So you have a customer whose 10 SEER air conditioning system could need replacing, and now that means replacing with a 13 SEER or higher system. How do you present financial options to help the customer make the best possible decision?

As we mentioned last month, the age of the existing unit will affect the payback on the new one. Relatively younger units might be worth repairing, even if that means doing a compressor replacement. However, older models are more likely to need continuous repairs in the future. They also may be less efficient than their rated value.

Weigh The Options

When you sit down with the customer, it could be effective to have a worksheet to fill out to help the customer reach the best financial decision. Let them fill out some of the information, while you fill in the rest of it (i.e., estimate, accommodation, and labor information).

Here is what you may want to include on the worksheet.

Age of the system: _____
Frequency of past maintenance: _____
Potential repair: _____
Estimate for repair: _____
Location of indoor coil: _____
Planning to move in near future: _____
Monthly utility bill: _____

Your salesperson can then sit down with the customer to discuss their options realistically. The act of filling out the worksheet takes the problem of what to do with the air conditioner from being an emotional problem, and moves it into the calmer, less emotional part of the brain. When the customer fills out the worksheet, it also gives him or her a sense of control in this situation.

Space And Time Variables

Make sure the customer knows that when it comes to making a repair, some might be worth the time and money, but others simply are not. Some repairs might cascade beyond feasibility for the customer, and he needs to know this at the outset.

You might compare it to a car - generally a good point of reference. Older cars have more mechanical failures, especially if they have not been well cared for. You could fix one problem this month (like the starter), only to have something else fail the next (like the muffler).

Eventually you spend so much money to keep the car running, you could have saved up enough for a down payment on a new car. And if a new car guzzled less gasoline, the monthly difference could offset some of the new monthly payment, in addition to being a more reliable mode of transportation.

In the same way, the cost of operating a higher efficiency air conditioner in summer months helps offset the cost of financing the unit. Its reliability is appreciated as least as much as the car's.

Compare this with the decisions a homeowner needs to make in order to replace their old system with a new one. Where is the indoor coil located? Is there enough space for airflow? If the coil is installed in the basement, there might not be a problem, depending on the size of the plenum. Some sheet metal work may be required.

If the indoor coil is in a closet, however, or in an attic space, this could get tricky. Even if there were just enough space for the new coil, would it be getting enough airflow? Would you need to reposition the existing unit, or modify the space? Would you need to bring in a framing contractor, say, or an electrician?

It all depends on the variables. A five-year-old system might be a candidate for the repair if space is constrained and the unit's actual efficiency is still up around where it should be.

Your goal is not to overwhelm the customer with difficulties, but rather to present the most direct solution possible based on the facts of the case. You want to act in the customer's best interest and connect with them as a trusted comfort consultant.

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