Fall heating checkup

Those working in the residential HVAC industry often emphasize the need for a pre-winter furnace checkup. Few in the industry need much convincing of its importance, but many homeowners are not so easily convinced. As a result, the annual fall checkup has largely fallen by the wayside as modern heating equipment just continues functioning year after year if homeowners are savvy enough to change out their furnace filters from time to time.

That means the first step for the contractor is usually to convince the customer that this is important. For them, it’s primarily a matter of peace of mind. If the heating system receives a clean bill of health in the fall, they know they don’t have to worry over the winter. From a technical standpoint, a professional should periodically give heating equipment a thorough check. And if you didn’t install the equipment, this may be even more critical as some contractors/technicians are more diligent about doing things right the first time.

However, one of the problems is that HVAC contractors often assign the fall system checks to their lowest cost employee – the rookie or apprentice. But to do it properly, it really needs an experienced technician who knows what to look for and can spot problems before they become serious. It may be just a faint noise, a light discoloration or a slight odor that raises a red flag and would be overlooked by someone with less experience. Price accordingly.

It’s also a great opportunity to chat with the homeowner. The contractor can provide advice on things, like filter replacement, that the homeowner can do themselves. At the same time, they can talk to the customer about how the system is working, the comfort levels in the home, etc. and suggest possible upgrades that they might consider.

However, be careful. I think that some companies push the sales side – the “value added” – just a little too hard. Keep in mind that you are trying to maintain a relationship and keep this individual as a customer for life.

If you are going to suggest replacement, you need to do a thorough examination of the existing equipment and make a good case as to why it’s better to replace than repair.

Homeowners may subscribe to a maintenance program because it sounds like a good idea – and, well, it is a good idea. But contractors will lose customers if they end up feeling like they are simply paying the contractor to make an annual sales call.

The pre-winter checkup should be included in the annual maintenance fee, it needs to be done professionally and, more often than not, it won’t result in any further work at that time. But when the furnace, boiler or air conditioner does need to be replaced, chances are the contractor will get the work if they’ve nurtured the relationship over the years. Unfortunately, there’s no easy money in this industry.

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Boone Plumbing & Heating Supply, Parade of Products 2014
SEPT. 24, 2014

Ottawa Conference & Event Centre, 200 Coventry Rd., Ottawa. Please visit www.boone.ca or call (613) 746-8560. 

Mechanical Contractor’s Association of Canada 73rd National Conference
SEPT. 24-27, 2014

Delta St. John’s Hotel, St. John’s, Nfld. Call (613) 232-0492 or visit www.mcac.ca

Ontario HVAC Coalition 20th Annual General Meeting
SEPT. 30 at 6 p.m.

Fontana Gardens Banquet Hall, 7400 Keele St., Vaughan, Ont. Call Martin Luymes at 1-800-267-2231.

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July 2014
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