Whether telecommuting or pursuing education online, increasing numbers of Americans are working from home – even before “stay home” orders were issued to slow the spread of COVID-19. So, it is more important than ever to keep out disruptive, external noise like screeching traffic, blaring vehicle horns, roaring leaf blowers, and barking dogs. This can foster a more productive work environment during the day and a more peaceful one at night when it is time to relax and sleep.
As the nation increasingly works from home, we discuss how residential contractors can provide a quick fix for homeowners that can soundproof windows and increase comfort while saving energy with Randy Brown, President of Soundproof Windows, a national manufacturer of window and patio door soundproofing products.
Q: What do the experts tell us about how much we are telecommuting from home these days?
A: According to Global Workplace Analytics (GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com), one of the nation’s leading authorities on work-at-home, approximately 5 million employees (3.6% of the U.S. employee workforce) worked at home half-time or more [pre- Covid-19], and regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce.
Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, who has been studying remote work trends and providing workplace strategy advice to employers for more than a decade, predicts the recent crisis will be a tipping point for employee work-from-home programs. She forecasts 25 to 30 million U.S. employees will regularly work from home within the next two years.
Similar growth has been occurring in distance education, which the pandemic will only accelerate. According to the recent Forbes story Disrupting Education. The Rise Of K-12 Online and The Entrepreneurial Opportunities, “Online learning, once reserved for higher education, is now a growing trend among K-12 students nationwide…. Over 30 states now offer some form of online learning for K-12 students.”
Q: When external noise detracts from our ability to telecommute and work productively from home, what role do windows play in the problem? How can residential contractors quickly and effectively handle the issue?
A: To productively focus at home, intrusive external noise must be mitigated. It is a fact that most external noise penetrates through windows, not walls, and even dual pane windows are simply not designed to keep out the noise.
Fortunately, instead of resorting to a full set of costly replacement windows, residential contractors can provide homeowners with an effective quick fix that selectively soundproofs any window requiring it. The approach keeps existing windows but enhances function by placing a soundproof, matching inner window inside the existing windows. This method can stop up to 95% of outside noise, while enhancing comfort and energy savings with extra thermal insulation.
Because no window replacement is required, the installation process can take as little as one hour per window, which minimizes home disruption. A similar technique, which installs a functional, matching patio door inside or outside of an existing one, also provides comparable benefits for patio doors.
Q: What do residential contractors need to know about effectively soundproofing windows? Can you give an example of how it is done?
A: To improve telecommuting and online learning by reducing noise intrusion through windows and sliding glass doors, residential contractors and homeowners are turning to true soundproofing companies like Soundproof Windows. Such companies have expertise engineering products used in very noise sensitive environments like recording studios.
The company, in fact, has adapted recording studio window soundproofing technology for residential homes by creating a secondary soundproofing window that installs inside, behind the existing window. The product is custom designed specifically to match – and function – like the original window. Installation is simple and fast with virtually no clean up.
The inner window essentially reduces noise from entering on three fronts: the type of materials used to make the pane, the ideal air space between original window and insert, and finally improved, long-lasting seals. The combination can reduce external noise by up to 95%.
The first noise barrier is laminated glass, which dampens sound vibration much like a finger on a wine glass stops it from ringing when struck. An inner PVB layer of plastic further dampens sound vibrations.
Air space of 2-4 inches between the existing sliding door and the soundproof sliding door also significantly improves noise reduction because it isolates the door frame from external sound vibrations.
Finally, the company places spring-loaded seals in the second sliding door frame. This puts a constant squeeze on the glass panels, which prevents sound leaks and helps to stop noise from vibrating through the glass. The spring-loaded seals are designed to stay as acoustically sound 15 years down the road as they were on day one.
Q: Besides soundproofing, are there other issues that taking this approach to windows can help with?
A: Typical windows and glass patio doors are significant sources of draftiness when wind blows through the seals. Air leakage through seals that crack over time only worsens the problem.
On top of this, windows and glass patio doors are notorious causes of home heating and cooling loss. They transfer heat and cold by thermal conduction through the panes and glass surface, so additional heating or cooling is required to keep everyone comfortable.
While single pane windows transfer the most heating and cooling, even dual pane windows may be insufficient to keep homes sufficiently warm in winter and cool in summer without raising utility costs.
As a solution, adding an inner insulating window to existing windows, and a “second sliding patio door” that can be installed inside or outside of the existing door, however, can dramatically improve thermal efficiency.
In fact, this approach provides an additional layer of insulation with better insulation values than the best double pane windows, and substantially improves insulation values for dual pane windows as well. The second sliding patio door has even greater insulation value due to its greater surface area. This can reduce heat loss by 77% or more for single paned windows, and heating and cooling bills by up to 30%, while stopping air infiltration for further energy savings and greater comfort.
Q: In terms of home telecommuting, what is the bottom line that residential contractors and homeowners need to understand?
A: The trend toward telecommuting and online education from home will only increase as corporations and schools seek greater resilience amid shocks like pandemics, as well as savings by reducing real estate costs.
For homeowners seeking more work flexibility, as well as substantial savings in commuting, parking, etc., installing soundproof windows may be just what is needed to make telecommuting and distance learning from home easier and more productive.