Zoning Is Not The Dinosaur It Used To Be

May 23, 2003
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Zoning used to suffer from a bad reputation. Early systems were often difficult to install, required callbacks if installed incorrectly, and took up a lot of time for technicians.

But things change, and vast improvements have been made in the area of zoning. In fact, Honeywell wants to get the message across that the old way of zoning is extinct. The manufacturer also wants contractors know that there is no better time then the present to see that zoning is not only easy, but it can be a tremendous source of profit.

Hands-On Learning

Three years ago, Honeywell launched its ControlPro Zoning Training. The daylong workshops have been held all over the United States and Canada for thousands of contractors. The training has grown over the years, and Honeywell believes that more and more contractors are beginning to see the abundance of opportunities that come with zoning.

According to Levi Bouwman, zoning products marketing manager for Honeywell and member of the Zoning Marketing Alliance (ZMA), awareness and opportunity have been the two reasons for developing the seminars.

“Many contractors who have come through the training have commented that they didn’t know zoning was this easy,” said Bouwman.

The workshops are designed to demonstrate this ease of installation through a mixture of lecture and hands-on learning. Bouwman said that it is the hands-on portion of the training that is the most important factor in getting the message across.

The training begins with a short discussion on the benefits of forced-air zoning. From there, the sessions focus primarily on technical information. Topics include how to apply zoning in residences, and how to install and service different types of systems. The training also covers extra features, such as telephone access.

Bouwman explained that the trainers for the workshop spend 30 minutes discussing each topic. After the discussion, attendees get 30 minutes of hands-on experience. Several modules are available at the each workshop, and Bouwman said that attendees get to actually hook up a zoning system.

For the past three years, Honeywell has been offering its ControlPro Zoning Training. Attendees of the workshops have the opportunity to get hands-on training on several zoning modules. (Photo Courtesy of Honeywell Zoning.)

Eye-Opener

The hands-on portion of the training, according to Bouwman, helps contractors to see how far zoning technology has come and how easy it really is to install.

He said that early zoning technology had two big problems that caused contractors to steer clear of it. Bouwman explained that most zoning was run on what was called a master-slave system. Traditional systems had one master thermostat in one particular zone of the home. This thermostat was then connected to several slave thermostats in other zones of the home. But these thermostats weren’t thermostats per se, but sensors. All indoor-temperature changes would need to made from the master thermostat. Not only was this inconvenient, but it required a number of wires, which increased the chances of a wiring mistake.

Bouwman said that another problem with early attempts at zoning is that they required different load calculations than a typical installation. More often than not, this would also require replacing existing ducts in a retrofit situation.

Bouwman said that neither of these cases are at all true today. He said that many contractors abandoned zoning applications early on and said that they would begin providing the systems to consumers as soon as the technology was perfected. Bouwman believes that the time contractors have been waiting for is now.

To illustrate this point, Honeywell has introduced its Envirazone system. Bouwman said the number of wires needed to hook up the system has been dramatically reduced, ducts do not have to be replaced, and load calculations are the same.

The Envirazone system is a networked zoning system that uses communicating thermostats. The product can be expanded from two to nine zones with additional damper interface modules and thermostats. Honeywell touts several beneficial features of the Envirazone, but the one that the manufacturer is most proud of is its simple installation. The Envirazone uses only three wires for two-way communication. More wires can be used to hook up accessories if desired, but the system at a minimum uses only three wires.

“The No. 1 issue with contractors is installation,” said Bouwman. “Installations have to be quick, and they cannot have callbacks.”

Additional Training

Most of the ControlPro Training focuses on the fundamentals of installing zoning, but time is set aside to discuss the value in offering more than just simple heating and air conditioning.

Besides zoning, attendees learn the benefits in offering customers other accessories, such as humidifiers, and other indoor air quality (IAQ) products, such as ultraviolet lights and high-end air filtration.

The training does not end when the workshops are over. Honeywell trainers can come to a contractor’s office to educate technicians on the installation and troubleshooting of zoning systems, covering in-depth issues that may not have been presented during the ControlPro sessions.

Bouwman noted that the instructors for each ControlPro course are available for zoning questions or difficulties in the field. By calling a toll free number (800-TAT-TEMP), attendees of the ControlPro courses can speak with one of the instructors to resolve any questions that may come up after the workshop.

Honeywell also offers another opportunity for contractors who want to get involved in zoning.

Bouwman explained that Honeywell has set up a program through its ContractorPro Services Group. Through the program, contractors can earn PowerContractor Points, which are earned through purchases of Honeywell products. These points can be redeemed for merchandise, or they can be put toward setting up a Web site to assist in selling zoning products and other accessories.

Bouwman said that when a contractor gets a call from a customer, the customer will be directed to this Web site provided by Honeywell. The customer will be asked to answer a number of questions about their heating and cooling needs, including whether the home has humidification issues or whether anyone in the home has allergies and may need IAQ services. These answers will be forwarded to the contractor, who will then be able to bring up these issues and suggest products to the consumer at the scheduled visit.

According to Bouwman, the questions help to educate the consumer and, at the same time, help the contractor in selling beneficial accessories.

“Many customers are just looking for an HVAC system,” he said. “They don’t know what the industry can offer them. This means that many times consumers will choose a contractor by price.”

Bouwman said that once homeowners become aware of the comfort options a contractor can provide, the contractor will be able to differentiate his business by something more than just a low price.

For more information on ControlPro courses and to locate a regional zoning specialist, visit www.honeywellzoning.com.

Publication date: 05/26/2003

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