In my March column, I told you about an upbeat assessment of the future of the HVACR industry in a report released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (see “HVACR Contractors Help Drive Remodeling Rebound,” March 2011, www.hvacrbusiness.com.) This month we received more good news.
According to a survey conducted by Kudzu.com, the highly popular home-improvement website, more than 60% of homeowners are planning to hire a home-service professional in the next year, and HVACR contractors are among the most likely to be hired.
Twenty-nine percent of respondents who are planning to hire a home-service professional will hire a heating-and-cooling expert, placing HVACR professionals among the most sought-after providers. Only carpet cleaners (37%), handymen (37%), and house cleaners (31%) will be in higher demand.
“Heating and cooling systems are going to get a lot of attention from homeowners,” said Rhonda Hills, Kudzu.com vice president and chief marketing officer. “Consumers are savvy and know well-maintained systems last longer, and new systems can pay for themselves with the energy they save. Now that homeowners are willing to spend on home-related projects, it’s no surprise that air conditioners and furnaces are going to be top priorities.”
The brands being considered most often by those surveyed were Trane (41%), Carrier (38%), Lennox (30%), and Rheem (20%). (Respondents were allowed to choose multiple brands.)
Of study participants, 36% are undecided on the brands they will consider.
“While consumers are considering a number of different brands, nearly 40% don’t know which brands to choose,” Hills said. “This creates a great opportunity for product manufacturers and for [contractors] to market directly to homeowners and establish their products and services as the brands of choice.”
Kudzu.com’s report did not delve into consumer problems/solutions beyond basic heating and cooling. Of course, as we have stressed in many of our articles and columns, contractors can best differentiate themselves by focusing on deeper customer concerns such as health and air quality; whole-house humidification or dehumidification; zoning to eliminate hot/cold spots; advanced thermostats that do more than switch systems off and on; and whole-house diagnostics and servicing for highest energy efficiency.
Additionally, in recent months we have seen an increase in contractors adding services such as plumbing and electrical to expand their businesses and better service customers. (For example, read how Ray Grimm transformed his 100-year-old heating-and-cooling company into a full-service provider for health-conscious homeowners on page 26.) Grimm and other expansion-minded contractors are confident that their investments will pay off with more sales.
Finally, contractors are introducing their customers to alternative products and services that homeowners and building managers probably aren’t aware of, such as Samsung’s stylish wall-mounted units and Spot Cooler’s portable units.
These opportunities are open to any contractor willing to give a critical review of their current business, identify unmet needs in the marketplace, create a common-sense strategic plan, and have enough courage to take a few risks along the way.