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How Your Customer Decides to Buy an HVAC System

Based on his discussions with inquiring consumers, National Comfort Institute's Rob 'Doc' Falke shares several surprising steps many of your customers take as they decide to buy a new HVAC system.

I’ve had a rash of calls and emails recently from homeowners wrestling with the decision to purchase a new HVAC system. They call me after reading an online article to get some background information before contacting many of you. I believe they tell me things they may not discuss with you. Let’s take a look at several surprising steps many of your customers take as they decide to buy a new HVAC system.

Customers Don't Know
Most of your customers are barely aware they own this thing called a condensing unit. Ducts are often referred to as pipes or hoses. They think more about the thermostat and registers, because that’s what they see.

Many admit to me they have not looked at their furnace in 10 years. The most common denominator among them is someone told them it’s time for new equipment.

I have felt more than once that they talk to me, to practice what to say to you.

Typical questions asked include:

  • How do I find a contractor I can trust?
  • How many tons do we need?
  • What brand of equipment do you trust the most? Is that brand expensive?
  • How much should I pay for a replacement system?
  • Can I run this thing from my smartphone?
  • I’ve got hot and cold rooms, how is that fixed?
  • How much will this lower my utility bills?

I find that these questions are often just filler. Many customers struggle to understand the steps needed to assure they make the right decision. For many, this is one of the biggest financial decisions they may ever make. It scares them to death. They have no idea what they should be talking about, or what to expect.

Some of us are good at sifting through irrelevant Internet information. However, many of your customers don’t have a clue about what is relevant or not when it comes to their HVAC system.

As David Richardson often reminds me; “What we do in the HVAC industry, isn’t that simple.” Our trade is extremely complex. If you’re not careful, you may assume your customer understands their role in the transaction, and you can lose them. Be sure to lead them through the process. Remain aware that your full attention is required to keep them at ease and informed during your visit.

Customers Search the Internet
If you are approaching a major purchase in the near future, the internet is most likely the first place you would turn to, right? Your customers use the same source.

Some of us are good at sifting through irrelevant Internet information. However, many of your customers don’t have a clue about what is relevant or not when it comes to their HVAC system.

Understanding this dilemma allows you to carefully inquire about what they learn online. Often, consumers are infatuated by a website that captured their imagination with a shiny accessory claiming all sorts of comfort and energy savings. Unless you can explain the reasons that product is or isn’t for them, you may be dismissed.

Customers Look at YouTube
Most of your customers have no idea what you’re going to do to their house or their systems. You can YouTube anything to get an overview of what’s involved. A quick search found more than 20 videos on HVAC equipment installation.

The information gleaned from these quickie videos is difficult to assess. Was what your customer took away from the video beneficial or harmful? Either way, a few questions about what they learned allows you to clear up any negative information, or reinforce helpful knowledge gained.

Loving One System Feature
Due to enticing marketing campaigns, your customers may fall in love with a new thermostat, a zoning system, a refrigerant additive, a super restrictive filter, or an Indoor Air Quality product. Your job is to learn what they believe they want, and then support the good decisions, and divert the bad accessories.

The challenge is to be familiar enough with the products on the market so you can provide valuable counsel, and advise the consumer correctly.

It's All About Comfort and No Worries
Your customer has an HVAC system to keep them comfortable. If you’re not careful, and miss that basic point, you’ll be in left field, facing the fence, during the interview and you’ll miss the catch.


Customers assume comfort is automatic. Any visit to a manufacturer’s website promises their box heats and cools better that all the others. Just plug it in and it will do the job.

Unless you take the time to dispel that notion, you’re stuck in a place of equipment being a low-priced commodity. Nobody wins that game, especially you and your customer. It’s the distribution system that determines comfort. Equipment only produces the conditioned air and moves it through the duct system. Comfort requires control within the equipment specifications to be long-term worry free.

Efficiency Isn’t the Decision Maker
A very small percent of your customers purchase HVAC systems based on efficiency alone. Energy efficiency is only a byproduct that helps to justify the final purchase decision. It’s nice to have, but rarely the main reason for customers buy.

I received a post card from my utility provider last week showing the dollars I could save if I would just adjust my thermostat to 80 degrees. I’m sure they paid big bucks to send that postcard to their customers because research showed energy savings would follow. But it wasn’t working at my house.

Energy savings is desirable, but is usually way down the ladder of priorities. If your customer really wants it, you better find out, and be certain to include it in your proposal.

You Are What They Buy
Be sure to show up on time, be prepared, and smell good. Do this and you’ll make it to first base.

If you listen carefully and consistently show your customer you have their best interest at heart (not your own interests) you’ll hit a double.

By sincerely asking relevant, honest questions, and by doing your best to provide what your customer really wants, you’ll make it to third base.

By showing integrity and building good old fashion trust by how you treat your customers, you build a relationship. That is always a home run.

If you’ll remain aware of some of the principles discussed here, your customers will buy from you because you are what they are buying.

Rob “Doc” Falke serves the industry as president of National Comfort Institute, an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC contractor or technician interested in a technical test procedure you can use as you offer new systems, contact Doc at [email protected] or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at for free information, articles, and downloads.


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