Everyone Wins When Green's Involved

October 12, 2009
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Kevin Tillman

Particularly over the last year it seems, there have been many articles and ads promoting green. Some companies in this industry have already gone green, while many others have not, or not yet. The NEWS spoke with several people whose respective companies have gone green to find out how it has impacted their business.

So why would a company want to change away from traditional HVACR equipment and way of doing business to incorporate green into the company in the first place?

Hank Bloom, president, Environmental Conditioning Systems, Mentor, Ohio, sees that customers are interested in making green purchases. “They [customers] want to be part of saving energy and sustainability as long as the payback makes sense.”

There are other motivations, too, for a company to do work with an eye on its effects on the environment. Kevin Tillman, LEED AP, president, TEAM Contractors, a construction management company specializing in green commercial building projects in Kissimmee, Fla., said, “Besides the moral responsibility of doing the ‘right thing’ for the environment, it has to eventually come down to the bottom line. … Additionally, there’s a personal satisfaction when a customer calls you with excitement a year after occupancy to tell you how much lower their electric bills are - even at 1½ times their previous floor space! From a business model standpoint, when this occurs, the customer becomes free advertisement to other potential customers. The customer, my business, and the environment all become winners.”

The down side to going green right now may be the current economic conditions. “There is tremendous interest in green construction, however, the current recession makes it difficult for the customer to see the long-term cost savings with higher upfront costs,” said Tillman.

Despite the economy, distributors have observed that contractors have elected to be more environmentally conscious in their business and there’s more than just one or two out there doing so. Kevin Morris, Gustave A. Larson, Co., Lenexa, Kan., commented, “Many of our customers have begun switching over to the environmentally friendly coil cleaners, such as those offered by Nu-Calgon, and many of the HVACR dealers are more actively promoting energy-improved equipment on residential, commercial, and refrigeration equipment.”

Robert Peha, president of distributor Gensco Inc., which is headquartered in Tacoma, Wash., has also observed that contractors are offering and selling green products to their customers and it is having a positive effect on contractors’ business. “Our equipment dealers’ sales ratio of high-efficiency products (compared with standard efficiency) is higher this year than the year before, which shows that they are effectively getting the value of high-efficiency [across] to their customers.”

Mechanical Air Service Inc., San Jose, Calif., is one contracting company that has found that it pays to be green because its customers are purchasing green units and services. Russ Donnici, president, commented, “Clients are responding by accepting the Green Energy upgrades that we offer. On projects where the client hasn’t accepted the upgrades at the time of the contract, we offer them again before the equipment is ordered and over 80 percent accept the upgrades.”

UP THE CHAIN

For distributors, greening their business includes carrying products that are environmentally friendly and helping contractors be green, too. Morris stated that his company “is committed to offering high-quality renewable and sustainable products, materials, and diversified services that comply with environmentally sound principles. We have designed, developed, and will implement initiatives to assist HVACR contractors.”

The choices are many when it comes to the different green products that contractors and distributors can offer their customers. “In the past two years, we have greatly expanded our product offering, marketing, and training to include geothermal heat pump systems; solar thermal water heating systems; high-efficiency, on-demand water heaters; photovoltaic solar energy systems; fireplace inserts and stoves; and commercial high-efficiency equipment. … And we continue to evaluate and bring in new, energy-efficient products for our dealers to offer to consumers.”

And when end users buy green products from contractors, then that means green sales for distributors, too. Mike Michel, VP of marketing, R. E. Michel Co. Inc., Glen Burnie, Md., noted “Sales of our Geocomfort® brand geothermal systems are rapidly increasing as are high-efficiency conventional residential HVAC systems.”

SHOW AND TELL

For some companies, it’s not just about helping others with green products and services, but putting into practice these technologies and methods at their own companies. “We implemented at our own offices several of the green energy methodologies we offer clients to achieve a climate-neutral condition for our office,” said Donnici. “We actually have a heat reclaim system installation in process now where we are using two Carrier Infinity a/c systems to heat a swimming pool instead of dumping the rejected heat into the outdoor air. We have a patent pending on the system we developed.”

Genesco also practices what it preaches about green, too. Peha said, “We installed high-efficiency lighting systems and controls in our distribution center and are proceeding to our branches; a highly efficient commercial heat pump system is in our newest branch. We recycle our shipping materials, scrap sheet metal, and paper and plastic products. And we provide a scrap metal recycling program for our customers, and encourage them to drop off the equipment they have removed from the consumer’s home.”

Robert Peha

WHAT'S NEXT

Once a company has come to the conclusion that it will serve the business and its customers well to offer green products/services, the work begins to market and sell its green offerings to its customers. According to Peha, Gensco has created customized marketing brochures for dealers to give to their potential clients that point out the features and benefits of their green products. And, he said the company updates its “Website and marketing information to identify the various rebates available to customers.”

Mechanical Air Service also has found using literature to explain to customers about its green services beneficial. “We have seen some increase in business through our Green Energy services marketing. We have an insert we use when meeting new prospective clients that outline some of the Green Energy services we provide, as well as one for home shows.”

Michel also indicated his company is getting the word out on its green offerings. “We are focusing on promoting the programs offered by our HVAC residential equipment line vendors. These are normally incentives connected with the sale of high-efficiency systems.”

Tillman said his company has had success in marketing “improvements in HVAC systems and energy consumption.” For those who work in new construction, he advises marketing to the general contractor. “I would suggest the HVAC contractor promote his or her green products or technologies to the general contractor. It can be a challenge locating qualified green subs and learning their capabilities.”

Besides promoting green, employees have to be trained, so that they are ready to install, service, and perform other related duties once potential customers start calling in response to the green marketing and promoting you’ve done.

Peha said, “Our team members are excited about the new opportunities available with green products, so these products take up much of our training and marketing activities. We have more team member training in green products than ever before. Without a doubt, every sales meeting includes training and/or discussion on new green products or techniques to assist our customers to be more effective in selling the green message. To support our customers, we require our team members to participate in Gensco-generated online training and/or interactive training.”

R.E. Michel this year began an initiative wherein it trains its own staff and its contractor customers on geothermal systems, said Michel.

While all the extra work involved in going green may seem enormous, your company may be like Environmental Conditioning Systems and already be more green than you think, through its current array of products, technologies, and services. “We have always promoted high-efficiency buildings, controls, vfd [variable-frequency] drives, ice storage, chiller plants, etc.,” said Bloom.

Publication date: 10/12/2009

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