Why Was Ice on My Windows this Winter?
Brutal winter weather in February of 2021 left many homeowners in Manhattan, Topeka, and the surrounding northeast Kansas area with layers of ice forming on their windows, inside their homes. In a lot of cases, this ice was over an inch thick! While you might be thinking this is due to the -20 degree temperatures we saw, plus the fact that many people lost power due to ice or rolling blackouts, that’s actually not the cause!
Where Does Ice on My Windows Come From?
Ice that forms inside your home is due to humidity levels and the dew point, which causes condensation to form. We talked a lot about how this process works in our blog on window condensation. You can learn more about what causes your home’s humidity levels to change, how to control it, and when to be worried.
To recap it briefly: you actually can affect the humidity level in your home greatly by changing habits that involve water in your home and changing the ventilation levels.
Keeping an eye on condensation and humidity levels in your home is important because of the damage condensing water can cause to your home’s windows, walls, structure, and even your belongings. But that’s condensation….let’s talk about the ice!
It’s really the same process – water in the air is condensing due to temperature differences. But there’s an extra step. Instead of just forming water droplets on your window, those droplets are now freezing because of the cold exterior temperatures. This is pretty common to see on single-pane windows, but even double and triple-paned windows can be affected if they are not insulating enough.
What Causes the Ice on my Windows?
The reason the ice is able to form on the windows is because there is cold air leaking through the window to freeze those water droplets. This air might be coming in around the frame, or even through the window itself if things are not sealed properly. If you can feel air movement around the window on a windy day, then air is coming in. Air leakage around the window frame may be caused by a frame that isn’t square or weatherstripping and seals that have failed.
Poor insulation is the biggest factor that leads to ice formation. Whether it’s from leaks or glass and window materials that just aren’t up to the job, if your window isn’t keeping the warm in and the cold out in the winter, you’re going to be at risk for ice on your windows and all the problems associated with that.
Will the Ice on my Windows Cause Damage?
This ice that has formed on your windows can then cause big issues when it melts. The water may pool on your window sill and discolor it or cause it to rot. You may begin to have mold problems. Wall damage may even occur if the water runs there, causing wallpaper to peel, paint to crack, and even rot in your walls if the water seeps there and soaks your insulation or drywall.
Water (and ice) is a powerful force. Once it is present, it may cause your window or the materials around it to shrink or swell, warp, and even rot. Not to mention, with this compromise in your home’s barrier to the external elements, you’ll definitely see an increase in your utility bill as well.
Never try to scrape the ice off of your windows. This will likely damage your window coatings and cause permanent damage.
What Can I Do to Prevent Ice on my Windows?
Our first solution is always to check your home’s humidity levels. If lowering the humidity in your house prevents condensation and ice from forming, this is the most effective fix to your problem. But if you continue to see issues, even in just the corners of the windows, you likely need to take more serious action.
If you know you have an issue but aren’t in a position that you can fix the cause yet, your next best course of action is to address the symptoms. While you might think closing the curtains will help, this can actually make the problem worse. The curtains provide insulation to keep the cold out of your home, but they are also blocking heat from getting to your window, which can cause more ice to form by keeping the window surface even colder.
Other options will include filling any gaps or leaks that may be letting air into your home. You can use gaskets – there are many types and materials available from the hardware store – as well as caulking. These will help you keep cold air from coming in through any cracks or gaps. Another culprit can be outlets. If left uninsulated, quite a bit of cold air can sneak in. While this might not be as much of an issue in a normal winter, when temperatures are especially low or there is extra wind chill, they may let in enough cold air to allow freezing.
When you are able, consider fixing the actual cause of the issue by replacing your windows. Newer windows are made of much more insulating materials. Double and triple-paned windows will also be much more efficient and can even include added gas between the panes and window coatings to provide added insulation. Selecting windows with higher R values will ensure they are more insulating and prevent you from having to worry about window freezing temperatures. We recommend fiberglass windows to all our customers because they are stronger and less likely to warp than other window materials on the market. This means your window will maintain a tight seal in your home regardless of changing temperatures and moisture levels.
The other point to consider, even if your windows are higher quality and newer, is the quality of the installation. If your windows aren’t installed properly with a snug fit, it won’t matter how high of quality your windows are. They will still leak air. Be sure when you replace your home’s windows that you have great guidance on the best windows for your home and the local Kansas climate, as well as experienced installers who understand your specific windows.