Help me stop my windows from dripping
November 30, 2010 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I need advice on fixing condensation on aluminum window frames. My house has a ton of aluminum window frames. Now that the weather has turned cold water is condensing on them, puddling at the bottom of the frames, and causing problems. How can I fix this?

The house has a large number of windows and they all seem to be aluminum frames. The frames get very very cold and water condenses on the inside of the windows, then runs down the windows and puddles. A few nights ago there were even strips of ice on the inside of the windows!

I have found the following resources and others, which advise me to reduce humidity by dehumidifying the house or by sealing the windows with that temporary shrink-wrap. Unfortunately the house is already pretty dry and it's not possible to shrink wrap the windows because of the way the shades are installed. What about putting foam tape over the exposed aluminum to prevent condensation as suggested in my third link? Does anyone have any experience with this? I would love to hear tips, tricks, brand name suggestions, etc., or any other possible solutions to solve this problem.
posted by bq to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I too have shitty aluminum window frames holding in my shitty single-paned windows. I feel your pane, and your pain.

I haven't been able to stop the condensation. What I have learned to do is keep a stash of old towels and rags. I always keep one on each windowsill. Every couple days, I replace with a dry one. So, while it doesn't keep the condensation from happening, not having pools of water on the windowsill greatly slows down the rust and mildew that form otherwise.

Good luck. (Will be watching the thread for better advice than mine.)
posted by mudpuppie at 2:52 PM on November 30, 2010

Physics will always win. You can't stop water vapor condensing on cold surfaces. Which leaves you with basically two choices: keep the water vapor away from the cold surfaces, or stop the surfaces from getting cold.

If you can't keep the water vapor away, perhaps you could do something clever with the same kind of heater strips that are used for the rear windows in cars?
posted by flabdablet at 4:35 PM on November 30, 2010

Maybe fill a leg of tights/hose with a few cups of crystal cat litter (silica gel) enclosed within and place it on the sill? That will dry the air around the window and absorb some of the liquid drippings as well.

It might help to lower the temperature a bit inside too if you can stand it. Or perhaps hang some heavy curtains over the windows to block some of the warm air from inside from the interior window surface. It wouldn't be hard to tack up a blanket or two as a test to see if that would work.
posted by BrandonAbell at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2010

Close/install the storm windows, or invest in some towels.

There is no way out. And believe me I've tried- I have to chip ice to open my patio door when it gets particularly cold.

(Well, there probably is a way out, but it would involve pointing space heaters at all the windows, and that's probably going to get expensive.)
posted by gjc at 7:05 PM on November 30, 2010

We winterize our windows with kits of plastic sheet and two-sided tape that you can get at any home-depot type store. You tape the plastic around the edges of the window, covering the whole thing, and then use a hair dryer to shrink-wrap it down so it's taut and almost invisible. This keeps the humidity from the house air from condensing on the windows, and has largely solved that problem for us.

Physics, in this instance, can be thwarted for less than $30.
posted by mhoye at 9:49 PM on November 30, 2010

I think your house may not be as dry as you think, if this is such a problem.

A lot of energy experts tell us that replacement windows are pretty much a poor investment, but sealing up the "convection stack" is a different story. Most houses older than 25+ years have pretty poor sealing and basically allow cold air to seep in below, at the foundation sill for example, and flow through the rooms and out the ceiling into the attic. It goes through the walls, through plumbing, through lighting cans, you name it. Most attic insulation addresses these holes almost not at all. I suggest that if you take a look at your convection you'll see where your heat is going and where your moisture is coming from.

Anyway, the windows themselves -- your best bet is probably to build internal storm windows that you can then attach (magnetically, hook-and-loopically, etc.) to the window frames on the inside. This will have the same effect as using plastic film, at the very least, and you can re-use what you build year after year. This will also keep the moist air inside your house from convecting against your aluminum window frames and condensing.
posted by dhartung at 12:21 AM on December 1, 2010

Best answer: We have been fighting this problem to, I was changing towels twice a day. This year we put the film on the outside of the window. We found exterior window film, and its pretty much stopped all condensation.

If you go this route though I would recommend using weather seal tape in addition to the tiny double sided tape that's provided in the kits. We had to come back and re-tape after some of the corners kept coming up. I'd also use a heat gun with a low setting, the hairdryer takes forever.
posted by ljesse at 7:47 AM on December 1, 2010

Response by poster: The previous owner built magnetic storm windows for the windows in the bedrooms - and they work great.

It's the huge windows in the main living area that are a problem, and unfortunately, because of the shades, we can't cover them on the inside at all.

But EXTERIOR window film might do the trick! Thanks!

If anyone has heard of covering the inside metal frames with foam tape to prevent condensation I would love to hear about that.
posted by bq at 10:16 AM on December 1, 2010

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