Thursday, December 21st, 2017 by Marc Tannenbaum
Over the past several years, HVAC contractors have been enticed to enter the Home Performance industry. This push has come from industry gurus, franchisors, product manufacturers and service providers (this writer is included), various certification organizations, energy utilities and even the Department of Energy. The availability of government and utility-funded rebates also made Home Performance attractive to contractors looking to make it easier for their customers to make investments in fixing the envelope of their home.
While this push has been made with all good intentions, it has been met with limited acceptance throughout the HVAC community. Several heating and cooling contractors have successfully added products and services designed to improve the envelope of the home to their service offerings. However, not many have made the transition from a HVAC company that offers air sealing and insulation services to a Home Performance contractor that offers home heating and cooling improvements among a broader list of home services designed to deliver a complete comfort solution.
So why aren’t more HVAC contractors involved in Home Performance? I believe those of us exhorting HVAC companies to take on Home Performance made a mistake. We made it too complex and overly difficult. We insisted that everyone get certified in building science and take advantage of rebates. There were too many products to learn to sell and install. It just became easier for the typical HVAC contractor to add plumbing or electrical services to their customers, instead of jumping into the Home Performance business.
With that said, I do still believe that air sealing and insulating, especially attic floors, duct systems in attics and rim joists are necessary home improvements HVAC contractors should offer to deliver a complete solution to comfort problems your customers are experiencing. Here’s why:
Even after you have installed higher efficiency, properly sized equipment in their homes, many of you still experience callbacks from customers because they have rooms and homes that remain too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. This can be happening because the thermal and air boundary between the attic and conditioned space is not intact, not aligned and not sufficient to keep warm air inside the home in the winter and hot air from the attic penetrating the living space in the summer. The home is experiencing higher heating loads in winter and cooling leads in summer because heat is moving across the attic floor to and from the living area.
Any air leaking out of the home and into the attic in wintertime must be replaced with cold air leaking into the home through gaps and cracks at the bottom of the home (rim joists). This air must be heated. This contributes to heating systems to run longer than they need to and higher heating fuel or electric bills.
Ducts in attics that can be 130˚ or hotter in summer act as reheating lines as the cold air homeowners paid to cool gains heat from the very hot attic as the air moves through the ducts. The opposite happens in winter. Ducts act as re-chilling lines. The air loses heat to the cold attics as it moves through poorly insulated duct systems to the conditioned parts of the home, making it difficult to deliver overall comfort year round.
Duct systems are designed to produce and distribute a certain amount and temperature of air to heat and cool the home. Unfortunately, a large percentage of that air is lost along the way due to duct leakage.
All these issues contribute to the level of comfort your customers ultimately experience in their homes.
Simply put, HVAC contractors can do a much better job of offering and installing complete comfort solutions by adding attic air sealing and insulation, duct sealing and insulation and rim joist sealing on their replacement installations. Not only will your customers thank you for providing a thorough solution, you can add $5,000, or more, of high margin work to your jobs!
You don’t need to be a certified Home Performance contractor to do this, nor do you need utility rebates. You do need sales people that can explain and demonstrate to homeowners why and how these problems contribute to overall home comfort. You will need to make a small investment in equipment to install the work. You do need systems and processes to make this a regular part of your product and service offerings. And you do need ongoing training to stay at the top of your game.
And here’s the bottom line. Because they remain too hot in summer or too cold in winter, your customers are going on the internet today to research, find and hire contractors to add batts or blown-in insulation in their attics. Most of these “blow-and-go” contractors don’t air seal and certainly don’t understand duct systems and do a grave disservice to your customers.
So, why aren’t you offering air sealing and insulation services to your customers?