Make Your Competition Green With Envy

Make Your Competition Green With Envy

Employees of Stark's Inc. cut the ribbon on Green By Design.

A display at Green By Design shows Honeywell controls and zoning options that help reduce energy consumption.


There are many enviromentally friendly products entering into the HVAC market that are designed for efficiency, comfort, and healthy living — and homeowners are jumping on board. Your customers are more aware than ever before of the need for energy savings, and of these "green" technologies available to them.

As an HVAC contractor, you don't want to miss this opportunity to join the green movement — to one more way you can differentiate yourself from the competition in offering your customers a sustainable total comfort package.

LEED for Homes
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings' performance. It promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

No longer, though, is LEED just for commercial buildings — the green building movement is finding its way into homes. Recently, the U.S. Green Building Council has recognized this need, developing LEED for Homes, a voluntary rating system that promotes the design and construction of high performance "green" homes.

Similar to the commercial green movement, a green home uses less energy, water, and natural resources; creates less waste; and is healthier and more comfortable for the occupants than non-green homes.

Benefits of a green home include lower energy and water bills; reduced greenhouse gas emissions; and less exposure to mold, mildew and other indoor toxins than non-green homes. These are all sellable benefits that your customers will be clamoring for, if only they knew about them. That's where you come in.

Educate Your Customers
One company that has embraced the green movement full-force is Stark's Plumbing and Heating, Bryan, OH. In April, Stark's launched a new division of its business in Bowling Green, OH, called Green By Design, serving the metro-Toledo area.

The Green by Design showroom serves as a retail and educational source for homeowners and professionals in the building trade, offering sales, service, and installation of eco-friendly equipment, as well as ideas and technical advice.

"The whole focus of our intent is to promote green, healthy lifestyles," says company president Shawn Stark. "We have always encouraged only the best in efficient products and methods, so going green is a logical progression for our company."

Conservation is a key element of what Green By Design is looking to accomplish. The goal of the showroom is to show commercial and residential customers how to create efficiency, comfort, and healthy living for both occupants and the environment.

Stark also believes that in order to really show customers the positive effects of having a green building, Green By Design has to practice what it preaches.

The showroom itself is primarily illuminated with natural light and heated and cooled with efficient equipment. Eco-friendly materials were used throughout the renovation process, and others are on display.

"We've created an enviroment where customers can come in, relax, and learn about all of the green products available to them," Stark says. "It's not a heavy retail sales atmosphere — if someone wants to come in and have a cup of coffee while they look at some of the products and leaf through our educational materials, they can do so without an overbearing sales pitch from us.

"However, we're here to answer any questions they have." Green By Design offers a wide variety of high-efficiency Lennox products, but the company didn't stop there with its HVAC offerings. Also offered are geothermal products, radiant products, and controls.

"Customers are really embracing the green movement and they're excited about it," Stark says. "It's exciting to see what we've envisioned for five years come together."

Ahead of the Competition
Stark's Plumbing and Heating, and Green By Design, believes in LEED for Homes. The company is well on its way to becoming LEED certified, because Stark believes it's an advantage that will set them apart from their competition.

They also believe it's the right thing to do.

LEED certification recognizes and rewards builders for meeting the highest performance standards, and gives homeowners confidence that their home is durable, healthy, and environmentally friendly.

The USGBC began the pilot test of LEED for Homes in August 2005. As of May 2007, about 375 builders representing 6,000 homes across the U.S. are participating in the pilot program, and more than 200 homes have been LEED certified. The pilot test will conclude in Fall 2007, and USGBC will launch the LEED for Homes rating system at that time.

Green homes are the next big thing, and the HVAC industry is in a unique position of driving this movement.

You can offer high-efficiency equipment. You can offer ecofriendly refrigerants. And you can offer your customers the piece of mind that they can save money — and the environment.

Here are some tips you can share with your customers on ways they can "green" their homes:
Program the thermostat — Programmable thermostats allow them to reduce output when they're not needed, and can reduce energy bills by $100 per year or more.

Plug air leaks — This simple step can go a long way toward keeping the home at the desired temperature, saving money on heating and air conditioning bills.

Tune Up the HVAC system — Having a checkup for the HVAC system every two years makes sure it's running efficiently.

Choose Energy Star Appliances — Energy Star qualified products meet a high level of energy efficiency, which can translate into savings on electric bills.

Reduce water use — Use less water by adding aerators to sink faucets and changing to low-flow showerheads.

Buy local — Buying local produce reduces the amount of fossil fuels required for the transportation of products from other parts of the country or the world.

Use low-VOC products — Improve indoor air quality by switching to products that don't give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

For additional energy-saving tips, visit the U.S. Green Building Council's website at www.usgbc.org

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