In the Box Thinking
Focusing on a new furnace or air conditioner to solve customer problems is understandable.
- Customers Ask for It. We have all been conditioned to assume a new box is the silver bullet to any HVAC problem.
- It Increases Ticket Size. A new install can be more straightforward than diagnosing and repairing the existing HVAC system. And the bottom-line benefits too.
- 2023 Codes Drive It. New HVAC equipment has come out with new SEER ratings well ahead of the 2023 code changes. But a new box is not the only way to meet code.
- Industry Caters to It. Even without codes driving new product development, the industry introduces new, higher-performance units every year.
- It Is Inconsistently Defined. Google “What are the components of an HVAC system?" and you will not find the same list twice on the first page of results. There are any number of reasons for this. But it indirectly reinforces this issue.
Define HVAC Components Consistently
We can all agree the HVAC system heats and cools the air, cleans it, and helps control humidity. It is the components required to accomplish these goals where we find variance. To help us expand our focus, let’s reinforce the basic components of an HVAC system.
- Furnace and/or Air Handler
- Air Conditioner or Heat Pump
- Add-On Accessories, including higher efficiency filtration, UV lights, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers
While we can easily agree on what an HVAC system does, we need to re-establish which components are needed to do it.
This basic list is a simple starting point designed to cover residential and commercial applications. More specific components, and even exceptions like ductless systems, can be added at a more detailed level.
Selling Solutions Leads to Much More
By considering the entire HVAC system, the homeowner can experience better comfort, energy savings, and IAQ. Contractors also benefit in a variety of ways.
- Reducing callbacks and complaints
- Creating a competitive point of difference for your company
- Increasing leads at low cost
- Increasing profits
By adding on services that reinforce and expand a contractor’s focus on the entire HVAC system, it will require less training and investment than adding an entirely new trade. The list of add-on services can go well beyond HVAC contracting, but some of the more complementary, include:
- Home Performance
- Energy Audits
- Duct Repair, Cleaning and Sealing
In the short term, these add-on services can help contractors rebound from this economic crisis. And in the long term, they can increase employee engagement and prevent seasonal slowdown.
Tap Into (Social) Distance Learning
Arguably, the biggest investment required to add on a new service tends to be time spent on training. If a contractor’s team is in training, they are not generating revenue. Yet during this period of forced change, the HVAC industry has given unprecedented access to online training. And HVAC contractors everywhere are accessing it to make the most of the downtime.
This training is critical to the success of add-on services. And as the team gains the ability to identify issues beyond the box, they earn a better understanding of the other HVAC components, how they all work together, and the issues they can create in the home.
Leaky Ducts Impact the Home
One of the best examples of overlooked HVAC issues is leaky ductwork. The majority of a home’s ductwork cannot even be seen by the homeowner. But it is usually connected to the airflow and ventilation issues in the home.
Duct leaks make the home uncomfortable with uneven temperatures. On the supply side, duct leakage will make a home go negative and decrease IAQ by allowing pollen, dust, and other outdoor contaminants to infiltrate the home. On the return side, leakage pressurizes the home and draws the air from contaminated spaces, including attics, crawl spaces, or attached garages. This may not seem like a serious issue — until it is quantified.
Due to mechanical pressures, a one-square-inch hole in a duct would have the same impact as a 30-square-inch hole in a home’s exterior. And the average home can have significantly greater duct leakage, losing as much as 40 percent of HVAC energy according to the Department of Energy. By being able to diagnose and repair ducts, contractors can make a huge difference in the home.
Industry Shifting from Surviving to Thriving
The importance of a comfortable home with clean air has never been more pronounced. And while a home’s air conditioning and heating equipment will always be the foundation of a solid HVAC system, the industry can begin its inevitable rebound a bit faster by considering a system’s components as well when addressing homeowner issues.