“I don’t get it why would we want to make the house so tight that you would need ventilation?”

“I don’t get it why would we want to make the house so tight that you would need ventilation?”


I was asked this question by a potential customer. I think that this is certainly valid question. I answered it to the best of my ability within the short amount of time. I explained that the mantra of our industry is to seal it tight and ventilate it right. I explained the positive impact on IAQ and reducing the amount of infiltration from the dirty attic. I said our goal was make the house safe and comfortable and we would naturally become more efficient. That our repairs would work 24 hours a day hot or cold rain or shine.

I explained that the house was already tight and our measures would make it tighter and ventilation was necessary if the work was to be performed. ”but I keep windows open all the time” she replied. I explained that the ventilation would still be needed in case the windows were not open. And that filtered fresh air is a good thing. I explained that this is not a new thing as commercial buildings have been employing ventilation needs for decades. I also explained that current codes here in California have ventilation codes.

“Well I could see it if I had small children but I just don’t see the benefit.”  Our customer base is sometimes willing to listen and sometimes defiant. The fact is that these principals for a performance home are difficult for some folks to accept.  They do not understand nor see the benefit. Nor do they want change.

It is easy for most to grasp the concepts of insulation, duct sealing, windows (as misguided as much of the information is) high efficiency HVAC systems and Photovoltaic’s.  The highest hurdle for most of our customers to understand is Ventilation. The fact that we state we can save you energy and then require a device to be installed that was not currently in the home is counter intuitive. You can’t visibly see stale air or infiltration.

While good ventilation might have the highest positive impact it is in my opinion the hardest concept to sell.

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Selling is an art: it requires the ability to read the customer followed by tailoring the pitch; and also knowing when to walk away. This is a great lesson. This homeowner was not moved to action because the information presented did not align with her values (or triggers). You're not going to be able to get every homeowner with the same approach...also, making information complicated results difficult sells.

Here's an analogy I use (for hot/ dry climate): we want your home to act like a cooler, or coffee thermos, where your home is air tight with insulation touching all around; however, because we need to breathe (as homes do not), we then want to bring in fresh air from a controlled location. 

Hi Glen,

I'm glad Carlos replied as I agree with him in that every customer and house can be different.  Although my pitch may vary, my theme is that air sealing and adding mechanical ventilation is a goal we must reach before some improvements can be added.  If I sense they will be reluctant at this point, I explain the limits of other improvements if we stay below the mechanical requirement.  Mechanical ventilation is a goal and in the retrofit world, one that may not be acceptable to the ho on the first round of improvements.  I have never considered the work we are doing today as the last work each house will need.  Ever increasing energy costs, changing technology,  and continued education will certainly bring someone back in the future and then this ho will be less reluctant.


I failed to mention this home is already past the accepted limit before any work is performed.

With our climate we a required to be much looser on the envelope and it is not difficult to be past the limit.

Carlos, I agree selling is an art and will admit I am not an artist more like a finger painter. I like your analogy with the thermos I too am in a warm and dry climate.

Bud I would also agree that each home is different as well as each homeowner.



When they say asinine things you need to point it out, not give it credence.  

So, when do you open windows?  
When do you want clean air?  
What will you do the rest of the time, hold your breath?  

I always recommend mechanical ventilation.  That takes the "if your house get's too tight" part out of the discussion.  

This building science stuff has been a grand experiment for me.  Part of the experiment was testing homes with "air advice". I found building tightness was NOT an indicator, not even a correlation, to IAQ.  Some loose houses had crappy IAQ, some tight houses had great IAQ.  I now suspect this changes seasonally, even day to day.  

Eventually technology will bring the cost of IAQ sensors down such that they are as common as smoke detectors.  In the meantime we need to ALWAYS recommend mechanical ventilation because we don't know if or when ventilation is needed.  

That way when the kids get asthma, or the parents get cancer, we don't have even the slightest twinge of regret or sense of responsibility.  

& BTW, it's so CHEAP!  I think my ERV costs $5 a month including energy loss, and my fiance's Wisper Green running 30cfm continuously costs about $1.50.  That's MUCH MUCH cheaper than opening windows, and more effective. 

I do not believe there is an "asinine" comment or question posed by the customer.  The customer hires us to perform an audit and expects reasonable solutions to reasonable problems.  In this case, the comment was valid.  I have been asked many times why make a home so tight you would need to pay for ventilation.  I truly cannot give an honest answer to that question, since our state guidelines are not that strict. 

Normally, a homeowner wants an audit to find ways to save money and if I recommend spending money on ventilation because my other recommendations create an overly tight shell, the response is not met with open arms.  There has to be common sense left in any equation.  I'd like to think I have some of that and do not pretend to know everything.

 I have been asked many times why make a home so tight you would need to pay for ventilation.

Let me try again.  Pretend there is no standard. Are you going to recommend people have fresh air, controlled fresh air?  

That question IS valid, particularly when you pose it to them that ventilation has to occur IF the house get's tight.  I think Dale did a much better job conveying this idea than I've been doing:

 "When it's 20 below with a 20 mph wind, do you want to be sitting here shivering, but happy that your house is 'breathing'?"

"Do you want Nature to be in charge of your home ventilation, or do you want to be in charge?" usually cinches it for most HO's.

A well air-sealed house with proper mechanical ventilation will typically have cleaner air with less dusting needed. 

With controlled ventilation, opening windows will now be an option and not be mandatory to get fresh air.

Remember, a leaky house doesn't mean high IAQ, in fact it often means just the opposite.  It also means that ventilation may have much less positive effect.  

You want the house tight for fresh air for the same reason you want it tight for heating and cooling, so the ventilation is more effective and less costly.  So you can control fresh air provided. 


I treat my customers with respect and did not find her answer offensive. It was an objection which I tried to overcome. 

You live in a much different climate than I do. Here in San Diego it is not uncommon to have windows open and no systems running. So there is no penalty to open a window in fact often it can prevent one from using a system

At $ 1.50 a day  does not sound cheap to me. That would double my current electric bill which averages $45.00

By the way my window is open right now

$1.50 a month buddy, not a day.

Tempo and tone of delivery, and NOT telling the client their comment is asinine, are important components of educating and selling.

If you present it right, THEY conclude their statement wasn't well thought out.

...and now that your windows are open, how many ach is occurring?

Ok I stand corrected 1.50 is cheap my bad

As I pointed out I am not claiming to be the the ultimate presenter or pitch man. Sales is an art and I would consider myself competent but not an expert. I am always welcome to new useful information. You might come across different in person but you online tone is abrasive. That style serves many well in sales. It is not my method however. If I get combative in a game it serves me well, if I get combative in a sale presentation pretty much game over.

I would never call a customer asinine during any type of presentation. If that works for you great but it does not work for me.  I will disagree and point out why I disagree. If you read my post I did not simply lay over and die.

When I cut my teeth in sales I used to present to car dealers. Not exactly the easiest clients. Just like this job I wore allot of hats. One usefull critique from a owner and gsm of one of the more succesfull dealerships who turned out to be a very good client  for a number of years." Glen it was an excellent presentation but you are trying to wow me with technical information I really don't care about. You need to listen more and talk less".

I don't think she wanted to hear about air changes at this point. As Carlos pointed out in his earlier post there are signs that you pick up over the years. This lady did not want to listen. She was also done talking. Maybe it was my delivery, maybe it was my product, maybe she was having a bad day.  I would add that I liked this woman and hold no ill will toward her. 

My point of this post was that some things are easier to get clients excited about and some not so much. In my experience the objections I get the most in this industry revolve around continuous ventilation. I also pointed out it is the most important feature.

Your mileage might vary

My bad.  I thought you wanted help.  Rereading your OP it was venting, not asking for help, suggestions, or discussion.  

But this is a BB, it's a good topic, and others might appreciate different perspectives.  

My approach when providing help for free is to be direct.  In this medium using a sledge to get the point across insures it gets across.   My telling you a customer statement is asinine is not the same as you telling the customer it's asinine.  I'm dealing with you, YOU put whatever frosting on it you need when delivering to the client.  

Here, let's discuss the concept.   If you don't agree with the concept, what's the point in tailoring it's delivery?

Reduce Incidence of BULLHEADED whenever possible - The If/Then approach to ventilation is fundamentally flawed.  Once you see that, you'll avoid a fair amount of the BUT BUT BUT crap outlined in your OP because you've removed the IF.  And BTW, by recommending ventilation UP FRONT you don't have to backpedal ever.  At the end of the day, we can't control how people operate their homes.  

Ignorance was removed in us, it's our job to pay it forward - I feel our job is continual education, reduce ignorance in ourselves and others.  I find when dealing with smart people reducing ignorance is easy.  Dealing with bullheaded people it is hard.  Dealing with stupid people is frustrating and unprofitable for me.  (We must recognize our abilities and limitations.)  

I'm not talented enough to fix stupid.  It is very difficult to differentiate between bullheaded and stupid, but I attempt to figure it out.  

Only you can determine if the client was bullheaded or stupid, and if you can fix it.  But maybe changing the concept you are delivering from IF/THEN to Always will cut down on frequency of bullheaded.  

So, the concept is there if you want it.  

It's a little easier to sell in upstate NY.  A house needs ventilation for the people and pets in it, but the rate of ventilation varies greatly with temperature and wind.  "A house has to breathe," can be countered with, "When it's 20 below with a 20 mph wind, do you want to be sitting here shivering, but happy that your house is 'breathing'?"

"Do you want Nature to be in charge of your home ventilation, or do you want to be in charge?" usually cinches it for most HO's.

A well air-sealed house with proper mechanical ventilation will typically have cleaner air with less dusting needed. 

With controlled ventilation, opening windows will now be an option and not be mandatory to get fresh air.


I find it best to use the HO's words when adjusting their thought process about air-sealing and ventilation. 



tweaking trim tabs for efficiency

Nice Dale! 

We didn't realize how dumb some of these "sayings" were until someone explained it.  And we may not have understood it the first time we heard it, so having a few different ways to convey the same concept is important.  


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