The economic downturn has presented many HVAC contractors with difficult business conditions. However, some have refused to sit and wait for things to improve; they continue to search for innovative ways to grow their businesses.
Princeton Air Conditioning, Princeton, NJ is one example of just such a company. To combat a decline in sales and employee reductions, this 39-year-old company added residential home performance contracting (HPC) to its slate of services.
President Scott Needham and CEO Joe Needham tell ContractingBusiness.com that HPC helped them transform their business, create new jobs, and grow significantly in a poor economy. In the first year of offering HPC, Princeton Air generated nearly $1.5 million in home performance sales.
“After the summer 2008 cooling season generated fewer sales than expected and we had to lay workers off, we knew we had to do something different and find new sources of revenue,” explains Scott Needham. “We had been hearing about a new industry called Home Performance Contracting and knew it was what we needed. We analyzed the market, found a leading provider to help, and then took a leap of faith and jumped in.”
Princeton Air established its residential HPC division in December 2008, with help from national HPC provider and franchisor GreenHomes America®. GreenHomes had a complete business model to help Princeton Air get up and running with HPC quickly. Within a few months, the new division proved to be a substantial revenue source for the company. It also began driving more business to its existing residential and commercial HVAC businesses.
The Home as an Integrated System. Home Performance Contracting is built on the principles of building science. It treats a house as a completely integrated system. Instead of focusing on a single home component to solve the most common comfort and energy issues, HPC considers how all components work together more efficiently to provide an optimal in-home environment.
HPC starts with a comprehensive home energy audit performed by a certified building analyst. Using advanced technology tools — including an infrared camera, blower door, manometer, and computerized modeling —the building analyst is able to accurately pinpoint the root sources of a home’s problems. The audit determines air leakage rates; measures the efficiency of cooling and heating systems; and determines the effectiveness of insulation, ducts, windows, doors, and more. In addition, all combustion equipment is tested for carbon monoxide levels and gas leaks. The audit also provides a complete energy usage footprint for the home.
The building analyst evaluates the results of the energy audit and recommends a customized solution that typically includes a combination of air and duct sealing, added wall and attic insulation, heating and cooling system tune-up or replacement, window and door replacement, and new lighting or appliances.
Once the recommended solution is chosen by the customer, installation crews retrofit the home. When complete, the home energy audit is performed again to ensure all issues are fixed and the project is successful. Typically, homeowners feel more comfortable right away and the house is guaranteed to use 25% less energy.
With help from GreenHomes, Princeton began running home energy audits early in 2009. The demand was so high they had to hire a second advisor within a few months. Today, they have three full-time advisors quoting over 15 jobs per week and three full-time installation crews. They plan to hire a fourth advisor and fourth installation crew to meet the growing demand.