An important sea-change has occurred in the way consumers gather information about their impending purchase of an new HVAC system. For the first time, more consumers in Decision Analyst’s American Home Comfort Study reported using the Internet to gather information about their new HVAC system purchase than reported getting that information from their contractor.
In 2016, more than half of homeowners surveyed said they used the Internet as a source of information before their recent purchase of a central HVAC system, while less than half said they relied on their HVAC contractor’s recommendation.
In 2016, more than half of homeowners surveyed said they used the Internet as a source of information before their recent purchase of a central HVAC system, while less than half said they relied on their HVAC contractor’s recommendation. These sources of information were utilized equally in the 2013 edition of the American Home Comfort Study, and prior to that, the contractor was the unequivocal primary source of information for consumers.
“While some HVAC contractors are building a consultative business, too many have given away an important opportunity: their professional knowledge-based relationship with their homeowner customer,” said Garry Upton, a leading market researcher in the HVAC field.
Homeowners’ expanded reliance on the Internet as a source of information in part highlights a weakness in the current business model of too many contractors. Instead of spending time with the homeowner, sharing information about their HVAC systems and becoming their personal home-comfort expert, the technician is more focused on fixing what’s broken and getting on to the next call as soon as possible. In response, consumers are turning to other sources of information about their HVAC system choices, such as manufacturers’ websites.
HVAC manufacturers’ Internet focus is paying off. More than half (58%) of consumers who used the Internet to research their purchase visited an HVAC manufacturer’s website to obtain information about their purchase. Manufacturer websites were cited as the most-often used source of information for these consumers, followed by articles and information found via a search engine (46%), and free Internet review boards (32%). Contractors’ websites were viewed less often, as only (30%) of homeowners included a local contractor site in their online search.
Homeowners choosing the brand of HVAC equipment before deciding on the contractor comprise a growing segment of the consumer HVAC market, increasing from 25% in 2013 to 29% in 2016. More than three-quarters (77%) of consumers who decided on the brand they wanted to purchase before choosing the installing contractor used the Internet to research their purchase, while less than one-third (31%) who decided on brand first included the contractor in their information search.