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Home Performance Is Virtually Unknown in My Neck of the Woods

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As an HVAC contractor, diversification is the only way to ensure sustainability and that is especially true in my neck of the woods. In Knoxville, TN, if you perform a search on HVAC contractors, you find at least 200, which means a lot of competition. In order to set our company apart from the rest, A-1 Certified Service, Inc. must diversify through Home Performance. Our approach is simple; educating our customers on Home Performance through comfort, indoor air-quality, reducing their carbon footprint, and reducing the homeowner’s utility consumption.

Over the years, A-1 Certified Service, Inc. was a traditional, residential, retrofit HVAC firm. We would run Manual Js with every sales call determining the heat-load for the home and ensure proper equipment sizing. However, as things changed in the industry, and utility programs required more upgrades to meet energy efficiency requirements, we began transitioning to meet the needs of the utility company. The term “Home Performance” is not familiar in our region. Sure, we would qualify the customer by listening to their home comfort and health needs, by conducting an inspection of the duct system and making recommendations such as air-sealing, duct sealing and/or duct modifications, and indoor air-quality products, but these recommendations wasn’t showing increased sales. In fact, what we saw was quite the opposite. Many of our potential customers stated that although they felt our Comfort Specialist presented options other contractors did not tell them about, the price difference between the competition and us was too great for the homeowner to grasp.

At that point, we made a conscience decision to fully engage and educate the homeowner about Home Performance. We took the approach that every lead for equipment was the opportunity to promote who we were through home performance. Slowly but surely, we began to see the conversion to home performance and the customers began taking notice.

Our time to shine finally presented itself! One day, one of our long-time existing customers called to request a quote for upgrading their home’s HVAC system. We installed the existing equipment in the customer’s home over 15-years ago, and the existing air distribution system was approximately 30-years old. The home was over 150 years old and was the primary issue. The home’s air distribution system was limited to the main floor while the second story of the home had no central HVAC system. The home needed air-sealing and additional insulation to improve the owner’s comfort and reduce their utility bills. Lastly, the Comfort Specialist discussed adding an IAQ to reduce the allergies and dust within their home. Adding an IAQ system is important to homeowners in East TN since the area is plagued with allergies.

We were excited to see the transformation begin. The project took approximately 1.5 weeks to complete. The homeowner chose two high-efficiency Daikin systems. One replacement system for the main floor and a completely new install with new air distribution throughout the second floor. The home also had another package unit that the homeowner chose not to replace. We began the project with modifications and duct sealing to the main floor’s existing duct system. We continued by adding an IAQ system which included MERV 16 filtration, UV light purification, and a charcoal filter. Followed by air sealing all penetrations and windows to tighten up the thermal envelope and reduce the energy loss. Finally, we installed the new Daikin 16-SEER, variable speed heat pump and 96% modulating gas furnace.

The second floor was our biggest challenge. We began with air sealing all penetrations and windows including the attic. While air sealing the attic, we knew the age of the home, lath, and plaster ceiling, and walls would present design challenges. We had to rethink our design to ensure each room received proper airflow and keep the demolition and dust to a minimum since the home was filled with Civil War memorabilia. We completed the air distribution system and installed a Daikin 16-SEER, variable-speed, heat pump, and variable-speed air handler. Lastly, we increased the R-value in the attic to R-38 with blown insulation. We even took it one-step further and presented the homeowner with a housekeeping event to clean and dust all their cherished and historical relics!

About a month after the home performance project was completed, I got a call from the homeowner who said they never imagined their home could be so comfortable and they had already seen a reduction in their utility bills! Finally, the customer was amazed with how their IAQ system reduced the allergy issues all of the family members suffered from. This was truly a Win/Win situation for all parties involved!

Here at A-1 Certified Service, Inc., we are committed to home performance through educating our customers and providing best practices in our installation processes. Is it costly? Are we generally higher in price than our competition? Yes, we are, but what we offer is different from all the other residential contractors in our area, and we truly believe that maximizing home performance and efficiency is what sets us apart in our neck of the woods.

Michele Thomas

Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings

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