Manufacturers believe there is a simple way to achieve growth in the zoning market - awareness.

"Most homeowners are probably not aware that zoning is a potential solution to their comfort and energy efficiency goals," said Mike Branson, manager of systems products marketing for Carrier. "However, almost anyone with a two-story home or a spread-out ranch-style home can immediately appreciate the benefits that zoning can provide when it is offered to them."

By most accounts, zoning systems are in approximately 5 percent to 10 percent of homes. Around 25 percent to 30 percent of zoning sales consist of replacement/retrofit, while the remaining 70 percent to 75 percent are in new construction.

Honeywell says one of the benefits to its zoning systems is ease of installation. (Photo courtesy of Honeywell.)

Common Misconceptions

The biggest roadblock when selling zoning systems is misconceptions. According to manufacturers, both contractors and homeowners can hold common misconceptions on zoning.

Manufacturers make a conscious effort to educate contractors on their products. They realize that without contractors being knowledgeable and comfortable with zoning, the market has no chance to grow.

One way companies make sure contractors are comfortable with their product is by offering training. "One of the biggest misconceptions contractors have is that it is more difficult to set up a system than it really is," said Brad Paine, zoning products marketing manager for Honeywell.

"We continue to train distributors and dealers. The biggest hurdle is knowledge. We coach the dealers to select systems, sell systems, and wire systems. We work through the entire process. Once the contractors do it once or twice, they say it isn't as hard as they thought it would be. They have a better comfort level." Honeywell offers a dedicated technical service hotline to help walk zoning customers through any system setup or troubleshooting.

Carrier also offers sales, technical, and hands-on zoning training to its dealers. The instruction focuses on the benefits of zoning within a home, how it works, and how to select and propose the right system for the job.

Carrier has been happy with the response to the training.

"Our experience has been that dealers are anxious to learn about new zoning solutions, including new products, how to technically apply them, and how to sell them," said Branson. "This helps them differentiate themselves in the marketplace and better satisfy their customers' needs."

Yet another misconception associated with zoning is price. Paine stated costs have come down significantly due to technical advances. "A misconception with some dealers may be that homeowners will not want to pay for a zoning system," said Branson.

"Recent market trends are validating that homeowners want the benefits that zoning can provide. They value the energy savings and comfort that come with an investment in a zoning system. The key is offering zoning to them."

That, of course, is just talking about the consumers who have heard of zoning. "A lot of homeowners don't know about zoning and how it can help them," Tim Kensok, Honeywell director of indoor air quality, said. "When a builder brings it up and tells homeowners about the features of zoning, a very high percentage, over 50 percent, of the owners choose to purchase zoning solutions."

Branson believes the key to raising awareness is educating dealers to offer zoning solutions when meeting with homeowners.

"Homeowners know when they are uncomfortable, and they look for the expertise of their local dealer to offer them solutions. Carrier also actively works with dealers to offer zoning to homebuyers and to demonstrate zoning in model homes and showrooms," Branson said.

Manufacturers believe once the contractor talks to the homeowner about the numerous benefits of zoning, the customer will be sold. They also believe it will be a big win for the contractors who will receive the benefits by better satisfying their customers' needs, increasing total sales per customer, and increasing customer loyalty.

The Infinity System from Carrier boasts zoning system control as one of its key features. (Photo courtesy of Carrier.)

The Future Is Bright

Zoning products have gained momentum, and manufacturers hope to continue growth. "The percentage of new construction homes offering zoning has historically been low, but we have seen strong growth over the past year and especially in 2005," Branson said.

"There are a greater number of both national and local builders offering zoning solutions to homebuyers, ensuring they have comfort throughout their homes. With lower interest rates, people are able to pack more into their home buying dollars, and comfort is high on their list of wants."

Retrofit and replacement markets also can be profitable. When individuals are buying a replacement system, comfort and efficiency are typically more important than installed cost.

"In retrofits, building changes can often create complications when trying to satisfy comfort in diverse areas of the home. Zoning is the ideal solution to address these concerns," Branson said.

Honeywell stated zoning is growing 20 percent each year.

"There is a huge opportunity for dealers because homeowners want it and margins are typically higher than for other products," Paine said. "Zoning has not even begun to tap into all the possibilities. I see continued growth. There is a huge upside."

Publication date: 05/16/2005