Home Health + Comfort: IAQ Products Improve Profits, Relationships

November 8, 2010
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Most of the technicians at Sunshine Air Conditioning are NATE certified, and have received additional training to help them be more comfortable educating customers about IAQ products.

To Paul Hoffman, president, Sunshine Air Conditioning, Belleview, Fla., IAQ products are like a dessert that is actually healthy. “They are something that makes you feel good, and they’re good for you.” He and his wife, Candy, vice president and secretary/treasurer, believe strongly in creating healthier homes for customers, which is why their technicians take the time to educate homeowners about IAQ products on each service and maintenance call.

Robert Lehman, director of HVACR division, Prestige Heating and Air, Hardeeville, S.C., also believes in educating his customers during the course of a service call, as “the majority of our customers are unaware that they have poor IAQ in their home or workplace.”

For contractors like Lehman and the Hoffmans, offering a wide range of IAQ products only makes sense because they want to make sure they address all their customers’ indoor comfort and health concerns. They know that happy, comfortable customers translate into repeat business as well as referrals, both of which are necessary for the growth and success of any HVAC contractor.

HANDLING HUMIDITY

About two years ago, Prestige Heating and Air made a serious commitment to offer IAQ products to its residential and commercial customers, who are located primarily between Hilton Head, S.C. and Savannah, Ga. The company partnered with Aprilaire and started marketing their dehumidifiers, media air cleaners, and electronic air cleaners, which are a good match for the tropical climate in which Prestige operates.

“We often see excessive amounts of mold and mildew in both residential and commercial buildings,” said Lehman. “Having recognized this problem, we developed a methodical, systematic plan to clean up this problem in the HVAC systems in older homes and buildings. This includes a combination of chemical cleaning, mechanical cleaning, duct replacement, and duct sealing, followed by the installation of a dehumidifier and a media or electronic filter to maintain good IAQ.”

Given the high humidity in this area, Lehman said most customers are interested in dehumidifiers, although he educates them about all types of IAQ products. “We use a detailed assessment form to get as much information as possible from customers about their health concerns, then we explain all the options available to them and show what each option will do for them.”

Robert Lehman notes that the main reason why IAQ products are so important to the company is that they help build long-term relationships with customers.

For example, Lehman might find that a home has 750,000 particles/cubic foot, and the particles are 3 to 10 microns in size. Particles that size are primarily pollen, mold spores, and dust, so Lehman would first offer to clean the evaporator coil and chemically clean the duct- work. Second, he would offer to install a media air cleaner, which would reduce the particle count to 75,000 particles/cubic foot. Third, he would explain the benefits of installing an electronic air cleaner, which would reduce the particle count to 7,500 particles/cubic foot. Finally, he would discuss how dehumidifiers and energy recovery systems could further improve the customer’s IAQ.

This approach has been very successful for Lehman, who noted, “We have a 40 percent closing rate using this approach, and customers are offered products ranging from $150 to $10,000. IAQ products have added about 10 percent to our gross profits, and we estimate that in another four years, it will add 30 percent to our gross profit.”

While the additional sales are nice, Lehman points out that the main reason why IAQ products are so important to the company is that they help build long-term relationships with customers. “Our customers are very satisfied with their indoor air after we install IAQ products. Many say that they can breathe much better and that their house feels and smells much better [afterwards].”

Candy and Paul Hoffman believe strongly in creating healthier homes for customers, which is why they offer numerous different IAQ products.

EDUCATING, MOTIVATING

The Hoffmans receive similar feedback from customers after installing media air cleaners and dehumidifiers in their customers’ homes. “We often receive letters from homeowners who say that they are much more comfortable in their homes after we’ve installed a media air cleaner or a dehumidifier,” said Paul. “We use those letters in our company meetings to motivate technicians to educate customers about IAQ products.”

Most of the technicians at Sunshine Air Conditioning are NATE-certified, and have received additional training to help them be more comfortable educating customers about IAQ products. “We let them know it’s their job to be a good technician, and as part of that, they need to be knowledgeable about the products we offer,” said Paul. “It’s not about selling, it’s about education. If people want to buy an IAQ product, they do, and if they don’t, they don’t. As long as our technicians talk to customers about it, that’s all they have to do.”

Dust is a big issue with customers, which is why many choose to have Sunshine Air Conditioning install 4-inch media filters from either Aprilaire or Carrier, noted Paul. Humidity is another concern, and the company has been installing more dehumidifiers as a result.

These additional sales help the bottom line, stated Candy, especially when technicians are on routine maintenance calls. “Contractors typically don’t make a lot of money on maintenance, but it gets your foot in the door and keeps you in front of the customer twice a year. If the customer decides to purchase an IAQ product during that maintenance call, it does go straight to the bottom line.”

Offering additional products also helps build relationships with customers, added Paul. “Most of the people who purchase filters and dehumidifiers tend to be repeat customers. We feel that IAQ products provide us with a better long-term advantage, as many of these customers are with us for a very long time.”

All HVAC contractors seek to grow their customer base, improve profit margins, and retain their existing customers. Lehman and the Hoffmans embraced IAQ products as a way of achieving these goals, and by all accounts, have seen marked success as a result.

Publication date: 11/08/2010

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