In the not-so-distant past, contractors would differentiate themselves from their competition based on the efficiency of their equipment. Contractors who were looking for higher profits tended to mainly sell and install higher efficiency products.

That type of differentiation is still possible; after all, efficiencies can go much higher than 13 SEER. However, some markets do not absorb a lot of those ultra-high-efficiency unitary products; the payback for the consumer may not be there.

So, how do quality contractors set themselves apart from their competitors?

Part of the answer is the contractor's ability to provide a quality installation. The keys to a quality installation of high-efficiency (13 SEER and up) unitary products have been discussed in this column over the past several weeks:

  • Helping customers with the financial decision (age of the existing unit, degree of payback, degree of repair, coil sizing indoors).

  • Putting the customer into the equation (presenting options, dealing with sticker shock, being an advisor, identifying financing).

  • Using best installation practices (coil matching, airflow, refrigerant charge, keeping the open system clean and dry, and duct sizing and repair).


    In addition to these sales and installation practices for 13 SEER systems, contractors who want to set themselves apart from the competition can simply provide information on products and services that other contractors tend to ignore.

    System diagnostics, for example, are getting to be more common on residential HVAC products. However, they are not offered on all manufacturers' models; they are typically limited to those higher-end products. They offer profits and benefits that go beyond higher efficiency differentiation.

    Another system component that can set you apart is the variable-speed motor. These motors - again, not available on most lower-end lines - offer homeowners the ability to run their fans and filtration systems at a lower speed without having to cool the space, as long as the climate is not too humid. After all, you don't want customers to run a continuous fan and draw in a lot of humid air. Variable-speed motors also can be run at lower speeds with air conditioning, saving full capacity for the most extreme temperature conditions, and again saving the customer money on his or her utility bills.

    IAQ products and services, such as UV lights and electronic air cleaners, are shamefully neglected by many HVAC contractors. Yet when homeowners are given the opportunity to install an IAQ feature, studies have shown that they will do so. Take advantage of this.

    Temperature control, humidity, system sizing, coils - they all work together. Do it right and you will be among the leaders of the pack.

    For more information, click on the Emerson Climate Technologies logo above.