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 given 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 replacement window salesperson.
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 backward from my old apartment. I was uncomfortable 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 in pursuit of change.
Afterward, I remember feeling confused and frustrated when I didn't feel more comfortable. My bill wasn't much less either. With a child on the way and a motivator for getting these things done, I was disappointed.
New windows in my old house.
Simultaneously, my work situation was growing more challenging. 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 Baltimore/Washington market were getting fined by the Federal Trade Commission for falsely advertising that windows can save homeowners a ton on their energy bills.
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 be 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?
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 in Annapolis, MD.
AHA Moment! The Audit with the Drafty Windows
On January 23, 2018, at exactly 1 pm 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. It's 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.
Okay, now it was getting exciting! Time to put everything I was learning as an energy consultant to the test.
I must admit, it was a little nerve-racking. She seemed pretty sure that the windows were the problem. I started the whole house air leakage test.
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.