Ben Spiller, co-founder of BF Rich Windows & Doors, had a unique way of explaining window condensation to homeowners …

Ben was the “B” in BF Rich, and his responsibility was sales and customer service. Ben was a gregarious guy – a true performer.  My dad called Ben in the winter of 1967 to meet with a homeowner who was frustrated by water forming on the glass of their new aluminum storm windows.

Ben entered the home with a sample storm window.  As he was being introduced to the homeowner, he couldn’t hide his excitement. Ben told the homeowner he was so happy and pleased to meet the person who was going to make him a millionaire.

The homeowner was put off guard by this odd remark and became more puzzled when Ben asked if they could head right into the kitchen and get started because he couldn’t wait to see this demonstration.

When they got to the kitchen, Ben opened his display sample and said to the man, “This is the exact same window Mr. Milanese installed on your home. I’m just going to put it up here in the sink so it won’t get water all over the floor when we get it started…”

Ben opened his sample case and lifted it up and into the client’s kitchen sink.  Then he stepped back and faced the homeowner, “Okay, we’re ready! Go ahead and do your thing… Show me how you get this window to make water!”

Ben got dreamy-eyed, stared into space and said to no one in particular, “Every farmer is going to want to buy my windows – just as soon as we can show them how we can make water with them – we will all make a fortune… Farmers won’t have to worry about droughts killing their crops.  We could turn deserts into farmland.  Feed the hungry.  Stop children from starving in China and Africa…”

Ben paused – for dramatic effect – then he exclaimed, “Forget millions — we’ll all be billionaires AND win the Nobel Prize!”

Ben turned his attention back to the homeowner, “Okay. Go ahead. Make water come out of this window!”

The homeowner was staring at Ben with an open mouth. Finally, he said, “I can’t make water come out of this window.”

Ben couldn’t hide his disappointment as he cried, “You can’t?”

After staring at the window for a few seconds, Ben continued, “Well… I’m not surprised… Neither can I. And nobody else has figured out a way to get water out of a window either, but I can tell you why water forms on the inside pane of your storm window.”

Ben was able to completely diffuse the situation, calm down the homeowner and get them to look at the idea of condensation in a different way.  After that, he was able to go on and explain the scientific facts of the dew point, humidity, and how to lower humidity and decrease water condensation, but he wasn’t looking to stop condensation…

He used to say, “Condensation on the storm windows means the storm window is helping keep that hot and humid air in the house… It’s a good thing.  It shows you how the storm window is trapping the warm air your wooden windows let out.  In fact, we take condensation into account.  We design our window with condensation weep holes built in so the water gets out and doesn’t damage your wood windowsill.”

This was way before most kitchens or bathrooms had exhaust fans.  If you had an electric dryer, they were vented inside to help heat the house! But the homes were so poorly insulated and drafty that condensation only became a problem when a more airtight window was introduced.

Today’s homes are better insulated and much less drafty.  Water vapor condensing on glass could lead to serious problems in today’s homes.  Learning the humidity and temperature tastes of your client may be an essential part of the door and window selection process.  Recommending the best condensation resistance factor for your client may be as important to their satisfaction as the right insulation value, solar heat gain coefficient or resistance to air infiltration, water penetration and forced entry.

The important thing to remember is there are different condensation resistance factors available for property owners to select and for door and window professionals to recommend.

If we don’t take that into consideration, we can remember that “window sweat” is similar to “flop sweat” for a stand-up comic.

When the performance of a comedian doesn’t match an audience’s taste or sense of humor, the audience doesn’t laugh — and the performer perspires. When the performance of a window doesn’t match a room’s temperature and humidity, the glass will perspire.  Both the homeowner and the audience are likely to heckle the performer, even though it may not be the comedian’s — or the window’s — fault.

The same comic act could make a roomful of people with the correct taste and sense of humor laugh uncontrollably, and the comedian wouldn’t sweat. The same window in a room with the correct temperature and humidity also would not sweat. Although a sense of humor and taste cannot be scientifically measured by a comedian to control the audience’s laughter, temperature and humidity can be measured and manipulated by the homeowner and the door and window professional to control window condensation.

For happier clients, please remember to consider condensation resistance factor when making your door and window recommendations.

4 Comments

  1. The issue of condensation can be confusing for a homeowner for sure! AAMA recently posted a new web page specific to that issue. Please visit the page and let us know what you think. You and your readers can feel free to pass this on to your homeowner clients as well.
    http://www.aamanet.org/general/1/507/understanding-indoor-condensation

  2. That’s a true classic! I love to send the homeowner a letter stating that the contractor has mentioned they were concerned about condensation on their windows.

    I go on to explain that I need the plumbers name, the one who hooked up a waterline to the windows!

  3. Like the rest of the industry, we also have received our annual share of complaint calls, enough so that we produced this explanatory video: http://www.mathewsbrothers.com/Videos/Technical.aspx

  4. I have read many articles on the Subject of Condensation and I must say, this one did not put me to sleep! A great spin on an “old” subject. All of us have individual characters and it takes a different approach each time, to satisfy the home owner, this approach was definitely different, but successful.

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