Diagnosing Opportunity In Home Performance Contracting


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Several years ago, I did a home performance assessment for a medical doctor – you know, the ‘real’ kind of doctor, not like those ivory tower, pie-in-the-sky, I’ve-got-a-theory kind of doctors who have a PhD instead of an MD behind their name (Heh heh heh). In Dr. M’s crawl space, I found all the usual suspects – insulation falling down, crawl space vents, uncovered dirt, biological activity – you name it. This is the Southeast, you know, where heat and humidity do all kinds of fun things.

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I was a home performance contractor at the time and gave him a proposal that included encapsulating his crawl space. It was a big crawl space, so the cost to encapsulate was in the thousands of dollars. I showed him how good an encapsulated crawl space looks and told him about the benefits.

He had some nasty looking stuff down in his crawl space, especially around the air handler unit. Naturally, I showed him photos, including the one below. See that brown band through the middle, where the supply plenum connects to the air conditioner evaporator coil housing? Since you’re in the HVAC business, you know that it didn’t start off that color. That mastic was white at first.

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Because he was a good homeowner who did his homework before signing a contract of several thousand dollars worth of improvements, he checked with his HVAC contractor. Who told him that what you see in that photo is perfectly normal, and he had nothing to worry about! And that was good enough for Dr. M.

Wow!

I didn’t think of this till later, but I should have said to him, “Dr. M, when you look at a smoker’s lungs and see all the gunk in there, do you tell them it’s normal and that they shouldn’t worry about it?” It’s not normal! It’s because of all the bad stuff they’re putting in there. Fortunately, with smoking, the tide turned long ago, and we know that normal and healthy can be two completely different things.

Same applies to crawl spaces. As an HVAC contractor, especially if you’re in the hot, humid part of the country, you may see plenty of nasty crawl spaces. They’re not fun to work in. They’re not good for equipment either, despite what that guy told Dr. M.

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As an HVAC contractor, you have an opportunity in front of you every time you visit a home with a musty, moldy crawl space. By encapsulating their crawl space, you can help your customer improve their home’s indoor air quality, save money on their energy bills, and be more comfortable. Don’t want to add that service to your HVAC business? Partner with a company that’s already in the crawl space encapsulation business.

Not every customer is a good candidate for a crawl space upgrade like this. You’ve got to determine what their priorities are and if they have the finances to do it, of course. In warm humid climates, though, an encapsulated crawl space is a beautiful thing.

It’s a win-win-win situation, too. Your customer wins for all the reasons above. You win by getting a bigger contract. You win again when you get to go back and service their systems in a nice, clean crawl space!

Allison Bailes, III, PhD
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Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings, Sales & Marketing

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