What is Condensation?

Condensation. The process by which a gas or vapor changes to a liquid. The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition, 1993. You may recall this definition from chemistry class, but now that term takes on a whole new meaning for you in your home. At Windows Plus & Allied The Window Center, we get phone calls frequently at this time of year from homeowners who are dismayed by the condensation on their windows. What can I do? Why does this happen with my new windows? Although it may seem logical to you that your windows would be the reason for condensation, the fact is, barring a seal failure, they simply are not.

To the contrary, energy-efficient windows prevent the moisture from escaping to the outside. Windows provide the clear surface on which you will notice moisture. Condensation first forms on glass because glass surfaces have a lower temperature than other areas in the home. For example, when you see moisture on the bathroom mirror after a steamy shower, this surface is not the cause of the condensation; rather, it merely reflects the existence of moisture. You will notice that the inside or the outside of your bathroom window may sweat due to the differences in the temperatures. Moist air joins cool dry air = condensation.

You may notice more condensation in your home after you install energy-efficient products because the materials in these products are intended to keep the cold air on the outside. By keeping the cold air on the exterior, these same products will keep the warm air on the interior. We hear homeowners say that they did not have any condensation with their old windows. Well, this is probably true because the older windows allowed for a great escape of moisture and cold — surely you remember they were drafty? Remember how cold you felt inside your home? There were no barriers to block the exchange of air in the home. That was the problem. What to do, you ask, to reduce condensation?

It all has to do with controlling the humidity factor in your home. When you have excess humidity inside, it is going to show up on the coldest area of a wall, like, the windows. As the inside air becomes warmer and comes into contact with the colder glass, moisture forms. With your new energy-efficient products, your home is sealed tighter, retaining more humidity. But, you can control the level of humidity by taking a few steps. Your goal is to increase the ventilation in your home and control excessive humidity. You can: 1) open fireplace dampers to let moisture escape; 2) ensure that the louvers in your crawl spaces and attics are open; 3) turn off humidifiers and other devices that have humidifiers; 4) be sure to vent clothes dryers and gas burners to the outside; 5) always use exhaust fans when cooking, doing laundry and in the bathrooms during showers and baths; 6) take time to air out your home several minutes a day — open a window or door briefly; 7) keep plants in a sunroom or room that is used less frequently during the winter.

Should you worry about condensation? You will only experience window condensation during times of extreme temperature differences. During winter, you will see condensation on the inside; during the summer, on the outside. Occasional condensation causes no significant problems and is normal. But, if you see condensation in between the two glass panels, this signals a seal failure, which means you will need to replace the glass. If you have too much moisture inside your home, you will notice this during the winter and summer months. More serious signs of moisture show up with cracked or peeling paint, rotting wood, and fungus or mildew growth — all indicate problems that a contractor needs to address. If you have questions about your home and would like to talk with one of the company experts, call Reg Wayland or Tom Camarca at 703-256-0600.

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