The Trifecta of HVAC Maintenance and Prevention
Written by Steve Mores
Contractors know that in the summer and winter we can make really good money by fixing and replacing heating and air conditioning systems. You also know that if you aren’t really careful, you can give back all of your profits in the spring and fall when the phones aren’t ringing. That is why maintenance agreements are just as important as “the air we breathe”. It’s the lifeblood of your company, which also gives you more opportunities to promote IAQ products and other accessories on every call! Though, some contractors may not have their company protected with enough maintenance agreements to keep them profitable through the slower times of the year. We hear statements like, “I just can’t get my technicians to offer them on every call” or “My guys offer them but a lot of people just don’t want them.” We hear the same with IAQ offerings as well.
Over the years, maintenance has been devalued by cheap advertised offers. Originally, very smart contractors used this marketing strategy to offer proper maintenance at a reduced cost. This was meant to be a onetime offer to the homeowner so they could see how proper maintenance is done and for the contractor to have an opportunity to upsell accessories. Then the technician presented all of the additional advantages and benefits of being a regular maintenance client. Now enters the “Me Too” contractor that learns just how successful this marketing strategy is, and they decide to do it for a cheaper price! Then because the homeowner sees these low priced advertisements everywhere, maintenance agreements lose their value. What the homeowner doesn’t know is in order for contractors to offer a cheap maintenance agreement, they have to make major cuts to proper maintenance so they don’t lose their shirt!
It’s not really what you say, it’s how you say it. The question we should be asking as contractors is, “Is our message for maintenance agreements being delivered correctly?” You can make that message very clear by effectively using 3rd party documentation that validates the need for proper maintenance and what it costs them if it’s not done correctly.
One such document is a joint study that was conducted by Louisiana State University and Gulf State Utility Company. Their research determined that the average unmaintained system would use 13.6 more kw per day, which is an average of 9,520 lost BTU’s, while their system would run on average 1.7 hours more per day. Once a homeowner understands this, they will see that a maintenance agreement pays for itself by reducing overpayments to the utility company while offering other benefits as well. When you add up all of the additional kilowatts or therms being used with a typical unmaintained system, a maintenance agreement becomes an investment and not an expense.
By empowering your people with 3rd party documentation that validates the importance of proper maintenance, your client will understand that they can’t afford to not have a maintenance agreement.
The same thing goes for IAQ products. While scientifically designed and properly installed IAQ products installed can relieve asthma and allergy symptoms, it’s not the only thing that they prevent. IAQ products should also be promoted as preventive maintenance solutions. This can also be backed by 3rd party documentation. The EPA states that a buildup of just 1/20 of an inch of dust on a cooling coil will reduce its efficiency by 21%. Prism Engineering Ltd. in British Columbia conducted tests on dirty vs. clean coils and reported that a buildup of .25 millimeters reduces efficiency by 20%. In the average household, that can be an average savings of $420 per year. There is an identifiable payback on investment here. Properly designed and installed IAQ products will keep the system running clean between maintenances, and give the homeowner the efficiency that they paid for when the system was first installed.
When we explain and promote this reality during trainings, we have had technicians ask, “Well, if we are doing a thorough cleaning and maintenance every six months, why do we need IAQ products for this purpose?” A simple analogy can help here. We simply ask the technician, “How often do you go to the dentist?” The common answer is every six months since that is dentist recommended. So when you go for your six-month dental checkup, they do a thorough examination and deep cleaning of your teeth. The follow-up question then is, “Do you ever brush your teeth between dental checkups?” Well, the answer is obvious and that’s what IAQ products do every day. They keep the system maintained and healthy between maintenances!
There is also a third aspect of efficiency that most contractors don’t even discuss with the homeowner, which is what to do with the energy that remains in a heat exchanger or cooling coil after the call for heating or cooling. Most contractors don’t discuss this because they think that it is already being handled completely with set fan time delays on an HVAC system. Most HVAC systems come set from the factory with a 30-second time delay after the cooling cycle and a 90-second time delay after the heating cycle. That can be changed during installation, yet what time would you change it to and why? Through a study conducted, Southern California Edison Design and Engineering Services found that there is up to four minutes of remaining energy in a heat exchanger or cooling coil after the call. And this time will vary depending on run time. Their study concluded that the most efficient way to get all the remaining energy back in the house where it belongs is by using a variable time delay that is designed to use temperature sensor data to determine the optimum time to run the fan after the call and not a set time delay. The InteliFan variable time delay meets this requirement, was validated by this Southern California Edison study, and can add up to a 17% savings on energy cost.
In horse racing, a bet in which the person betting forecasts the first three finishers in a race in the correct order is called a Trifecta. The Trifecta of HVAC maintenance and prevention is to promote maintenance, IAQ, and fan delays, not as separate concepts, rather as an all-inclusive package:
- Perform top-notch regular routine maintenance to bring the system to factory-fresh condition and performance.
- Install IAQ products to keep the system running at peak efficiency between maintenance with the added health benefits of cleaner, fresher, and healthier air.
- Intelligent fan time delays AFTER the call for heating or cooling to optimize the remaining energy left in the system and get it into the home to extend the time between heating and cooling cycles.
The Trifecta is a safe bet for optimum performance of an HVAC system. This huge benefit for the homeowner has their system run at peak efficiency, prevent unnecessary premature breakdowns, and extend the life of the system.
You and your customers will win and cash in on the Trifecta of HVAC maintenance and prevention!
Steve Mores is the Vice President of Residential Sales and Training at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.
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