Last year about this time, I drove north to Yuba City to install new windows. It was early, right around sunrise, and I was headed up Route 99, passing the Lake of the Woods State Wildlife Area. All of a sudden, I was inside thick fog—so thick I had to slow my truck down.
Back home, I mentioned the fog to a friend of mine, and he wasn’t surprised. Apparently, Yuba City always has fog in the fall. It even has a name—tule fog, named for the tule grass wetlands in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. This fog, my friend said, is also known for making the air abnormally humid.
Something clicked then. We get a lot of calls about windows from our friends in Yuba City. They say there’s water running down the inside of the glass. This is condensation, and it’s an indicator of poorly-sealed windows, which hurts a home’s energy efficiency and drives energy bills up. It can also dampen wood around windows, causing rot that is ugly and tough to repair, so, believe me when I say, it’s in the best interest of homeowners to keep their windows dry.
The Causes of Window Condensation
There’s a reason condensation forms inside of windows. When you live somewhere humid, like Yuba City in the fall, the air in your house collects moisture. When the temperature hits a certain number, it means condensation is inevitable. This temperature is known as the dew point.
When warm air hits a glass surface that is at or below the dew point, condensation starts. Just think about sitting outside on your patio with a cold glass of lemonade. You know how all that water starts running down the side of it? That’s because the glass is cold, but the air is hot. The same thing happens with your windows.
One of the reasons this happens in Yuba City, as well as other areas we service, is because there’s a good amount of tract housing here that is getting a bit older, and these tract houses generally have single pane windows. Air gets humid (and foggy) in the fall, it seeps into the house, making the indoor air humid as well. Then winter rolls around, and the temperatures outside plummet. Here comes the condensation.
Condensation Leads to Energy Loss—and Expensive Rot Issues
For many reasons, it’s best to have tightly sealed windows that don’t allow condensation to form on the innermost pane. There is a National Fenestration Rating Council rating system that serves as an indicator of how well sealed your windows are, measuring:
- Thermal insulation
- Solar heat gain
- Visible light transfer
- Air leakage
- Condensation resistance
Single-pane windows in tract houses don’t generally score well for any of those. I’ve also talked in the past about the importance of U-Factor, which rates a windows efficiency when it comes to heat escaping. U-Factor is more important than condensation resistance, to be sure, because U-Factor directly judges how much heat is escaping through a window.
Condensation resistance is an important second gauge of how well windows are keeping air inside. Also, condensation brings excess moisture into the area around your windows, which can rot the wood around the glass. Wood rot is bad, both for aesthetic reasons and for the health of the materials, which can break and collapse if they get too rotten—and that’s expensive to fix.
How to Stop Condensation from Forming
There are ways to ensure that your windows stay dry and free of condensation. As I said earlier, if you have an aging tract house, you can count on their windows to get wet with condensation on the cold days following humid fall weather. These houses were almost always built with single pane windows that are liable to cost you money on heating and cooling costs. The only real way to stop condensation from forming on the inside of single pane window is to get those windows replaced.
Here are a few ways new windows can prevent condensation:
- Double or triple pane windows: Having more panes obviously means more insulation, which means less air leakage. This cuts down on how humid your house gets in the fall, and ultimately leads to less condensation on the windows later. These types of windows also do absolute wonders for your U-Factor, upping it by as much as 50 percent, which in turn does wonders for lowering your heating costs.
- Better spacers: Spacers are pieces between panes that form an insulating space where gas can be added to prevent air seepage and protect against outside elements, including condensation. Even if your tract house already has double or triple pane windows, it may not have the best spacers to prevent condensation. Many earlier models of double pane wood windows had aluminum spacers, which are conducive to transferring temperatures. These spacers chill the inner panes of your new windows, causing condensation where the wood meets the glass. Today’s spacers are made from less conductive materials such as stainless steel, tin steel, and foam polymers, commonly known as warm-edge spacers.
- Proper frames: Window frames are the supporting materials that go around the glass. Staying on the subject of conductive materials, the type of window frame you pick for your windows also makes a difference. A warning should be issued for homeowners who want to drastically upgrade their tract houses by copying recent design trends—aluminum frames are very conductive and ultimately make your windows more prone to condensation.
- Gas-filled windows: Gas-filled glass panes, generally filled with argon gas, drastically reduce temperature transfer that happens between inside and outside air. Obviously, cutting down on temperature transfer is your goal when battling condensation.
Just because Yuba City tends to get a bit foggier in the fall, doesn’t mean you have to stay hazy when it comes to keeping your windows free of condensation. Allowing condensation to build on your windows every year can bring moisture that accelerates the rot of wood and damages your home. Condensation on your windows can also be a direct indicator of an air leak that’s costing you money on your HVAC bills. New and improved windows installed by professionals could be the answer.
Don’t let condensation on your windows cause damage to your home. Contact Bell Brothers today to fix condensation on your windows.