“Alexa, I’m an HVACR contractor. Should I consider selling smart home devices? “
While Amazon’s digital assistant is ill-equipped to answer this question, the thought of offering connected devices is certainly one HVACR contractors wishing to grow their profit margins should strongly consider.
Smart home devices are in high demand.
According to Statista, the smart home market is expected to grow 14.9 percent over the next four years to a market value of $34.6 billion in 2022. Approximately 32 percent of homes incorporate smart home devices in 2018, and that number is poised to reach 53.1 percent by 2022. Additionally, customers often invest in smart home equipment to increase their comfort levels and cost savings. Worldwide revenues of smart thermostats and controls are expected to increase from $2.38 billion in 2018 to $9.55 billion in 2022.
“The smart home craze continues to grow with voice-control products like Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Home-Pod leading the way,” said Kenny Salzman, business development representative, Smart Automation Solutions, a full-service audio-video solutions provider based in Washington, D.C. “Smart thermostats are the most popular items, with smart doorbells, wireless keypads, and dimmers right behind.”
Trust is not given; it’s earned, and HVACR technicians are among the chosen few service professionals who are welcomed inside their customers’ homes. Such relationships offer techs a distinct advantage when it comes to offering new products and services, such as smart home upgrades.
“Since we, as contractors, have long-term customer relationships, we are in a very fortunate position to serve and help people understand the benefits of smart home technologies,” said Jason Wade, smart home specialist, American Residential Services (ARS), Manassas, Virginia. “By listening to customers and keeping up with technology, we’ve discovered opportunities we may have never found.”
These customer relationships offer HVACR contractors significant advantages over big-box stores and media conglomerates, said Chris Hunter, president and owner, Hunter SuperTechs, Ardmore, Oklahoma.
“We’re in customers’ homes multiple times a year; we’re the professionals they trust,” he said. “Customers are often already paying monthly fees for maintenance club memberships, so when we show them how we can improve their lifestyles, we’re the ones they’ll seek out, which helps add residual income to our businesses. If we don’t offer these services, someone else will. It’s go-time for the Hunter super techs, as we’re moving full speed ahead with the smart home.”
Rich Morgan, president, Magic Touch Mechanical, Mesa, Arizona, said he made a decision to grow his company vertically with products and services that complemented HVAC several years ago, and the results have been fantastic.
“We’ve seen steady growth year over year in both smart home products and home-performance improvements, and the margins are higher in both than they are in HVAC,” he said. Morgan said HVACR contractors have an advantage over others in the market because they’re the only ones who can adequately address homeowners’ furnaces and air conditioners.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that HVAC companies need to be in the ‘whole home’ and ‘smart home’ space,” he said. “We have an edge over other industries that lack the HVAC expertise to offer a complete solution.”
Salzman said products like Alexa, the Nest thermostat, Ring doorbells, Hue lightbulbs, and wireless key pads and dimmers remain in high demand.
“In addition to these, CO and smoke detectors are always important and should be considered in all homes,” he said. “We can tie in the smoke detectors with the HVAC system, so, for example, if the smoke detector gets tripped, it can send a message using Zigbee to our mesh system to turn the a/c off, which helps to keep the fire under control and doesn’t feed the flame.”
Another approach to consider is for a contractor to form a partnership with a specific brand. ARS currently partners with Nest, which Wade said offers excellent options in the smart home arena.
“We offer a Nest Thermostat on all of our jobs,” he said. “Additionally, the Nest Protect is an amazing smoke/carbon monoxide detector that works best when synced with a smartphone and/or tablet but works well without one as well. LeakSmart leak/water detectors and sensors can be installed in around 30 minutes or less and can save homeowners and insurance companies a great deal of money and hassle, as the average claim from water damage is $8,000.”
THERE’S NO BETTER TIME THAN NOW
Banking on a rapidly growing market, the strength of their service-based relationships, and the potential to position themselves as the authority in yet another vertical, HVACR contractors are in the pole position when
it comes to managing the future of their customers’ smart home experiences.
“The biggest roadblock for contractors is their own fear or hesitancy to embrace the future,” Wade said. “Start today. Now is the time to establish leadership and grow your market share — even if it’s just in one smart product or platform. This is a very exciting time to innovate and lead in this area.”
Morgan summed it up succinctly: “The smart home is not the next big thing — it’s the big thing right now.”
Publication date: 12/24/2018