Happier Customers and A Business Not Dependent On The Weather


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In 29 years of running an HVAC business, I have never had customers as happy about the work we have performed for them. When you look at the whole house as a system and really drill down into the customers comfort issues as well as their high utility bills, a light goes off. The solutions to these challenges are usually much easier than some of the HVAC hoops we need to jump through. Once these challenges are solved the comfort level of the home is tremendously improved and their utility bills naturally are reduced in the process. I have customers writing me 3 and 4 page thank you letters. They can not believe they are living in the same home. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of very happy HVAC customers but they never were happy enough with their new furnace to write me 3 and 4 page letters.

When we got involved in the Home Performance Business six years ago it all seemed like a big blur. It was all very new to us. We were used to wearing the blinders and going right to the furnace. We had to take the blinders off and look in the attics, the crawl spaces, behind the knee walls, etc! We have to pay close attention to properly vented exhaust fans, moisture issues, combustion appliance venting as well as many other things.

After six years things have become much more routine, just like the HVAC business. In the HVAC business you can sometimes almost know the solution you are going to present as you pull up to the house because you are familiar with type of furnace or A/C they have in that particular neighborhood. That has started to be the case with the Home Performance business. You start to realize that there are many common challenges between similar homes. I am not saying that you don’t have to test each and every one because every once in awhile you will see a curve ball. But with that said, when you see “Frogs,” finished rooms above garages, they all have many of the same challenges. When you see kitchen cupboard soffits, there is a good potential for leaks. When you have recessed can lights there is almost always a substantial energy leak. Over hangs and cantilevers are almost a sure bet. Band joist areas are the central conduit that connects the entire home typically. When you pull up to a Cape Cod style home to do an energy audit it is like windy city. These homes typically leak terribly behind the knee wall sections.

The real painful part is when you realize how silly we are as HVAC contractors when we continue even today to put air handlers and ductwork outside the thermal boundary of the home. How crazy is it to have an air handler that is insulated with maybe R-2 sitting on top of a ceiling that is insulated with R-60. All the supply and return ductwork that connect the air handler to the living space. It is just a crazy practice! I can’t tell you how many I have installed that way over the years because was the way it was done!

Another crazy concept is vented crawl spaces with falling down insulation in the floor joist. They exist everywhere! They all need to be fixed. The list goes on and on but it is no different than the same common problems that you run into with the HVAC business. After a while you start to standardize the solutions.

The good news is when you fix all of this stuff and tighten up the home properly and manage the moisture, the people are so much more comfortable. They can’t believe they are living in the same house. It becomes very rewarding work. You walk away knowing that you have made a big difference for the home owner, their comfort and energy bills as well as to the environment. What a great business to be in.

One of the best parts of being in the Home Performance industry is that you take the weather factor out of an HVAC business. We are doing audits 52 weeks a year. Our audits consistently generate work. We don’t have to wait for the weather to turn hot or cold. That is a wonderful thing. All we need is a consistent seat at the kitchen table and a competitive finance program and the rest is easy. It still boggles my mind why so many HVAC contractors resist getting into the business. If you choose to subcontract out the insulation and air sealing work that is fine as long as you control the process and keep good QA procedures on the work of these subcontractors. It takes times and effort to learn but the juice is worth the squeeze!

To Recap:

  1. Home performance and looking at the home as a system is the right thing for the customer.
  2. Your customer ends up extremely happy with your work and your efforts in greater comfort and lower energy bills.
  3. It can be very profitable work.
  4. The work is not weather dependent like the HVAC business.
  5. Once you learn the business the solutions become easy.
  6. Your work typically pays for itself in a relatively short period of time making the sale very easy.
  7. You help the environment.

Why not get started? If you are interested my advice would be to partner with an organization that will help to guide you through the process. There are several very reputable organizations offering this service. Don’t try to do it on your own!

Hal Smith

Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings

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