Zero in on zone control installations and profits will follow, says CA contractor

May 10, 2000
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GLENDORA, CA — The increasing popularity of zoned temperature control systems in new homes offers hvac contractors an opportunity to increase profits and foster closer partnerships with homebuilders. Just ask Diego DiBenedetto.

The owner of Canyon Air Systems, DiBenedetto says he has capitalized on the opportunity to make a profit selling zoned heating and cooling systems to the new home market.

“Larger homes often require two hvac systems to regulate temperatures throughout the home. But I see an advantage to installing a single system with zoning,” he says. “A zone control system eliminates the need for two furnaces and air conditioners. It’s easier to install than a dual system, so it results in a greater profit.”

Even with the cost of the zone control system and dampers, the overall cost of a zoned system is less than two independent systems, he says.

“It even takes less time to install, so there’s another cost saving in that respect. The difference gives you leeway to either reduce your bid, if necessary, or make a greater profit.”

Owners, builders need educating

DiBenedetto says zoning is attractive to builders and homeowners because it provides an alternative to two systems, and promotes energy savings.

“I try to educate the builder about the benefits of indoor air quality and the cost savings associated with zoned systems,” DiBenedetto says. “Many of the new home projects I work on would normally require two 3-ton hvac systems, but I can get the job done more cost effectively with one 5-ton system and zoning.

“When I explain the process to the builder, I get very little resistance to the idea.

“Zoning not only alleviates the need for two furnaces and air conditioners, but it allows the homeowner to have different temperatures in up to three areas of the home. That makes it a selling point for the builder.

“You wind up installing additional ductwork to accommodate the zone system, but the installation is easy and service is minimal. In fact, service calls would only be needed if there were changes in living habits that made it necessary to adjust the system.”

In the past, some contractors have been worried that training their staff to specify and install zoned systems would increase the time required and therefore increase costs. But as zoning has grown in popularity, new system designs have made zoning much more affordable and simple, says DiBenedetto.

Some homes demand a complex zone system because of unusual floor plans, special uses, and large shifts in thermal load. But in most cases, a simple two-zone or three-zone system is sufficient to provide desired comfort throughout the home, he believes.

“In a particularly large home, two hvac systems may be required. So, a single system with zoning is not a fix for every situation,” says DiBenedetto. “But in a lot of instances, it’s a great option, especially with the many design features that are common today, like rambling floor plans, multiple levels, large windows, and lower level ‘bonus’ rooms.”

Installing a single hvac system with zoning instead of a two-unit system could save a considerable amount in labor and materials costs, too, he says. A savings can be realized in labor costs alone, because the installation of a single system with zoning takes far less time than the installation of two separate systems, he says.

In DiBenedetto’s case, he has been successful the past three years selling PerfectTemp™ zone control systems, manufactured by Research Products Corp. (Madison, WI).

“I recommend a PerfectTemp system to a builder, I not only save myself time and money, but I’m offering a great solution to the builder and homeowner, and I can use the extra time to invest in the next job,” he says.

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