Why does condensation form on the outside of some windows and not others in the morning?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The dew point is the temperature at which moisture in the air will condense on a surface. It fluctuates with the outdoor temperature and relative humidity, which have an inverse relationship to each other. Because cold air can hold less moisture than warm air, as the temperature falls the relative humidity rises and, when the temperature of a surface falls enough, it reaches the dew point—which is 100% relative humidity—and condensation forms. 

     The window glass of an air conditioned home will be cooler than the outdoor air on a warm morning and reaches the dew point temperature before other outdoor surfaces. Occasionally, we get asked the question “Why do I have condensation when my windows are insulated?” An insulated window still has some heat/cold transmission, and the exterior glass surface will still be slightly cooler because of the chilled indoor air. 

Trying to determine why one window has condensate on it and a nearby one does not can get complicated due the variables at the different locations. Here’s few things that can affect the formation of condensation:

  •  The direction the window is facing.
  •  The level of shade from an overhang or tree.
  •  Minor leakage of the gas between the panes of an insulated window will deteriorate its performance and allow the outside  surface to be slight cooler than an adjacent window with no leakage.
  •  Moisture is constantly rising out of the ground and, if a window is over damp soil, the higher humidity above the soil may cause condensation sooner than a window on a screen porch on the same wall. 
  •  The indoor temperature of one room of the house may be slightly cooler than another room and decrease the temperature of the glass.
  •  Any combination of these variables. 

    If you suspect that the condensation is due to the loss of the inert gas between the panes of an insulated window, eventually the problem will show itself as a cloudiness on the glass. It forms on the surfaces of the panes of glass that face the inert gas space, so the haze cannot not be cleaned away. See our blog post What is causing a foggy haze on my windows? for more on this problem. 

    Also, go to our blog post What causes sweating (condensation) on the inside of windows in the winter? for condensation on the other side of the glass.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • 

  To learn more about doors and windows, see these other blog posts:

What causes sweating (condensation) on the inside of windows in the winter? 

Is every exterior door of a house required to have a landing outside? 

 What are the small slots at the bottom of the outside of my window? 

Why does condensation form on the outside of some windows and not others in the morning? 

Why is the garage door track a white tube? 

What is the raised metal plate on the floor under the garage door?

 Why do I have to hold down the button to close the garage door? 

How can I tell if a window or glass door is safety glass? 

What are the code requirements for safety tempered glass for doors?• 

Should a front door swing in or out? 

Why is pressure washing double pane windows an expensive mistake? 

How many exit doors are required for a house?

 How many exit doors are required for a mobile/manufactured home? 

Are openable windows required to have window screens? Will windows with no screens pass a home inspection? 

Can a bedroom door open into the garage?

What are the building code requirements for a door from the garage to the house?

What is "low-E" window glass? 

What does ANSI 297.1 on glass mean?

Why is a double cylinder deadbolt lock on an exterior door a safety hazard?

How can I check my garage door to make sure it is safe?  

What is an egress window?

Does a home inspector test all the windows and doors in a home? 

How difficult is it to change a window to french doors or a sliding glass door?

How do you determine if a door is left-handed or right-handed?

Why are window security bars dangerous? 

What are the common problems you find inspecting windows?

What is causing a foggy haze on my windows? 

What do those numbers on the manufacturer's stickers in new windows mean?

What does a home inspector check on an electric garage door? 

• What is the tempered label on glass at windows and sliding glass doors called?

• Do I need to have two exterior exit doors in my house? 

• When is safety glass required for windows at stairs and stair landings?

   Visit our DOORS AND WINDOWS page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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