Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

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Small Law Survivor
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Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Small Law Survivor » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:00 pm

The first floor of our house was really cold last winter. Late in the winter I purchased a laser surface temperature gun, and started testing the window panes during the relatively few cold days remaining. When it was in the 30's outside, the inside of the windows read in the high 50s/low 60s when the thermostat was set to 69 degrees.

The first floor of our house has a lot of windows - 25 to be exact. When people visit us they comment that it's like living outdoors. The lot is set back from the street, fenced, and surrounded by trees on three sides, so it's very private.

The widows were installed 20-25 years ago (some earlier, some later). They are all double pane windows. Most of them are 5 1/2 feet by 20 inches.

I'm doubtful that the seal is broken on all of them (that would be bad luck). I looked online this summer and it looks like a test for this is to fog up the window on the inside and see if it fogs up the outer layer of glass, but I'm not sure I can do this before the cold weather sets in. I've never seen any fogginess or condensation on these windows.

I guess I can use window insulation film on these windows this winter, and that's my current plan, but that's not an optimal fix. On the other hand, there are 25 windows and at $1,000/window (based on quick online search of window replacement cost), this would be a $25,000 replacement project, so insulation might be just fine (!).

Wondering whether anyone else has dealt with an issue like this, and how they resolved it.

Thanks in advance.
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sport
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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by sport » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:33 pm

In the winter, we pull down the pleated blinds to cut down on heat transfer from the air to the windows. We leave a small space at the window sill, otherwise the windows will ice up, and when the ice melts, we have a wet mess. We have double paned windows also.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by nisiprius » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:38 pm

???? Is a laser temperature gun reading the temperature of the surface of a clear glass window? Or is it seeing through the window and simply reading the temperature outside?

Even if the windows are completely tight, there's going to be radiation loss. Your body "shines" far infrared light; a wall reflects that back to you, a window lets you radiate out to the outside. I think that's why the windows on those LEED buildings are tinted.
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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by wilked » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:39 pm

It might be more than you want to spend but what you want is an infrared camera (FLIR). About $200, I would look at it like you just need to save $25/month on your heating bill to break even.

Much better than your ir thermometer, it will pinpoint where issues are. Wait for a really cold day and walk the house with it, you’ll know where there are any leaks or drafts

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by HomeStretch » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:41 pm

I used the window insulation film for a couple years. Not a pretty view all winter as most windows do not have window treatments. Eventually replaced all the windows as they were in rough shape (many didn’t open easily which was concerning from an emergency egress standpoint). I had the contractor install insulation snugly around the window framing too.

Great decision - open easily, great insulation, lower energy bills, much quieter, easy to clean, etc.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by bloom2708 » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:44 pm

I think you will have to do some homework and testing with a window company.

Are the windows simply just 2 panes? No sealed/gas barrier? Is there insulation around the windows? Are they wood clad with cracks and caulk? Can you feel drafts or just a colder temperature?

It would do no good to replace a window if there is no/poor insulation around the window. It may mean removing one window and seeing what you have.

We have triple pane windows. If one loses pressure (gets condensation in between the panes), the full window (frame and glass) does not need to be replaced. The window insert is replaced which is much cheaper. Our home was built in 1998, so on the newer side. Even with triple pane (quality) windows, the window itself is cold when it is -10 or -20F outside.

A good, reputable window company should be able to help diagnose issues. I agree that your method of measuring seems prone to issue.
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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by dbr » Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:51 pm

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:00 pm
The first floor of our house was really cold last winter. Late in the winter I purchased a laser surface temperature gun, and started testing the window panes during the relatively few cold days remaining. When it was in the 30's outside, the inside of the windows read in the high 50s/low 60s when the thermostat was set to 69 degrees.

Thanks in advance.
It's been a long time since I worked on window insulation problems, and my experience is out of date. However, if we assume an outside temperature of 35F and an inside temperature of 69F, I am not sure an inside surface temperature of 60F is not what might be expected. Do you have some specifications or other information suggesting this is a problem.

There is a lot of literature on fogging of windows, which occurs when the inside glass surface cools below the due point of the ambient air. There may be some data there on what to expect from current window technology. For example for your windows to fog at a surface temperature of 60F, your 69F relative humidity would need to be 75%. If the weather gets colder and you run 50% RH then your windows will fog when they cool to an interior surface temperature of 49F. How cold it will be outside when your windows get that cold is the question, of course. My house has old double hung windows with storm windows. We do not get condensation ever even at -20F outside and 70F inside. The due point for 40% RH at 70F inside is 45F, so I know my poor old windows are warmer inside than 45F when the outside temp is -20F.

I tried to do some reading but only quickly found this old paper on testing insulated windows: http://gaia.lbl.gov/btech/papers/38117.pdf

In that particular data set the outside temp was set at -18C and the inside temp at 21C and typical inside surface temperatures were in the range 6C-12C with large variation over the window surface. Those might not have been very good windows, but at least it is an example that insulated windows can have inside surface temperatures that are significantly colder than inside air temperature.

NB: Your physics is a little mixed up. The whole system is not much about cold air penetrating your windows. The result is a combination of conduction, convection, and radiation to which unlikely would be added actual leakage of air from outside to inside. It is, however, legitimate to be concerned if vacuum sealed multipane windows have lost the vacuum or gas filled windows have lost their gas fill and it is replaced with air.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Globalviewer58 » Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:03 pm

Two issues to consider: insulation and air barrier

Remove a piece of exterior window trim to expose the window frame attachment to the structure. Look for an effective air barrier to stop air from penetrating at the intersection of the window frame and the structure. Windows installed 18 years ago in our house had no air barrier so I added a self adhering membrane. You can find this as window flashing in rolls about 6” wide. Install across bottom, sides and top of window flange in that sequence for best results. YouTube video may be helpful.

While the trim is still off you can inspect around the gap between window frame and structure to see if insulation fills the gap. If not, it is easy to apply a foam spray sealant made for windows.

The first issue to solve is insulation. Once that is addressed you can apply the self adhering membrane to stop air leaks.

The changes were noticeable in more consistent temps in the rooms. Good luck!

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by oldcomputerguy » Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:09 pm

This topic is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (home maintenance). -- moderator oldcomputerguy
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dbr
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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by dbr » Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:13 pm

bloom2708 wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:44 pm
I think you will have to do some homework and testing with a window company.

I agree.


We have triple pane windows. If one loses pressure (gets condensation in between the panes), the full window (frame and glass) does not need to be replaced. The window insert is replaced which is much cheaper. Our home was built in 1998, so on the newer side. Even with triple pane (quality) windows, the window itself is cold when it is -10 or -20F outside.

Yep. The question is what is the typical behavior of current window designs regarding interior surface temperature. You probably don't have an actual temperature measurement.

A good, reputable window company should be able to help diagnose issues. I agree that your method of measuring seems prone to issue.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Housedoc » Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:16 pm

Check with local utilities, they may offer an on-site energy audit at little to no cost. Might have leakage around frame where sash rides up and down or even an issue with bottom sash seal to sill on frame. Get creative and take a leaf blower at low speed on the outside while someone feels for air leak or carefully use a candle to determine leak(s).

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Big Dog » Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:24 pm

A cheap fix is to put some roller shades on windows not viewed frequently. Or, if you want to look outside all day, you could pull the shades down at night.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by bloom2708 » Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:29 pm

Globalviewer58 wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:03 pm
Two issues to consider: insulation and air barrier

Remove a piece of exterior window trim to expose the window frame attachment to the structure. Look for an effective air barrier to stop air from penetrating at the intersection of the window frame and the structure. Windows installed 18 years ago in our house had no air barrier so I added a self adhering membrane. You can find this as window flashing in rolls about 6” wide. Install across bottom, sides and top of window flange in that sequence for best results. YouTube video may be helpful.

While the trim is still off you can inspect around the gap between window frame and structure to see if insulation fills the gap. If not, it is easy to apply a foam spray sealant made for windows.

The first issue to solve is insulation. Once that is addressed you can apply the self adhering membrane to stop air leaks.

The changes were noticeable in more consistent temps in the rooms. Good luck!
+1

This is what I was referring to. Better explained by Globalviewer58.

Quality windows, but if the insulation is missing and the wind barrier, the cold comes right in around the windows.
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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by chw » Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:11 pm

Perhaps try these window inserts: https://www.windowinserts.com/ . I used one for a skylight, and it completely stopped a cold draft I used to get from it. They are much better than the window film, and cosmetically much nicer looking. The inserts can also be removed and reused.

I actually leave the insert in for my skylight all year, as it cuts down heat transfer in the summer as well.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by davehica » Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:34 pm

I'd also recommend inserts. We used Indow Window instead of replacing every single-pane window in the house and have been happy with the results. Far less drafty and significantly cheaper, although YMMV since you are in a much colder climate.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by ARoseByAnyOtherName » Tue Sep 03, 2019 8:43 pm

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:00 pm
Wondering whether anyone else has dealt with an issue like this, and how they resolved it.
Since you live in Boston you can likely get MassSave to come out and do an free in home energy assessment:
https://www.masssave.com/en/

Depending on what they find there can be meaningful subsidies available to you. I encourage you to do a little research and see what options are available.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by nordsteve » Tue Sep 03, 2019 10:24 pm

We have 15 windows in our LR/DR that are 60" tall and vary in width from 18" to 50". They're original 1957 Andersen double pane sealed units.

After buying the house we bought Hunter Douglas honeycomb blinds with the cordless system. Most of the year they're up and stowed away, only lower them during colder parts of the year. They do a great job of warming the rooms up during cold weather (Minnesota).

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Pu239 » Wed Sep 04, 2019 12:02 am

For DIY window insulation inserts, you might want to check out Guy Marsden's site: http://www.arttec.net/Thermal-Windows/index.html

A simple and cheap(er) solution compared with custom made commercial inserts.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by jharkin » Wed Sep 04, 2019 5:54 am

nisiprius wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:38 pm
???? Is a laser temperature gun reading the temperature of the surface of a clear glass window? Or is it seeing through the window and simply reading the temperature outside?

Even if the windows are completely tight, there's going to be radiation loss. Your body "shines" far infrared light; a wall reflects that back to you, a window lets you radiate out to the outside. I think that's why the windows on those LEED buildings are tinted.
+1 can’t trust the IR gun on glass.

Also, even the best multi-pane argon filled high end windows only have a fraction of the insulating value of the wall next to it... ( i think the highest end triple pane windows max out at R8, average double pane is R2 to R3) so the window is always going to be colder. Just no way around that... houses with lots of windows will feel colder in winter.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by mrmass » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:03 am

chw wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:11 pm
Perhaps try these window inserts: https://www.windowinserts.com/ . I used one for a skylight, and it completely stopped a cold draft I used to get from it. They are much better than the window film, and cosmetically much nicer looking. The inserts can also be removed and reused.

I actually leave the insert in for my skylight all year, as it cuts down heat transfer in the summer as well.
What a great find. Thank you. Last year I "built" my own insert. It's not hard but It looks like crap. Thanks for the link.

chw
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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by chw » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:41 am

mrmass wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:03 am
chw wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:11 pm
Perhaps try these window inserts: https://www.windowinserts.com/ . I used one for a skylight, and it completely stopped a cold draft I used to get from it. They are much better than the window film, and cosmetically much nicer looking. The inserts can also be removed and reused.

I actually leave the insert in for my skylight all year, as it cuts down heat transfer in the summer as well.
What a great find. Thank you. Last year I "built" my own insert. It's not hard but It looks like crap. Thanks for the link.
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the inserts. Sign up on their website- they have periodic sales with significant savings. I also live in MA, and the inserts worked well for me. Pay close attention to measuring to get the proper fit.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by fru-gal » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:52 am

Just as a side note, this is one reason why old house lovers tear their hair out when someone replaces original windows with modern crap instead of restoring the original windows. 20-25 years, this is what happens.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Bengineer » Wed Sep 04, 2019 7:45 am

You've got a lot of windows. The best windows are ~R-4/U-0.25, vs a 2x4 wall with fiberglass insulation @ something like a whole wall R-10/U-0.1. With lots of windows that are cooler than the walls, your mean radiant temperature will be lower. You're going to feel cooler that the thermostat setting in winter.

I think if the seals are broken on the windows, you will see some water/frost between the panes at times.

As noted, you could do films, film inserts, or insulating shades. The shades will need to have a vapor barrier in them and all will be sealed to the window frame to avoid frost on the interior window surface in really cold weather.

An additional line of thinking: How well do the windows seal? Are there leaks in the casings around the windows? Air can move a lot of heat. Pulling a slight vacuum on the house and checking the window sashes and the casings around them might pay off. You could have a blower door test done, which would give you an idea of overall air leakage as well. Or diy it with a strong fan/blower, or use your range hood if you have a powerful one that is vented outside. If it's the window weatherstripping, If the leaks are around the casing, pull that and seal the voids with "window & door" can foam. Or have it done.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by nativenewenglander » Wed Sep 04, 2019 8:08 am

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:00 pm
The first floor of our house was really cold last winter. Late in the winter I purchased a laser surface temperature gun, and started testing the window panes during the relatively few cold days remaining. When it was in the 30's outside, the inside of the windows read in the high 50s/low 60s when the thermostat was set to 69 degrees.

The first floor of our house has a lot of windows - 25 to be exact. When people visit us they comment that it's like living outdoors. The lot is set back from the street, fenced, and surrounded by trees on three sides, so it's very private.

The widows were installed 20-25 years ago (some earlier, some later). They are all double pane windows. Most of them are 5 1/2 feet by 20 inches.

I'm doubtful that the seal is broken on all of them (that would be bad luck). I looked online this summer and it looks like a test for this is to fog up the window on the inside and see if it fogs up the outer layer of glass, but I'm not sure I can do this before the cold weather sets in. I've never seen any fogginess or condensation on these windows.

I guess I can use window insulation film on these windows this winter, and that's my current plan, but that's not an optimal fix. On the other hand, there are 25 windows and at $1,000/window (based on quick online search of window replacement cost), this would be a $25,000 replacement project, so insulation might be just fine (!).

Wondering whether anyone else has dealt with an issue like this, and how they resolved it.

Thanks in advance.
We live 195 miles north of you in NH and see -30F in winter. Our house has single glazed glass and wood storm windows on the exterior that are 100 years old. We installed heavy roller blinds from Lowes on all the windows, they definitely break the convection that occurs with glass. The 1650 sqft house is quite comfortable in winter using 95 gallons on heating oil and 1.5 cords of wood.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Small Law Survivor » Wed Sep 04, 2019 1:01 pm

Thank you for all this great input - you've given me a lot to think about, and to research. Not sure how I lived before Bogleheads! Small Law
68 yrs, semi-retired lawyer, 50/40/10 s/b/c, 70/30 dom/int'l. Plan: 4% WR until age 70, 3% after social security kicks in. Boglehead since day 1 (and M* Diehard before that) under various other names

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by DVMResident » Wed Sep 04, 2019 4:21 pm

jharkin wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 5:54 am
nisiprius wrote:
Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:38 pm
???? Is a laser temperature gun reading the temperature of the surface of a clear glass window? Or is it seeing through the window and simply reading the temperature outside?

Even if the windows are completely tight, there's going to be radiation loss. Your body "shines" far infrared light; a wall reflects that back to you, a window lets you radiate out to the outside. I think that's why the windows on those LEED buildings are tinted.
+1 can’t trust the IR gun on glass.

Also, even the best multi-pane argon filled high end windows only have a fraction of the insulating value of the wall next to it... ( i think the highest end triple pane windows max out at R8, average double pane is R2 to R3) so the window is always going to be colder. Just no way around that... houses with lots of windows will feel colder in winter.
The efficiency of IR thermography (the jargon is “emissivity”) on most glass actually isn’t terrible but polished glass is very prone to reflection artifacts. One simple trick is to apply electrical tape (which has a very high emissivity), give it time to stabilize temperature, and the test. It’s super easy and pretty dang close to accurate.

Pay attention to the focus distance and focal point size of your handheld (probably something like 3 feet minimum distance with a 2~3 inch focal point). You may need a couple strips of tape.

Edit: adding an article on the topic: https://www.flir.ca/discover/rd-scienc ... missivity/

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by pfrank » Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:30 am

Since you live in Massachusetts, contact MassSave for a no-cost home energy assessment. It is sponsored by your local electric and gas utilities. They will come in and go over your entire house. They will do a blower test. They will change out your light bulbs to LEDS. They will give you energy saving surge protectors. They will test the efficiency of your furnace, boiler, water heater, whatever you have.

Based upon their findings they will offer you rebates and incentives to do the work. You can pick what contractor to use. This includes a 7-year, 0% loan to make the recommended improvements (HEAT loan). They will weatherize your house (air sealing) for free or almost free. They will pay up to 75% of insulation work. There are a bunch or rebates available from a new washing machine, boiler, furnace, etc.

I had it done. They did a bunch of air sealing. They added insulation in my attic and finished basement. I used the HEAT loan to upgrade my boiler and water heater from the contractor I wanted. You could definitely see the savings add up with each electric and gas bill.

So before you do anything, I would contact MassSave and see what their experts recommend.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by hicabob » Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:49 am

You can buy windows up to R-10 now which is almost as good as a typical old-school insulated 2x4 wall! Not cheap but very impressive performance.
https://www.builderonline.com/products/ ... n-market_o

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Small Law Survivor » Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:59 am

pfrank wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:30 am
Since you live in Massachusetts, contact MassSave for a no-cost home energy assessment. It is sponsored by your local electric and gas utilities. They will come in and go over your entire house. They will do a blower test. They will change out your light bulbs to LEDS. They will give you energy saving surge protectors. They will test the efficiency of your furnace, boiler, water heater, whatever you have.

Based upon their findings they will offer you rebates and incentives to do the work. You can pick what contractor to use. This includes a 7-year, 0% loan to make the recommended improvements (HEAT loan). They will weatherize your house (air sealing) for free or almost free. They will pay up to 75% of insulation work. There are a bunch or rebates available from a new washing machine, boiler, furnace, etc.

I had it done. They did a bunch of air sealing. They added insulation in my attic and finished basement. I used the HEAT loan to upgrade my boiler and water heater from the contractor I wanted. You could definitely see the savings add up with each electric and gas bill.

So before you do anything, I would contact MassSave and see what their experts recommend.
I had MassSave here in 2016. They did much of what you describe (bulbs, surge protectors, attic sealing ...), but they didn't do a blower test or do anything relating to the windows. The inspector that came here after the work was done told me I could repeat this every year, but when I tried to do that in 2017 I got major push-back from MassSave. They told me that was incorrect, refused to return, and were quite rude about it. Any thoughts on this? Thanks, Small Law

p.s. I was unimpressed with the entire MassSave experience The contractors that do this work seem unmotivated. The guy that did the initial work here seemed clinically depressed, and the team that did the attic insulation was in a big hurry to leave. Hope this was just my experience ...
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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by pfrank » Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:39 am

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:59 am
I had MassSave here in 2016. They did much of what you describe (bulbs, surge protectors, attic sealing ...), but they didn't do a blower test or do anything relating to the windows. The inspector that came here after the work was done told me I could repeat this every year, but when I tried to do that in 2017 I got major push-back from MassSave. They told me that was incorrect, refused to return, and were quite rude about it. Any thoughts on this? Thanks, Small Law

p.s. I was unimpressed with the entire MassSave experience The contractors that do this work seem unmotivated. The guy that did the initial work here seemed clinically depressed, and the team that did the attic insulation was in a big hurry to leave. Hope this was just my experience ...
I had the exact opposite experience. The MassSave people were always very professional and thorough. They went over their findings at the end and gave me a typed report. You can have MassSave come in once per calendar year. They have been at my house twice within 3 years. Why more than once? Because I maxed out the annual insulation incentives. Right now there is no cap. Through MassSave, contractors have done well over $7,000 of insulation and air sealing at my home. I also financed over $14,000 of heating system work (new boiler, water heater, etc.) through the 0% Heat Loan. I saved tons of money on my gas and electric bills.

MassSave makes the energy saving recommendations. You choose the contractor to do the work. Blower tests were always run before and after the work was completed to show that the work was properly done. The MassSave-approved contractor I chose was great (always check their online reviews). Very efficient. Very clean. They did great work. I had them come back when I had the additional work done. They did such a great job my Dad and cousin used them when they had their Mass Save work done.

MassSave did look at my windows as part of the energy assessment. I upgraded all of my windows. I received rebates from MassSave on my new windows. I believe now you can use the 0% interest HEAT loan to pay for the recommended window upgrades.

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Re: Cold Air Penetrating Window Glass (Winter, Boston)

Post by Valuethinker » Wed Sep 11, 2019 7:04 am

Small Law Survivor wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 1:01 pm
Thank you for all this great input - you've given me a lot to think about, and to research. Not sure how I lived before Bogleheads! Small Law
That's one of those existential questions, no?

Was there life before Bogleheads? Did the universe exist before Bogleheads? Did we exist?

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