Local news has not been kind to the HVAC industry. It usually involves a sting operation where the newscast invites HVAC companies out to fix broken air conditioners. They hope the technician will take advantage of the customers when they quote the fix. This is what they call good TV, and it is a rite of passage every summer.

However, the cheesy “Wake Up (insert city here)” show has outdone itself this year. Instead of cautioning its audience about the occasional bad apple in the HVAC contracting world, a Houston station had an entire segment urging homeowners to diagnose their own air conditioning systems and replace faulty capacitors.

It was a segment they called “Wake up 2 Savings”… see how clever Channel 2 was? After letting the audience know how to determine the capacitor is the problem, the reporter and the station’s HVAC expert explained how to fix it, so the homeowner can “save hundreds of dollars.” Perhaps the money saved will be enough to foot the bill at the local emergency room after some homeowners electrocute themselves. While the reporter recommends the homeowner purchase a $20 volt meter from The Home Depot to make sure there is no charge, this is still a bad idea. How do they know these homeowners know how to turn the power off and verify if there is no power? Cheaper is not better when it comes to comfort and health.

I talked with Gary Marowske, president of Flame Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical in Warren, Michigan, and he was shocked a segment like this would be broadcast.

“It was totally irresponsible of them,” Marowske said. “Capacitors are not just like pop cans. We have 40 different capacitors here at the office to make sure we get the right one. If they put in the wrong capacitor, it will fry the compressor.”

How these homeowners get their hands on a capacitor is another topic for another day. The industry needs to speak as one voice to let consumers know how dangerous this can be.

“ACCA strongly urges KPRC Channel 2 to retract their irresponsible segment encouraging homeowners to replace air conditioning capacitors,” said Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of ACCA. “Consumers run the risk of being shocked by the equivalent of a 220V outlet if they mishandle a capacitor. It is unwise for Channel 2 to advise consumers and untrained people to undertake these tasks, which should only be handled by trained professionals.”



Why should an HVAC contractor near Detroit or in Florida be concerned about some segment aired by a local Houston television station? Because, thanks to social media, we live in a sharing culture. Google “replace air conditioner capacitor,” and this video is sure to come up. Or maybe one of your customers has a family member in Houston who shared this “tip” on Facebook.

How do you combat this? By getting your message out to your customer base. Sure, this involves marketing in enewsletters, direct mail, and social media. It can also mean showing up on your local morning news show for a segment dedicated to explaining the importance of regular maintenance on an air conditioner now that the hot summer weather is upon us. You can also use that time to explain efficiency levels and how that can affect monthly bills. Most importantly, position yourself as the expert in the field so that if/when an air conditioner breaks down, homeowners will think of your company.

And this does not apply to television only. The local newspaper in your area could use the same content. This is a little tougher in that you would probably need to craft an article, but it would also have more staying power.

So, don’t just complain about the latest HVAC hatchet job performed by the local media — go out and change the narrative.

Publication date: 6/11/2018

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