Water Pipe Condensation

How to Prevent Water Pipe Condensation

By Mark J. Donovan

Water pipe condensation can be both a simple nuisance and a real problem depending upon where and what the sweating water pipes are dripping on. Water pipe condensation occurs when warm humid air comes in contact with cold water pipes. The moisture in the warm air condenses and forms small water droplets on the pipes.

Sweating cold water pipes is commonly seen in basements during hot humid summer days, particularly if the cold water faucets have been used a lot during the day. The condensed water often ends up dripping off the pipes and onto the floor of the basement or whatever is below it.

This can be a real problem if the water is dripping on a basement ceiling, finished flooring, furniture or other valuable items. Even if it simply drips on the concrete basement slab it forms green stains if the water pipes are made from copper.

Fortunately there is a simple solution for preventing water pipe condensation or sweating water pipes. Insulation. By insulating water pipes no condensation can occur on them, thus eliminating potential water damage. The insulation prevents contact between the warm humid air and the cold water pipes, thus eliminating the possibility of condensation forming on the pipes.

Insulating water pipes is a simple and inexpensive DIY project. You can find pre-split polyethylene pipe insulation at any home improvement center. To install this type of pipe foam insulation simply cut it to the required length, spread it apart at its seam and slide it over the cold water pipes.

Insulating water pipes will prevent water pipe condensation.

Next, peel back the protective plastic tape covering at the slit to expose the sticky surface of the seam. Finally, press the edges of the pipe foam insulation together to form a tight seal. Where insulation pipe foam pieces abut one another wrap the seams in foam insulating tape to form a good seal. Make sure to overlap the tape in a spiral pattern to ensure a tight seal.

For corners and bends it is best to use two pieces of pipe foam insulation to form tight joints. Cut each abutting end of pipe foam insulation at 45 degree angles. Then install the insulation as described earlier, butting the 45 degree angle seams together. If done properly the two abutting pieces should form tight 90 degree corners leaving no water pipe exposed. Again, wrap the seams in foam insulating tape to form a tight seal.

Besides polyethylene pipe foam insulation you can also use fiberglass insulation jackets and elastomeric thermal pipe insulation.

Both will prevent water pipe condensation, however they are typically more expensive than polyethylene foam insulation, and require a bit more effort to install. Fiberglass insulation jackets are firmer and are more ideal for very long straight stretches of water pipes. They are installed exactly in the same way as the pipe foam insulation. One advantage to them is that they can be painted. Elastomeric thermal pipe insulation is typically more expensive than the other two types of foam insulation and is meant for more extreme temperature environments, e.g. air conditioning pipes. One additional advantage of this type of water pipe insulation is that it is naturally mold resistant.

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