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Stormy Days shuts out the cold

As Old Man Winter prepares to breathe down the necks of South Lake Tahoe residents, Stormy Days Window Co. owner-operator Greg McConnell celebrates 25 years in business, scrambling to meet others’ needs.

His role is simple.

For $3.85 per square foot, he assembles and detaches window coverings known as “storm windows” as an alternative to costlier double-pane windows.



Contractors say the drastic variance between inside and outside temperatures may produce unwanted condensation.

McConnell figured installing the window units designed to cut down on air infiltration may save a client up to 40 percent in energy costs. This could apply to heating and air conditioning bills.




“I’ll hear, ‘My heating bill is killing me,'” he said, stepping off a ladder at a home on the top of Kingsbury Grade. The client asked for an outside layer of the thermal barrier a year after he installed the inside units.

McConnell took an insurance settlement from a back injury to buy the business in 1996 for $7,000 from Joe Collins, a part-time operator who was transferred from the South Lake Tahoe Smart & Final store by the grocer.

McConnell, who was once a real estate agent, an emergency medical technician and firefighter, said he recovered his investment in the first three months of operation.

Last year, the business plummeted. But in just the first six months of this year, the revenue has topped all of last year’s. McConnell said requests for new screens or repairs just keep rolling in.

“Last winter was hard on the screens,” he said, calling them “nylon stockings for homes.”

This winter, contractors are unsure what to expect, with weather forecasters predicting another El Ni-o, a tropical weather phenomenon.

Traditionally, the South Shore receives more moisture, in line with Southern California weather conditions.

On the other end of town, Apollo Plumbing and Heating Technician Terry Carroll wants to remind residents of the prudence in the adage: hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Dropping temperatures should signal residents to close off foundation vents to guard against freezing pipes. Carroll also advises homeowners to turn off the irrigation system and the water if they leave town. It’s also wise to have heaters serviced every few years and filters changed regularly. The batteries on carbon monoxide and fire alarms also need to be replaced each year.

Fire chiefs up and down the state also recommend homeowners get their chimneys swept every year, keep pine cones out of the blaze and refrain from leaving lighted candles in the house.

General contractor Steve Yonker also suggests homeowners open up attic vents to induce air flow and unhook their hoses, as they may freeze in place.

Common sense at times goes out the window when it comes to creature comforts for people surviving the winter in Tahoe.

The last few years have offered stories to tell around the campfire.

One came from a man who burned his home when he used a salamander heater to thaw his pipes inside. A few years ago, the weight of snow shoveled off a roof caused the upper and lower decks of a home to collapse in a sandwich effect — the lower deck subsequently ruptured a gas line underneath.

Susan Wood can be reached at 530-542-8009 or via (embedded) email at swood@tahoedailytribune.com.


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