Sheet metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

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Key industry trends: Residential contractors weigh in

 

SMACNA’s Residential Council Steering Committee is scrutinizing some significant trends facing the residential HVAC industry—the increasing use of smart comfort controls, high-efficiency system filters, and internet marketing that cuts out the middleman.

Are these trends good or bad for business? Learn what SMACNA’s residential contractor experts had to say.

Leave the smart controls to us

The age of the smart home is here. More homeowners are asking for smart comfort controls to manage their home energy use. Studies show the home automation and control market was worth $5.77 billion in 2013 and projects it will reach $12.81 billion by 2020, according to ACHR News magazine.

More and more SMACNA residential contractors are installing smart control equipment. But what about such non-HVAC companies as cable and security firms, that are installing smart control products too?

Residential Council members weighed in:

  • These companies do not have an intimate understanding of these controls and ultimately the homeowner will turn to us.
  • They don’t know the exact workings of the units, which can cause issues with the units’ operations.
  • When they install the thermostats, they typically alter the equipment about half the time and we gain revenue from doing the repair work. Also, they don’t understand the nuances of the HVAC equipment and can’t typically help the customers in the same way we can.
  • If my thermostat is there, I have one more point of contact with the customer for the future.

For more information, read “Homeowners Demanding Smart Comfort Control” (The News)

High efficiency filters: HVAC contractors know best

Ultrafine particles in the air can be hazardous to human health. ASHRAE issued a residential indoor air quality (IAQ) guideline Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality/Low-Rise Residential Buildings (Guideline 24-2015), which advises using high efficiency filters to capture these particles.

SMACNA’s Residential Council Steering Committee looked at the pros and cons of high efficiency HVAC system filters. They agreed high efficiency filters can improve indoor air quality when properly sized and installed and that residential HVAC contractors know best how to match equipment and filters.

  • Pros: “If installed on a properly designed system, they prolong equipment life. If not, there can be cycling issues. It’s a good upgrade opportunity and keeps the equipment clean. Better filtration means better customer comfort and better protection for our equipment. Better filtration, longer life, keeps system and home cleaner.”
  • Cons: “Possible excessive static loss on system. Higher efficiency on the filtration usually means higher system static pressure and the associated problems that come with it. Some of this can be overcome by oversizing the filter. They are not detrimental to the system when the filter is properly sized and installed.”
  • Keep in mind: “These are a premium filter with premium margins, but need to ensure blower and duct system can handle the added loss. It makes a nice system if the furnace and ductwork can handle it. In the end, they help protect the system and the home.”

Resource: “ASHRAE's new residential IAQ guideline advises using high efficiency filters” (SMACNA Residential Report, Vol. 19, Issue 1)

Online home services: “Our industry can’t be boiled down to a commodity.”

With the rise of on-demand home services such as Angie’s List, Amazon Home Services, and Home Advisor, homeowners are finding other ways to purchase equipment and services. Residential contractors said they received 10-20 leads a week. Are these online home services harmful or helpful to the industry?

  • Pros: “It keeps our guys busy during slow periods and we can try and pick up new customers after their contract is over.”
  • Cons: “Our industry can’t be boiled down to a commodity. Aimed toward the low-dollar contractor. All these services push decisions to be made based primarily/solely on price. This speaks nothing of the quality and capability of the contractor.”
  • “Our industry could become an auction and could allow for predatory tactics by contractors. Service techs might not be well trained and online services are bringing the price down considerably on service and replacement.”
  • “Homeowners are typically basing their decisions on whom to use based on price and not on other important factors, i.e., length of time in the market, experience, and contractors that are licensed, bonded, insured, testimonials, etc.”

Visit “HVAC contractors consider cutting out the middleman” (The News)