Ice Build Up On Windows

December 11, 2018


The Reasons Behind Ice on Windows

Green Brand knows all too well that Winnipeg winters are hard on your windows. You probably grew up with window ice build-up as a recurring cold weather problem but did you know that there are reasons and solutions to why ice shows up.

Window manufacturers have spent a long time finding the cause of ice build-up windows and they have worked even harder to find a solution. Luckily the information has been shared so that as homeowners you can now see why ice occurs and how to remedy the situation before it causes any issues.

The Main Culprit: Humidity

Humidity is the major cause of condensation and ice build-up on windows.

Humidity is actually the measurement of water vapour in the air. While air can hold water in a gas state, the amount it can hold is reduced as the temperature goes down.

Recommended Indoor Humidity Levels

The main causes for humidity in your home are:

  • Cooking and showering both create steam and add moisture to the air.
  • Improper ventilation in a laundry room. Your dryer is designed to heat your clothes to remove the water. The steam created then goes through the exhaust vent and is released outside. If the vent is not connected properly humidity levels will form inside your home.
  • The wrong setting for furnace humidifier. Winter air is extremely dry which is why your hair becomes frizzy. Many furnaces have a humidifier to increase moisture in the air and make their home more comfortable. The typical comfort range is 30-50 percent humidity but as we know too much humidity can cause condensation and ice build-up on the windows.

The lower the temperature outside the greater the chance there will be water vapour/condensation in your home due to the difference in temperature between the inside of your home and the Winnipeg Winters.

Another way to look at it is to think about everything in your home that causes humidity from cooking on the stove to just breathing. All that humidity stays inside your home unless you open your windows or doors. Which in the summer time happens often but once it starts getting cold you tend to not open your windows to save on your heating bill. This means that all that humidity is trapped inside your home and you will see evidence of this with condensation and once it is cold enough ice build-up on your windows.

What Can Happen?

Consistent exposure to ice can cause issues with warping, swelling, shrinking and discolouration. This can also lead to glass cracks and air leakage due to a poor seal.

Double- or triple-pane windows are recommended to capture moisture. Without the extra panes it is possible for water to run behind the walls, saturate the insulation and result in mold and mildew growth. Since it is behind the wall you may not notice a problem until long after the mold has gotten out of hand which can pose a serious health risk.

Prevention and Solutions during the winter months?

  • Absorb excess condensation with a rolled up towel on the window sill at night. This will prevent the liquid from freezing on the glass and sill during the cold night hours.
  • Dehumidifiers: If you find that a particular area of your home is overly humid a simple solution is a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers take out the water vapour from the air and you can just pour the excess water down the drain. Many Air Conditioners have this feature built in which is why during the summer condensation is less noticeable.
  • Air Flow is very important in any home. Airflow prevents water vapour from staying in one area and creating condensation. Try not to block vents and have furniture slightly away from the wall.
  • Avoid over-watering plants and having multiple plants in one room.
  • Make sure all exhaust vents are working properly. Vents should go to the outside and not the attic.
  • Install a mechanical heat recovery ventilator system. This will bring in the fresh air and circulate it around your home.
  • Run exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms during cooking and showering. You can also open windows on milder days to improve ventilation.
  • Refrain from air-drying clothes inside. If necessary, damp dry in a clothes dryer first to remove the majority of the water.
  • Try and find a nice balance for overnight temperature. It has been noticed that too much heat in the house can cause humidity, therefore, Green Brand recommends trying to reduce the inside temperature during the evening hours to a level where ice does not form but you are also not overly hot.
  • Check for and repair plumbing leaks. Even a slow-dripping faucet will add water vapour to the air.

Air Leakage and Ice

Windows are designed to protect your home from the cold temperatures during the winter months. Leaky windows will allow too much air flow and the decrease in temperature may form condensation, and create ice.

How Does This Occur?

  • Worn-out or damaged windows, broken panes, and weak seals can allow outside air to penetrate inside plus let warm air escape.
  • Poor insulation around window frames. Can you feel cold air blowing in on a windy day? If so, you’ve got air leakage.
  • Incorrect installation: Loose fitting windows that are not the same as the opening will allow air leakage.
  • Worn or lack of weather stripping: Drafts can occur when you don’t have a proper seal. This will lower the temperature of the glass and lead to window frost.

Correcting the Problem?

  • Use caulk to seal small leaks and fill larger gaps with foam sealant.
  • Consider replacing your windows with high-performance, Energy Star certified windows. Vinyl has natural insulating qualities that are great for preventing ice build-up. You can also make sure that your windows are Winnipeg weather appropriate with triple-pane units that will provide the correct protection against Winnipeg’s drastic changes in temperature.
  • Insulation between panes like Argon gas or Low-Emissive (Low-E) coatings insulates your windows against heat loss.

Conclusions For Ice Build-up

To stop window ice build-up before it causes problems you will need to first identify what is causing the issue. Is the humidity level too high or are your windows allowing air flow? Then you can try some prevention measures and solutions to see if the ice build-up resides.

You are always welcome to speak with Anders at Green Brand Windows and Doors about finding a solution for condensation and ice build-up on your windows.

Request a Quote

Let us help you find the best solution for your home and your budget.