Accessorize. What person doesn’t like the sound of that word? it means the opportunity to purchase jewelry, handbags, sunglasses, hats, etc. that will change a simple outfit into a thing of beauty. Guess what, we as HVAC contractors should love the sound of the word accessorize as much as any human being does. Why? Because the sale of accessories can not only make a significant contribution to our company’s bottom line, but can also turn a nicely heated and cooled residence into a much more delightful and comfortable home. In other words, for us, accessories can be a win-win situation for us as well as our customers.
I’m going to throw out a little bit of history in this article. When I started in the business, more than 50 years ago, about the only accessory we had to sell was a “Skuttle” humidifier. These were quite simple and did a decent job. I’m sure millions of them were sold. It consisted of a pan with some pieces of glorified cardboard that sat vertically in slots, partially in the pan. The pan was installed in the furnace plenum. A water line was connected to the pan, which had a float valve to shut off the water. As the pan filled with water, the “cardboard” soaked up the water, and the warm air in the plenum absorbed the water providing what was, at best, a primitive humidifier. They did add some needed moisture into the home, and this was the first accessory we had to sell.
Obviously, as time has gone by, creative manufacturers have developed much more sophisticated types of humidifying products, which can put a great deal more moisture into the home. In newer, more tightly built homes, often with a fireplace or multiple fireplaces and numerous exhaust fans, a good humidifier is absolutely necessary. The humidifier will definitely make the home more comfortable for the residents, will allow them to lower their thermostat a degree or two, and will reduce shrinkage and cracking in wood floors, moldings, etc. For many of us, we should think of the humidifier as a necessity, not an optional feature, and offer this accessory with every installation and every time a service technician is in a home without one.
The second saleable accessory to come along for the HVAC industry was the air cleaning unit. The first air cleaners to be sold were electrically charged wires over which airborne particles of dirt would pass. The particles would pick up a positive charge from the wires and then pass over a number of negatively charged plates. As the positively charged particles passed over the negatively charged plates, they were attracted to, and collected onto, the plates. This provided a relatively simple, yet effective method of collecting airborne dust and dirt particles.
Again, millions of these units were sold. It became obvious relatively quickly that, as the plates within these air cleaners collected dirt, their ability to collect more dirt particles declined significantly, which had an adverse impact on efficiency.
A little more history: One manufacturer, Electro-Air, actually produced electronic air cleaners to which water was connected. The unit had a valve and manifold assembly that allowed it to spray clean the humidifier plates at regular intervals. Unfortunately, these units were relatively expensive, but, more importantly, were quite large. As a result of their price and size, their time as a viable alternative was short-lived. What experience has shown us is that today’s typical homeowner, unlike previous generations, is not interested in removing and washing the cells of an air cleaning unit — thus the media air cleaner was born. These are now available in several levels of efficiency and do quite a good job of collecting dust and dirt particles. A good feature of media cleaners is that as they fill with dirt particles, their collection surface area increases and they actually become more efficient.
Of course, today, our most popular accessory is the thermostat and all of the many features it offers. Without going into detail here, I will just say there are a myriad of opportunities for your sales engineers and service technicians when it comes to thermostats.
There are some other accessories, such as UV lights, dehumidifiers, etc., which you will see in the pages of this magazine, but the above three make up the majority of the opportunities we have available.
The important thing we contractors have to remember is that not only are we helping ourselves by selling these accessories, but we are making our customers’ homes more comfortable and livable.
Publication date: 3/28/2016