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5 Inescapable Reasons HVAC Contractors Need to Be in Home Performance

Canadian 100 Dollar Bill Hvac Contractor Home Performance

canadian 100 dollar bill hvac contractor home performanceAfter a nice dinner at La Palette in Toronto one evening, I began walking down Queen Street as I headed back toward my hotel. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a piece of paper on the ground. It looked a lot like Canadian money, but surely my eyes deceived me. It must’ve just been my lack of familiarity with their currency. Right?

After a nice dinner at La Palette in Toronto one evening, I began walking down Queen Street as I headed back toward my hotel. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a piece of paper on the ground. It looked a lot like Canadian money, but surely my eyes deceived me. It must’ve just been my lack of familiarity with their currency. Right?

But wait. Had I seen the number ‘100’ on the corner of the little piece of paper? About 5 meters down the sidewalk, I turned back to investigate further. As I walked toward the place where I’d seen that bit of paper, the excited faces on two young women who had been walking behind me confirmed my suspicion. The piece of paper was gone, and the two women whispered and giggled as they continued down Queen Street.

HVAC contractors similarly walk past opportunity every day. Here are 5 good reasons why you need to take a little extra time and look at the sidewalk if you’re in the HVAC business.

1. Your customers call you for their reasons, not yours.

You know about capacitors, compressors, superheat, and TXVs. Your customer cares about how hot or cool or humid or noisy or expensive their home is. The solution often lies beyond the box you’re so familiar with.

2. Comfort and efficiency are multidimensional.

Yes, you can air condition a tent, but watch how the people in that tent cluster near the vents. Take a look at the bill when it comes in. Including the building enclosure in your scope means your customers will be happy to find they can use more of the space in their homes, and do it affordably. Comfort and efficiency must include the building enclosure.

3. Better working conditions for your technicians

Encapsulate a crawl space or attic and your techs will fight over who gets to go to that house when the next service call comes in.

Beautiful encapsulated crawl space with a beautiful duct system

4. Bigger contracts

When you get a comfort call and see that you could just change the filter and service their system, or you could inform the customer that the upstairs is so uncomfortable because of all the poorly insulated attic kneewalls and unsealed can lights.

5. It’s easier for an HVAC company to add insulation & air sealing than an insulation company to add HVAC.

Yet somehow, probably more insulation companies than HVAC companies call themselves home performance contractors. They’re sealing ducts. Why shouldn’t you insulate and air-seal?

Don’t want to add building enclosure services to your HVAC business? Partner with a company that’s already in that business. The truth is that if you really want to solve your customers’ problems, you have to address the house as a system.

And if you’re looking for a way to jump into home performance contracting, a great opportunity is just around the corner. ACCA’s Building Performance Forum gives you a chance to learn from leaders in the field as well as others in your industry who also are trying to figure it out. It’s being held in Austin, Texas on 1-2 October 2013.


How many times do you need to walk past that $100 bill before you get the hint?


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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I wish a HVAC company would
    I wish a HVAC company would do this in my area! 

  2. Great post Allison, 
    Great post Allison, 
    This is a problem I am trying to figure out as well, as I believe the HVAC guys can finally bring some scale in an HP “industry” that has to date achieved nothing in terms of solving problems. Here is what the HVAC guys tell me are the big obstacles  
    5 reasons HVAC companies make more money staying out of Home Performance. 
    1. HVAC companies can swap out lots of systems a day and make much more money doing that than with HP jobs that can take 2 days each. 
    2. It makes no sense to have highly skilled highly paid service techs doing low skill, low pay insulation jobs. 
    3. HVAC companies try to partner with Insulators then report that many are unreliable, unaccustomed to retail sales, and can scare customers. 
    4. The paper chase and cluster cuss required by HP programs create more burden than small HVAC companies with little office help can afford to do, and waiting for rebates can kill cash flow. 
    5. Many HP programs come in and out of the market, cannot be relied upon, not to mention an aversion most HVAC folks have to HP welfare programs in general.  
    If HVAC guys can figure this out, we just might be able to finally address the problem. 
    Thanks and congrats on going over 500

  3. Duct repairs aren’t nearly as
    Duct repairs aren’t nearly as profitable as condenser swaps. Many customers want to be cool at the lowest first possible. Sell them a shiny new outdoor unit that takes less than 2 hours to swap out or spend half a day in a hot attic fixing ductwork. All this while you are working 10 hour days. HVAC is very seasonal, when it’s busy there’s little time for doing extra work, when it’s nice outside nobody is calling. Home performance/duct repairs could be used to keep techs busy in the slow season instead of cutting hours or doing layoffs.

  4. One way to manage the nexus
    One way to manage the nexus between HVAC and building performance is through alliances. I’m partnered with a building contractor. We have good relationships with several insulators, a couple solar PV guys, etc. Each party feeds leads to others. 
    A good room-by-room load calc coupled with air flow measurements often uncovers an opportunity to downsize the system and sell a duct modification / balancing addition to the project. 
    If I see obvious opportunities in water heating, lighting, pool pumping, etc, I’ll do an email outlining same. This stuff ain’t rocket science but 95 +/- 5% of HVAC guys (and gals) are clueless 
    I agree that utility rebate programs can be a “cluster cuss” (I like that phrase and plan to shamelessly plagarize it at the next opportunity). However, being on their approved list adds credibility.

  5. I believe HVAC techs often
    I believe HVAC techs often define their job more narrowly than necessary. Many times I have heard techs go on and on about how 3M Filtrete filters are bad products, because when they load up with dust there is a greater pressure drop than other brands and types. And they lament how the homeowner fails to change his filter regularly. This is true as far as it goes, but they want their tangible efforts to stop at the complaining and scolding level. 
    What you seldom hear is approaching the problem using simple math: What is the size of the filter relative to the airflow (i.e. what is filter face speed)? Is static pressure OK even with a new filter? Does it grow bad *because* of filter? 
    These same people are very indifferent to any suggestion *they* might ought to assume some responsibility for replacing the filter on their service calls. They resist measuring ESP so they can talk in quantitative terms… which would be a springboard to suggesting a job to add a return to remove that problem (with enough surface area, even the most restrictive Filtrete would be OK). 
    But no. It would seem that complaining about something is not the means to a business end, but the end itself. Could it be because math is hard, and the kind of guy who takes this job is basically not a numbers guy?

  6. Love how you used meters when
    Love how you used meters when telling a story about being in Canada.

  7. Nice post, Allison, and I
    Nice post, Allison, and I also appreciate the caveats raised by pj and others. Regardless, I see an unavoidable convergence occurring between HVAC and building performance at some point; on the commercial front it’s happening faster than in resi, perhaps because the energy footprint is larger. 
    In my HVAC design class this semester, several students have expressed interest in starting their own HVAC business someday. I intend to direct them to your blog, as well as touch on building performance. 
    Where it stands now, I see anyone with sharp business acumen combined with sound technical grounding being the most successful if they were to take on a building performance/HVAC fusion as a business model. You have to know what you’re doing so you can deliver on your marketing. Otherwise…fail.

  8. Spot on. Particularly
    Spot on. Particularly poignant: 2. Comfort and efficiency are multidimensional. 
    Really great follow on comments.

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