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What Would Your Company Do?

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What do you do when a random person flags down one of your installers, electricians, or technician’s to say “my house is ghosting? Do you know what that is?” Do you say a) we are really just a heating and cooling company, b) Send the lead to another company, or c) absolutely, we can help!

This is a true story. A guy literally flagged down our electrician in a neighborhood on his way home from a change out we had just completed.  Adam, our electrician, told this gentleman, to his surprise “oh ya, we know what ghosting is”.  Adam quickly told him that houses and ductwork leak and it sounded like he had a problem.  He gave him my number and told him to call us, sure, we could help.

So here’s the story. I went out to the house to meet the customer, Chuck and his wife. We toured the home and when the customer said his house was “ghosting,” he literally meant the house. In the picture below you will see that all the walls at the ceiling and vaulted pony walls had grey discoloration at all the studs. The carpet along the floor was really discolored.  There was even discoloration under the doors. In the master closet there was literally gray dust on all the clothes, shoes etc.  As you can expect, the house was uncomfortable and Chuck, since moving in, was having respiratory issues. He even had numerous doctor visits to find out what was wrong. Chuck had been saving the large chunks of dark gray material that kept blowing into his office in a baggie.

The customer had consulted their local gas company as well as another HVAC company to find out what was going on. Each time to be told, “Everything was fine.” Chuck had found the term “ghosting” by reading it somewhere on the web.  Needless to say the couple was relieved to have a professional tell them that they weren’t crazy and that they definitely had a serious problem.

Another complexity to this puzzle was that these were renters. Normally when you hear “renters” you might think to run to the hills because of course you are not talking to the owner.  The great thing about testing and diagnostic equipment is that you can make it all about the test.  We took a bunch of pictures and video and explained that they needed to have an exhaustive test completed for the home to really isolate the issues.  Most importantly, this is the only way to get the owner of this rental involved with the prospect of spending money to fix the problem.

The owner and the property management agent decided they wanted to meet at the house to talk about this so called “test.” As you probably guessed they were suspicious.  The owner said they hadn’t had a problem when he lived there. The Property Manager mentioned that they had always had trouble cleaning the house after a previous renter left and had to constantly repaint. I showed them some of the visual evidence and examples from our ENTEK BPC book taken from previous jobs. To cut to the chase; because the owner of the rental was a little adversarial, we suggested the owner obtain a 3rd Party, second opinion such as a local utility company’s “Energy Advisors.” I even provided contact information for a specialist from the Energy Trust of Oregon and Washington who would offer free advice. To make a long story short they agreed and called the advisor who completed a Clipboard Energy Audit and inspection. We knew what the outcome would be, but sometimes your customers have to hear it from someone else. After spending an hour at the house, the advisor confirmed they had a big problem and reiterated our findings and suggested they call an expert in the area to go deeper and test. The advisor literally gave them ENTEK’s number and told them to call me.  This was totally unplanned, but truly opened the door for us getting into the home to help.

Without hashing through every detail, we discovered that the furnace was old, but at the present time functioning fine. We completed various tests and found out that they had a lot of duct leakage to the outside in both the return and supply. In addition, we found a massive unsealed building cavity, 12 unsealed can lights, a couple partially disconnected runs, and no insulation on all the knee and pony walls in the entire house, and the home failed its CAZ test. There was also an issue with the vapor barrier that needed to be addressed.  Another big thing we discovered, which was typical, there was a fresh air duct run and damper to the plenum that at first glance looked OK. However, when we pulled off the fresh air supply duct for closer inspection, we discovered it hadn’t even been cut in and was just there for show to get the home to pass inspection. This house was a perfect storm of many issues.  We used the blower door, duct blaster, smoke puffer and the Thermal Camera to really show the customer what was going on beyond the hard data from the tests.

Even though we did not sell the customer a furnace, we did get a nice job from helping this family and property owner. We ended up selling them the following:

A) duct cleaning

B) Aeroseal/duct sealing

C) ducted the cavity return and sealed up the cavity itself

D) added jumper returns for the bedrooms and office down the hall to even out pressures

E) installed a motorized damper and timer for the fresh air supply to make it actually work

F) a new programmable thermostat.

This was all during round one of improvements and what the owner could afford at that time. This summer we are scheduled to work with one of our insulation contractors to suck out the insulation from the attic and air seal the top plate and at the floor rim joist in the crawl. They are also going to seal the attic walls to the house and then re-string up the bat insulation to new code standards.

Many of you reading this article can appreciate the massive initial time investment. We did end up getting a nice job out this, but you are encouraged to think of the peripheral benefits of this story. We were able to get a property manager to “drink the Kool Aid” so to speak, truly partner with a local utility company and program, and best of all we came in and saved the day. This family was desperate for help.  Chuck and his wife are happy and blown away on our customer service, knowledge, and follow through.  They have written us a fantastic testimonial and I am positive they are telling their family and friends about what we did for them.  Who do you think the owner is going to call when a furnace is needed for replacement?  I, of course, believe they will call ENTEK.

I encourage anyone reading to reflect on my initial question. What would your people do out in the field if someone flagged them down and said their house was ghosting. In our case this all starts with the culture of your company. The sales process is already happening when your employees say “call us, we can definitely help.”  The infectious synergy that happens with Home Performance work happens because everyone is walking the walk and committed to looking beyond just heating and cooling equipment solutions.

Chris McKinney
Latest posts by Chris McKinney (see all)

Posted In: Building Performance, Customer Service, Residential Buildings, Sales & Marketing

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