Mustache checking out our new window.
Kensington, MD, January 31, 2015 — Whether or not you accept the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change and know the effects are here and more are yet to come, putting money in your pocket by reducing energy consumption is good policy. Best of all, when you use less energy, you can immediately detect the weight of more duckets (ducats) in your pocket. The instant gratification feels good.
As retirement neared and we made the totally irrational decision to move from a low cost area back to our old neighborhood just outside the Washington beltway, we knew the cost of living here would smack our retirement budget like a sacked quarterback in the Superbowl. Costs are a huge factor for most anyone who chooses to retire in any high cost area. Being near our only daughter was the deciding factor.
We chose our new house because it was in the right location among the miles of bike paths and trails which attracted us here in the first place. There is no cut-through traffic and you can safely run/walk for miles. And, unlike many in the D.C. metro area, we don’t have to leave our neighborhood, or even travel on busy streets to shop for necessities such as groceries or to patronize some charming neighborhood restaurants.
Our house is a bungalow that was custom built in 1953 in a 1940s-era style. We love the arched doorways and duplicated them when we remodeled. Our ultimate plan was to make the house as energy efficient as possible to help stretch our budget.
As we considered what to change, the period rectangular-paned wooden windows were in perfect condition having been protected from the sun and weather by overhanging eves. Consequently, we initially hoped to save the ambiance the offered.
Otherwise, we determined that, besides the 12 inches of pink fiber glass insulation under the attic floor, there was limited insulation in the walls other than R 1.5 “Insulite” sheathing popular at the time. The Insulite™ is hardly worth mentioning.
Always emulate others’ bright ideas. When we lived in Boston, our neighbors added a family room, the walls of which they insulated with closed cell soy foam. Soy foam has an R value of 5.5 per inch. In an old house like ours which has full dimension 2 x 4 wall studs and Insulite, that’s four inches of foam plus the Insulite, equaling R 25.5 in our walls! Not bad, so we did it. At the current energy prices in our area, we calculated that the cost was recoverable in about five – seven years. Those are good numbers.
The benefits of soy foam are that: 1) the R value is huge. 2) it doesn’t give off toxic gases. 3) it’s a vapor barrier. 4) it helps the farm economy. It can be added without much mess or damage through small holes drilled inside or outside of the house.
Soy foam has the additional benefit of being fireproof. I tried to burn some. No dice.
One welcome feature of our energy bill is a graph telling us how much energy we use compared to similar size/style houses that have been upgraded and those that haven’t. We were delighted to learn that, with the new insulation, our house was more efficient than comparable upgraded houses. Maybe the windows could stay, we hoped.
After the first winter, we realized that the architecturally correct, but exceptionally drafty windows we loved would have to go. We thumbed Consumer Reports to shreds before ultimately choosing Anderson™ replacement windows that were a best buy comparing their cost to efficiency ratio.
Smug with confidence, we ordered windows for the entire house at the end of August with a promised installation by the end of October. It’s still warm in the mid-Atlantic in October, so the windows would be in before cold energy sapping cold weather arrived. What could go wrong?
Let’s spare the details other than to say Murphy’s Law was in full effect. The past record of the orange-colored big box retailer through which we made our purchase had always been good, so we placed our bet.
Let’s not count all the screw-ups and lack of communication other than to say that the original order came in with the wrong color and the bow window we chose to help psychologically widen our narrow living room was the wrong size. Take two wasn’t much better.
As Murphy would have it, installation day was months behind schedule in late January. The weather conditions featured well below freezing temps with a thin blanket of snow on the ground! Perfect conditions to have all the windows ripped out of your house! Tracked in slush isn’t listed in any interior decorating style manual I’ve every seen, so it wasn’t an added attraction. We could have changed the date, but by then, we just wanted the job done and over. I think bone-headed companies count on that.
Old window with the rectangular panes going out.
New window going in.
The installation crew were good guys and we enjoyed having them around. It wasn’t their fault that the weather was unfavorable or that Big Orange had it’s head in rectal defilade, at least when it came to this job.
The work is now done and we can feel the difference. Now to reap the savings.