However, it is not uncommon to still be in a dilemma.

And, if it was up to us, we tell our clients to get the two devices. They supplement each other well. With these two, you can forget about poor indoor air quality.

Note: It is much simpler for an air conditioner to cool dry, hot air than air with excess moisture. Therefore, you can use your dehumidifier to even simplify the work of your air conditioning unit.

Having excess moisture in the air will increase your cooling costs and wear out your air conditioner. This is the reason we advise our customers to have both appliances.

If you decrease the moisture burden for your AC, you also decrease the risk of needing an emergency AC repair. 

Whole House Dehumidifier vs Portable Dehumidifier

If you live in a region with high humidity levels, a dehumidifier is non-negotiable.

If you are getting a dehumidifier, a common question is whether to get a whole house dehumidifier or a portable one.

You can move with a portable one from one room to another. This allows you to dehumidify areas you are only using. With a portable dehumidifier, you will not need to call an installation company. This is however, non-negotiable with an AC, you will need an AC installation company to get the work done for you. 

On the contrary, a whole house dehumidifier is more permanent and adequately supplements the air conditioner’s function.

Critical Takeaways for Dehumidifier vs Air Conditioner

Here are the quick pros and cons of both parties. Hopefully, this helps you decide what is most appropriate for you.

Pros of Air Conditioners

  • reduces the heat in your room
  • removes moderate amounts of moisture in the air

Cons of Air Conditioners

  • High installation, maintenance and running costs

Pros of Dehumidifiers

  • Significantly lowers humidity levels,
  • Low installation and running costs,
  • Lowers risk of mold and fungi growth.

Cons of Dehumidifiers

  • Doesn’t do much in lowering house temperatures

We hope these pros and cons answer the common question of “is an AC more efficient than a dehumidifier?”

Dehumidifier vs Air Conditioner Frequently Asked Questions

We answer some FAQs on the air conditioner vs dehumidifier we receive. If your inquiry goes answered, we are always happy to give you the answers you need.

Which is better: a dehumidifier or an air conditioner ?

Dehumidifiers lower humidity or moisture levels without significantly cooling the house. On the other hand, air conditioners cool the house significantly without necessarily dehumidifying it.

Therefore, air conditioners are better when you need to cool the house than dehumidify it.

Can I use a dehumidifier in place of an air conditioner?

If you need more to dehumidify the room, calm it. If you are okay with the temperature but uncomfortable with the excess moisture, you can go for a dehumidifier over an air conditioner.

Can I use an Air Conditioner instead of a dehumidifier?

Yes, you can use an air conditioner in the place of a dehumidifier to control humidity. Modern HVAC systems come with evaporator coils which can help condense moisture and eliminate it from the air.

Are Dehumidifiers cheaper to run than AC?

Yes. If you run both appliances simultaneously, a dehumidifier will consume less energy.

Can I run my dehumidifier and AC at the same time?

Yes, for a perfect environment, we recommend running the two together.

According to the department of energy, set your air conditioner at 78, and use the dehumidifier and a fan. If the temperature rises, your AC unit will automatically turn on to supplement the dehumidifier.

Can Dehumidifiers get rid of mold?

No. Directly, dehumidifiers cannot remove mold. However, it can remove moisture, which causes mold.

If you already have mold in your house, a dehumidifier will not help. However, removing excess humidity can prevent its recurrence after getting rid of the mold.

Do I need a dehumidifier if I own an air conditioner?

If you want to have a perfect environment, we recommend having them both and even running them together. The result is a happier you and a happier air conditioning unit as it is not overworked with the moisture.

What are the disadvantages of a dehumidifier?

Their contribution to lowering temperatures in a room is low. You also have to cater for the regular maintenance services of your dehumidifier.

Do dehumidifiers purify the air?

No, a dehumidifier does not purify or clean your house’s air. They filter out moisture.

Will the dehumidifier eliminate the damp smell?

Yes. They can help eliminate the damp smell in a room. They can also help eliminate the moldy and mildew smell in your house.

Final Thoughts on Dehumidifier vs Air Conditioner

Big up for coming this far!

To wrap it up, we recommend getting both an air conditioner and a dehumidifier for the perfect indoor air quality.

However, if you have to choose, choose an air conditioner if your main issue is high temperatures. If your main issue is high humidity and clamminess, go for a dehumidifier.

Give us a call if you still need complementary information on dehumidifier vs air conditioner.

call 661-888-0248

Contact us 24/7 for HVAC services!


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