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Condensation is the most common cause of unwanted dampness in UK homes. Without having adequate anti-condensation measures in place then humidity control problems can occur. Homes with inadequate heating, insulation and ventilation are most likely to be affected by the consequences of condensing water vapour.
What causes condensation?
The amount of water vapour that can be held by air is directly related to its temperature. Warm air has the capacity to hold more moisture than cold air. It therefore follows that when warm, moist air cools to a level below its moisture holding capacity then the excess water vapour is released onto cold surfaces as it condensates from a gas into liquid form.
Condensed water vapour is easily visible where it forms as droplets on cold surfaces such as windows but less so on absorbent surfaces such porous ceilings and walls, where it may not be obvious until black mould growth occurs.
Why has condensation and mould become such a problem over recent years?
In an effort to increase energy efficiency in homes, modern housing and refurbished buildings have effectively become sealed boxes, providing ideal conditions for condensation to occur. Double glazing and central heating have taken the place of draughty windows and open fireplaces with the result that natural ventilation has been greatly reduced.
Condensation season runs generally from October to March, due to ventilation being reduced throughout the cooler months as doors and windows are kept shut. In addition humidity levels rise with washing more likely to be dried in-doors than out and cooler temperatures at that time of year makes wall colder and more likely to attracted condensing water vapour.
What are the effects of condensation?
Condensation on walls, ceilings and furnishings is directly associated with mould growth. Moulds are forms of fungi that are found naturally in the environment. When mould spores land on a damp spot they may begin to grow and multiply. Mould removal is a vital task as toxic moulds can cause:
- Damage to health
- Damage to walls and ceilings
- Musty odours
What can I do to reduce condensation in my home?
Water vapour condensate can be avoided by correcting the balance between moisture generation, air temperature and surface temperatures. Paraffin and bottled gas heaters should be avoided and tumble driers should be vented to the outside to reduce the excess generation of water vapour. However as home owners are unlikely to boil fewer kettles or run less showers then the following anti-condensation measures can help to manage humidity levels.
- Reduce water vapour generation – The less moisture in the air, the lower the risk of condensation problems
- Improve home ventilation – Expel moisture laden air from the home.
- Control air temperature – Through the winter months keep all areas of the home heated to a temperature of around 20C.
- Insulate walls – Walls that are insulated are warmer and are less likely to attract condensate.
Remember there is no miracle cure for condensation but a common-sense approach to water vapour management is essential. Heating and ventilation are vital in ensuring your house is kept dry and free from mould.