Clyde Tauriainen, founder of Easco A/C and Heating, Huntsville, Texas, said the biggest opportunities he sees are in energy management and new solar systems.

AUSTIN, Texas - While attending the Lennox dealer meeting in Texas, The NEWS took the opportunity to find out what’s on their minds by asking two key questions: What are your biggest challenges, and where do you see growth opportunities? Jim and Reba Sparks, co-owners of Sparks Heating and Air Inc., Shawnee, Okla., said their biggest challenges are still due to the economy, which is keeping people from spending their money, or even reinvesting it in something as necessary as heating or cooling their homes. But in this contractor’s view, “It looks as if it’s loosening a little.”

The biggest growth opportunities Jim Sparks sees are in retrofits. “A lot of stuff out there is about 30 years old,” said Jim, and it’s been running on borrowed time, at very low efficiencies. There also is the opportunity of doing changeouts to R-410A units, since no R-22 units are available. Qualifying for tax credits can be a problem because of the high SEER levels required; it’s not automatic on all new 410A equipment. “If they can’t afford it [a higher-SEER system], that’s no good,” he said. “They may need to see their tax advisors.”

Clyde Tauriainen, founder of Easco A/C and Heating, Huntsville, Texas, has been in business 25 years as of 2009. The biggest challenge he sees, is “overcoming the time between now and the time consumer confidence is restored in the economy.” Consumers need an awareness of the payback on investment available to them with newer HVAC systems. This places added importance on customer education and the importance of branding, he said.

Another challenge, he said, is “not knowing when the government will have an effect on small business.”

The biggest opportunities he sees are in energy management, “taking some technologies from commercial systems and putting them into the home.” Solar also has new opportunities. “I had been involved in the ’70s,” Tauriainen said. “It’s evolved; this is a pretty exciting time.”

David Batson with REC Industries, College Station, Texas, gave the service manager’s perspective. His biggest challenge is twofold: competing with “little shops that don’t know how to make a profit, and finding qualified employees.” His company does a lot of internal training.

There probably are opportunities on the horizon, but like Tauriainen, he is adopting a wait-and-see stance toward government incentives that may affect the business.

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Publication date:04/12/2010