Wicked cold: What’s up with that?

The thermometer says it is wicked cold outside, it seems appropriate to address a few questions that always come up this time of year. Please add any questions you may have in the comments below.

Q. When I open my cabinet door I get a blast of cold air. What’s up with that?

A. While there is always a chance that you’ve got a leak behind any cabinet, built-in dresser, closet, etc., the more likely reason is that you’ve got no heat source behind that door. Your kitchen is (hopefully) comfortably warm, and there’s no need to waste energy heating your pasta & cereal.

Q. My basement is freezing – at least 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. What’s up with that?

A. Assuming your basement is unfinished, this is just the way it goes. Your exposed foundation (likely either poured concrete or fieldstone) acts as a thermal bridge, bringing the warm indoor air out. Unless and until you insulate that foundation wall (remember to cover with a fire barrier) you’ll continue to lose heat this way. If you look around the outside of your home after a snow you’ll likely see that there is no snow immediately adjacent to your foundation. That’s because heat seeped through the wall and melted that snow.

If the temperature starts to dip near the freezing mark it may be time to take some precautionary action, and make darn sure to air seal that basement once it gets warm enough for caulk/foam to cure properly.

Q. I’ve got condensation on my windows. That means I’m going to get mold and my family will die a horrible death, right? What’s up with that?

A. This really requires a longer answer but no, it is most likely not a problem requiring hazmat teams. The condensation/frost on your windows is pretty simple: your home is humid and the windows are very cold. It’s not your window’s fault – windows are terrible insulators.

Try to keep your home’s humidity between 30-50%. This means shut off the humidifier, run your kitchen and bath exhaust fans when cooking/bathing, and for 10-20 minutes after you’re done.

Even with that, you’ll likely see some condensation – it’s that kind of cold today.

Have more questions? Ask in the comments below, or shoot me an email at: arlheet@gmail.com

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