Condensation problems explained

When the weather turns cold, many homeowners experience condensation on their windows and I’m some cases even on their walls.

This is an issue of ventilation and/or insulation.  However, insulating without a solid understanding of the building sciences could result in making the problem worse or even contributing toward mold growth and the last thing you want to do is make your home into a giant petri dish.

One of the first things to check is your homes humidity levels.  If you have a home humidifier, turn it down or even off.  When warm moist air comes in contact with a cold surface, it will condensate.
Windows also tend to be condensation magnets. Most walls have R-17 insulation in them in northern climates.  A good triple pane window typically has an R-value of 5.  Even the best windows available are European style tilt-and-turn triple panes and they can get you down to the R-values of 3 or 4 when combines with features like LowE and Krypton gas.  Unfortunately those styles and manufacturers are not widely available in many states.  For a deeper and more precise dive into window, see our articles on u-factors.
If your ceiling has condensation but your walls do not, it is likely an insulation issue — but buyer beware, attic insulation must be combined with proper ventilation.  Simply hiring a low cost insulator to blow insulation into your attic is a recipe for mold and you may find your summer cooling bills rise and if you have an asphalt shingle roof, it could break down quickly as an insulator can easily choke off the intake ventilation for your roof.  (See our articles on ventilating a roof).
So if you want your problem solved and you’ve done the easy things, reach out to someone in the building sciences who understands how insulation and ventilation go together.  You may not hear what you want to hear, but knowledge of your homes needs will empower you to make the best choices and could save you tens of thousands of dollars and allow you to live in a healthier home with healthier air quality.
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