For some time, zoning has been a hard sell for both contractors and consumers. But according to Dennis Laughlin, general manager of Arzel Zoning, the tide is beginning to turn, and more and more people are becoming convinced that zoning is the key to achieving optimal indoor comfort.
“I believe we are getting close to the point where the word on zoning is getting out,” he said. “There are a number of manufacturers making reliable products, and we are all trying hard to get the message to contractors.”
Laughlin believes that contractors have been reluctant to sell zoning for several reasons, and he asserts that training is one of the biggest ways to push the benefits of the application.
According to Laughlin, trainers from Arzel are out on the road every week. These trainers help to answer technical questions about the installation and troubleshooting of zoning systems.
“Once contractors see the ease of installation with zoning, they become a lot less apprehensive about it,” said Laughlin.
Technical expertise is essential, but many contractors are unaware of how to sell zoning to customers. Arzel believes that it has some tips on making zoning a part of every contractor’s business.
Ask QuestionsAccording to Laughlin, zoning is about comfort. He explained that many homes suffer from the same problems when it comes to heating and cooling. Homes often have temperature inconsistencies from one room to another. For example, bedrooms may be cold while living areas are much warmer. Laughlin said that contractors need to ask customers if they are experiencing these kinds of problems. If so, the consumer should be told that these comfort issues can be alleviated.
Laughlin noted that it is important when asking questions to ask about needs and not products. He said that it is more effective to question consumers about the comfort issues they have and then find the product that best meets the needs of the homeowner.
To help formulate questions, Laughlin suggests looking for physical clues. Clues can be as simple as taking into account that the home is two stories or if it’s a sprawling ranch-style home. Other things to look at include cathedral ceilings or rooms with several windows that could trap in heat from the sun. Contractors can ask the homeowner if these features have affected air distribution or the comfort level of that specific room.
Placement of the home’s thermostat must be taken into account. He recommends asking customers if they would rather have a thermostat in each room to better control comfort levels, especially if the home has multiple floors.
“Customers will take you up on the offer if the option for zoning is presented,” said Laughlin. He explained that many consumers do not know that the option exists. With this in mind, awareness is key.
To illustrate this point, Laughlin said that many people will pay for extras.
“How many cars now have options where the front seats can be heated and the back seat can stay cooler? If you can get this in your car, why not in your home?” asked Laughlin.
Zoning For Every JobAnother simple thing to remember is to quote zoning as an option on every job. Laughlin said that this is easiest to do on new construction jobs.
He explained that the average cost for a new home is approximately $230,000, and the typical size is approximately 2,100 square feet.
“People who are buying these homes have high expectations of comfort,” said Laughlin.
To provide zoning for new construction, Laughlin said that HVAC contractors may need to educate the general contractor in charge of the job. He said that the general contractor can then educate the homeowner on why zoning can be a beneficial investment.
There are several benefits to installing a zoning system in a new construction application. First, the actual installation is much easier. Second, if the homeowner wants more room-by-room control over comfort, zoning can be a more practical alternative than installing multiple heating and cooling units and systems.
Zoning can be a great way to save on energy. Laughlin said that a large majority of homeowners base their decision to purchase a zoning system based on comfort concerns, adding, “for most people, energy savings is the icing on the cake.”
But Laughlin said that contractors need to educate homeowners on the topic of energy savings and zoning. He said that zoning can save energy, but homeowners must be practical and proactive. Real energy savings show up when consumers use zoning in conjunction with other energy-saving opportunities, such as a night setback function on thermostats and weathertight windows.
RetrofitsWhile new construction is one of the easier applications for zoning, Laughlin said that contractors should really focus their attention on retrofits. He said that there are over 1 million new homes on the market, but there are over 107 million existing single-family homes that have forced-air systems. The vast majority of these homes have one furnace and one thermostat. These homes often have the same problems, according to Laughlin, including specific rooms that are either too hot or too cold.
Once the homeowner is convinced that the upgrade is money well spent, inform them that the installation will not be a burden. According to Laughlin, this is something that consumers and contractors alike need to be educated about.
“There is whole new set of technology out there that makes installing zoning much easier,” he said. For example, Arzel has a product that Laughlin said makes it possible to install dampers in existing homes without having to tear up ductwork.
“When you install a zoning system, you can feel the difference right away,” said Laughlin. “It’s not one of those upgrades that you have to wait to see if it works. You know right away that what you paid for works.”
He said that once homeowners are satisfied with the system, they’ll tell their friends and neighbors. This is why Laughlin suggests targeting specific neighborhoods. If one home has found satisfaction with a zoning system, another homeowner on the block may become interested in the application.
Laughlin noted that this is why contractors need to be prepared.
“Once homeowners begin to talk and start demanding zoning, you are going to want to be the contractor in town who can provide it for them. As a contractor, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve,” said Laughlin.
Publication date: 05/26/2003