Balancing Comfort and Energy Prices

June 18, 2001
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The fastest-growing problem facing your customers creates one of the greatest opportunities in the history of our industry. Customers who get “rate shock” opening their utility bills will look for ways to save money. Most know over half their energy bill goes to heat and cool their home.

What’s exciting is many homeowners can save up to 40% on their energy bills by having you correct existing energy wasting problems, even without replacing their hvac equipment. Correcting common problems such as duct leakage, improper airflow, and incorrect refrigerant charge can both increase comfort and save customers money on their utility bills. The chart in Figure 1 (see page 30) represents opportunities documented during some of the most significant energy-related surveys conducted in the hvac industry.

According to C. Leon Neal, the man behind the famous North Carolina Alternative Energy Corp. studies, “There is an opportunity to reduce some central air conditioner customers’ annual energy costs by up to 40% by training and programs that focus on quality in field work associated with residential hvac.”



They’re Already Paying For It

Let’s say one of your customers paid $688 per year to run an air conditioning unit and the customer’s power bill is 20% higher than necessary due to some of the problems mentioned above. You repair the existing ductwork, correct airflow problems, and charge the unit correctly, and the customer would save $2,753 over 20 years. Not only will your customers save even more money heating their homes, they will be more comfortable.

Here’s Your Opportunity

The biggest problem facing our industry is finding good people. Higher salaries and guaranteed 40 hours of work per week would go a long way in solving this problem.

If consumers knew how much non-equipment-related problems were costing them in comfort and utility expenses, a significant number would gladly pay you to solve them. The best time for you and your customers is obviously during mild weather — your slowest time of the year. New techs get a training opportunity and a 40-hour week, your customers are happier, and your profits go up!

Slow-Season Plan

Start by offering existing customers a “Home Energy and Comfort Evaluation” during your slow season. This service could range upwards from $99. If a customer does not have a service agreement, include one in the evaluation fee. Your comfort consultants should consider doing the following:

  • Ask the customer about comfort and energy-related problems;
  • Determine current equipment size, efficiency, and condition;
  • Do room-by-room heat load;
  • Inspect ductwork, insulation, grilles, and registers;
  • Provide a proposal that outlines your recommendations; and
  • Check and properly charge the unit at spring inspection.
  • Implementing this plan will help you sell more equipment. When your customers get the facts, a percentage that wanted a Home Energy and Comfort Evaluation will buy new comfort equipment. Imagine staying busy installing comfort systems during what used to be your dead time of year.



    Wheel of Comfort

    When you present what you found during your evaluation, also discuss the four elements that will most affect their comfort and energy bills for the next 20 years: the equipment used, the installation, air control, and the customer’s home. (See Figure 2.)

    Equipment

    SEER does not measure comfort. Several key elements must be considered when choosing equipment, including:

  • Design — Equipment and accessories can be customized to meet a customer’s unique requirements.
  • Energy ratings — Standard laboratory tests have been used to compare similar-sized equipment, and the higher the rating, the more energy (money) your customer will save.
  • Efficiency protection — Better filters, etc., increase efficiency. (Honeywell found that heat pumps lost almost 50% of their efficiency after 20 years, even if typical “dust stop” filter were installed.)
  • Life enhancements — Better paint and higher-quality materials lengthen the life of the unit.
  • Longevity — The longer it lasts, the lower the annualized cost of ownership (as the figures below demonstrate).
  • System cost ÷ Life = $4,000 ÷ 10 yrs. = $400 cost per year

    System cost ÷ Life = $6,000 ÷ 20 yrs. = $300 cost per year



    Installation

    C. Leon Neal found that some installed systems rated at 12 SEER yielded a field adjusted SEER of 6.4 or lower. When all recent industry studies are averaged, only 26% of all air conditioning systems are charged within 5% of the manufacturer’s recommendations. Of the remainder, 33% are overcharged and 41% are undercharged. Installation is the major factor in determining the installed SEER. Key considerations during installation include:

  • Training and procedures — It takes trained people with a proven plan to do it right.
  • Special test and measurement equipment — There are folks still trying to charge a system using “beer can cold.”
  • Materials — Better materials increase equipment life, reliability, and safety.
  • Inspection — This is the only way to consistently meet or exceed expectations.


  • Air Control

    Nineteen industry studies all show significant duct leakage. Average leakage rates varied from 193 cfm to 397 cfm. Lakeland Electric & Water researchers found that by repairing leaking ductwork, cooling energy was reduced by an average of 17.4%. The following are required for correct airflow:

  • Correct grilles and registers;
  • Exact duct size;
  • Duct sealing; and
  • Air balance.


  • The Home

    Eleven different studies conducted in 10 different states and regions show that average oversizing of central air conditioning ranges from 24% to over 100%. Oversizing by 50% can increase seasonal energy use by up to 12%. Remember:

  • Heat-loss, heat-gain studies are vital.
  • Make recommendations for adding insulation and other things that can be done to reduce energy and enhance comfort.
  • Correct existing ventilation problems.
  • Warranties that go with the home enhance resale value.
  • Giving your customers an opportunity to save energy and be more comfortable is the best thing you can do for your customers and your company long into the foreseeable future.

    Howard can be reached at 800-515-0034 or Steve@NoPressureSelling.com.

    Publication date: 06/18/2001

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