Now that Fourth of July celebrations have come and gone, the hot summer months are officially upon us. In certain regions of the country, of course, the humid weather started far earlier. In the big picture, many residential air conditioning systems are running at full speed. At the same time, many are dying or in need of major repairs. Sometimes bad news for the homeowner can be good news for you, the HVACR contractor, right?

OK, it's true. We should not be overjoyed when a homeowner calls to inform you the A/C failed. Without hesitation, this homeowner is quick to remind you that it is 120 degrees F outside (this is always an exaggeration), and, of course, it is even hotter indoors.

We all know that the above homeowner is not a happy camper, just as we are not overjoyed when we are hit with an unexpected expense. You already know this, but it bears repeating: Have a little sympathy for the person on the other end of the phone line.

Assure them, to the best of your ability, that you can diagnose the problem, provide excellent service, and make the necessary repair or replacement at a fair price. Of course, if you can pinpoint when you will arrive at their doorstep, so much the better.

After all, it is always better to be greeted by a smiling face than angry eyes, right? Just know that during these hot summer months, customers without A/C are sometimes customers that are without self-control. Keep repeating this to yourself should a customer become ... well ... "anxious" on the phone. By now, you should know the drill.

Timely Tips

While in this (possibly hostile) environment, it is a good idea to provide helpful cooling season tips to the homeowner. After all, you should have their undivided attention at this point in time. Many homeowners, of course, may be right by your side when you are trying to diagnose the problem.

As rising energy costs continue to make news, tips to increase efficiency should grab a homeowner's attention.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for 44 percent of a typical home energy bill. Because the average family spends $1,300 annually on energy bills, controlling the temperature in the home can be one effective way to save.

According to a national survey conducted recently by Honeywell, results revealed that 62 percent of Americans set the air conditioner to a temperature lower than 75 degrees. According to Xcel Energy, one of the leading U.S. energy companies, this is lower than necessary. If the temperature inside the home is cooler than the outside temperature, the body will adjust and feel cooler indoors. Xcel recommends homeowners set thermostats to 78 degrees during this time of year. It mentioned that for every degree the thermostat setting is raised, a homeowner could save one percent on energy costs during an eight-hour period.

"Homeowners do have opportunities to save on their energy bills without sacrificing comfort," said Mark Winston, vice president of Honeywell's North American Homes Operations. "By properly setting and programming their thermostats - during both summer and winter - homeowners will experience significant savings."

More Hot Buttons

Some more words of wisdom to relay during your repair visit:

  • Homeowners should take advantage of the energy savings associated with using a programmable thermostat. (This is a no-brainer, but unfortunately many homeowners do not know this, and many contractors do not even offer this energy-saving solution.)

  • Closing window coverings during the day can reduce heat buildup.

  • Ceiling and oscillating fans should be used when possible.

  • Turning a thermostat down to a lower-than-comfortable temperature won't cool a home faster.

  • Trees provide shading and cooling. Strategically planting three trees around a house can save a homeowner between $100 and $250 annually in energy costs, according to Honeywell.

    Passing along this money-saving information can convert you, the messenger, into a hero - or, at the very least, someone the customer can trust.

    Mark Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax), or

    Publication date: 07/05/2004