Phaseout Provides Contractors with Opportunities to Go Green

June 22, 2009
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Some heating and cooling contractors don’t buy into the current green trend, which frequently promises clear skies and verdant plains to anyone who buys the right products. But the truth is, many contractors are already a little green, even if they don’t want to admit it. How couldn’t they be? These are the people who have been talking with customers about energy efficiency years before it came into vogue.

For the contractors who have always promoted energy-efficient equipment, correct sizing, and proper installation, green may be more of a marketing term that can be used to describe what they have been doing all along. Now these contractors have another powerful tool to use when marketing their green services, and that’s the phaseout of R-22. Some contractors are using the phaseout to promote a green strategy that includes environmentally friendly R-410A products that are energy efficient and properly installed.

Jack McGuire of Design Air Systems, Tulsa, Okla., sees the combination of tax credits and the phaseout of R-22 as a good opportunity to go even greener.

ASPIRING TO BE GREEN

Jack McGuire, president, Design Air Systems, Tulsa, Okla., is one of those contractors who has always offered high-efficiency equipment, but he sees the combination of tax credits and the phaseout of R-22 as a good opportunity to go even greener.

“We’re trying to be a leader in this new green movement,” said McGuire. “We’re educating ourselves and learning more about the new products that lend themselves to the green movement. It allows us to be a part of a new market, and it’s pretty exciting to learn new things.”

Fortunately for McGuire, his service area consists of older, more established customers who are also well versed in environmental issues. They’re becoming much more aware of the R-22 phaseout, which has allowed McGuire to completely move over to R-410A equipment on the residential side of his business.

“We won’t do R-22 on the residential side at all. We just don’t feel like that’s a good investment for our customers,” said McGuire.

“More than 90 percent of our business is repeat business, so we needed to make the change to R-410A. It also gave us the opportunity to be more profitable and set us apart from the competition.”

McGuire is also starting to offer geothermal installations as part of his green strategy. The generous tax credits for homeowners and the accelerated depreciation schedules for commercial applications are making this particularly attractive to customers in his area. Noting that the foray into geothermal has required a lot of training and education, McGuire thinks the investment will definitely pay off, and he’s anxious to get started.

The phaseout of R-22 and the tax credits currently being offered for high-efficiency systems provide a perfect opportunity for contractors to get on board with the green movement, noted McGuire. “If we don’t try to embrace the idea right now, we’re going to find ourselves behind the eight ball. Contractors who aren’t offering green solutions are going to struggle with growing their businesses. They’re just going to be behind. It’s time to do it now - it’s past time, actually.”

Jay Rathbun of JB Resources, Tulsa, Okla., states that now is a great time for contractors to change and grasp the green movement.

GREEN IS GOOD

Jay Rathbun, owner, JB Resources, Tulsa, Okla., applauds contractors like McGuire who are embracing the green movement. “Contractors have to actively think about being different. If they’re going to be the No. 1 contractor in their local community, they’re going to have to learn to change and change often. This is a great opportunity for changing and really grasping the green movement.”

Rathbun previously worked as a comfort sales consultant for a contractor before starting his own company, which offers coaching and seminars designed to empower HVAC contractors. He noted that the tax credits are providing a great opportunity to go green, and contractors should be taking advantage of that.

“Contractors need to focus more on home energy savings, which can be encouraged by the tax stimulus package. But it doesn’t stop there - contractors need to offer financing and discover the customers’ needs, as well as focus more on proper installations and the air tightness of the installation.”

As McGuire noted, consumers are becoming much more educated about all things green, and contractors need to be just as educated as the consumer, said Rathbun.

“Contractors need to dive into Websites such as Energy Star and Department of Energy in order to see what their customers are learning. They also have to become NATE-certified. Both will educate them so they can help their customers achieve their goals of lowering their energy bills, improving system reliability, reducing dust, and increasing overall comfort. It’s not possible to do that selling low-price, low-efficiency equipment.”

High-efficiency equipment that falls under the green heading is often a bigger investment than standard units, which is why contractors need to stop assuming what their customers can afford to buy. Rathbun relates the story of a contractor who tried to sell a high-efficiency air conditioning system to a couple that had never had one before. The couple were unsure about how they’d like the noise of an outside condensing unit, so instead, the contractor shared with them information about super-quiet geothermal systems.

“The geothermal system was $60,000 more than a traditional high-efficiency air conditioning unit, but that’s what the couple wanted,” said Rathbun.

“It’s all about not assuming what the customer wants. Contractors need to ask the questions to define what the customer’s expectations of owning actually are. They shouldn’t be timid - they need to find the solution and fix the problem. Ask more questions, listen more, and provide solutions.”

In order to provide those comprehensive solutions, contractors should become whole-home energy experts, noted Rathbun.

“That doesn’t mean contractors have to sell windows and doors, but being able to visit about the benefits received with high-efficiency windows and doors when they’re doing a load calculation is important. Learning how to do energy audits is important, putting an emphasis on air leakage, duct testing, and infiltrometer air testing. Then share this information with customers, which helps sell the benefits of the equipment.”

Rathbun added that contractors can apply information learned about living green by going to the Energy Star Website at www.energystar.gov to learn about whole-home energy-saving ideas.

Now is the perfect opportunity for contractors to go green. For those not sure where to start, McGuire suggests talking with suppliers, manufacturers’ reps, and organizations such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

“They have a wealth of information, tools, marketing ideas, and support contractors need to really get started and move on with this green movement.”

Jay Rathbun, JBResources LLC, offers coaching and seminars to contractors on the skills needed to improve sales, etc. He can be reached at 314-882-5489 or by e-mail at jay@JBResources.com, or visit the company’s Website at www.jbresources.com.

Publication date: 06/22/2009

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