In December I attended a course about damp and condensation in homes. I wanted to learn a little more about how it impacts our homes what we can do when we are trying to save money, keep warm and improve the condensation in our homes.
It is known that living in a fuel poor home is a common cause for damp and condensation, but we aren’t always very good at working out which is which or what to do about it.
We are now in January, and it is a particularly cold day here in St Leonard’s. During the colder months, condensation is a major problem in many British homes, and it is often mistaken for damp.
So what is condensation?
When water is heated up, it becomes vapour and which is then held in the air. When this warm, moist air hits a cold surface (like a window or an external wall) it condenses and becomes water again. This means that water droplets form on the surface and over time this can become and problem and develop into black mould.
No one likes having black mould it looks and smells bad, and it can also cause health problems. If we don’t get on top of it, the black mould can damage our clothes, furniture, books, shoes and decorations.
Sometimes it is older homes that we associate condensation with, but condensation can be a problem in any property no matter how old it is. It is often worse in homes that have been modernised (or converted from a house to flats) as ventilation, and the circulation of air is reduced.
Controlling ventilation and air circulation around the home is very important in the prevention of condensation because this allows moisture-filled air to escape
Where does all of this water come from?
A family of four can add moisture to the air equivalent to 30 to 40 litres of water a week just by breathing! On top of that showering, cooking, bathing and washing can all add up 15 to 20 litres of water a week.
A common culprit is drying clothes indoors which can add up 10 to 15 litres of water a week into the home.
What is Damp?
Damp is the presence of unwanted moisture in the structure of a building. The most common damp is rising damp, normally caused by “capillary action” of moisture – which means that ground water is drawn up the wall in the capillaries of the wall.
One way to identify rising damp is the presence of salts on the wall – these are the nitrates present in the soil and ground entering the walls in the water and then showing up on the walls of our houses.
You might also notice a ‘tide line’, and the damp will likely only be present up to 1 meter up to the wall.
Other causes of damp include lateral damp. This happens when the ground level is higher than the walls. This often happens when garden landscaping or extensions have taken place. If these signs are present, then you will need to consult a damp expert.
However, if after reading this you think your house might be experiencing issues with condensation then here are some energy efficient tips.
Top tips for reducing condensation and conserving energy
• Keep lids on saucepans when cooking
• Dry your clothes outside, if possible, and definitely not on radiators
• Have an up to date extractor fan, and keep it clean. Fans that run on a timer, humidistat or pull-cord typically have a rating of 8-30W. A 30W appliance would need to run continuously for nearly a day and a half to use one unit (about 15p) of electricity.
• Keep the kitchen or bathroom doors shut when using them to avoid moisture entering the rest of the house. Either using an extractor fan or opening a window.
• Keep fresh air circulating by moving furniture away from the external walls.
• Warm homes suffer less from condensation, so you should make sure your house is well insulated.
• You can catch condensation dripping from windows with condensation channels and sponge strips (available from DIY shops). If you wipe down windows and sills in the morning, this will also help, but be sure to wring out the cloth rather than dry it on a radiator.
Remember – the key to reducing condensation is ventilation, ventilation, ventilation!