HVAC contractors, and homeowners in the market for new comfort systems have a new way to meet: HVAC.com. This Internet service allows homeowners to purchase HVAC systems over the Internet and find contractors interested in bidding on the installation of those systems.

The service was started by Will Housh, founder and CEO of Housh, Inc., Monroe, OH.

Housh says the new service is something customers have long been waiting for, in a world where time is short, and online HVAC information is plentiful.

“Several years ago, it seemed clear to me that consumers were speaking pretty clearly that they wanted to research, shop, and ultimately make their purchasing decisions via the Internet,” he says.

HVAC.com provides homeowners with the information, advice, technical information for equipment, accessories and IAQ, and then connect them with local contractors who can do the work for them.”

Through HVAC.com, customers across the U.S. have the option of buying systems online and then, either finding an installer through separate channels, or they can provide the HVAC.com team with information related to the size of the home, their comfort needs, and expectations. That information is then put out to bid to area contractors, who submit a bid to HVAC.com.

For those who choose the contractor route, a phone- and web-based dialogue is used to supplant an initial in-home meeting with a contractor.

Keeping Up With New Lifestyles

“We’re offering the customer the convenience of taking care of that process according to their schedule, through their mobile device or home computer, without the necessity of all the in-home visits, changing schedules around, and things like that,” Housh says. “Having come from the business, and having sat across the table from hundreds of homeowners, we know what questions to ask, and what photos we need of the home to visualize the type of job. Once we gather that information, and it’s entered into our database, we make a bundled, ‘good-better-best’ solution. We take what the customer has told us, and create those packages with the sizing, tonnage, and Btuhs we think should be included in the quote. Those bundles are then shown to the contractor.”

Housh wants to be clear that HVAC.com does not price the jobs.

“The local contractors in the customers’ area receive the lead and the opportunity to quote. It’s their opportunity to win a new customer with the brand of equipment they prefer to propose, with their understanding of the local market, building codes, permitting, and other things.”

“We are pro-contractor,” Housh says emphatically. “We’ve made quite a bit of investment and have done quite a bit of technical work to connect customers with contractors, rather than leaving the customers to their own devices. We’ve bent over backwards to create a system that includes the contractor, because we want to protect the integrity of the brands, and see that things are done safely and according to standards.”

Brands currently in the HVAC.com system include Goodman, Rheem, Rinnai, Mitsubishi, and Lennox. More brands will be added.

Housh says some manufacturers are happy to see their equipment and brands represented in a responsible fashion on the web, and having the brand exposure to tens or hundreds of thousands of consumers.

“They just prefer their equipment not be sold direct. They want to see it sold by the local contractor. In those instances, those brands are represented that way, and those brands go through the “assisted sale” process, so the local contractor can be the one that makes the sale through our system.

HVAC.com is ‘the marketplace,’ or ‘matchmaker’ that allows the transaction to occur between the contractor and consumer in those cases,” Housh says.

Caution Regarding Unlicensed Installers

Customers who seek only to purchase a comfort system and have it installed outside of the HVAC.com program are warned of potential warranty issues if a system is installed by an unlicensed person.

“We’re still in the process of finalizing and putting the finishing touches on where we are communicating those messages to consumers, on the product page and warranty documentation that’s available for download on the website, and on the packing slip and invoice that’s available to the consumer. We want to be able to communicate that message to the consumer in several different ways, so that it’s very clear,” Housh says.

“When they call — and most of the time the customer is calling us to make sure they’re making the right choice, and have us help them narrow things down — we’re able to advise them clearly about safety and warranty concerns.”