The HVAC upgrade kiosk earned a “Best Use” award for Ted Boyle, senior territory manager for York Air Conditioning, A Johnson Controls Company, from the Home Builders Association of Delaware, and computer professional Dave Austin.
PHILADELPHIA - There's more than one way to sell HVAC upgrades to people building a new home. Instead of trying to force the installing contractor into the sales picture, this distributor interacts directly with the consumer by means of an upgrade kiosk, located in the homebuilder's showroom.

The contractor still gets the extra installation work and credit for the sale. The homeowner gets added comfort. The manufacturer sells more equipment. And the homebuilder gets to sell more features.

"We were tired of trying to educate mechanical contractors, who were trying to educate builders, who were trying to educate buyers," said Ted Boyle, a senior territory manager in Philadelphia for York Air Conditioning, A Johnson Controls company. "I knew a computer guy who wanted to get into the kiosk business." Putting the two thoughts together was kind of like the old Reese's® peanut butter cups commercial: "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" "No, you got chocolate in my peanut butter."

The HVAC upgrade kiosk put two great ideas together at last. The resulting product earned a "Best Use" award for York from the Home Builders Association of Delaware. It was accepted by Boyle and "computer guy" Dave Austin. "Dave and I are friends and he invested a lot of time in the project," Boyle said. "I thought we should accept the award together."


The kiosk uses a touch screen similar to those consumers already find at stores like Target for browsing gift registries. The HVAC kiosk discusses various HVAC options such as:

  • R-22 vs. R-410A.

  • Two-stage operation.

  • Specific brand information, such as York's Latitude and Affinity air conditioners.

  • Variable-speed blowers.

  • Two-stage furnaces.

  • Extended warranty options.

  • Humidifier options.

  • Filtration options.

  • Indoor pollution information.

  • UV lights for coil irradiation.

  • Fresh air ventilators vs. energy recovery ventilators.

  • Thermostat options.

  • Zone control.

    However, the information is targeted to the homeowner's point of view. For instance, "It doesn't talk about SEERs, MERVs, or anything like that," said Boyle. "It talks about dry skin, skin cracking, and energy savings."

    It also compares the installed cost vs. savings - again, at the touch of an on-screen button. "As you're going through the touch screens, you can touch on a portion that will save it in your model home category," Boyle said.

    "The screen shows the monthly cost on a 30-year mortgage, how much it will save the homebuyer each month, and how much it will cost if you don't buy it. You can plug in local climate information from DOE Energy Star information."

    A binder with more detailed information accompanies each kiosk, he said.

    "These are intended to make the builder salesperson an instant expert on the HVAC products," where in the past talking about a more technical topic may have confused and scared them, Boyle said. Using the kiosk, "they can make money on options without having to sell anything."

    "The old saying is, sell the sizzle, not the steak," said Boyle. "This is sizzle and steak. It brings sales to the table at a higher profit. It's getting to the real customer."


    "We got the cost of the kiosk down to just $2,000," he continued. "If it got me new builders, it was worth it whether they sold anything or not. It was worth the $2,000 if it got me the contract."

    But it is increasing upgrade sales. "Some people don't like computers, but they can't resist touching these things," Boyle said.

    "We put it in a walkway at a builder's showroom. Not a single man has walked past it who hasn't stopped and played with it." When it comes to talking about home upgrades, "The guys are the hardest ones to get. They don't buy anything. If we can get these hard heads to listen, just imagine what we can do with intelligent people like women."

    In his experience so far, roughly half of homebuyers who use the kiosk will opt for some kind of HVAC upgrade. Out of 10 houses, for instance, "five took options, including one house that took all the options."

    Boyle said he goes with the HVAC subcontractor to the builder. "I assist in getting the builder to buy from him and me. The kiosk is getting [the contractor] more sales in options and upgrades. The contractor tells the builder, ‘I'll give you rock-bottom prices on the equipment installation, you give me the money on the options and upgrades.' " It allows the contractor to satisfy his urge to quote a low price and gain profits through upgrades.

    How about using a gadget like this for presentations during replacement equipment sales? "We've actually put it on touch-screen notebook computers and given it to add-on replacement contractors," said Boyle. With modifications it could be made into "an even better sales tool," he said. "We want to make it 100 percent killer."

    Publication date: 06/19/2006