If you attended the ASHRAE Show in Chicago or if you have been readingThe Newsover the last few months, you should be aware that many new products are on the market. These products provide us as contractors with many new, profitable opportunities, which have not really been presented in the last few years. With regard to these products, the general news media is doing us a great favor by continually talking about the quality of the air we breathe and focusing on noticeable problems such as the presence of mold.

We in our industry should see all of this as a glowing opportunity. After all, who can do more to affect the air in a home than the person installing and maintaining the heating and/or air conditioning systems?

My goal in discussing such features as HEPA filters, ultraviolet lights, and variable-speed furnaces and air conditioners is not to promote one particular supplier or brand over another but to make contractors aware of the advantage in marketing these new products.

It is likely that most of your customers will not be aware of many of these new products and the benefits they provide. Therefore, you can’t necessarily expect the customer to ask for a HEPA filter, etc. It is your job as the expert contractor to ask some basic questions in order to determine the individual’s desires and needs in the areas of not only heating and air conditioning, but overall indoor air quality as well.

Educate The Customer

I believe it is vital that you make your customers (or potential customers) aware of all of the different products available today designed to make the air in their homes cleaner and more comfortable.

I recently received a call from an old friend and customer who didn’t realize that we could provide a humidifier on the furnace to serve the whole house. She thought the only kinds of humidifiers available were the one room, you-fill-them-with-water type.

Shame on us for not having sold her a humidifier years ago.

The fact is that today, in our area, humidifiers are a necessity, not a luxury. So we almost take them for granted. We have to be more careful to be sure we inform our customers of their availability.

And with regard to air cleaning and purifying, we have all sorts of options open to us now, from media type to electronic to HEPA. Most have options such as charcoal filters for smoke and odor removal, and some even have ultraviolet lights built in as part of a complete package. Speaking of ultraviolet lights, there are models available for the return air as well as the supply. The supply units install right above the evaporator coil and are designed to ensure mold spores do not grow on the moist coil.

These are just a few of the options available. Variable- and multispeed furnaces and air conditioners can now be used for energy savings or to handle special situations like greatly varying loads. Units are available for special dehumidifying and humidifying applications, such as indoor pools and hot tubs.

Ask the customer several pertinent questions that will give you insight as to his needs and desires. Listen carefully — they will probably not speak in terms familiar to our industry. Be sure you understand the customer’s needs. In general, remember customers are looking for comfort through heating and/or air conditioning — not a furnace or air conditioner. They are looking for clean, humidified, comfortable air — not a humidifier or air cleaner.

Remind homeowners that it is impossible to put a price on comfort, and with the number of hours they spend in their home, they deserve to be comfortable.

These new optional features, which are available to us, give us an opportunity to not only be more profitable, but to provide the customer with more comfort. However, these products require some explanation as to the benefits they provide; they require some “selling.” Many of us have become complacent selling just furnaces and/or air conditioners. Those don’t really require much selling, because in most climates they are required.

With the new products, the customer may have the need but not be aware of how to meet it. It’s up to you to show customers how their needs can be met.

Guest columnist Butch Welsch operates Welsch Heating & Cooling in St. Louis. He can be reached by e-mail at Welsch1@primary.net.

Publication date: 05/05/2003