It took me twelve years to figure out...
I had no idea what I was doing...
At the beginning of 2007, I didn’t know much about how a house was built. I hadn't give much thought to residential construction.
At that same time, I was the new owner of a 1960s fixer upper house and I had started a brand new career as a window salesman.
My old 1960s house.
I like to be comfortable inside my home. I like being warm on a cold Sunday while watching football or cool on a hot summer night before bed.
In this house I felt like it was a step backwards from my old apartment. I was uncomforbable most of the time and the utilities were higher.
I was selling windows because about a year earlier I decided to make a career change. I've always wanted to be self-employed and advise/consult people in some way.
When a friend had a growing window company and asked me to help I saw it as a great way to take the next step in fulfilling my professional goals. So, I made the switch.
After a few years in home improvements I thought I had it all figured out. Like most, I thought HVAC, windows and doors were the pathway to improving my own home comfort, so naturally I was presenting the same solutions to my customers.
By the end of 2010 I spent a small fortune replacing the windows and HVAC system in my own house.
Afterwards, I remember feeling confused and frustrated when I didn't see a noticeable change in my comfort. My bill wasn't much less either. With a baby on the way and a driver for getting these things done, I was disappointed.
New windows in my old house.
Simultaneously, my work situation was growing more frustrating. I was putting in a lot of hours to keep the window company I was running above water.
Deep down, I knew that something was wrong. Not only was I not feeling more comfortable after I replaced my own windows, but other signals were going off around me as well.
In 2012 several window companies in the market were getting fined by the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising about how much money windows can save homeowners.
Around the same time I had a replacement window customer that was concerned that her home did not feel well sealed after her windows were installed. I struggled with how it could happen because a dismantling of the job and subsequent inspection of the windows by me personally revealed they were correctly measured and sealed properly with foam and caulk.
I spent hours trying to figure out why her house was still drafty. Where was the cold air coming from I wondered?
My spirits were broken as I began to lose confidence in the replacement window we were selling and my days of being self-employed began to dwindle. I loved many aspects of my role with the company, but it was all too much for sustained growth and the firm had to shut the doors in 2015.
It Was Worth It!
It was about one year later in December 2016 when I realized my time in the window business was well spent.
During an online job searching session I came across the Building Performance Institute. I learned that getting certified as a Building Analyst would give me the opportunity to work as a certified energy auditor. I had a sense that it would be a good fit for me.
I was taken aback on the first day of class when I learned that windows only account for 10% of a home’s air leakage. I also learned that putting a new HVAC system in a leaky house is pointless. I was absolutely hooked.
I earned my certification in November 2017.
By December 2017 I had landed the role I wanted as a home energy auditor for a small home performance contractor based out of Annapolis, MD.
AHA Moment! The Audit with the Drafty Windows
On January 23, 2018 at exactly 1pm I arrived for the 11th energy audit of my new career path in Baltimore County, MD.
"Look", the customer said after exchanging pleasantries. “My daughter and granddaughter visit frequently. They are unable to sleep or really do anything in the basement suite that I have all set up for them because the windows are so drafty. Its freezing! The space is a waste. I want you to run your fan test and I want to see where I can seal up my windows.", she demanded.
It was time to put what I had known about windows before earning my certification to the test of what I thought about windows after my certification.
But wait, she was convinced her windows were the source of the problem. Was the 10% thing I had learned not true?
I was just beginning to understand how the blower door system worked and how it tested the leakage of a house and I remember feeling a little nervous. After being let down so many times by windows I really wanted the test to show me that what I was learning was real, and provable.
I started the blower door fan.
The test works by using a large industrial size fan to pull air out of the house at the front door. For every bit of air that leaves - new replacement air instantaneously rushes into the house through any crack, hole, crevice, etc.
As a result, it is easy to go around the house and find connection points to the outside. Windows are an easy target for the test because you can get to all of them, and that is exactly what we did.
We headed down and we sized up each window - together. We did not feel any air coming through window number one. We moved laterally to window number two and nothing. Window number three, still nothing. The patio door was also mostly airtight.
We each put our hands up to the window and went all around the edges. We went over the area where the two parts of the window meet and lock. Anywhere the window could possibly leak – we checked.
Then it hit me...
I realized at that moment how many hard-working, honest, proud Maryland homeowners, much like me, were spending a fortune on new windows because they were convinced, without any testing, that the windows were the issue.
I had spent twelve years learning about windows from 2006-2018 and I figured out the most important thing I needed to know about them that day:
Windows are not the reason most houses feel drafty, and I can prove it.