Condensation is a process that occurs when warm, humid air comes into contact with a cool surface — often a window, though it can be walls. Because the air contains water vapour, when it hits the cold surface it converts to liquid, taking the form of the familiar water droplets. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air, so when it condenses it becomes noticeable on windows and walls.
The reason condensation is more prevalent during the winter months is because of the stark temperature difference between the cosy interior of your home (and warm air) and the coldness outside which chills your windows.
Within your home, you’re probably well aware that the bathroom is a hot spot for condensation. This is because it’s a space that sees a lot of water in both liquid and vapour (steam) form, thanks to showers, baths and sinks. In fact, keeping ourselves clean produces around 1.5 litres of moisture per person, per day.
Another area that sees a lot of moisture is the kitchen, creating three litres of moisture per day thanks to all the cooking and one litre per day due to the cleaning of the dishes. Your laundry can also be a big contributor to moisture-laden air, with five litres of moisture per load being released into your home if you dry your clothes in an unvented room. Water leakage from blocked, broken or leaky pipes or guttering could also be contributing. It’s not always easy to spot this issue, but checking that water is flowing correctly through gutters and pipes and draining away during heavy rain is a good idea. Additionally, if you notice particularly damp rooms, take precautions to make sure you don’t have a leaky pipe hidden out of sight behind a wall.
Damp ground underneath your home could also be a cause of excess moisture contributing to condensation. Polythene sheeting installed as a ground moisture barrier to make sure the air between the ground and your home’s floor doesn’t get damp. Another cause of moisture that you may not have considered is moisture that has been retained in your home’s building materials, such as timber framing, concrete floors and plaster. New houses can experience high internal moisture levels for up to two years after construction.
Ways to prevent condensation
There are two ways that condensation can be controlled:
- reducing humidity
- reducing the chance of warm air reaching cold surfaces.
In order to reduce humidity as much as possible you need to ensure your home is well ventilated. You can start by setting aside five to ten minutes per day to open windows and doors and air out your house. Ventilating like this allows stale, moisture-laden air to escape and fresh, dry air to enter. However, areas such as the kitchen and bathroom need extra ventilation, so making use of extractor fans or rangehoods is good practice.
Having a well-insulated home is the best way to reduce condesation. By insulating ceilings, floors and walls of a home, the internal temperature of your house will be raised. This means cold surfaces where condensation may have previously occurred will be warmed up, preventing the process from happening. Windows are also more likely to have condensation on them if a home isn’t properly insulated. Double glazed windows can help to prevent this, but a cheaper option is always good thermal curtains, along with effective ventilation.
While condensation can easily be seen on windows, the moisture can also be absorbed by your carpets, curtains, rugs and furnishings, which can leave them feeling damp. And, if damp is left to fester, it can cause mould and odour problems.
Moisture problems have a variety of causes and can result in major damage to your home. It is a good idea to inspect your house regularly for any damage caused by moisture, while also keeping an eye out for warning signs of potential trouble ahead. If you notice any problems, take immediate action to fix them before they cause further damage or balloon into larger, more complicated issues.Controlling moisture can make your home more energy-efficient, less costly to heat and cool, more comfortable, and prevent mold growth.
Properly controlling moisture in your home will improve the effectiveness of your air sealing and insulation efforts, and these efforts in turn will help control moisture. The best strategies for controlling moisture in your home depend on your climate and how your home is constructed.Uncontrolled humidity can actually make your home more expensive to heat and cool, because when insulation gets damp enough, it loses its R value and its ability to insulate. This is a common problem in basements, crawl spaces, and attics
If you can see evidence of mold in your home's living areas, then there is a good chance it has already affected structural components of your house. Investigate the extent of your mold problem as soon as possible. In fact, even if you do not see evidence of mold, if your home has high moisture or humidity levels, then it is a good idea to have a professional mold inspector assess whether you have an existing mold problem.
Damp conditions in houses are often caused by insufficient ventilation or water leaks that have not been completely cleaned up. Anytime you notice a leaky pipe or dripping faucet in your home, investigate and fix it immediately! Additionally, rain can leak into houses as the result of worn siding, flashing, or weather-stripping material. Check these materials to make sure they are watertight.