Why Window Condensation Can Be a Good Thing



With winter fast approaching and colder weather already present across the country, now is the time to discuss a seasonal topic of importance: window condensation. Many people often associate window condensation with the negative connotations of water damage and mold, not realizing that condensation, depending on the location, can actually be an indicator of quality insulation. You heard us right. Condensation can be a sign that your energy-efficient windows are doing their job correctly.

What Causes Window Condensation?

Condensation is a common phenomenon that occurs under the right conditions of humidity and temperature. When an object is cooler than the air surrounding it, water molecules in the air group together and adhere to the surface, causing visible water droplets to form. The temperature required to cause this process is known as the dew point, which varies by relative humidity. Picture your ice-cold glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day and the drops dribbling down the side and leaving a ‘ringlet’ on the table.

The same principle applies to windows, but cause for concern depends on where the condensation is on the pane of glass.

Exterior vs. Interior Window Condensation

As mentioned above, condensation is not necessarily a bad thing and can be a sign that your energy-efficient windows are doing their job at insulating your home. When moist air builds up on the outside of your windows and comes in contact with the cool surface of the glass, condensation forms on the outside of the windowpane. This type of condensation occurs when the dew point in the air is higher than the temperature of the glass, such as during a cool night following a warmer day.

The Low-E glass of our energy-efficient windows reduces heat conducted through the glass from the warm interior of the home to the outside glass surface. Because of this, exterior condensation indicates that the insulating glass is performing as it should, keeping your home at a comfortable temperature and preventing unwanted costly energy expenses. Additionally, the exterior of your home is generally built to withstand moisture and will not suffer damage from water on the outside of your windows.

On the other hand, interior condensation commonly forms on the inside pane of glass within your home when the outside temperature is cooler and the interior has excess humidity. Interior humidity in a home can manifest itself in the form of condensation on the coldest area of a wall, which is normally the windows. The warmer the air, the more moisture it will retain, so when the air in your home comes in contact with the colder glass surface, it is cooled, and moisture releases in the form of condensation on the glass.

Unlike exterior condensation, excess moisture within a home can cause a buildup of vapor pressure, forcing the moist air through most of the materials used in the building such as wood, plaster, brick, and cement and potentially posing serious risks to your home. Effects include heavy water droplets running off windows and staining woodwork and less visible condensation penetrating and collecting inside your walls and ceilings. In serious cases, this can damage wallpaper, paint, or plaster and cause rotting wood, buckling floors, insulation deterioration, mildew, moisture spots, and even structural damage to your home.

In addition to interior and exterior window condensation, moisture will occasionally build up between the panes of glass. If this happens, it is an indication that the window seal has failed and usually requires a complete window replacement to resolve the problem.



Managing Interior Window Condensation

Though excessive interior window condensation can threaten your home, there are thankfully many easy steps you can take to minimize it. If you’re seeing too much moisture buildup on the inside of your windows, especially during colder months, follow the steps below to help manage this problem before it becomes serious.

  • Open your drapes and shades - condensation forms easier when window treatments are closed, trapping heat at the surface of the window.
  • Circulate the air - just like the above reason; you don’t want hot air trapped in one location. Make sure you are allowing proper air circulation around the entire home. Use ceiling fans and prop doors open to allow unrestricted airflow through the whole house.
  • Use a dehumidifier, not a humidifier - humidifiers will only increase the relative humidity in the building. Instead, consider using a dehumidifier to bring the level down.
  • Ensure ventilation of your home - utilize your bathroom, kitchen, and furnace exhaust fans to prevent the accumulation of steam. If you don’t have exhaust fans, open your window for a few minutes to let the wet air out. Additionally, you should vent all gas burners, clothes dryers, etc., to the outdoors.
  • Store firewood outside - firewood and living plants contain excess moisture. If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, make sure you’re storing your kindling outside.

To sum up, the natural process of condensation doesn’t have to be daunting if you understand that the location on the window makes all the difference. Even a surplus of interior condensation is usually completely manageable, and there are many ways to handle this problem. Recognize that exterior window condensation is not a troubling sign but an indicator that your energy-efficient windows are performing as intended. Watch our short video about condensation for more information. If you find moisture between the panes or are in search of quality, efficient windows, contact a SoftLite dealer near you to get started on your window replacement.


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