Condensation occurs when the temperature of the air reaches the dew point. The dew point can vary depending on the air pressure and the humidity, but condensation usually happens when the basement ceiling is warmer than the temperature of the water running through the cold water pipes. It can also occur if the basement ceiling is cold and the pipes contain very hot water. Condensation doesn’t occur on pipes when no water has been running through them.
During warm, humid weather, it’s normal to have some condensation on basement pipes when you turn on the cold water, but excessive condensation can cause your pipes to drip and encourage the growth of mold and mildew. Sometimes condensation problems can also indicate a hidden leak. Although any kind of piping material can have problems with condensation, the worst problems tend to occur on metal pipes like copper or galvanized steel.
Inspect your pipes early in the morning before running any water. If you see condensation, you may have a hidden plumbing leak, or you may have problems with well piping, if you have a private well. Symptoms of well-piping problems include hearing intermittent cycling of your well pump when no water is being run or condensation on piping entering the water pressure tank. It’s important to fix hidden leaks before they damage your ceiling, walls or floor and cause problems with mildew and mold.
Covering pipes with insulated pipe wrap can prevent condensation. Several types of insulation are available. Foam insulating tubes snap around plumbing pipes, and are easy to install. Sponge felt paper is used on valves and fittings. Cork pipe covering is made from the bark of cork trees, and is resistant to burning and rotting. Flex rubber insulation is also flame-resistant. In addition, it’s a good insulator and it ages well. Anti-sweat insulation is made from asphalt-saturated asbestos paper and wool felt. It prevents condensation and keeps the water in the pipes colder than other insulation types do. Frostproof insulation is designed to be used on cold-water pipes located in unheated areas.
Check your gutters to ensure that rainwater runs away from the foundation. Cracks in your foundation will let water in through the walls and increase moisture in the air. Hanging wet clothes in the basement will also increase humidity and can add to condensation problems. Using a dehumidifier will help reduce condensation problems on your water pipes.
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