HVAC Residential Market / Air Conditioners / Split Systems

Contractors Reap Benefits of Ductless Installations

installing a wall-mounted ductless air conditioner
Technicians with Champion AC, San Antonio, carefully set a newly installed wall-mounted ductless air conditioner into place.

As ductless technology grows in popularity, so does the number of contractors installing the systems. Contractors across North America have reported that adding ductless systems to their product offerings has been a profitable endeavor.

According to HVAC consultant Richard Harshaw, president of Lodestar Consulting Systems, Phoenix, ductless systems can be very beneficial to contractors seeking a boost to their bottom line.

“These units can be installed for less man hours per ton than unitary systems, and with their slightly higher price tags, the material-to-labor ratio on ductless split jobs often exceeds the unitary money-to-labor ratio by a large factor, sometimes in the hundreds of percents,” he said. “Since in the bottom line how much material you sell with labor is what drives profit, ductless splits have immense appeal to contractors, too.”

Around the Nation

“Our ductless heat pump sales have increased about 60 percent this past year,” said Melissa McDowell, owner of McDowell & Son Inc., Portland, Ore. She noted that her company has benefitted from local government incentives that reward retrofitting.

“We operate in the Pacific Northwest and have a great program for homeowners who convert from electric resistance heat to a ductless system,” McDowell said. “One county up here offers $2,600, and others are offering between $1,200 and $1,500. It’s been a great benefit for our business.”

Ben Hubbert and Tony Martinez, co-owners of Champion AC, San Antonio, began promoting and installing ductless units about four years ago. Since then, the company has installed approximately 75 single- and multi-zone ductless units throughout South Texas.

“We have seen a huge spike in ductless air conditioning requests and expect it to continue,” said Hubbert. “In fact, we average about 100 website visits a month specifically looking for information on ductless air conditioning.”

Hubbert and Martinez are true believers in the efficiency of ductless systems. “Ductless systems are the future because the consumer can cool or heat only the spaces that are occupied and don’t have to waste energy cooling areas in the home that aren’t being used,” said Hubbert. “The majority of our ductless clients are residential homeowners who are renovating garages or making standard home additions. Our customers have been very pleased with the performance and energy savings from their ductless air conditioning units. We are expecting a 25 percent growth in ductless sales this year and have built an advertising budget specifically for ductless units.”

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance recently honored Advanced Energy Management, Tacoma, Wash., as the contractor that has installed more ductless heating and cooling systems than any other contractor in Washington.

“Ductless systems have played a huge role in growing our small business, accounting for a large portion of our revenue last year,” said Craig Christensen, vice president and operations manager. “These systems are a great way to improve our environment by improving the energy efficiency of your home. And, because the payback on these systems is so quick from the energy savings achieved over a traditional heating system, they are a great investment for anyone looking to reduce their heating costs in these tough economic times.”

Northern Neighbor

The Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) has reported astonishing sales of ductless units over the last several months. In 2011, shipments of ductless units increased 46 percent. Sales continued to boom at the close of 2011 as fourth-quarter data revealed that shipments were up 30 percent when compared to the same period in 2010.

“Not only have ductless numbers been high throughout Canada in 2011, but those numbers are consistent with the last four years,” said Warren Heeley, president, HRAI. “One area in particular is the province of Quebec, which has really surged in sales as of late. That area is primarily a hydronic, wet-heat type of area, which uses some forced air, but is predominantly a wet-heat region — and for that reason ductless systems are a natural fit there.

“But, many of Canada’s rural regions across the Atlantic province and the Eastern border have all seen a swift uptick in ductless installations. It’s obvious that ductless units are becoming much more mainstream and are not just a luxury product anymore. As more manufacturers spread throughout the country, I anticipate that trend continuing.”

D. Brian Baker, president, Custom Vac Limited, Winnipeg, Manitoba, is one of many Canadian contractors benefiting from the recent sales increase.

“From here on out we’re going to see increased installations and advancements in technology,” he said. “Once customers are educated on the process, given referrals, shown installation pictures, and read testimonials, they are quick to see that it works.”

Publication date: 04/23/2012

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