If you’ve noticed that your windows tend to fog up during the winter months, that may be a sign of a more serious issue. Namely, condensation on windows can be the first signal that you have high levels of humidity in your home. That, in turn, can lead to many other problems as well. Fortunately, there are some ways to get rid of the humidity: but is opening the windows one of them? Today, we’re learning all about how ventilation affects damp.
As you may know, the humidity inside our homes should ideally be between 40 and 50%. But what happens when it’s not between those percentiles? Well, there are many negative effects high or low levels of humidity can have on our bodies.
On the one hand, high humidity can make us feel exhausted and dehydrated, which can lead to muscle cramping, fainting, and even a heat stroke. Conversely, low humidity can make it difficult to breathe since it causes your mucous membrane to dry out. In fact, it can also dry out your skin, eyes, even your mouth.
Solving the issue of low humidity is fairly simple. You can take a steamy shower, boil some water, or even just leave bowls of water around the house and let them evaporate naturally. However, high humidity is another beast altogether. But before we jump straight into solving this issue, let’s talk about one of the major symptoms of its existence: damp.
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What Is Damp and How Does It Occur?
Damp is actually a side effect of a somewhat benign issue — window condensation. As we’ve already established, you’d typically see window condensation, which is basically dew or fog on the glass, in the morning after a cold night. It usually occurs during the winter, but it has been known to appear during the summer as well.
Essentially, window condensation actually happens when the warm air inside the house meets the cold air on the other side of the window pane. The resulting fog usually gathers on the inside of the window. As you may know, that’s also something that can occur in your car, while you’re driving. That’s one of the reasons we keep windshield wipes in the glove compartment.
Alternately, if you try to wipe the condensation away and find that it won’t budge, the fog may have gathered in between two layers of glass. However, that only happens when the rubber seal between the two panes is broken. So it can be a good indication that your double-pane windows are vulnerable. After all, they won’t be very good at keeping the cold (or the heat) out if there are holes in the seal.
Is Damp Dangerous?
But why should you care if your window is a bit foggy every now and then? Well, if the fogginess continues, there’s a score of consequences you could face. For one, the condensation could eventually affect the wooden window frame around the glass. Clearly, water and wood don’t mix well, so letting the condensation gather can lead to rot.
Additionally, the water can damage the walls around the window frame, which is how you get rising damp. That’s just the term we use to explain wet walls, especially a surface that remains wet for long periods of time. In fact, if it stays wet for a while, it can create ideal conditions for mold growth — which can be dangerous for your health.
Over time, mold and mildew can become health hazards, growing around the perimeter of your windows, where the condensation has affected the walls. You’d first feel the symptoms of spore inhalation in the nasal airways and throat. Eventually, the irritants make their way into your lungs, which is incredibly risky for people who are already suffering from asthma and similar problems.
Still, should the situation progress to that point, you could always invest in dehumidifiers that can handle mold. Of course, a dehumidifier wouldn’t be able to eliminate the mold on its own — you’d need to dry out the affected wall first. And even then, there are plenty of other ways to dehumidify your home. Still, before I mention some of those, let’s see if simply opening the windows might help.
Can Proper Ventilation Reduce Damp?
Unfortunately, the answer to the question we posed at the beginning of this article isn’t really clear-cut. Sometimes, opening the windows can basically be like opening a pressure valve. It can allow the heated and humid air inside your home to escape, leveling out the interior and exterior temperatures. The fog should clear up fairly quickly — but that’s not all there is to it.
If the air outside your home is more humid than the air inside your house, you’d only be inviting it inside by opening the windows. Generally, you should avoid opening the windows while it’s raining or snowing. However, if you’ve just taken a steamy shower or you’re cooking, you’ll want to make sure the windows are open.
These principles have been proven time and again. When the temperature outside is low, it’ll cool the window glass. Then, when the warm air inside the house comes into contact with the glass, it will react to it and fog it up.
But even though condensation is simple — damp is anything but. Damp can’t actually be chased away by simply opening the windows. On the one hand, increased airflow might allow for some of the moisture to evaporate from the wall. Still, damp itself is only a symptom of a greater issue — which is the increased levels of humidity in the house.
As we have established, if the wall does stay damp, it can potentially lead to mold growth. However, you should ideally treat the underlying cause of the humidity before it gets to that point. With that in mind, let’s talk about some ways you can keep humidity in check.
Other Tips on Reducing Humidity
Some window condensation is to be expected — it’s a natural reaction to the meeting of hot and cold air. However, if you find yourself seeing it too often, or if you’ve found moisture stains on the walls around the window frame, you’ll have to take action.
Crank Up the Heat
Raising the temperature of the room is a surefire way to eliminate condensation. Eventually, the warm air will also warm the glass, which should eliminate the condensation on the interior side of the window.
Now, if you already own a dehumidifier, you might have noticed that the air it expels is actually a bit warmer than the air it takes in. However, the difference isn’t really noticeable — so this tip will require a space heater or a furnace.
Obviously, nobody is particularly inclined to turn up the thermostat during the summer months. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips for reducing humidity in the summer.
Use Dehumidifying and Moisture-Wicking Products
The easiest way to deal with increased levels of humidity in your home is to get a good dehumidifier. In fact, some of them are barely noticeable, so they’ll even be a great solution for your bedroom. However, there are all sorts of ways to suck up the moisture from the air without using a dehumidifier:
- Get moisture-wicking plants such as peace lilies, Reed palms, Boston ferns, etc.
- Use moisture-absorbing charcoal bags like these ones from California Home Goods or the RejuvenAir bags
- Make your own moisture-wicking bags out of rock salt and/or silica gel packs
You can also take some preemptive steps to avoid raising the humidity levels in the first place by:
- Moving plants (that don’t absorb moisture, but release it) outside
- Drying clothes on an outdoor clothesline
- Taking short, cold showers
- Trying not to boil water or cook too often
Clearly, you can’t avoid showers and food. So at least try to keep the air flowing whenever you are releasing a lot of moisture into the air.
Get the Air Flowing
Other than simply opening the windows, there are other ways to get the air flowing around your home. If you’re cooking or baking, you should use the fans that are built into the furnace or above the stove. You could also turn the bathroom fan on before taking a shower, and always leave it running for a while longer than you need to.
You can always set up standing fans or install ceiling fans to help the moisture disperse. Additionally, you could try air-to-air exchangers, which will physically suck the humid air out of your home and replace it with fresh air from the outside. In the process, the devices also remove pollutants and moisture.
Upgrade Your Windows
Lastly, if you’ve discovered that the windows themselves are to blame for the increased humidity, you could also weatherproof them. Set up storm windows or just use weatherstripping tape where needed. You can also use window insulation film if you’re not planning on opening your windows for a while.
But really, if your windows prove to be unmanageable, you may have to bite the bullet and invest in new ones. Here is a list of the best window manufacturers.
So, Can Opening the Windows Reduce Damp?
Ultimately, the question of whether opening windows can reduce damp is more complicated than you’d think. As we have learned, it depends. If you open your windows when it’s raining or extremely humid outside, you’re essentially inviting all of that humidity into your home. So, wait for drier conditions. Try opening your windows when it’s dry outside to release the humidity trapped inside your home.
Still, if you ask me, it might be worth looking into some additional dehumidifying methods. After all, if the window damp has already spread onto the surrounding walls and started attracting mold, opening the windows simply won’t cut it. Fortunately, there are many other things to try, some of which I’ve mentioned here. After you’ve eliminated the condensation, keep an eye on the humidity in your home by getting a hygrometer.