Hero
David Richardson/NCI
Interior Hvac Diagram
David Richardson/NCI
If you know what to look for, a visual inspection provides clues to unsafe operation. It's never good for one package unit to exhaust into the economizer of an adjacent unit.
National Comfort Institute
Before you jump on the heat pump bashing bandwagon, look at your duct installation practices first.
Contracting Business/Kelly L Faloon
Ahr2023 Succession
BanksPhotos/iStock/Getty
New Curved Duct 60d5d26e099be

How to Charge More for Your Duct Systems

June 25, 2021
Renovating deficient existing duct systems along with equipment replacement is an additional source of highly profitable work with little competition.

Your first thought may be, "Service companies don't sell duct systems! Only new construction companies deal with them." If so, think again. Service companies that renovate existing duct systems along with equipment replacement have found an additional source of highly profitable work with little competition.

Most importantly, almost every duct system needs upgrades so new equipment can operate within manufacturer specifications. As soon as customers understand their lack of comfort and high utility bills result from poorly operating duct systems, they want to learn more.

 When they connect that new equipment alone cannot resolve their problems, they will pay more to get what they've wanted all along.

Mobile Phones and Ducts

Your mobile phone doesn't work very well without good reception. The weaker the signal, the choppier the call, the slower the download, and the more videos freeze up. 

Duct renovation has no fixed price. Few offer it, and every job is customized for the customer. This is prime criteria for a profitable service that your customers will pay more for. 

Think of air handling equipment like the mobile phone and ductwork as the signal. Ducts broadcast conditioned air into the building. The equipment can work just fine, but the system is substandard unless the duct system carries the air where it needs to go.

On how many bars is your HVAC system running? Does it freeze up occasionally?

Most Service Companies…

Many service companies focus their replacement sales on the strength of the equipment they carry. A typical sale assumes equipment is so superior that it can overcome any issues the duct system may cause. 

There are a lot of assumptions made with this approach. First, it assumes the duct system was perfectly installed when it was new. Second, another assumption is that duct systems do not deteriorate over time. And a third assumption is that every room has been comfortable from day one. 

Most service companies perceive ducts as a necessary evil. They believe there's no money in duct upgrades and that customers only want new equipment to get the heating or cooling turned back on.    

A Few Service Companies…

Progressive service companies understand that HVAC equipment has become a commodity offered at the lowest price by their competitors. However, experience taught them that spending time to consider more than the equipment changes the sales conversation. The resulting discussion sets them apart from other companies that offer only equipment replacement.

When it's time to replace equipment, most customers want more than just the air turned back on. For once, their full attention is on their heating and cooling system. At that moment, they're open to new ideas.

Progressive HVAC service companies have learned that spending time to consider more than the equipment changes the sales conversation. 

Once a customer knows the duct system controls how the equipment works, their equipment replacement decision changes. 

Customers begin to see companies that offer equipment replacement only as scam artists looking for a quick sale. They view them as quick-fix companies unwilling or unable to solve real problems. It becomes evident to customers that they'll get stuck with a sloppy system and marginal comfort for the next decade.

How to Charge More for Ducts

Sound business principles dictate that to get more, you must give more. Your success depends on your ability to assure what you provide has a far greater value to your customers than it costs you. 

The key to charging more for your duct services is to help your customer see the value in their ducts. It is surprisingly easy to do because many of your customers don't think about their ducts and what they do.

The mobile phone example can help many customers understand the importance of their ducts. Other examples you can use include electric power transmission lines or a car transmission. 

Also, duct renovation has no fixed price. Few offer it, and every job is customized for the customer. This is prime criteria for a profitable service that your customers will pay more for. 

Duct renovation is not a commodity like most products in our industry. So set your price accordingly. 

Assess The Duct System

People will see right through your fast talk if you claim their duct system is garbage without first testing it.

Many salespeople invite customers to join them as they perform a few simple tests. This activity may include inspecting duct fittings near the equipment. It's surprising how few owners have looked at their ducts before. You can also check whether ductwork is sized right, leaking, pinched off, or belongs in a junkyard. 

A duct static pressure test consists of two one-minute measurements. You compare each pressure reading to a maximum allowable duct pressure and immediately reveal the duct system's resistance to airflow.

A duct static pressure test consists of two one-minute measurements. You compare each pressure reading to a maximum allowable duct pressure and immediately reveal the duct system's resistance to airflow. Static pressure tests also assess duct installation conditions. Email me for a free test procedure (ncilink.com/ContactMe). Customers easily understand these test results,  too. 

Often these initial duct surveys uncover more extensive issues. When this happens, an agreement is made for additional in-depth testing and diagnostics. A cost is agreed to, and the work is authorized. Companies send a trained and certified technician to identify what the system needs to meet equipment and design specifications. 

Customers who are willing to participate in duct system assessment and pay for additional testing are often eager to get more. They want assurance of a better system.

Bigger Ducts

Ongoing field testing continually confirms many duct systems are undersized and restrictive.

Everyone knows that bigger is better but bigger costs more. So compared to traditional duct design, companies that offer duct renovation install larger ducts. Customers readily embrace this idea because it makes sense to them. 

In addition to bigger ducts, additional services build the value of duct system upgrades. Other upgrades typically included register and grille upgrades, increased duct insulation, improved duct materials, and additional suspension. 

Prove It! 

I grew up with cousins on the other side of Falke Street. My cousin Jeff Falke had a favorite comeback; he'd constantly challenge me to "Prove it!"  

You can charge more for a better duct system when you "prove it." You can show you gave your customer what you promised when you complete an equipment replacement job with duct renovation. 

A simple report documents that airflow, static pressure, temperatures, and equipment performance are within specifications, and the job is done right. 

Adding duct renovation to equipment replacements remains a relatively fresh frontier in our industry. If you're new to duct upgrades, I encourage you to look at your next duct system and consider if only replacing equipment is the right thing to do. 

Rob "Doc" Falke serves as the industry president of National Comfort Institute, Inc., an HVAC-based training company and membership organization. If you're an HVAC professional interested in a free procedure to measure and diagnose duct system pressures, contact Doc at ncilink.com/ContactMe or call him at 800-633-7058. Also, go to NCI's website at nationalcomfortinstitute.com for free information, articles, downloads, and current training opportunities.

About the Author

Rob 'Doc' Falke | President

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 building pressure measurement procedure, contact Doc at [email protected]  or call him at 800-633-7058. Go to NCI’s website at NationalComfortInstitute.com for free information, articles and downloads.