In the strange irony of this recent recession, HVAC contractors across the country have experienced an unprecedented consumer interest in their home comfort systems. Much of this interest has been spurred by the government-backed financial incentives provided to upgrade home energy efficiency. For many contractors, this increased demand has been a pleasant offset to an overall down market, making high-SEER affordable for homeowners. Unfortunately, selling high-end installations to anyone who expresses an interest in upgrading their system’s efficiency has not always been the focus of every contractor. For some, the opportunity to save their customers money has taken precedence over selling high-end systems.
Contractors across the country agree that helping a customer find an economical solution to an HVAC issue and building a long-term relationship with that customer is more important than making a larger sale. One solution to this problem is an aftermarket motor with ECM technology. With it, saving money and upgrading efficiency can be accomplished simultaneously. Instead of replacing an entire system in order to achieve energy efficiency, the contractor can often upgrade the customer’s current system simply by replacing the existing single-stage motor with an aftermarket ECM motor.
The following are examples of how two contractors made this aftermarket ECM motor solution work for them and their customer.
IGNORANCE CAN BE COSTLYRalph Adams, manager of Parker Fuel Services in Ellicott City, Md., received a call from a customer who wanted a new furnace and a/c system. Upon arriving at the customer’s home, Adams surveyed the outside and found that the existing a/c unit wasn’t very old. The customer confirmed that to be the case - the a/c system had been installed just five years earlier, but it had never worked properly.
Adams then went to check on the furnace and found a 15-year-old unit with a single-speed, belt-drive blower. He explained to the customer that the furnace and a/c were both fine, but that the a/c should never have been added to that unit because the belt-drive motor could not handle the airflow required.
Rather than replacing the entire HVAC system, which is what the customer requested, Adams recommended keeping the furnace and a/c and simply replacing the existing blower with a direct-drive blower that had an ECM motor. According to the contractor, this would give the a/c unit the airflow it needed.
A week later, the customer responded to his suggestion, and Adams installed the new blower along with Genteq’s 1/2-hp Evergreen IM aftermarket motor. Three weeks after installation, the customer called to thank Adams, raving about how well the system worked and stating that his house had never been cooled so well.
“I know we reduced their energy cost by at least 25 percent and more than doubled their comfort level,” said Adams. “Here was someone who couldn’t really afford to replace their system, but was so dissatisfied that they were ready to replace it even though it was still working. We saved them nearly $7,000 on the replacement by making a reasonable repair at less than $1,000.”
Adams acknowledged there is a lot of money to be made selling high-SEER systems, but for him, the long-term benefit of installing a retrofit motor outweighs the short-term financial gain. “You’ve got to listen to the customer and find out what their ultimate goals are and figure out how to achieve them in the most economical way possible,” he said. “In 10 years, when they need to replace their unit, who do you think they’re going to call?”
WHY PASS UP THE EASY SALE?Bob Lange of Chicago’s Guardian Heating & Cooling Service echoed a similar sentiment about building customer loyalty. For him, building trust and developing a long-term relationship outweighs short-term profit. On a number of occasions, he has recommended a lower-cost solution to a customer who called him wanting a new system. One homeowner, who is also an engineer who did his homework, asked him to install a variable-speed system in his four-story home. His current system, a single-stage, 95 percent efficient system, was just a year old, but he hated it.
The furnace had been crammed into a closet off the living room on the home’s first level, and it was so loud that the homeowner couldn’t watch TV in the adjoining room. He also had a terrible temperature stratification issue. The owner hadn’t even furnished the fourth floor of the house because it was unbearably hot up there in the summer and cold in the winter. That part of the house was essentially unusable.
This homeowner knew that he needed a variable-speed system. Lange realized right away that he needed a zoning system as well. Rather than replacing the practically new furnace, he replaced the single-stage motor with an Evergreen IM ECM motor, along with a wireless Honeywell zoning system that allowed the homeowner to control the temperature on the home’s four floors separately with a handheld remote.
After the installation, the homeowner noticed an instant improvement in his home comfort, and was amazed at how quietly the system ran. He even hosted an open house to show his neighbors the benefits of his new system. Six months later, Lange received a thank-you call from the owner, who reported that he had finished decorating and moving furniture into the formerly unusable fourth floor and was enjoying having a second family room.
“Although I probably could have sold this customer a new, high-SEER system, it would have been a huge waste of money to rip out the furnace he already had,” said Lange. “Installing an Evergreen motor with a zoning system was a more logical and economical solution for the situation. I would rather make a long-term connection with a customer than make a quick buck.”