Ken and Joan Lichamer chose the name 'Five Star' to communicate superior service.

Larry Penar uses information provided by suppliers to explain total comfort and add to his credibility.

Dan Joyce

Eileen Youds

It's easy to sell "equipment," but in these times of uncertainty over high energy bills, HVAC contractors can sell more if they stress the importance of total system efficiency.

Three residential contractors in the suburbs of Chicago, IL demonstrate to customers how the total home comfort system works together to save money on fuel bills.

Efficiency as it Relates to Comfort

Ken and Joan Lichamer, president and vice president of Five Star Heating & Air Conditioning, Palatine, IL serve the northwest suburbs of Chicago as Trane Comfort Specialists.

"I like to say we're a service company that also installs, rather than one that installs and never sees you again," says Ken.

An ex-aircraft mechanic, Lichamer was raised to appreciate quality and efficiency in both equipment and service. Besides staying in touch with customers after the installation, he does all he can to help his customers see the relationship between total system operating efficiency and comfort.

"A system that heats two rooms and leaves the others cold is not very efficient," says Lichamer, who paints for customers a picture of total comfort that includes essential comfort components he says many dealers never bother to suggest.

"I try to show customers that by using various comfort accessories, they can make things more efficient. "I would say nine out of 10 dealers do not do this. Customers always say, 'Nobody else told me that.' Our suppliers encourage us to know the products, research them, and use them in our own homes, so that when a customer asks about them, we can speak from experience."

Ken's knack for asking questions recently won him an $18,000 job for a customer who had been poorly serviced by a competitor for years.

"It was a beautiful home, but they had garbage inside and garbage service," he says.

Five Star's efficiency campaign includes staying abreast of new products.

"We evaluate humidifiers, furnaces, air cleaners, and more," Lichamer says, "and we keep an open door to new products. Prove it to me, and we'll try it." Key components in Five Star's trucks include Honeywell VisionPro 8000 and FocusPro 6000 digital thermostats.

"Honeywell hit a grand slam when they came out with their new thermostats," says Lichamer. "I haven't had one complaint after 75 installations."

Survey Uncovers Key Comfort Issues
Larry Penar, Comfort Keepers, Inc., Lake Zurich, IL, begins each home visit with some informal ice breaking, a review of his and the company's credentials — including his own NATE certification — followed by a home comfort assessment.

Match the system options against customer's needs, to design an efficient system that keeps every room comfortable.

"I use a Home Comfort & Indoor Air Quality Solution survey that Honeywell provides that asks 10 questions about home comfort, and gives 10 'ideal' answers," says Penar. "When we compare their answers with the preferred scenario, it opens up the door to many solutions, including UV lights or zoning."

The discovery process is usually very revealing, coming, as it often does, after years of discomfort.

"Customers will usually realize there is something wrong with every room," says Penar. "We then try to build a desire for superior comfort; a comfort they've never had before."

Show and Tell
Lonnie Schick, a career building trades professional, works as a sales, service, and installation technician with MT & Sons, Davis, IL.

Schick doesn't just talk about energy efficiency; he literally demonstrates to new home buyers how an entire heating and cooling system works together to energy savings.

In a showroom he's established at MT & Sons office, Schick compares operating efficiencies of an 80%; a 90%; and a 90% variable speed, two-stage as well as zoning, an assortment filtering options, UV lighting, and Honeywell VisionPro and FocusPro thermostats.

"I explain what the components says Schick. "I explain variable speed, show consumers supporting magazine articles including Consumer Reports and tell them about my experience with high efficiency furnaces. I don't tell anything I can't back up in black white."

Efficiency in the Nick of Time

HVAC contractors have a wide array of energy-saving components available to them, which, when installed and used correctly, can help homeowners save some money.

Eileen Youds, vice president and general manager of Honeywell's home business, has been busy preaching the benefits of improved thermostats, zoning, and air filters to everyone who asks.

Those requests have been many, as local newspapers continue to run articles on reducing home energy bills.

One of Youds' key messages revolves around Honeywell's VisionPro programmable thermostats, which reduce the need to adjust the temperature throughout the day.

"The VisionPro is intuitive; you can work through the menus easily, and it responds to the lifestyle in the home," explains Youds.

"We've added features that allow you to set a range of temperatures, and apply the temperatures to different days."

Total home heating efficiency ideally includes zoning, when applicable, and whole-house air cleaners, which prevent airborne particles from building up on the equipment as well as throughout the home.

"Humidifers also have an energy efficient aspect to them," adds Dan Joyce, Honeywell's channel marketing director for automation and control products.

"Humidity in the air retains temperature; so when you maintain proper humidity levels, you can potentially set the thermostat back two or three degrees and still feel comfortable."

Joyce believes that, by responding to consumers' needs during this trying time, the HVAC industry could be remembered as the White Knight of The Winter of '05-'06.

"Never before has the industry been as poised to take advantage of doing what we do best: offering solutions which save on utility costs."