AC Is Cooling But Not Removing Humidity: Even Goes Up? (4 Causes)

“I have AC running but the humidity goes up, not down. How is this possible? Why is my AC not removing humidity?”

An air conditioner not dehumidifying is quite a paradox. If you are experiencing relative humidity going up when air conditioning is on and cooling adequately, that is quite extraordinary.

Normally, when you run an AC, the relative humidity should always decrease. AC cooling but not removing humidity is not normal behavior; something is probably wrong. You should not get high humidity in a house with AC running.

ac cooling but not removing humidity might cause condensation on the windows
Condensation on the windows is a tell-tale sign that your AC unit is cooling but also increasing humidity levels.

Example: Let’s say you have 85°F and 60% humidity. When you turn the AC on, you should see the temperature decrease to let’s say 75°F and the humidity drop below 40%. If you see AC cooling but humidity is not changing when AC is on (60%) or even increased to 65%, 70%, and so on, something must be wrong.

How is this increasing humidity explained? Is something wrong with your AC unit?

Now, there are 4 explanations (within reason) why we experience the relative humidity going up when AC is turned on. Let’s cover these. On your part, you can check if any of these culprits might be causing your AC to increase humidity while running:

4 Reasons Why Humidity Increases When AC Is Running

As we have said, a properly working air conditioner always decreases indoor relative humidity levels. If your AC is cooling but not removing humidity, something must be preventing the AC from performing its dehumidification function.

humidity goes up when ac is on due to dirty coils
Indoor cold coils are responsible for moisture accumulation and removal. If anything is wrong with these coils, you will see that cooling and especially dehumidification functions are imbedded.

We are going to check culprits that cause AC cooling but not removing moisture levels one by one. You can check each one and evaluate if this or that particular culprit might be causing the humidity to increase when AC is on:

1. Air Conditioner Is Too Big (Oversized AC Leads To Short Cycling)

This is the most common culprit for humidity increasing while AC is running. If the AC is oversized, it will start to short cycle. You can read exactly what AC short cycling is here.

In short, that means that the refrigerant cycle doesn’t follow the whole circle because the AC is so big that it reaches the set temperature too quickly but cannot extract moisture. On top of that, the temperature decrease (cooling) is not homogenous; one room is much colder than other rooms, for example.

Other symptoms of AC cooling but not removing humidity due to oversized AC unit leading to short cycling include:

  • You will have cold and humid rooms. This is usually the room where the indoor air handler is positioned (in the case of mini splits) or where a portable or window AC unit is located. AC will be able to lower temperature but unable to lower humidity levels.
  • You will also have hot and humid rooms. When AC is too big, its too massive cooling output might reach the set temperature (let’s say 72°F) in 1 room but will leave other rooms hot. The result is the lack of cooling and dehumidifying.
  • Air conditioner turning on and off every few minutes. This is a tell-tale sign of a too big AC unit short cycling.

If you think an oversized AC unit is causing cooling but not dehumidifying when turned on, the cleanest way is to install a smaller air conditioner. Of course, that’s an expense and not practical at all. You can also calculate how many BTU air conditioner you need here.

The more practical way to try to prevent AC short cycling is to run the unit at the lowest setting. A 3-ton unit might produce 3-ton of cooling output (36,000 BTU) when running on 100% output. If you set it to the lowest setting, you will end up with a 2-ton cooling output.

This reduced cooling output might prevent the AC from short cycling. As a result, you will no longer see AC cooling but not removing moisture; you will both get the cooling as well as dehumidification function back.

2. Thermostat Setting (To Prevent AC Cooling But Not Removing Humidity, Set It On ‘Auto’)

It seems quite reasonable to start your AC unit on the ‘On’ setting. That means that AC is running, right?

Well, the ‘On’ setting on an air conditioner tells the unit to run the indoor blower (fan) all the time. This is regardless if there is even a need for cooling or dehumidifying.

If the fan is constantly running, it might release the water condensed on the indoor coils back into your home. You will see this as AC cooling but not removing moisture. In fact, if the indoor coils are full of water, you will see humidity increasing while AC is on.

The solution here is quite simple:

Set the thermostat to ‘Auto’.

‘Auto’ thermostat setting tells the AC unit to run only when cooling is needed (temperature is above the set temperature). This will prevent the water accumulated on the indoor coils to be released back into your home. On top of that, adequately running AC unit will decrease the humidity (dehumidification) as well as decrease the temperature (cooling).

3. Indoor Evaporator Coils Might Be Dirty (Less Condensation)

Evaporator coils have two jobs:

  1. Primary function; cooling. The cold refrigerant cools the indoor coils, the fan generates airflow over these coils and we can enjoy a cooling breeze from the indoor air handler.
  2. Secondary function; dehumidifying. The cold refrigerant coils also absorb water by condensation. This is how AC can remove humidity.

Now, a properly functioning evaporator coil is a great heat exchanger and moisture absorber. If the fine copper metal these coils are usually made of is dirty, the heat exchanging and moisture-absorbing abilities will be impeded.

A dirty coil might still be cool and provide cooling. However, the dirt of the coil will prevent the water to condense on the coil effectively. The result of this subpar coil is us seeing AC cooling but not removing humidity adequately.

The fix here is simple as well:

Just clean the indoor coils.

You will have to open the unit, locate the evaporative coils and use the coil cleaning solution to clean them.

evaporator coils cool but no dehumidification
Evaporative coils are located in the center of the indoor unit.

This involves quite a lot of brushing away the accumulated dirt. After cleaning the coil, turn the AC back on and you should see both cooling and dehumidifying functions go back to normal.

4. Rapid Temperature Drop Causing Increase In Humidity Levels

If the drop in temperature is very significant (20°F or more), you will experience the effects of the inverse relationship between temperature and humidity.

Namely, if you decrease the temperature, the relative humidity increases (if you don’t add or reduce moisture). We don’t usually detect this if the temperature changes for up to 10°F. Nonetheless, if you go beyond that, the humidity will go up just because the temperature drops.

With increasing humidity levels, the feeling of how cool your home is (just the feeling, the thermometer will show the same temperature) is obscured. This effect is quite nicely laid out by heat index:

inverse relationship between temperature and humidity levels
Heat index tells you how the temperature feels are various relative humidity levels. Example: 90°F feels like 93°F at 40% humidity and like 100°F at 60% humidity.

In many cases when the temperature drop is so sudden, homeowners claim that AC is cooling but humidity increases (or is not reduced). This is just the effect of this temperature-humidity relationship.

Other Reasons Why Both Cooling And Dehumidification Function Are Imbedded

Thus far we have talked about situations when:

  • Cooling is adequate.
  • Moisture removal is inadequate.

If you see both cooling and moisture removal impeded, the culprits causing this range anywhere from freon leak (low refrigerant levels) and dirty AC filters to leaky ductwork. In general, you will have a lot more problems (and costs associated with fixing them) if both of these functions are inadequate.

All in all, if only humidity removal is impeded, check the AC size, thermostat setting (should be set at ‘Auto’), and the state of ACs indoor coils. The perception of humidity levels might also be impaired if the AC cools your home too quickly.

21 thoughts on “AC Is Cooling But Not Removing Humidity: Even Goes Up? (4 Causes)”

  1. Thank you. Turned ac to auto. Its cooling so so just not as good as usual. I keep front filter clean
    Wiped down outside but not moisture to be.seen in the unit from the outside.

      • Not sure if this post is still active but my issue is the AC is not removing humidity when set to auto, but is cooling the room. In fact, room temp gets to about 4 degrees colder that what I set it on the remote. Overnight, the humidity in the room is increasing and last night got to 66 degrees. Today I set it to dehumidify and low and behold immediately started sucking all the moisture out and removed the humidity. The units were installed only last year and the AC tech says the issue is the way my house is insulated which sounds like BS. Any thoughts?

        • Hi G, that insulation does seem like BS. Alright, so you have an AC unit that cools spectacularly in Auto mode, and dehumidifiers spectacularly when in Dry mode. So, we see that the unit is capable of both but it’s hard to convenience it to do it at the same time.

          This sounds a lot like an issue of an oversized AC unit (not to worry, there is a way to fix this). The cooling output is so big that is even overshots (well, undershots, to be exact) the set temperature (goes to 68°F when you set it to 72°F). That happens very quickly (a lot of cooling output, but not a lot of time for dehumidification which does need a bit of time).

          The solution here would be to run the AC unit on Mid or, probably even better, on Low setting. The temperature decrease will be slower, yes, but that will buy time for the AC to properly dehumidify the place. Hope this helps.

          P.S.: That insulation argument. It might be that you have superb insulation the AC tech didn’t take into account, and installed a bigger unit than what is actually needed (good insulation = smaller unit). So, maybe he or she is arguing that you do have an oversized unit, but it wouldn’t be oversized if the AC tech accounted for the good insulation. That might be a reasonable explanation.

      • Hi, humidity issue in newly built home (2023):

        1.5T AC in 1700 Sq ft. AC on auto. Cools very well. Even when running for a 20+ minute cycle (not short cycling), lowest dew point I get is 50F (49% RH @ 70F). This still feels sticky amd slimy. If the house starts dryer at lower dew point, the AC actually increases my dew point up to 50. I’ve found a comfortable building has a dew point of 40-44. My hypothesis is the condensor coil is too hot (near 50F, which is what drives dew point). Could that be the problem, and can an HVAC tech adjust something to lower the condensorr coil temp closer to 40F?

        • Hi Mike, alright, the cooling is adequate. Your hypothesis is that the indoor coil is too hot (the evaporator coil where the condensation happens, the outdoor coil is referred to as condenser coil in HVAC, I know, a bit paradoxical naming)? That would be a good guess.

          Calling an HVAC tech would be a good call. Namely, you need to figure out why the indoor coil is too hot. You might have high subcooling (due to overcharged system, TXV malfunctioning, or a restriction in the liquid line). A tech should check that out.

          Here’s something you can do before the tech comes: Try to run the AC on Low or Mid fan speed. With lower airflow over indoor coils, the coils will probably be colder and will have plenty of time to condense the excess air moisture. Hope this helps.

  2. I live in a 2.5 year old senior living building. Around 160 apartments..each has their own heating/A-C unit. My A/C cools the 1 bdrm apt very well…but humidity in each room (I have 5 temp/humidity indicators… in bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and 2 in living room) has been between 48 & 55 %…sometimes as high as 62%.
    Is it possible that this newer bldg has individual apt heating & cooling that doesn’t remove humidity in summer ?
    I just found the AUTO setting on my thermostat…it’s 82 out. With 83% humidity. Tomorrow, 102 is expected high.
    Temp is set at 72, Auto, Cool. I normally keep it at 74 to 75 degrees.
    It’s 8:30 PM…I’ll recheck humidity levels in 12 hours.
    No one ever explained the AUTO setting. I hope it helps…thanx for your time.

    • Hello Tim, the exceptionally high summer temperatures come hand in hand with high humidity levels. AC units are under quite a stress. Now, if you have problems with the AC unit reducing humidity levels, you can try to switch the unit to ‘Dry’ mode. This is a special AC mode that increases dehumidification rates. You should see that the AC unit will produce less airflow; moving air slower over cold coils increases the air moisture adsorption rates. Hope this helps.

      • Hello there, my apartment is fairly new, was constructed 3 years ago. I noticed I have two rooms that share same ac, one of them is cold ( even below set temperature) and the other is definitely hotter, the temperature in the cold room is 18.5c and the humidity is fluctuating between 65% to 84% every 15 to 25 mins.
        What should I do ?

        • Hi Hamad, the problem here is a non-homogenous cool air distribution. If This is a portable AC unit, you can move it closer to the 2nd room. If it’s a mini split unit (you have an air handler fixed in the 1st room), it seems to be quite powerful for two rooms. A good idea would be to run it on a low fan speed setting and keep the doors between the rooms open. This will not decrease the temperature as quickly; however, it will cool more evenly since the cool air has more time to be distributed and the humidity levels in both rooms should decrease as well (you’re looking for below 50% relative humidity levels). Hope this helps.

          • Thank you a bunch!, it’s a (Coolex) mini split unit, unfortunately the controls doesn’t show any fan speed, it’s only (power button),
            ( on/ auto ) and (Cool / off / Heat) and that’s it. Technicians came by 4 days ago and cleaned the filters, humidity decreased a bit but it’s still high ( 63 – 72 )% and the other room is still hotter.

          • Hi Hamad, cleaning filters is great, but you are still experiencing oversized mini split problems. It’s very difficult to solve this situation without using two smaller units. One idea would be to run the mini split for 30 minutes, then turn it off for 30 minutes – the hot air from the 2nd room will mix cooler 1st room air – and then turn the unit on again. It might work, you can try 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hours, and so on. It’s really an unfortunate situation.

  3. I moved into a new construction apartment unit that is rather small. The humidity level (from thermostat) has been between 66-69% since I moved in. After a month and several calls to maintenance who kept telling me they don’t know why my apartment is so humid (they haven’t even checked my ac unit) I finally got them to give me a dehumidifier. Ran it for a week and it helped bring humidity down to the 30-40’s. Then I slowly increased the setting by 5 until I turned the dehumidifier off. Humidity is creeping back up into 60s again. What do I tell my landlord to do because they have no clue. I can’t run this thing forever, my electric bill is going to be tripled and it’s unfair that I moved into this situation and landlord is not helping fix the root cause. I’m concerned about mold growth, I already have book lice all over the apartment and my dogs are sick. Cost me several hundred dollars at the vet and my dogs are on medication now for allergies, which they’ve never had until we moved here. I would call a heating and cooling professional, but per my lease I’m not allowed to do so. I don’t know what to do.

    • Hi Hannah, this is quite an unfortunate situation. Humidity levels above 60% are a no-no and you already see the consequences. Running both AC and dehumidifier at the same time is a waste of electricity, as you have adequately pointed out.
      Now, in most cases when AC is cooling alright but is not removing humidity (OK temp but humid rooms), you either have an oversized AC or inadequate air distribution (this usually happens in bigger homes).
      Oversized AC might be the issue. There are two things that you can try:
      1. Check if you have ‘Dry’ mode on the AC. This should increase AC dehumidification rate while holding the temperature constant.
      2. Try running the AC on ‘Low’ mode. At low mode, you get less airflow, and the indoor evaporator coils inside the AC have more time to condense the humidity from the indoor air.
      Hate so hear about all the dealings with landlords and especially about the dogs. Hope tell will be alright. Let us know if these two things work.

  4. We replaced a 3 ton for a 4 ton pump with new air handler. They said our duct work was adequate for it, and when the sw florida summer and humidity kicked in it started pulling humid air from pocket doors and under cabinets causing mildew and mold issues. They came out 3 times, first I needed insulation, so we spent 3600 on spray foam in the attic, then they said a part was bad, it wasnt…then they said we need another air return. I’m getting nowhere the insulation didn’t change anything and I’m running out of $ by doing all the things they suggest when the salesperson came out, looked at everything and approved the unit to work with existing duct and air return. My old unit although it broke was a 3 ton and we never had humid, mold or mildew issues. Our ac doesn’t shut on and off, it runs all day with very few shutoff times because the thermostat always says higher then what it’s set at. If it’s pulling air from the walls is it that we indeed more air returns? A bigger one or additional? It gets around 100° with 90% humidity here in the summer but we didn’t experience anything like this with our old unit. Option of a smaller unit isn’t possible, we’re already $10,000 plus foam attic insulation into this. Need help, humid weather will be back soon. Thermostat set at 74-75 and in the summer the house approaches 80°

    • Hi Kate, this is quite a messy situation. Even professional HVAC guys will have problems finding adequate AC systems to fight these extreme summer temperatures and Florida is known for having extremely high humidity. Upgrading your insulation is a good move. However, it seems that your AC system is too small. The air conditioning system has to deal with both the extremely high temperature and extremely high humidity; if it’s running non-stop and cannot adequately lower the temperature (thermostat says 74-75 but the indoor temperature is close to 80 degrees) and if you are finding high humidity pockets (causing mildew, mold issues), it’s quite clear that it just can’t handle these conditions.

      Upgrading to 5-ton system or adding a 12,000 BTU window or portable air conditioner would make sense in this case. Given how hot and humid summers are becoming, it will be very difficult to adequately solve this problem with your insulation upgrades. Hope this helps a bit.

  5. I have a two prong issue that I am hoping you can offer some assistance. First I have a high efficiency, variable speed system. Outside unit is a 2 ton unit and evaporator is 2.5 ton. System functions the same whether fan is in On, Auto or Circulate. During winter months, at times before heat turns on, the two lines leading to outside unit begin to bang and a clicking sound which is also on outside unit(even when thermostat is set to heat only). In summer months, A/C can take up to 2-3 hours to move the temperature 1 or 2 degrees but it does not remove humidity. In fact, I believe the air coming out of the registers is moist because fabrics – clothing are wet. In winter, two portable dehumidifiers showed humidity in 30% but any fabrics – bedding, clothing etc are wet. I have consulted with air quality folks, energy efficiency ppl, and HVAC ppl with no avail. One HVAC company told me that the evaporator coil was not getting cold enough and the system would have to be replaced (system was only 4 years old). I thought at the time he just wanted to get a sale but now I am thinking he may have been right. Actions I took, reinsulated attic and new soffit and fascia to get more air in attic, all ductwork was screwed together and taped and masked, basement was refinished with new insulation. Dryer outlet redone with appropriate taped, hot water tank was fixed to stop any back drafting. New door and insulation between garage and basement. Notice when a/c runs, basement gets really cold with increased humidity, upstairs system runs all day and humidity keeps increasing. I am desperate for help to figure out why my fabrics are getting wet in both winter and summer. In winter, humidity levels are low but moisture still an issue with fabrics. I don’t have any condensation on windows or mold in the house – windows are old replacment windows, house is 65 years old. Evaporator was installed sideways due to height issues per installers in 2014. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hi Ann, I sympathise with your situation. The unit is acting, for a lack of a better word, weird. So, the air quality people, HVAC guys, energy efficiency guys have no solution here? It might be that the problem is in the wiring; calling an electrician would be the only choice left here. Hope you can solve this. I have to admit I don’t have a fix here apart from it being thermostat wiring problem (and a weird one). Best of luck!

  6. I live in Central CT and have high humidity in the summer. None of the portable ACs I have work well for the hunidity. When they are on the humidity goes up to mid 60s to mid 70s, and the doesn’t matter what I do with the setting. The temperature doesn’t go below the mid 70s when it’s really humid and hot out. The portable ACs are supposed to be the right size for the rooms. A 6,200 SACC for 208 sq ft bedroom on 2nd floor insulated from unfinished adjacent attic. A 7200 SACC for 170 sq ft living room that connects to kitchen and hallway. I also run a dehumidifier in the basement. I find the only thing that has worked is running a dehumidifier in the room with the AC for the last 2 days. I know that isn’t a long term solution. It’s driving me nuts. My house is only 1200 sq ft and I can’t run more than two portable without tripping circuits.

  7. Hi,

    Hope you can help. I have a 820 sq ft condo with 2 bedrooms. Indoor humidity is 60-70 sometimes 80% which caused some mold in our AC units. We have mini split AC 6000 btu in each room – one room is 150 sq ft and another is 105 sq ft. There’s 2 thermostats. The room is cooling but obviously not dehumidifying. The split AC doesn’t have Auto setting, but has Dry setting. I have a newborn that needs to be in 68F-72F temp. I have dehumidifiers running but isn’t removing enough moisture – What should I do? This is so frustrating – just want to get moisture out so we don’t have mold again for the newborn.

    • Hi Nina, I understand your problem well. AC unit spewing mold spores in an enviroment with a newborn… this needs fixing. Alright, the problem seems to be that the 6,000 BTU units are too big for 105 sq ft and 105 sq ft rooms. The result is that you will get the cool temperature but the AC will stop when it achieves that; and it will not reduce humidity. In HVAC, we say that these units are probably short cycling.

      Now, what you can do about it? Running units in Dry mode is a very good idea, additional dehumidifiers is an even better idea. AC-wise, this is the max. you can do to fight humidity. It might a smart thing if you open the doors to both of these smaller rooms. This will increase the air the AC has to condition, it should run longer, collect moisture longer, and thereby decrease the relative humidity while still cooling adequately. Hope this helps a bit, best of luck!


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