The trend toward greener living and the emphasis on energy and sustainability isn’t going away. Businesses and residential consumers are increasingly interested in “going green.” They are seeking ways to decrease their carbon footprints and save money. Over the past few years, the trend has turned toward the HVACR industry and it’s part in greener building design and energy efficiency. Numerous studies show that improving the indoor air quality (IAQ) will lead to higher worker productivity and better overall health.
However, consumers may want “green” but many don’t know what “green” means, or what it involves. Becoming a green contractor, in many ways, is a change in business strategy. You have to transform yourself into a green consultant and take the lead in educating your customers about energy efficient systems and their value.
One of the biggest obstacles to green contracting practices is knowledge. (Find more resourcces for educating yourself here.) You have to make the time and exert the effort to research new products and methods so that you can then educate your customers on what’s available and how you can help them reach their goals. But there are also smaller steps you can take now toward how you deliver your current message to your customer base. One competitive edge a HVACR company can easily employ today is green marketing.
Few contractors realize that they are already reasonably green simply because they’re following federal mandates, such as recycling instead of venting refrigerants and requiring service technicians to become EPA-certified.
With the addition of voluntary services such as retrofitting CFC and HCFC AC/R systems to more efficient and environmentally friendly HFC systems and offering customers efficiency increasing products, the average HVAC/R contractor looks pretty green.
However, these green efforts are rarely promoted. In fact, some type of attribution to the green movement might be all that’s needed for a consumer to choose one company over another.
Clean coils, for example, can improve efficiency by 10 percent or more when considering the big improvement upon amperage draw caused by negating poorly conductive dirty coils. So instead of telling the public “We clean coils,” why not spin it a different way such as, “Our green service package will increase efficiency and cut your energy costs!”
Contractors can also incorporate additional voluntary green practices and then promote them. For example in R-22 to R-410A retrofitting, service techs have a choice between old school toxic flushes or green biodegradable flushes. Let your customers know if you can provide the alternative green solution and explain it to them.
Keeping a logbook of each customer’s refrigerant usage is a good practice regardless of green marketing strategies. An excessive refrigerant charging history is better displayed in a logbook and can help a customer see the need for retrofitting to newer, more efficient units that use today’s non-ozone depleting refrigerants. Once again this can be portrayed as part of a contractor’s “green service package.”
Another way of promoting green is telling customers in a 3 x 5-inch note on medium-heavy green-colored, recycled paper card stock. The card is perfect for stuffing into an envelope to accompany service call billings, attach to contracts for bids, and generally just to hand out. Here’s what the title and bullet points might look like:
“We’re Green…and Here’s Why.”
- Recycle & manage refrigerants
- Use environmental refrigerants
- Service Techs are EPA-Certified
- Install High SEER Equipment
- Maintain equipment to highest efficiency
- Energy management consultation
Maybe these bullet points should be listed on the opposite side of a business card, which is typically left blank.
Besides a promotion card, other items can exhibit a company’s quest for green as well, such as invoices, letterhead, and the business entry door.
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to market a company as green is telling the local radio, TV and print media. Newspapers, for example, accept press releases announcing anything newsworthy from any legitimate company and publish them free. Announcing that employees have become EPA-certified or an HVACR company has recently added a new energy management division will get an editor’s attention.
A newspaper editor might also be interested in having a contractor write a single or periodical bylined column in the home section on how homeowners can increase efficiency and IAQ with their current HVACR units by adding 7-day thermostats, electronic filters, new components, coil cleaning, etc.
Keep in mind that service quality and image are king in a technical industry serving customers who often have no idea what you are doing. If the choice must be made between two service contractors offering fairly equal quality and workmanship, the company sporting a green image is probably going to have an advantage against its competitor.
Environmentally friendly service techniques don’t just save the environment – they save your customers money. Make sure you also stress the added value of a contractor’s add-on green services somewhere in your advertising/branding. Even those customers that don’t appreciate “green” should be able to understand that many green efforts actually help preserve the life of their equipment and cut energy consumption, which saves money in the long run.
Ross Soyka is currently the director of marketing for the HVAC/R products division of Mainstream Engineering, Rockledge, FL.