Contractor finds homeowners will pay for comfort

May 9, 2000
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Contractor Dennis Borchardt has been making additional profits selling automatic humidifiers.
SUSSEX, WI — Many hvac contractors often assume that price will be the biggest objection to a sale. But in today’s strong economy, you may be missing a profit opportunity if you’re not building extras into your quotes, believes Dennis Borchardt.

“The best argument for selling an upgraded system is personal comfort,” says Borchardt, of Interstate Heating here in Sussex. “People are very receptive to the idea of being more comfortable.”

In his case, Borchardt has been making additional profits selling automatic humidifiers. He installs approximately 200 each year in both new and existing homes.

“Among the homeowners and builders I deal with, price is almost never an issue,” he says. “Homeowners today are looking for quality and they’re willing to pay for it.

“I spend some time in the sales process explaining that proper humidification results in greater physical comfort, lower heating costs, and a better environment for wooden furnishings and woodwork. A lot of people have such nice home furnishings these days, they want do whatever they can to take care of them. A dry house will suck the moisture right out of woodwork and cause cracking.”

Comfort dimension

Borchardt firmly believes that many homeowners are fully aware that they need a humidifier to reduce problems like itchy skin, static electricity, or a dry nose or mouth.

“It improves the environment in which they live,” he says, adding, “A whole-house humidifier isn’t viewed as a luxury, it’s more of a necessity, just like a thermostat is.”

On the other side of the hvac coin, however, are homeowners who are not aware of the indoor air comfort options that exist. In these situations, says Borchardt, a contractor should offer a homeowner an option — like a whole-house humidifier — and have its benefits explained. Many, he says, are willing to purchase it.

In his case, he says the automatic nature of the Aprilaire® units (manufactured by Research Products Corp.) makes it easier to sell than a manual humidifier.

“The computer-equipped humidifier is easy for people to understand. There’s no confusing humidistat on the wall for them to adjust. “Instead, there’s an outdoor temperature probe that allows

the humidifier to continually adjust the indoor humidity around the clock. You just set it once and forget about it. It does all the work for you.”

Builders like it, too, he says.

“They usually want it installed up front. They don’t want a callback when the wood starts shrinking for lack of humidity.” Borchardt says he doesn’t get a lot of callbacks either.

“You don’t have customers calling to ask how to set the humidistat. And there are no calls from customers who have condensation on their windows, because the [humidifier] automatically compensates and adjusts for the drop in outdoor temperature, and that keeps their windows dry.”

Quick installation

Borchardt says the computer-equipped humidifier is easy to install, and his employees quickly picked up on the installation process.

“Installing the outdoor temperature probe adds a little time, but it’s generally pretty easy. You just find a place to drill a tiny hole leading to the outside, and secure the small temperature probe onto the side of the house.”

In the mid-1980s, many homeowners believed that whole-house humidifiers were not needed with high-efficiency furnaces. But in recent years, homeowners are learning more about the benefits of proper humidification.

“It’s those benefits, the added comfort and energy savings, that help sell whole-house humidifiers,” says Borchardt. “After that, price is hardly a factor.”

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