Knoxville contractor capitalizes on manufacturer and utility partnerships

KNOXVILLE, TN — Thanks to a bunch of cooked hams and turkeys, Jim Cantrell was a happy man over the recent holidays. No, the owner of Cantrell’s Heat & Air in Knoxville wasn’t smiling because of the mouth-watering menu items.

He was happy because his customer, a certain Mr. W.C. Wright, praised the efficiency of a Puron system Cantrell had sold to him. The product had a direct impact on Wright’s low $54 holiday utility bill — one more reason Cantrell is a popular guy among his customers and his distributor.

“Thanks to strong dealers like Cantrell’s, our company is one of the nation’s leading [Carrier] Puron distributors,” said Dennis Niernan, a sales engineer for Knoxville’s Andrews Distributing Co.

Utility incentives

Cantrell likes to think his success has as much to do with special incentives as it does with selling skills.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federal corporation that produces electric power, works with contractors in the Knoxville region to offer rebates to customers who have energy-efficient systems using Puron® refrigerant R-410A. The program allows contractors to rebate $200/ton for any heat pump system that includes this refrigerant.

“It’s really neat to sell a 4-ton unit and have the customer receive a check for $800 only a few days later,” said co-owner Randy Cantrell.

Some of the reasons for the TVA rebate program include:

  • The phaseout of the R-22, which is used in most heat pumps;
  • The subsequent rise in the price of the discontinued refrigerant, both to the consumer and the contractor;
  • Newly designed heat pumps using new refrigerants offer greater efficiency, reliability, and cost effectiveness; and
  • Manufacturers such as Trane and Carrier are introducing lines of heat pumps that use environmentally friendly refrigerants.

Another benefit of the association with TVA is Cantrell’s membership in the Quality Contractor’s Network, which enables customers to purchase a heat pump system with a low-interest, 10-year loan.

“Many customers say they only pay a few dollars out of their pocket each month after they subtract the savings they realize from operating a high-efficiency heat pump,” said Jim Cantrell.

Moreover, “Our installation crews are trained to conform to TVA’s installation criteria and design. As a result, our employees have an impressive average of continuing service.”

Training new salespeople

Cantrell added that these new systems will lead to new training programs, which he hopes will attract salespeople to the thin pool of talent that is available right now.

“Due to the growing shortage of qualified salespeople, we will be starting an air conditioning training program in our own facility,” he said. “At the completion of the training, participants will leave with a laptop computer containing a load-estimating and equipment-selection program.

“They will go on sales calls with myself and Randy to get first-hand experience in home-selling techniques.”

Additionally, Sam Tindell, Andrews’ service supervisor, gave special classes on the Carrier system so Cantrell’s staff could sell and service the units.

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