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Both are recommended. If you cover all the pipes with insulation,
preferably the foam type (instead of fiberglass wrap), you will
eliminate contact between the damp basement air and the cold pipes.
Wrap all joints with duct tape to be sure of a good seal. The reason I
don't recommend the
fiberglass-type pipe wrap is because in high humidity conditions it can become soggy from the condensation, lose insulation value, and become mildewed.
However, you still will have damp basement air, which will cause
mildew and damage anything you store in the basement. The dehumidifier
will lessen the humidity and therefore reduce the damage. However,
don't expect the humidifier to eliminate the moisture enough to
prevent condensation on
pipes. The pipe insulation is still a must!
If you have a well pressure tank that has condensation on it, consider wrapping it with an insulating blanket such as those commonly used on hot water heaters. Try to purchase a flexible plastic foam blanket if you can find one. But, if necessary, it may be better to use fiberglass than nothing! Just carefully wrap the fiberglass with plastic sheeting to act as a vapor barrier from the damp basement air.
Your mission is to seal the windows more tightly and/or decrease the level of moisture in the room air any way you can.
If your windows are leaking outside air, this air could be cooling the frames sufficiently to produce condensation. Weatherstripping at the locations where leaks are felt can be beneficial and in some cases may be the only effort needed to stop the condensation. However, if your aluminum frames are continuous from inside to outside, they are likely acting as conductors for the cold, leaving you with the options of either reducing the moisture in the air or installing some barrier inside to keep room air away from the frames.
Sometimes, the source of moisture may not even be in the room... for example, moisture from a damp basement or crawlspace can rise within the walls and condense on the cold windows or metal frames. So as you see, condensation problems need a "shotgun" approach. For example, a dehumidifier in the basement or in the affected room, opening a window a crack to let in cool dry outside air (I know if sounds like a contradiction, but sometimes it is worth a try), using the ventilator fan in the bathroom while taking a shower, installing and using a vented stove range hood, etc., can all help to minimize this problem.
That having been said, it may not be possible to totally eliminate the problem, depending on the construction of your home, the type of windows, etc. Replacing the windows with double insulated glass can help, too, since the inner pane is warmer and less likely to attract condensation.
A more economical (albeit temporary) alternative would be to install plastic "shrink-wrap" style interior storm windows with good result. This temporary shield will keep moist inside air away from the cold windows and frames, plus decrease air infiltration. If you don't mind the appearance (which is actually not too bad if the installation is done neatly), this could do the trick for you.
Your mission is to do one or both of two things… increase ventilation and/or decrease the level of moisture in the air any way you can. I know it is winter and we have been conditioned to abhor letting even the slightest bit of outside air in. However, the very tightness of our homes can cause the type of problem you are experiencing. Since the large amounts of moisture that we generate through normal living… washing, breathing and cooking… can't readily escape through the walls or around sealed doors, it instead becomes liquid (or freezes) on contact with cold surfaces… be they window glass or metal window frames.
Your main gripe is unique and virtually unknown in homes built in the last fifteen to twenty years… the full aluminum window frame. Though these frames are mechanically long-lived and pretty much indestructible, they are a disaster from an energy-consciousness point of view. All metals are horrible insulators in that they transmit heat at lightning speeds. The inside of the frame gets very cold because it is virtually sucking the heat from your room to the outside. I have seen metal window frames actually become coated with thick layers of ice as the winter progresses. Though the ice itself is not damaging, the effect of all that water on wood trim and walls when it thaws is no laughing matter!
You must ask yourself where the moisture is coming from. Sometimes, the source of moisture may not even be in the room. For example, moisture from a damp basement or crawlspace can rise within the walls and condense on the cold windows or metal frames.
Condensation problems such as yours need a "shotgun" approach. A
dehumidifier in the basement or in the affected room, opening a window a crack
to let in cool and dry outside air, using the ventilator fan in the bathroom
while taking a shower (or installing one if you don't have one), installing and
using a vented stove range hood, etc. all help to minimize this problem.
That said, it may not be possible to totally eliminate the problem depending on the construction of your home, the type of windows, etc. Replacing the windows with double insulated glass can help too, since modern metal-framed windows use what is called a "thermal break"… the inside and outside sections are separated by a less heat conductive material to prevent the heat-sucking mentioned earlier. As an added plus, the double-insulated glass used in these windows is warmer and less likely to cause condensation.
Installing inside storm windows can also help keep the warm, moist air from the metal frames and glass. You can get acrylic windows professionally installed or purchase do-it-yourself window kits at many home stores. An easier and less expensive way to get the benefits of interior storms with less cost is to install plastic "shrink-wrap" style interior storm windows. A thin plastic film is stretched across the window and attached by means of a special double-sided tape. The film is then shrunk tight and fairly wrinkle-free by heating it with a hair dryer or heat gun… carefully so it doesn't melt! This protective layer of plastic film insulates by forming an air pocket and (as a fringe benefit) keeps the moist inside air away from the cold windows, decreasing condensation. If you don't mind the appearance, this could do the trick for you. Of course, these are not intended to be permanent, do not open and will have to be removed in the spring for ventilation.
Mildew is always a potential health hazard, though susceptibility to mildew from an allergic standpoint varies widely from person to person. An inspection of the attic and roof is certainly important, though such widespread dampness is not usually caused by localized roof leakage. I would recommend turning off the humidifier immediately.
Do they have natural gas heating? If so, leakage in the vent pipes can release large amounts of moisture into the air. This is also a carbon monoxide hazard. Have any venting examined for leaks if this applies. Unvented gas appliances such as space heaters and stoves also emit large amounts of moisture into the air.
If the insulation is truly soaked, it must be torn out. In your area is will never dry out during the winter and will continue to cause problems.
By all means check the attic for proper ventilation. Depending on the
existing ventilation, a powered fan might be necessary at least part of the
year. I have lot of information on ventilation at this URL:
High levels of moisture in a basement or crawlspace rise into the living
space and can cause problems. You can find some solutions at:
Depending on your (or their) skills, most suggested remedies are of the do-it-yourself genre. Whether or not any specific contractor has the knowledge to assess your problem will require a little homework on your part. You may not have any local contractors with expertise in ventilation, but that does not mean that they cannot solve your problem You may have to take a "hands-on" approach and educate yourself to be sure the problem is completely solved!
Thanks for your insights. I'll pass them on! Hopefully the writer took my advice and had a HVAC pro (such as yourself) in to evaluate the furnace!