Malcolm Persaud — Manager of Panasonic’s Commercial VRF ECOi ™ business in the U.S.— was in a good mood when we spoke recently. He had recently returned from a business trip, a prospsecting expedition, if you will — that included meeting with commercial contractors in a rural region of the southern United States. These contractors install chilled water systems almost exclusively.
“Initially, we could not find a contractor that was interested in VRF,” Persaud says. “Many contractors in that region have been in business for 30 or 40 years, and have never installed a VRF system.
“But guess what happened: the contractors we spoke with said they want to get a leg up on the other contractors in the area. We explained VRF, and they agreed that it could be another tool in the toolbox. They could now offer multi-zone, mini-splits, VRF, and it gives them something else to take to customers for their commercial buildings. That also presents us with an opportunity to market free training for those who have not come across VRF in the past.”
Persaud said meeting with those new converts to VRF was an eye-opener in another way: new product adoption is not always a one-way street.
“I think it’s foolhardy for a manufacturer to expect contractors to look for new technology wholly on their own,” he said. “It is also incumbent on manufacturers to reach out to those contractors that have been making a decent living for years and years with other systems, to tell them, ‘VRF is growing by leaps and bounds, would you like to learn more about it? If you add it to your toolbox you will have it when you need it.’”
Allan Dziwoki, division vice president and general manager, HVAC, Panasonic Appliances Air-Conditioning North America, spoke with Contracting Business during the 2018 AHR Expo, and expressed similar advice for contractors who are looking into VRF.
“Consider how ductless and VRF solutions fit into a contractor's existing portfolio of products. This is the biggest challenge we see, and our mission is to educate the contractor on how and why to focus more on these technologies to improve their profitability,” Dziwoki said.
Watch the Shippensburg University project video on Youtube, HERE.