Recently, DuraPlas, a provider of plastic products for the agriculture, industrial, energy, and greenhouse industries, released a study that reveals Americans intend to use more non-HVAC alternatives to cool their homes as inflation continues and temperatures rise in what is turning out to be a warmer-than-normal summer.

DuraPlas partnered with third-party service platform Pollfish and asked 1,000 U.S. adults around the country to share how they were planning to cool their homes this summer, what kind of preventive care they give their HVAC systems, and what their relationship to HVAC service companies and technicians looks like.

While the results showed that Americans went into the summer intending to seek alternative methods to cool their homes, the most striking findings may be the overall lack of understanding homeowners have of their HVAC systems — and how few of the respondents perform the recommended maintenance. This means HVAC contractors have to provide them with the information they don’t know, as well as take extra measures to make sure the systems are being maintained.


Survey Results

Coupled with inflation, the hot summer forecast made DuraPlas wonder if Americans would start to alter the way they cool their homes. The survey was completed at the beginning of June 2023 and found that most Americans, while still keeping their homes at an average temperature of 70° (no matter how hot it got), intended to use alternative methods to air conditioning to keep their homes comfortable in the summer heat.

In regard to how they planned to cool their homes this summer, the survey found:

  • 77% were changing how they plan to beat the summer heat, due to inflation
  • More than 45% planned to keep blinds and curtains closed
  • Nearly 40% planned to use ceiling fans more
  • More than 30% anticipated keeping their windows open at night

The survey did find differences in alternative cooling strategies based on where the respondents lived.

“Almost twice as many people, maybe not surprisingly, living in the western and northeastern parts of the U.S. said they planned to open the windows at night, as opposed to those living in the South or Midwest: 37.8% compared to 22.8%,” according to the survey.

The survey also showed an overall lack of understanding of how HVAC systems work and what role each component of the system plays, as well as a lack of maintenance being performed on the systems.

DuraPlas president Paul Phillips said the survey shows that while Americans are exploring alternatives to cool their homes, they are still extremely reliant on their HVAC systems to keep them comfortable. However, the systems could be quietly at risk during a time when they are needed the most, since homeowners aren’t performing the proper maintenance to keep each component working the way it’s supposed to.

The survey found that one in three homeowners admitted to having concerns about the health of their HVAC system, while 15% said they haven’t even thought about it.

Most respondents said that they do take measures to reduce stress on their HVAC systems, but very few actually said they follow the best practices recommended to them by HVAC professionals in order to maintain system health. The survey revealed:

  • 30% of homeowners schedule preventative maintenance
  • 27% regularly clean their outdoor condensing unit
  • 23% consistently check blades and belts

This may in part have to do with the fact that many homeowners don’t understand their HVAC systems, possessing only a broad knowledge of how they work. The survey found that 24% of the respondents knew the size of their HVAC system, 14% knew the role of each component, and 16% knew what a SEER rating is.

All this goes to show that when it comes time for a repair or a replacement, homeowners rely heavily on their HVAC service companies and technicians.

The survey also revealed that while most respondents said they weren’t loyal to either the service company or technician, 60% said that if they found a technician they trusted, they’d be willing to follow that technician to a new company — demonstrating that the most impactful relationship isn’t between the service company and the customer, but between the customer and the technician.

“You have to educate them that maintenance is needed, that proper maintenance on a regular basis can cause the unit to use less electricity … Whatever they don’t know, it’s our job to get them that information.”
- Scott Merritt
owner, Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning

Time to Teach

All of this begs the question: What should HVAC contractors do in response? If they know that Americans are skipping preventive maintenance but they really value the relationship and service their technician provides, contractors have a job to do — a job they should be used to doing already: educating their customers.

Though Ohio HVAC contractor Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning is dealing with a cooler summer than in years past, owner Scott Merritt said the best way to work with a customer at any time is to educate them.

“You have to educate them that maintenance is needed, that proper maintenance on a regular basis can cause the unit to use less electricity, at least for the summer months,” he said. “And there’s a lot of different ways to educate them. Whether on your website or through your email newsletter, whatever they don’t know, it’s our job to get them that information.”

When taking into consideration the lack of recommended HVAC maintenance actually being performed, Petri Plumbing & Heating in Brooklyn, New York is doing the same thing: educating.

“Our plan was and has been to provide our clients with as much knowledge as possible on their systems,” said Chris Petri, operations manager at Petri Plumbing & Heating. “We do not just perform a maintenance, repair, or installation — we teach our clients how to operate and get the best efficiency out of their systems as well. We have found, over time, that the lack of maintenance can be combated effectively by informing clients of the positives of maintenance and the negatives of their absence.”

Petri also makes sure his employees in the field are trained on good versus best practices.

“By constantly reviewing the differences between good maintenance and the best maintenance, our experts get a clear picture of how beneficial they are to the system and how easily uninformed someone could be on the maintenance practice; even seasoned experts learn a lot during these sessions,” Petri said.