Can Cold Plumbing Cause Condensation?

Condensation refers to the build-up of water on the outside of pipes. This condensation can become so severe that water will actually drip onto the floor and potentially cause water damage. Understanding more about how water condensation forms and how you can eliminate it helps reduce problems associated with water condensation on cold-water plumbing.

  1. Why Water Builds Up on Cold Water Pipes

    • Condensation can become a problem on any type of pipe, but it's most common on copper plumbing. The most common cause of condensation is that the water running through the pipes is at a lower temperature than the air surrounding the pipe. Water from the air forms, or condenses, on the outside of the pipe if the temperature differential is big enough. Think about what happens to a cold soda can that's left out on a warm day. Water beads develop on the outside of the can. The same thing is happening to your pipes. Condensation also forms when humidity in a room or crawl space is high. The humid air exacerbates the problem of temperature differential condensation.

    Adding Insulation

    • One of the ways to combat condensation on cold-water pipes is to add insulation around the pipes. The insulation is a barrier between the pipes and the surrounding air, eliminating most of the problem. Use foam pipe insulation that's available at most hardware stores. Unlike fiberglass pipe insulation commonly used on hot water lines, foam pipe insulation won't collect water over time. Foam insulation also is easily cut to custom lengths and is usually only a few dollars for 10 feet. Add foam insulation to all sections of cold-water pipes that is exposed to the air or has signs of condensation.

    Removing Moisture from the Air

    • Since humid environments add to the problem on condensation, it's important to lower the humidity level around cold pipes. To do this, place a dehumidifier in the corner of the room where the problem is occurring. The device extracts moisture from the air and helps fight condensation on pipes. You can also purchase a whole-house dehumidifier that extracts moisture from the air of the entire house as it passes through the heating and cooling system.

    Eliminate Exterior Leaks

    • You also can help reduce condensation based on humidity by eliminating leaks outside the house that seep into the walls of your basement or crawl space. Gutters should be connected and pointed away from the foundation of the house. Don't let plants, like weeds, grow near the foundation of the house. Plant roots can crack foundations, while shade from the leaves can retain moisture near the side of the house.

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