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Homes Don’t Come with an Instruction Manual!

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Everything we purchase seems to come with an instruction manual, a guide on how to utilize and get the most out of what we buy.  Thus, it leads us to wonder why our homes, the biggest investment most of us will ever make, come with no such guidance. If they did, they would explain that Home Performance (HP) is a combination of philosophy and science that ensures our homes are safe, comfortable, sustainable, and certainly more efficient. So, without an instruction manual to guide a homeowner, how does one know where to begin in optimizing their home’s performance? The truth is, your HVAC Technicians or Home Comfort Advisors need to be this guide.  Every time they are with one of your clients or in front of a prospect, it is the ideal opportunity to educate a homeowner on the benefits of HP.

‘Poppycock’ you’re thinking, “Why would I go through all the processes and work involved with introducing HP into my business?”  Here’s why:

  1. Increased Revenue and Profits – In my region a Home Performance project with HVAC sells for about $8,000 more than a traditional HVAC installation. That difference can grow to as large as $14,000 if the homeowner chooses all recommended ENERGY STAR upgrades including a Hybrid System and On-Demand Water Heater.  These are substantial sales figures your company stands to gain, simply for doing a better job in front of the homeowner. Pretend for a moment you sold 100, $9,500 traditional HVAC projects in the last year at 10% profit; you would have made $95,000. Had you, at a minimum sold 50% as HP, using the $8,000 difference you would have made an additional $40,000. That leads us to the second reason you should be delivering HP.
  2. Happier Homeowners – Let’s agree that Comfort, Energy Savings, and Peace of Mind is what we sell. If we concur, then wouldn’t it be better if we sold them better comfort, more energy savings, and a clear peace of mind? That comfort includes not only the temperature and air quality in their home, but comfort with the price they are paying, as well as the value and peace of mind they are receiving. Did you know that for every dollar a homeowner spends for energy, 75¢ of it is on things that you fix and install? Build the initial trust in demonstrating how homeowners can lower their utility bills.  Show them how they can save up to 40%, while improving their comfort, health, and making their home a safer place to live, and I guarantee they will display comfort with you the next time an HVAC decision comes their way.  Of course, the third reason is that it is the ethical path to go.
  3. It’s The Right Thing To Do – If you are not promoting Home Performance, you are holding back valuable information for someone who “Trusted” you enough to let you into his or her home; their comfort zone.  Just as a patient trusts a doctor to do the right thing, we must validate the “leap of faith” homeowners take when they entrust their homes, their single largest investment, to us.  The fact remains that everyone is looking to save money.  Homeowners continually converse with their family, friends, and neighbors over such issues.  It is a matter of time before the homeowner you served hears about the HP opportunities that you didn’t provide them.  And, when they contact you, and you have to explain that you simply “do not offer such service,” the working relationship between you and that homeowner is effectively over.

So, where’s “The Conundrum” with Home Performance.

How do you market, sell, or even present Home Performance to homeowners?

If you are lucky enough to operate in a state such as New Jersey, that offers incentives as rewards for lowering your energy costs, it is imperative that you advertise it to the fullest extent. The fact remains however, that most states still do not offer such lucrative incentives, leading us to our First Conundrum:  Without advertising, how do we reach these homeowners?  The answer is simple; your Home Comfort & Energy Advisors along with your technicians must be always presenting homeowners with every option to improve their comfort, energy saving, health and safety, the HP way. At our company we recognize there isn’t just one solution. We know that the homeowner, not us, is in charge of making the final decision, so we must present all possible options to ensure that they are confident and comfortable when they make that decision.  Whether it is a service or sales call we always provide a range of choices—The Best, Better and Good menu—if you will. Not only do we feel that it is our responsibility to educate them with the knowledge we have as the “Experts” but also to avoid ever having to answer the “Why didn’t you tell me” question.

Once invited into the home to propose a new home comfort system you face the Second Conundrum:  Most homeowners don’t have any experience with such a purchase.

Only 10% of homeowners have ever purchased a HVAC system before. And an even smaller percentage than that actually understand how the home acts as a system. They don’t know that furnaces have forever been oversized, and air distribution systems, forever undersized. They do not know that older homes leak (a lot), especially compared to newer homes. And insulation levels are not up to standard because years ago it was a more expensive commodity than fuel. So, how can you, first effectively collect the needed data to demonstrate all of this and then convey these messages in a comprehendible manner? The truth is, if you are a quality HVAC contractor not yet delivering HP you are probably already taking all of the necessary steps.  A Manual J will show you the furnace is oversized and extra insulation plus tightening up the home will lower both the heating and cooling AC loads. And here comes the third Conundrum, how do you convince the homeowner to install the right sized, most efficient equipment along with your building shell recommendations instead of going cheap?

hutchimage2Your sales tools help make your comfort, energy savings, and safety recommendations comprehensible, believable and affordable. You must simplify and visualize the customer’s savings. Educating the homeowner on the five measures (heat, cooling, water heater, Air Sealing & Insulation unit) and which unit(s) best suits their needs, making their home safer AND saving them $XXX in energy, is the MOST compelling closing. Breaking it down further, “after you factor in your monthly energy savings, that’s only $X a day” and offering special financing, 12 months interest free, etc. is statistically proven to be an effective tool used by the most productive dealers.

The final conundrum is training your service technicians to best educate the homeowner on the economics of every repair. A frank and open discussion should occur so the homeowner is aware of their choices before investing in an expensive repair, or a less efficient piece of equipment. Using a tool similar to the above example, coupled with the table to the right (should be on every service ticket), your technicians can convey information to the homeowner in a streamlined, straightforward manner; once again, eliminating the post-service homeowner question “why did your tech let me put $674 into this old piece of junk”. Even when performing a regular seasonal tune-up, your technicians should always be conducting comfort, energy saving, and health and safety conversations with the homeowner.  You are the “Expert” they trust and you must live up to their expectations.

In sum, treating a home from a whole-house perspective means taking control of the home’s flows of energy, heat, air, and moisture, and producing an indoor environment that will truly satisfy customers and turn them into the best advertising any contractor could ask for: happy customers who are excited to tell others what you did to their homes.

Home Performance: Two excellent resources include:

Fred Hutchinson
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Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings, Sales & Marketing

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