For good reason, HVAC contractors train their salespeople to be very observant when entering a potential customer’s home. They are instructed to look for signs of kids, pets, or older individuals living in the home. This can lead to a natural conversation about IAQ or zoning as the salesperson attempts to solve all problems present for all residents.

It’s time to add something else to the list — technology. In case you have not noticed, the country’s desire to live like “The Jetsons” (if you’re a millennial, go ahead and Google “The Jetsons”) has picked up steam in recent years. Many consumers are seeking garage door openers and light bulbs that act as part of their smart homes in an effort to make these gadgets more intelligent and easier to operate. And, of course, the smart home appears in the HVAC world in the form of the thermostat. More than a few homeowners want to monitor their homes’ temperatures when they’re away or simply don’t want to get off the couch and take the eight steps necessary to manually address their thermostats.

How do sales folks know if customers they are visiting have an interest in such advancements? They need to look around and see what technology is currently in the home. Is there an Amazon Echo in the corner of the family room? If so, the Honeywell Lyric, Nest Learning thermostat, and White Rodgers Sensi (and others) are thermostats that would fit nicely into their homes as they may be paired to the Echo’s Alexa personality.

Does it look like the customer is active with Samsung Smart Things? If so, the ecobee3 or Honeywell Lyric are products that work with that system. Get my point here? And it does not stop there — Apple Homekit and a multitude of other products are emerging that may tag with a home’s HVAC system.

I was recently in Wisconsin as Honeywell introduced its new T Series smart thermostat. Contractors in the area came out in great numbers to see the newest Honeywell product. That crowded room speaks to the spike in popularity that thermostats in general have seen in recent years. It is indeed among the fastest-growing segments of the HVAC market. Recent growth has been incredible, as the connected thermostat space is projected to reach $1.5 billion worldwide by 2020.

I have been told repeatedly by people that consumers do not make all their smart homes purchases in one installment. Instead, due to cost, they buy them in pieces. So there is a very good chance that many of your customers already have pieces of a smart home in their houses right now. Maybe they do not know a thermostat can be part of the equation, or perhaps they have not been told how a smart thermostat could drastically improve their lives. Either way, contractors have an opening.

Consumers want HVAC contractors to be experts in this area. They do not want to tell professionals that they have an Apple HomeKit only to watch those so-called professionals hem and haw with uncertainty when asked what thermostats are compatible with the Apple equipment. Contractors need to have a firm knowledge on all the different options and what products work best together. It can be difficult to keep up, as it seems like new products are coming out all the time, but these products are in demand. Homeowners are building connected homes and will hunt and peck to find what fits into their ecosystems.

Don’t fear the expansion, but rather embrace it. Craftsmen don’t want to begin manufacturing thermostats any more than Honeywell wants to produce garage doors. HVAC has its place in the home and HVAC contractors are the experts. However, as the experts, contractors must be able to show how HVAC integrates with everything else in the home and cash in when such opportunities arise.

Publication date: 11/7/2016

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