It all started when I received a brochure in the mail.
Actually it started when I got sick of the poor insulation from the elements that I went through this past winter. It’s not that my heating bills were so high (I like a cool house) but with my sinuses, I need to keep the humidity above 40%, and as soon as the outside temperature dropped, the indoor humidity would plummet into the 20’s. Even running a humidifier constantly didn’t completely solve the problem. So I decided to get new windows.
Then I did some research, and oh, how I hate to do research, so my “research” consisted of finding an online Consumer Reports article from February of this year on Replacement Windows. From that I gleaned that the national average cost of one installed replacement window is about $500 and that the industry is currently backed up about five months.
Then I received a marketing brochure from Renewal by Andersen that promised all sorts of discounts if I acted quickly.
So I texted a scanned image of the brochure to my window expert Vinnie (who is not my cousin and that isn’t really his name). He replied that Andersen windows are good but he recommended Pella and gave me a contact.
Well, it took a couple weeks but Meg, the rep from Pella, arrived on Tuesday. She was pleasant and she took measurements of the windows and asked a few questions.
At this point I had decided to replace all the windows, including the two in the basement, plus the back door in the kitchen. I knew that the kitchen was the main problem because I could feel the cold radiating from the window whenever I got near the sink. Also, I had done a careful, detailed scientific experiment where I placed a thermometer next to the door in the living room and another one next to the door in the kitchen and waited 10 minutes. The living room thermometer had barely budged, but the one in the kitchen had plunged. Hence, the main problem is with the window and door in the kitchen. Although the two windows in the living room were also clearly in need of replacement, as well as the two in the bedroom which had condensation inside the double panes. So those were my priority, but at $500 a pop, why not replace all the windows. (Yes, I expected that Philadelphia prices would be somewhat higher than the national average.)
Anyway after taking all the measurements and working on her laptop, Meg calculated a price. Now I was expecting something in the neighborhood of $5,000 plus maybe another thou or two for the Philadelphia premium, so my eyes bugged out when she declared the Pella price would be $17K—and that included a $3K discount.
When I relayed that price to my not-cousin Vinnie, his verdict was, and I’m quoting him verbatim, “Pella is very expensive for doors but that quote is obscene.”
After a little questioning, Vinnie opined that $800 per window might be a reasonable price.
So I called Renewal by Andersen and set up an appointment for yesterday morning.
When their rep arrived I didn’t waste time or mince words. I explained that I had already gotten a quote from Pella and it was way beyond my budget, so if he couldn’t give me a better quote there was no sense in wasting his and my time.
To which he replied, “Andersen is much more expensive than Pella. We charge between $2K and $3K per window.”
And then he departed on amicable terms (he asked me not to answer if his office called to reschedule; that way he wouldn’t be docked for losing a sale). So when they called a couple minutes after he left, I did not answer, then I blocked their number.
This was turning out to be more work than I had expected, in fact it was almost like research—and I hate doing research.
I checked the internet and found another window installer that had good reviews, so I called them. And I asked what their average charge per window was. The nice woman refused to answer, so I said there was no sense in wasting their time any further.
Then I went back to the CR article which had a link to certified window installers. Following that link, I eventually found Power Home Remodeling and called them. Was I available this afternoon after three? Yes, I was. Perfect! We’ll send someone there at 3:30.
In the event Jimmy was about a half hour late—but he made up for it by staying well over three hours!
He gave me the whole spiel—what a great company Power was, how I can verify it, their Better Business Bureau rating, and after a half hour or so, he began to measure the windows.
He showed me samples of their windows which they get from a company in NorthEast Philadelphia, and he explained in excruciating detail how and why their windows are the best on the market. (Isn’t that what they all say?) And he showed me charts detailing how much other window installers charge (when he got to Pella and Andersen, he was right on the money).
Eventually he gave me a quote. It was better than what I had gotten from the others but it was still well above my budget.
Oh, yes, my budget. One of my problems is that I’m living with a Sword of Damocles hovering over my head, metaphorically at least. When I bought this house I knew that the boiler was already 30 years old, so it could give up the ghost, or kick the bucket, or buy the farm just about any minute. Two years later and it’s definitely living on borrowed time.
Plus, with Apple’s new faster and more energy efficient chips, their new line of Macs has me salivating for a new one—my iMac Pro is only three years old and I had expected to hold on to it for five years, but I hadn’t anticipated the speed gains of Apple’s M1 chips.
Thus, I have two other potentially major expenses in my near future.
I asked Jimmy if he could give me a quote just for my priority windows and door. He could and he did, and it was better but still more than I thought I wanted to commit to. And then he used the standard salesperson ploy of if I committed today he could shave some more off the price.
Oh, I forgot to mention that there’s another reason I want new windows, especially for the living room and bedroom. Although this is a quiet street, from time to time cars drive by or even park that seemingly don’t have mufflers, and I’d rather not hear them, especially when I’m trying to sleep. Also, when helicopters are taking patients to Jefferson Hospital, they fly directly over my house, and I’d really rather not hear them. One of the benefits that Jimmy promised was a significant reduction in sound. (And I don’t expect the actual sound reduction to be as profound as promised, but any reduction will be greatly appreciated.)
I still hesitated and he had one more gimmick up his sleeve. Would I consent to allow before and after photos of my house to be used in their marketing? Sure, why not?
And that got the price down to $8800. (I’ve had experience with these marketing ploys previously, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this is the last I hear of the before and after pictures; we’ll see if a professional photographer actually shows up.)
There is one more advantage of signing up now: they are booked until October and I won’t owe a penny until the work is done—so that gives me another six months to get the funds together. They do have a financing program, and I’ve been approved, but I’d rather pay it off quickly than have to pay finance charges.
Anyway, I consulted once again with Vinnie and sent him some of Power’s marketing materials and he seems to think that it was a sensible move on my part (I’m paraphrasing).
Which leaves two questions:
Why did Vinnie think $800 was a reasonable price for an installed window when the actual quoted price turned out to be higher? I think there are a couple reasons. He was basing his estimate on two-year-old data and there has been some inflation since then, but also, he deals with much larger projects than mine, so he’s probably getting some bulk discounts from his suppliers.
But why did Consumer Reports claim a national average of $500 per installed window? I’m only guessing here, but probably the majority of people who get replacement windows are opting for lower quality products.