On those hot summer days, air conditioning feels like a non-negotiable. But many of us aren’t using our systems to the best of their abilities, and that means less comfort and – potentially – higher usage and maintenance costs. All those different functions serve a purpose, and knowing what each of them do means you’ll get the most out of your system. If you’ve been staring blankly at all the different symbols on your air conditioner remote, before clicking straight onto the little snowflake, we’re here to help!
Today we’re going to break down the dry setting, one of the most common air conditioner modes, and answer a few key questions: What is dry mode? How does the dry setting on an air conditioner work? And what are the benefits of using it?
What is dry mode?
Dry mode is a common feature on many air conditioning systems and can be found on both ducted and split systems. The feature is usually represented on the system’s remote by a water droplet, or simply by the word “dry”.
Dry mode is essentially a dehumidification mode, aimed at reducing moisture levels in the room. This makes it perfect for muggy days when the room feels sticky and uncomfortable but not overly hot – think how it feels just before it starts to rain and you’ll get the idea. This makes it perfect for sub-tropical regions, such as Queensland.
How does the dry setting on an air conditioner work?
Unlike cool mode, which introduces cooler air into the room and can actively lower temperatures, dry mode works by removing moisture from the air and reintroducing that air back into the room.
The removal of the moisture has a cooling effect, making the room more comfortable rather than simply colder. That’s why it’s not ideal for hot summer temperatures, and is instead better suited for warm, damp days.
In dry mode, your unit will record the room temperature and decide what temperature it will cycle off. The temperatures of the room, return air, cooling coil and heat exchanger are all regulated by the system, with the fan and compressor speeds controlled to maintain temperature and humidity.
You don’t want to remove all moisture from the air – that’s just as uncomfortable as having too much! – so an hour or two on a muggy day should do fine.
As with all air conditioner modes, dry mode does have its limits, and pushing beyond them may only end up costing you more. It’s also important to note that if you live in an area where you NEED a dehumidifier, the dry mode setting on your aircon won’t serve as a replacement. Research your local climate, discuss your budget and your family’s needs, and reach out to professionals as needed.
When should you use the dry setting?
The dry setting can potentially be used year-round, though you’ll probably want to stick with the cool mode for any hot, dry summer days. It will do its best work on cool, muggy days, especially in the run-up to rain or a storm. Even in winter, if you’re heating your home and a storm starts to set in dry mode can help by regulating the conditions of the room without removing any of that much-needed heat.
The recommended humidity for an indoor environment is between 30 and 50% – if you’re sitting upwards of this and the conditions are right, consider giving dry mode a whirl!
What are the benefits of using the dry setting?
Lowing the moisture levels in a room makes it much more comfortable, especially if you’re trying to sleep on a particularly humid night.
No extreme temperature changes
Because it only removes moisture, rather than lowering the room temperature significantly, it’s great for those days when it’s cool but humid. You’ll feel much more comfortable without the extreme changes in temperature.
More energy efficient
The compressor on your aircon system will be working significantly less hard on dry mode compared to cool mode. This means it uses much less energy and will cost less to run. While you should still service your aircon regularly, choosing dry mode over cooling will also be great for the longevity of the compressor, as well as the system as a whole. If you’d like some more advice on managing your power bills, we’ve got a great guide with 5 ways to save energy this winter!
A healthier environment
Managing humidity levels has a huge range of benefits within the home. High humidity not only makes people uncomfortable (and usually more irritable as a result), but provides a great environment for things like mould, mildew, and dust mites to thrive. These can all cause serious health issues, particularly for people with things like asthma or allergies. Reducing humidity levels can help make the environment less hospitable for them, all while improving air quality for you and your family.
Home sweet home
As well as being bad for your family, high humidity levels can really do a number on your home too! Excessive moisture can result in mould, which can damage your belongings, including your furniture, clothes, and soft furnishings. Rust and corrosion resulting from the moisture can also affect your tools and appliances. You might also see damp spots starting to form on walls and ceilings, mould spores in the bathroom, and even heavy condensation on your windows.
Running dry mode for an hour or two on wetter days can help manage this, though it’s important to remember that an aircon with dry mode is no substitute for a dedicated dehumidifier. If you think you’ll need consistent help with managing humidity levels, it’s best to reach out to a professional for advice and some recommendations on the right set-up for you.
Other air con modes and when to use them
If you think dry mode isn’t what you’re looking for (or if you’re simply curious about what the other modes can do), here’s a quick look at some of the other buttons on that remote!
Usually indicated by a snowflake, this one does exactly what it says on the tin, cooling the room to a much more comfortable temperature. Great for hot, dry days, it’s one of the most commonly used modes on Australian air conditioning systems.
This is the AC’s most basic setting, using a fan to move air around the room for a cooling effect. It’s cheaper and quieter than running the full system and is a great way to keep cool air moving overnight, after you’ve already cooled the room.
Indicated by a moon symbol, sleep mode will gradually raise the temperature of the room overnight. Our bodies naturally cool as we sleep, so this mode type is designed to balance out the comfort of a cooler room with our own lower temperature at night. Simply cool the room to your preferred temperature, active sleep mode, and drift off in comfort!
Auto mode (usually indicated by an A or the word itself) is a great way to sustainably manage your aircon usage. Simply choose the temperature, and auto mode will use the best combination of processes to meet and maintain it.
- Sam Friend, 2022, “When and How Should You Use Your Air Conditioner’s Dry Mode?”, Stag Electrical
- 2021, “What’s Dry Mode?”, Ford & Doona
- 2020, “What is the Dry Mode in Your Aircon and When to Use It?”, Luce
- “Why You Should Use Your AC’s Dry Mode”, Crown Power Air Conditioning
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