SEATTLE - In a down economy, the business survivors are those that focus on the needs of their customers and the ability to bundle service and value into a sellable package. That’s one of the goals of Bryant dealers and their distributor in the Seattle area who recognize that their niche is selling high-efficiency and high technology to a customer base that is both knowledgeable and demanding at the same time.
One particular Bryant dealer and its supplier are using their experience and knowledge of the market to sell products to a premier homebuilder. Conner Homes of Bellevue, Wash., recently broke ground on a new development located on Lake Washington in suburban Seattle.
This community of 128 premium homes, named Barbee Mill, is located on land which used to belong to a pole mill (telephone, piling, and posts). Part of the land was purchased by Conner Homes for the development and part was purchased by the National Football League Seattle Seahawks, which is building a training facility on the property.
Large, two-story homes make up the development and prices start in $750,000 range. It is upscale all of the way, and that includes the mechanical systems of each home, which will include the Bryant Evolution system.
Larry Riggins, district sales manager for Hadco Supply, the Bryant distributor in the Seattle area, said the Evolution system sets Conner Homes apart from others. “Offering this level of heating and cooling equipment differentiates Conner Homes from other builders who are building upscale homes but who still put in a standard furnace, entry-level air conditioner, and a single thermostat so some rooms are very hot and others cold,” said Riggins.
“Because of our computer-affluent market, homeowners are into upscale cell phones, computer monitoring, and palm pilots. And the Evolution system extends this to the heating and cooling system.”
Riggins also noted that the local municipality has very demanding noise level requirements for air conditioning and the Bryant Evolution product is one of the few that can meet these requirements. “Many of the homes have media centers (theaters), and zone heating and sound is very important,” he said.
BOB'S AND CONNER HOMESAirefco Inc. & Hadco Supply have teamed with Bob’s Heating & Air Conditioning, a Bryant dealer, to install the Evolution systems in each new home. Bob’s new construction division designs and builds systems for new homes and creates a customer database for its retrofit division, when service and replacement is needed. Wade Craig, Bob’s product options manager, talked about the communication that went into the project.
“Part of what I do is try to keep the newest products on the forefront so our builders will know if they match with their buyers’ needs,” he said. “For example, with the Barbee Mill project, we had to design these systems to compensate for the great deal of solar heat gain in each home.”
Gary Upper, Conner Homes’ project manager for Barbee Mills, said his company has had a long-term relationship with Bob’s that has spanned thousands of homes. “When we came up with this new project, we relied on Bob’s to give us their expertise,” he said.
Although the relationship between Bob’s and Conner goes back to the mid-1980s, Doug Quinn, Bob’s general manager, said his company keeps a dedicated staff working with Conner to help with the design of every home and not just planning a “cookie cutter” home from the many designs available to them. He encourages Conner to educate customers on the options and designs available to them, especially when it comes to the HVAC systems.
“The challenge for builders is making homes comfortable, and the dealer’s challenge is educating customers, who are the homeowners,” Quinn said. “The median price for a home in this area is around $650,000. A lot of homebuyers focus on granite countertops and plush carpets, which will make the home look good, but we want the homeowners to feel good. This is the time to do it - when the home is being built.”
Riggins, whose business serves HVAC dealers in six states, agreed and said that waiting until after the home is built to make changes can prove to be a very costly decision. “This is a very upscale community thanks to businesses like Microsoft and other high-tech industries,” he said. “But people are smart and still want the most for their money. It takes $5,000-$7,000 to upgrade during the building stage, but it takes $20,000-$30,000 to retrofit afterwards. If dealers and builders can work together to provide better equipment and better education, it is win-win for everybody.”
Education seems to be the buzzword from dealers, suppliers, and builders within Bob’s and Conner Homes’ relationship. The more people know, the easier it is to sell upscale homes with upscale mechanical equipment. That’s why Bob’s and Conner Homes have developed such a special relationship. Craig noted, “You don’t have to necessarily sell the equipment, as opposed to just educating the customer on the equipment benefits and letting the equipment sell itself.”
Upper said, “The conversation is usually customer-driven. They know what they want and we continue to educate them with Bob’s Comfort Option DVDs about their choices on projects. Most of the time we have homeowners who come to Conner and request specific products and information.”
Mechanical systems can often sell themselves, but it takes a coordinated effort between dealer, supplier, and customer to ensure that the end user has the exact system they need for their comfort level.
Sidebar: Bryant's SystemConner Homes is using the Bryant Evolution™ System for its Barbee Mill project. The system features air conditioners with Puron® refrigerant as well as many other components that “actually communicate with each other,” said Hadco Supply’s Larry Riggins. Bryant’s Model 180A air conditioner is designed to provide comfort and energy-efficient performance. Evolution Systems feature a variable-speed outdoor condenser fan motor; baked-on, complete coverage powder paint; a unique louver coil guard; and an exclusive AeroQuiet System II™ for sound as low as 70 dBA.
Using the utility interface connection, the outdoor unit offers up to 23-point diagnostics, making the Evolution System dealer-friendly. Other features reduce dealer callbacks and installation time through plug-and-play installation and advanced system-wide diagnostics, displayed on the control panel in text message instead of numerical codes that require a manual to interpret.
The Evolution System includes Bryant’s Perfect Humidity™ function, designed to enhance home comfort with up to 30 times the humidity control of standard air conditioning systems. And, it is designed to save on cooling costs with energy efficiency of up to 20 SEER.
For maximum comfort and control over temperature, humidity, air quality, fan speed, and ventilation, Bryant couples a variable-speed Bryant furnace and Bryant’s unique Evolution™ Control to create a Bryant Evolution System. Using the control, homeowners can monitor and manage temperature, humidity, dehumidification, ventilation, IAQ, and airflow. With a large backlit temperature display, the Evolution Control also offers maintenance reminders with dealer name and phone number, day-at-a-glance programming, and vacation scheduling. The Evolution Remote Access option allows homeowners to connect to their system while they’re away, using the Internet or telephone, sending them notifications via e-mail, telephone, or pager messages.
The four-wire, color-coded Evolution Control also allows dealers to offer temperature and humidity control in a retrofit application without having to pull new wire. Dealers can spend less time at the job site due to the automatic startup feature that identifies equipment and stores the model and serial numbers at the control. Information on the last 10 system events helps dealers diagnose a potential system problem either from the control or from the dealership with its Remote Access. There is no need to interpret blinking LEDs on the equipment control board for troubleshooting.
“Conner Homes wants happy customers and we want fewer callbacks,” said Product Options Manager Wade Craig. “The Evolution system helps us achieve that.”