DALLAS - It didn't take long for Tom Mooney to grab the attention of his HVAC Comfortech seminar attendees. The sales manager for CCAC Air Conditioning & Heating, Corpus Christi, Texas, believes that "selling is solving problems." Mooney believes that successful, responsible contractors are those who take a whole-house approach to solving problems, rather than adding quick fixes to a flawed system.

"If all you are selling is the box, then all you can compete with is the SEER rating and the price," Mooney said. He gave examples demonstrating how leaky ductwork can be just as responsible for energy inefficiency as the equipment that pushes the air.

"In the U.S. Department of Energy's Improving the Efficiency of Your Duct System, the report says that the typical duct system loses 25 to 40 percent of heating and cooling energy," Mooney said. "Don't you think that before I install a heating and cooling system, I should check and see what problems exist?"

Tom Mooney urges contractors to look for whole-house solutions.

Whole-House Evaluation

Mooney said that his business (CCAC is derived from the acronym "constantly concerned about customers") will take on the job of evaluating a homeowner's problems if the company is allowed to perform a whole-house evaluation, adding that he wouldn't want to risk his company's reputation by doing anything less.

"We do whole-house evaluations just as much to protect us as to protect the homeowner," he stated. "An evaluation should be given on each visit."

He compared it to visiting the doctor. "There has to be a reason why a doctor checks your blood pressure on every visit," Mooney said.

Mooney used mold as an example of what a whole-house evaluation can reveal. "One of the considerations of the evaluation is to check for the presence of mold," he said. "Eighty-five percent of the homes I inspect have mold problems because of installation and maintenance problems - not because of an accidental discharge of water."

The recent high-profile mold lawsuits have made HVACR contractors especially susceptible to liabilities, according to Mooney. "Insurers are telling us that our industry is inherently libelous and they cannot insure us anymore," he said.

One reason why HVACR contractors are bearing the brunt of lawsuits is that they don't offer whole-house solutions and prefer to put a Band-Aid on the system, Mooney commented.

"If you hook up A/C equipment to leaky ductwork, you are liable for problems which may occur down the road," he said. "Because the homeowner will ask why you didn't know about the problem and, if you did, why you didn't tell him.

"If you look at it and it is wrong and you don't tell the customer, you are going to be sued."

Mooney said there are some suggestions that contractors can make to homeowners, like offering to install anti-fungal ductwork and explaining its advantages. He said that too many duct-cleaning businesses are taking duct cleaning and repair into their own hands and claiming to be experts. "When are we going to take back ventilation?" he asked. "After all, we are heating, ventilation, and air conditioning experts!"

He said that contractors should not shy away from helping to solve a homeowner's IAQ problem. "It isn't a problem, it is an opportunity," he said.

In fact, Mooney believes this is a great time to sell whole-house evaluations, as long as contractors are well trained and dedicated.

"Get a hold of people who know how to fix buildings - not the sales trainers," he said. "There isn't a better time to get into heating and cooling."

Publication date: 12/08/2003