Monday, 23 February 2015

FAQ: Why is there condensation on the inside of my windows in the winter?

Winter condensation on windows is a growing problem in Canada.  This problem, believe it or not, occurs because homes are sealed better now against air leakage and natural ventilation to the outdoors is reduced compared to older homes.  In the past air would escape through window seals, now the air cannot escape and turns into condensation on windows and other parts of the home. 

Options condos, like most new homes, are very tightly sealed to prevent air leakage, drafts and to help conserve energy.  During the winter, when heat is turned on, this can contribute to an increase in condensation forming on the windows and other parts of the suite.

What causes window condensation in the winter?

Condensation forms when the warm, moist air within your home meets cooler surfaces (such as windows).  Imagine a glass with a cold beverage during the summer - we've all seen the condensation that forms of the outside of the glass - or when your glasses fog up when walking into a warm room from out in the cold.  The same principle can be applied to windows in the winter. 

Condensation problems arise because air can only hold a limited amount of water vapour - cold air is able to hold less water vapour than warm air. Air cooled by contact with cooler surfaces will therefore deposit water vapour on the glass.  Condensation is an indication of excess water vapour in the air.  

All homes are susceptible to occasional condensation.  There are the three most common times that condensation occurs:
  1. Condensation is especially present in newly build homes.  Gallons of water went into the concrete and other materials used to construct your new Options home.  As soon as the heat is turned on the moisture begins to seep out into the air.  The water slowly evaporates, therefore the moisture content in new homes is above normal.  Some construction materials can take up to a year to dry out naturally. 
  2. During humid summers your suite may absorb moisture.  This can be apparent during the first few weeks of heating in the fall/winter.
  3. Sudden drops in temperature can cause temporary condensation problems.
  4. Regular daily activities such as cooking, showering,drying clothes, even breathing, release huge amounts of moisture into the air. 
How does condensation affect my home?

Condensation can have a number of negative effects on your home.  Some of these include:
  • stained ceilings
  • water streaming from windows
  • mould on walls and windowsills
  • wallpaper or plaster damage 
The best way to prevent any of the above from occurring is to get rid of excess water vapour.

The Good News - You can do something about it 

Proper ventilation will promote the nature drying-out process which will allow everything in your home to adjust as steadily as possible.  You should not try to speed up the process by creating extremely high temperatures.  This will exaggerate the normal shrinkage that comes along with the nature process of drying out.

There are a few steps you can take to conquer condensation:

  • Open windows slightly - this solution will cost a bit more in heating but it is the easiest and cheapest way to solve the moisture problem.
  • Use exhaust fans and proper venting - installing (or using pre-existing) exhaust fans in high moisture areas of you home can help.
    • Bathroom exhaust fans should be used during every shower/bath and for at least 15 minutes afterwards. 
  • Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs), which can be found in most Options buildings, can retain most of the heat that you would normally lose through open windows and exhaust fans.  They extract 75-85 per cent of the heat out of stale, indoor air before exhausting it outdoors.  This saved heat is then transferred to a fresh stream of air coming into your home from outside. 
diagram sourced from:

Condensation on the inside of windows is completely normal, especially considering the cold temperatures we have been experiencing lately.  The good news is that there are many simple lifestyle changes that you can make to help solve this problem.

Do you have any questions about you want to ask Options?  Let us know and your question could be featured in our blog!