Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Watery problems

It's cold this morning. As usual, all the windows in our flat were so heavy with condensation there were small puddles on the windowsill.

We get a lot of suffer from a lot of condensation, but we suffer a lot less than some of our fellow flat-dwellers. This is because most people go about getting rid of condensation the wrong way. So I thought I'd explain the right way here.

Firstly, the typical (and wrong) way of dealing with the situation: It gets colder in the winter, so we turn on the heating. But windows and some other surfaces tend to stay cold, and they get lots of water condensing onto them. To get rid of it, people turn up the heat, or point hot-air blowers at the windows, or whatever, to make the water evaporate away. And because they've spent a lot of time & money on heating the place up, they naturally keep doors &windows closed to keep all the warm air in.

The problem with this approach in that it involves keeping the air in the house, and keeping the water in the air. It will never eliminate the water that's causing the condensation issue.

The logical flaw is, of course, in equating evaporation with elimination: If water isn't solid or liquid, then it seems not to exist. But of course, evaporating water doesn't get rid of it, it just moves it temporarily into the air.

But the next time that humid, water-laden air meets a cold surface, the water condenses straight back out of the air, and the problem is returned.

We can't do much about water vapour. We need to grab our water while it's liquid. Never try and evaporate unwanted water, it'll just come back again. Learn instead to be glad to see liquid water: It's the only time you can grab it & throw it out, breaking the vicious cycle.

The easiest elimination is on windows that open - just grab a squeegee and scrape the water down the window to fall to the ground outside (check nobody's under it first). Other windows tend to need absorbent cloths.

The bathroom tends to be another place to get rid of water from: Showers spray water over the walls, shower curtains, and the like. The bathroom mirror may get fogged up. All of this water should be removed: Shake the curtain, squeegee the tiles, etc. Even though most of this water is scattered spray rather than condensation, it'll only evaporate and become condensation if you don't get it down the plughole first.

None of this will stop condensation happening: We add water all the time, from baths & showers, cooking, and even breathing. But by removing water from the system instead of simply moving it about, it can be drastically reduced. Our bedroom window tends to be saturated most mornings in winter, but our neighbours can have permanently wet curtains in their living room because their French windows are perpetually sopping wet.


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