Now that the fall season has officially come back to Long Island and we are enjoying cooler temperatures outside, thoughts of the coming colder temperatures winter will bring begin to sneak into our minds. You may have already had to switch your thermostats from air conditioning (if you’re lucky enough to have central AC) to heat, even if just to make sure that it will work when those colder temperatures hit. You may not be thinking of it yet, but pretty soon you’ll be thinking about how your windows performed last winter. Were your windows cold? Did you feel drafts or see your curtains move when the wind blew? Did you see condensation build up on the glass and/or frames of your windows when it was cold outside but warm inside?
Any homeowner living in an area that isn’t 75 degrees and sunny every day has most likely experienced one of the classic problems that plagues windows during the wintertime: condensation collecting on the window glass. It often dries up once the sun comes out, so you may think that condensation isn’t such a big deal; it’s just a little fogging in the corners of your windows. Unfortunately, excessive condensation can become a serious problem in your home if left unchecked.
Water, in its many forms, is bad for building materials. From simply staining painted surfaces, to mold, fungus, enticing insects to feed and eventually rot, moisture is the bane of building materials around the world.
That’s why in today’s post from Renewal by Andersen of Long Island, we’re going to discuss what causes condensation and provide some helpful tips regarding what you can do to keep it from damaging your home.
What Causes Window Condensation?
If you’re like many of us, the last time you really had to think a lot about condensation was during a fourth grade science lesson, but like so many things from school, condensation has come back to rear its ugly head. So, first, let’s talk about what causes it. Condensation on your windows is the result of moist air contacting a cool surface, like your window glass. As we said before, a little condensation during the winter is normal, but the problems really start when all that moisture builds up and eventually has to go somewhere else. Unfortunately for you, that somewhere else is going to be your wall. All that excess moisture can damage the wooden frame of your window, and sometimes even the plaster of the wall surrounding it. If it finds its way inside the wall, as it usually does, it can start to rot the framing of you home and encourage wood boring insects to set up home inside your home. This damage is may go unnoticed for years, as mold, fungus, rot and insects eat away at the supporting structure of your home. While water stains can be simply unsightly, mold and fungus can be health hazards and insect damage can undermine the stability of your home’s other systems. In the end, when finally discovered, repairs can be can become problematic and expensive, so let’s jump in to what could be increasing the condensation in your home.
So, condensation, as we’ve said, is the result of moist air meeting cold glass. This is why the wintertime boasts the most condensation issues of the year — all of the water vapor and humidity created by people just living in a house hits the cold windows and you’ve got condensation on the glass. Naturally this is made worse by all of the vapor that is created when you work in the kitchen, do laundry, shower, or engage in many other standard household practices.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to alleviate the problem of condensation in your home.
How to Cure Window Condensation
There are several ways a homeowner can go about mitigating the presence of condensation on windows.
The first line of defense against condensation is to attack that condensation at its source — the water vapor and humidity that is in your home. As we said before, normal household activities like doing laundry and showering adds water vapor to the air in your home. This moisture, when it contacts a cold surface, can become excessive condensation.
So how can you ease off the amount of humidity in your home if it’s caused by normal activities? First of all, make sure you have an adequate exhaust fan in your bathroom. Showering creates a lot of moisture and you want to make sure you exhaust that moist air outside of your house. Be sure that your exhaust fan isn’t just venting into your attic though, that’s just moving the problem from one place to another. When all that moist air hits the cold framing and sheathing in your attic, it will condense, creating a perfect environment for the aforementioned mold, rot, etc. We’ve seen attics where the moisture was so extreme in the winter that there were icicles hanging from the roof rafters in winter.
Many homes that have forced hot air heating systems use a humidifier to combat the dry air these systems can create. Often these are directly on the heating system, while in others they are aftermarket room humidifiers. If you find condensation is a problem and you use a humidifier, try turning it down until the condensation disappears.
Some homes are naturally humid, or the humidity seems to occur specifically in one room and not others. First, try to determine the cause of the condensation, particularly if it’s in one room and not others. This could be a sign of a more serious issue. Because of their underground location, basements are notoriously humid. This may or may not be a signal of other issues, but cracks in the foundation or high water tables could require more serious professional remediation.
If you use a humidifier anywhere in your home and you notice condensation, turn it down to a lower level. If you don’t use a humidifier and still have issues with condensation, and you’ve ruled out more serious potential causes, you can take a more pro-active approach and purchase a dehumidifier to try to counteract all the moisture in your home. Using fans in the places in your home that are most prone to moisture is another method of distributing the humidity around and lowering the overall humidity in one particular location.
If these options don’t appeal to you or you’ve tried them with little success, it’s time to look at the window itself. Weather stripping your windows may help prevent drafts that keep the glass cold enough to cause condensation.
However, if you have single-paned windows, there’s not a lot you can do to reduce condensation. Installing storm windows can potentially reduce the temperature of the inside pane of glass enough to reduce damaging condensation. If you install storm windows, you may however just move the condensation from inside the house to between the storm windows and the inside window. This isn’t going to help your view out of your windows and can still create trapped moisture issues. In some cases, this moisture will freeze in really cold weather or overnight and then melt when the sun comes out, creating puddles between the storm windows and your primary windows. This will likely hasten the rot and mold issues.
The only permanent solution to resolving the condensation issues, once you have addressed any excess moisture in the home, is installing double-paned insulated glass replacement windows. The insulated nature of having two panes of glass permanently sealed against moisture, keeps the cold air on the outside and the warm air on the inside. Because the two panes are permanently sealed, no moisture can get between the two panes and condense or freeze.
Recapping the Problems of Window Condensation
So to recap, excessive condensation is caused when moisture in your home tries to get out and comes in contact with your cold windows. This can cause a lot of damage to your home, but there are several courses of action you can take to help control the issue, from insulating your windows to controlling the moisture in your home.
Need some more information on how condensation on your windows could be affecting your home? Want some more advice regarding what you can do about it? Renewal by Andersen of Long Island is your replacement window expert. As a subsidiary of Andersen Windows, we’ve been manufacturing windows for generations, and nobody knows the business like we do. Be sure to contact one of our experienced design consultants who will help you through any step of your window experience. Call us at (866) 609-5033 for a free design consultation.