Home Performance: Lessons from 1995

As long as you agree with the solutions, there’s no reason to not take advantage of the incentives and programs out there. Just make sure you do what’s right for your customers, first and foremost, and that it fits into your company’s goals.

Unless you’ve been living on a deserted island, you’ve probably been inundated with messages about how home performance is the next big thing for HVAC companies. For the most part this is accurate.

However, there’s a growing amount of misleading advice stemming from the agendas of different stakeholders who are justifiably trying to further their goals, whether they’re social, political, or financial.

It’s important to explore technologies that can help you provide quality home performance services. Also, as long as you agree with the solutions, there’s no reason to not take advantage of the incentives and programs out there. Just make sure you do what’s right for your customers, first and foremost, and that it fits into your company’s goals. Beware of vendors with whiz-bang solutions in the form of fix-all products that promise overnight success. They usually are too good to be true.

A History Lesson
For those who were in the HVAC business 20 years ago, this may seem like déjà-vu. Back around 1995, the industry was abuzz with talk of the gold mine in home performance. Hundreds, if not thousands of blower doors were sold with the promise of big money by putting on dog-and-pony shows for customers demonstrating how leaky their homes were.
For many HVAC contractors, most of those instruments ended up in closets collecting dust once the newness wore off and customers were no longer impressed by the four-hour science project. In fact, many customers were getting annoyed with what started to feel like the vacuum-cleaner sales scams of the 1980s, where the salesman wouldn’t leave until the customer said yes.

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There’s nothing wrong with the science. Most of the principles are sound, although back then some approaches weren’t fully developed to speed up the evaluation process. That’s normal with any emerging technology. The problem was the all-or-nothing approach of being taught to fix every leak, no matter how small, and to do whatever it takes to make the home airtight and as energy efficient as possible.

Where Did The Wheels Fall Off?
What most contractors who were jumping into home performance missed back then was not paying enough attention to addressing the biggest energy waster in the home: the HVAC system. I’m not talking about just slapping in high efficiency boxes. In fact that was, and still remains, the biggest problem today. Our industry installs good high-efficiency equipment on air distribution systems that are so bad that customers often get little to no savings from their investment. The reasons point right back to air distribution systems that will never work right until properly renovated.

So here we are, nearly two decades later, and although the technologies have improved, much of the industry seems doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. There is still a pervasive “all or nothing” mentality with not enough focus on the real solutions.

The Answer Is Knowledge
In the final analysis there’s truly only one answer: KNOWLEDGE.

The best tool for the HVAC professional interested in building a business that helps homeowners solve their safety, health, comfort, and energy efficiency problems is a thorough knowledge of the entire house and its HVAC system. This leads to an integrated approach that looks at the many components and dynamics affecting overall performance in each of these four areas.

The service companies to emerge as winners will be those that embrace the fact that their technicians and comfort advisors must improve their overall knowledge so they can be truly part of the solution rather than the problem.

A well-trained professional should look at the entire picture and understand the causes and effects of the numerous defects that plague most homes in North America. Armed with that knowledge they can then prioritize which solutions will give the customer the biggest bang for the buck without taking an all-or-nothing approach.

Therein lies the biggest opportunity to differentiate your company in this increasingly crowded space. Become the consummate knowledge expert and advisor to your customers, always keeping their best interests foremost in mind.
When you take this approach, then your path will become crystal clear and you’ll know what to do in each situation. The biggest challenge will be getting all of your people thinking this way. But once you do, you will become unstoppable in your marketplace, leaving the posers and box changers in your dust.  

Dominick Guarino is CEO of National Comfort Institute (NCI), (www.nationalcomfortinstitute.com), the nation’s premier Performance-BasedTM training, certification, and membership organization, focused on helping contractors grow and become more profitable. His email is [email protected] For more info on Performance-Based ContractingTM go to WhyPBC.com or call NCI at 800/633-7058.

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