As an HVAC contractor, it’s important to know what your customers are looking for when shopping for a new system. Emerson recently conducted a survey of about 1,500 homeowners on what factors they find most important when purchasing an air conditioning and heating system.
The results help contractors gain insight as to what homeowners are looking for in their HVAC systems and what they are looking for when it comes to HVAC customer service. As a contractor, understanding these trends can help you better communicate with your customers, leaving them highly satisfied with their service and eager to remain loyal to your business.
Below are the top 5 benefits that homeowners tend to expect from their HVAC systems, and ways you can help them in the decision-making process.
- Reliability Over the Long-TermReliability was a top factor among all the homeowners surveyed and ranked high for being one of the most important concerns. Customers want to ensure their new system will stick around through the years and feel at ease that it will continue to operate without needing to be repaired or replaced any time soon. The knowledge that their HVAC system will provide them with years of trouble-free performance will grant instant relief and peace of mind. Reassure the customer that they are purchasing a quality system and that it will be professionally installed in their home. Many times, quality assurance takes precedence over cost with equipment that’s critical to a home.
- Reasonable Monthly Operating CostsThe monthly costs accrued with a new HVAC system is always a concern at the forefront of a homeowner’s mind. Typically, homeowners will take a significant amount of time to research and compare different HVAC systems. As a contractor, you will want to help them make a choice that leaves them satisfied. Oftentimes, this means helping them understand that when it comes to choosing a new system, you shouldn’t always go down the cheapest, “best deal” route.It’s important to help the customer consider whether the system delivers the best efficiency and service for what they are paying, and make sure that they feel comfortable with the price range. Be prepared to show them that while they may pay a higher upfront (or monthly) cost, any savings on energy costs may help balance out finances.
- Systems Provide Desired Air TemperatureA top priority of homeowners is ensuring that their purchased system provides comfort and produces an even temperature without any hot or cold spots in the home. Contractors should be prepared to help customers consider other less-commonly known factors as well, such as humidity control, air quality, and sound. Some of these factors may not have been initially considered but are important alongside the actual air temperature when it comes to matching personal comfort preferences.
- Purchase PriceThe cost for replacing an entire system can be expensive and homeowners may be hesitant before making a purchase. Some may choose to continue to pay for repairs, believing they are avoiding a large price tag of a new system. Contractors ought to be prepared to talk through some of these financial concerns with their customers and offer up information regarding energy savings, rebates, or financing options that may be available to them.
- HVAC Maintains Desired Temperature Throughout the HomeNot only are homeowners concerned about the quality of the air temperature, but they also want to make sure the same temperature consistently reaches the entire home year-round, no matter the season. Uneven temperatures leave homeowners living in discomfort in winter and summer, constantly adjusting their thermostat.
By preparing to answer your customers’ questions pertaining to these topics in advance, you can provide service that leads to better decisions and customer satisfaction, which ultimately leads to better business for your company.
Providing High Efficiency Systems That Customers Will Want to Buy
The demand for high efficiency central air conditioning systems in the U.S. can be segmented into several categories.
- One type of efficiency buyer is mostly interested in the financial/economic incentives and these consumers tend to come and go with the vagaries of government and utility based incentives.
- Another type of efficiency buyer tends to be influenced by either the current or anticipated future impact of energy costs and these consumers tend to come and go with fluctuations in various related and unrelated energy costs (e.g. electricity, oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc.).
- The third type of efficiency buyer tends to be influenced less by economic concerns and is more influenced by environmental, comfort and technology concerns. These high efficiency consumers tend to stay in the market irrespective of other factors but only to the point that the prices for high efficiency equipment are not too high. At very high price points, these consumers typically decide to invest in other products and services to meet their needs.
In summary, we believe the communication of all the benefits of higher efficiency systems is important to maximize their adoption. Communication should not be limited to only talking about energy savings or economic payback, but should always include the total benefits, such as environmental, technological and comfort considerations.
Emerson Climate Technologies, who sponsors this site, has identified a phenomenon related to what type of air conditioning equipment consumers “say” they would want to buy and what they actually buy as defined by industry statistics. Basically, Emerson’s research suggests that almost 70 percent of consumers polled indicate they would purchase premium systems based on the factors discussed above (economic payback, energy savings, comfort, etc.) but in reality only about 30 percent actually purchase these systems. Emerson has continued to research the reasons for this disparity and the initial findings suggest that while there are a number of factors affecting this decision, some of the major influencing elements are:
- The timing of the equipment replacement decision which limits the consumer’s ability to make good decisions (e.g. peak season failure), particularly if the homeowner had not planned for the financial investment for replacing the system
- The availability of basic information on all the factors which come to bear in their HVAC investment decisions, alternatives available, etc., leading to confusion and anxiety
- The effect of the poor state of the general economic recovery, high rates of unemployment and “underemployment” along with gloomy consumer expectations
- Skepticism about further investments in their homes due to lower real estate values and their ability to secure financing for home purchases and home improvements
Emerson believes continued consumer education programs focused on the above four areas is essential to a successful campaign to drive increased consumer adoption of higher efficiency central air conditioning systems.
In order to drive higher adoption of high efficiency systems, the industry should provide:
- Affordable alternatives to basic, minimum efficiency systems
- A “step change” in cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades that translates into quantifiable future cost savings
- Equipment that can provide a noticeable improvement in other factors such as comfort and indoor air quality along with effective communications which can explain “comfort” to consumers
- Some flexibility to zone off certain areas of the home – either manually or automatically without damaging their HVAC equipment
- Easy installation into existing homes with ducted central AC infrastructure (75percent of segment)
- Equipment that is sized to fit into the common space allowed for HVAC systems in existing homes
- The optional ability to tie into peak-load management and other connected system controls where regional requirements require it
As an industry, we should continue to promote the development of superior HVAC systems that truly meet the needs of consumers and then also (and maybe more importantly) develop effective ways to communicate and sell these systems and the benefits they can provide.