Saving 30 to 40 percent on a home energy bill can be a challenge, but David Hutchins is helping some of his customers do just that. As owner and president of Bay Area Air Conditioning Inc. in New Port Richey and Crystal River, Fla., Hutchins is in what he describes as a heat pump market. Approximately 95 percent of his business is heat pumps, he noted, “with the exception of a few subdivisions that have natural gas.”

The number of homes that have new heat pump installations thanks to Hutchins’ company is still rising, but as he works to meet the challenges of the government and his customers, he has found that homeowners are more savvy and at times more willing to accept new technology, especially when it saves them money.

Comfort and Energy Saving

Most residents would agree that air conditioning is essential in a place like Florida. Most HVAC technicians would agree that managing both the temperature and humidity in Florida, while ensuring occupant comfort, is a challenge for them as well as for the heating and cooling systems they install.

Comfort, however, is not the only concern for this vacation and retiree hot spot. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Florida’s per capita residential electricity demand is among the highest in the country. It is due in part to high a/c use during the summer as well as the fact that approximately 90 percent of Florida households use electricity for heating.

These factors are pushing residents and contractors toward solutions such as heat pumps.

“Florida is ideal for heat pumps as the temperatures are not that low,” said Hutchins. “For the most part, electric strip heat is only found in apartments and rental homes. The natural and propane gas prices are high, and this is helping my current and potential customers choose more heat pumps.”

Savvy Customers Want More Efficiency

Another trend seen by Hutchins and his 52 employees is increased customer savvy and interest in high-efficiency systems. Homeowners are often looking to cut their electric bills without sacrificing comfort, according to Hutchins.

“When customers replace their old 10 SEER systems with new technology, they can see the savings on their electric bills,” he said.

That fact seemed especially true when Hutchins began installing a new heat pump model from Carrier. Bay Area Air Conditioning’s most popular model among customers is a 15 SEER with an X13 fan motor in the air handler. As a Carrier dealer and a 2011 Carrier Hall of Fame award winner for lifetime achievement in the industry, it was only natural that Hutchins begin installing the new Carrier® Infinity® heat pump with Greenspeed™ intelligence and a Copeland Scroll™ variable-speed compressor as soon as it was available.

He wasn’t the only one waiting for the new system to arrive. Not only are the customers Hutchins deals with looking to save money, but they are also interested in new technology.

“We had one gentleman call us about the system before it was even in stock,” he explained. “The man had seen the announcement online and was eager to have a system in his home that offered the potential of 20 SEER and 13 HSPF.”

According to Hutchins and his heat pump customers, heat pump systems are offering Florida residents both humidity control and increased hot air supply. “We’ve had the system for three months and have seen a 30 percent savings so far,” said Alex Jango, a satisfied Lecanto, Fla., homeowner and customer of Bay Area Air Conditioning. “We’ve been delighted when we get the electric bill now, which is rare these days. With the cost of energy going up, we felt the investment would pay off in the long haul.”

What did Hutchins have to say about all this?

“My customers are noticing the comfort difference immediately,” he said. “In fact, the hot air supply works well enough I have had to talk homeowners out of supplemental heating.”

Leading by example, Hutchins had one of these same heat pump systems installed in his house and reported that he saved 42 percent on his energy bill.

For more information, visit David Hutchins discusses his experience with heat pumps in this video and his customer describes his experience in this video

Publication date: 05/21/2012