As the colder months set in, we often see an increase in condensation on surfaces within our homes. These surfaces commonly include windows and mirrors. While there is no need to panic about a small amount of condensation, excess water in your home can create damp conditions that could lead to mould growth. Not only can a damp and mouldy home look and smell unpleasant, but it can also cause adverse health problems such as nasal congestion, coughing and asthma.
What is condensation?
Condensation is essentially a change in the state of a gas or vapour into liquid form. It occurs in our homes when warm air comes into contact with a cooler surface, such as vapour from a hot shower on the bathroom mirror or steam from cooking on your cold kitchen window.
In Australia, a healthy indoor humidity (or water vapour) is between 30 and 50%. In winter, this percentage may need to be lower to prevent interior condensation. Investing in a device called a ‘hygrometer’ will allow you to monitor your home’s humidity to create an ideal environment for you and your loved ones. If you find you have too much moisture in your home, here are some ways to combat the condensation.
Cures for condensation
1. Create a consistent temperature
Managing the temperature inside your home is vital to control condensation. It is common practice during winter to only heat the areas you use. You might heat your lounge room and close all other doors to contain the warmth. This is obviously energy efficient, but it can also create the perfect environment for condensation to form. As soon as you open the lounge room door, the warm air moves into the hallway and comes into contact with colder surfaces such as the walls, ceiling, windows or furniture. If there is a high percentage of humidity in the warm air, the cold environment will cause the warm vapour to release the moisture and create condensation. To prevent this, try to keep the areas you regularly use at a consistent temperature.
2. Open windows and external doors
It is vital to improve ventilation in your home so moist air does not become trapped. One of the easiest ways to do this is to regularly open windows and external doors to allow water vapour to escape.
3. Remove plants
There are countless advantages to keeping plants in your home. Not only do they look great, they improve the air you breathe by reducing a range of pollutants. What they also do, however, is increase the humidity within your home. This process is known as ‘transpiration’. The increased humidity occurs because plants absorb the water through their roots, circulate it via the stems and when it reaches the leaves, the water evaporates as vapour into the air. This increase of moisture in the air can result in more condensation. If you are having trouble with excess moisture in your home, try putting your indoor plants outside. If it leaves your home looking a bit bare, there are plenty of life-like artificial plants to take their place.
4. Dry clothes outside or in well-ventilated areas
Similar to indoor plants, wet clothing can also create excess moisture. If you do not have the option of using a drier or hanging your clothes on the line outside, try placing them in a room that is well-ventilated and not regularly used. Open the windows so the moisture can escape outside and close any internal doors to prevent the water vapour from dispersing into other rooms.
5. Close internal doors when cooking and cleaning
As outlined in tip 4, it’s important to isolate any excess moisture you are knowingly creating within your home. This includes the moisture from bathing and cooking – both of which are substantial contributors to indoor humidity. The easiest way to contain moisture as you cook and clean is to close bathroom and kitchen doors and remove moisture through external doors, windows or exhaust fans.
6. Make friends with your fans
While it is essential to isolate excess water vapour, it’s also vital to expel it. Make sure you always turn the exhaust fans on in your kitchen and bathroom when you are cooking and cleaning to rid each room of moisture as fast as possible. Only keeping it on while you cook and shower is rarely enough, though. There is still an accumulation of moisture in the air immediately after each activity, so leave the exhaust fan running until you expel the majority of the humidity.
7. Keep your lid on
An additional tip to reduce water vapour when cooking is to keep the lid on your pots and pans, particularly if you are steaming or boiling food.
When it comes time to remove the lid, do so near an open window or under the running exhaust vent so the majority of the moisture is swiftly swept away.
8. Consider double glazing
As we have already established, condensation forms when warm air comes into contact with a cooler surface. In many cases, this is often a cold window. While we can’t control the outside temperature, there are ways to prevent indoor surfaces from becoming too cold. One solution is to install double-glazed windows, thus keeping the inner window pane warmer than the outer and reducing the risk of condensation. This is not a cheap option, but it can combat condensation as well as help to reduce your heating bills.
9. Re-consider heavy curtains
Many homes use heavy curtains as an alternative to double-glazing. They are a great way to prevent your home’s heat from escaping through windows. However, if the outside temperature is quite cold and your curtain prevents any warmth from reaching the window, it could actually increase the chance of condensation. The warm water vapour can move around the edges or below the curtain and create condensation on the icy window.
Opening the curtains will allow the warm air to circulate against the window to dry out the moisture. Unfortunately, it may make it harder to heat your home. Try to eliminate the excess water vapour in the air so you can use your curtains without creating condensation.
10. Invest in a dehumidifier or moisture absorbers
Dehumidifiers and moisture absorbers remove humidity from the air. Dehumidifiers are electrical appliances, so they will cost more to purchase and will require a power source. Moisture absorbers, on the other hands, are inexpensive products that typically contain crystals of calcium chloride that harden and dissolve as they absorb the moisture. A moisture absorber can be purchased from Bunnings for less than $10, while dehumidifiers are a more significant investment. Depending on the size of the room and the humidity, the cost of a dehumidifier can range between $140 and $1,000.
If none of the above tips help with the excess moisture in your home, talk to your real estate agent or seek a professional to take into account your circumstances. It is vital to ensure you do not have other issues causing excess moisture, such as a leaking roof or broken pipes within the walls or under the house. Eliminating such matters will allow you to decide what is the best course of action to combat condensation in your home.