New Research Provides Insight into Most Important Factors Affecting Homeowner Decisions about HVAC Equipment

Top 5 Homeowner Benefits:

  • Long term Reliability
  • Monthly Operating Costs
  • Always Produces Desired Air Temperature
  • The Purchase Price
  • Maintains Desired Temperature throughout Home

Emerson Climate Technologies recently conducted a survey of approximately 1,500 U.S. homeowners to determine the most important features they consider when purchasing air conditioning and heating systems, what typifies a high degree of satisfaction with their HVAC contractor, and what factors might be preventing someone from buying a new HVAC system if they own an older, more problem prone system.

We hope both homeowners and contractors can benefit from this information, which should help them to be more informed about these important trends in the HVAC industry today.  The survey results are contained in six different sections, and this article provides some key takeaways from each section, for both homeowners and contractors.  Links to each section of the survey results are also provided.

  1. What are the most important features that consumers are looking for in their HVAC systems today?

Most homeowners are very concerned with the long-term reliability as well as the operating costs related to their HVAC system, and are also concerned that the system always provides the desired temperature throughout the whole home, all year round and in all seasons – not just on extreme days.   Homeowners who want to be sure they are getting what they need from their new system should also look at the complete list of benefits that might be uniquely important to them.

Contractors should know that most of their customers will just want their system to operate for a long time without needing repair or replacement, and they should adjust their selling approach to emphasize this.  Contractors should be familiar with all of the benefits listed in this section and match them with their current product offerings for those situations when individuals require something more in certain areas.

  • To view actual survey results from this section, click here:  pdf
  1. What are the main reasons that owners of older or problem prone systems give for not purchasing a new system?

Becoming familiar with all the various reasons given for not buying a new system could help homeowners reflect upon their own reasons for delaying their purchases.  Some of these reasons are valid (e.g. current system is newer or working fine) but others, like “waiting until it breaks” might be less relevant for older systems.  It is important to be aware that the cost for total system replacement can be expensive, and should be built into the household budget as systems get older, or if they have experienced frequent repairs.

Most contractors will already be familiar with the list of reasons for not buying a new system, as these often come up when customers are deciding between a “repair or replace” scenario.  Since some of the top issues are financial or cost related, contractors should be prepared to discuss energy savings, government/utility rebates and any financing options which could help homeowners with their replacement decisions.

  • To view actual survey results from this section, click here:  pdf
  1. What would previous buyers of HVAC systems recommend to people who are currently in the process of buying a new HVAC system?

The most common piece of advice given to homeowners, by far, from previous HVAC buyers is to “research everything” before making their purchase decision.  The second most common suggestion was to get a “qualified/trusted” contractor to install their system.  There are also many other good suggestions on the list that might help consumers prepare for their HVAC investment decisions, like considering energy efficiency, getting multiple quotes from more than one contractor and budgeting for future HVAC expenditures as equipment gets older.

Contractors should be familiar with this list so they can help their customers through the buying process.  For example, providing links to internet-based information and following up with emails and text messages might help customers through the process faster than more traditional methods.  Also, being prepared to show energy cost savings and payback calculations could help with financing concerns.

  • To view actual survey results from this section, click here:  pdf
  1. What is the likely profile of a consumer who purchased, and is satisfied with a premium HVAC system?

Homeowners who think they might be happy with a premium, high efficiency HVAC system are usually very well informed about the various terms used in the HVAC industry to describe these systems (SEER, HSPF, etc).  They are also more likely to have needs that are further down the list of priorities for most consumers – quiet, clean air, humidity control as well as concerns about the environment.  Finally, these homeowners are more likely to have purchased other products that promote energy efficiency, environmental sustainability or health.

During sales calls, contractors should be prepared to discuss some of the less common benefits with homeowners, like humidity control, air quality and sound.  Understanding whether customers have been satisfied with other purchases of high efficiency or environmentally sustainable products, or asking if they have any health issues like allergies could allow the contractor to help address these concerns with the purchase of higher efficiency HVAC equipment.  This dialogue might allow them to offer a solution that truly meets the homeowner’s needs rather than just an immediate need for cool air.  Contractors should also be willing to perform diagnostic tests and other calculations for potential buyers.

  • To view actual survey results from this section, click here: pdf
  1. What makes consumers feel truly satisfied with their HVAC Contractor?

The homeowners in the study who were more satisfied with their contractors relied heavily on reputable contractors for both the recommendations on what systems to buy and also to insure proper installation.  This group relied more on internet resources for research and on recommendations from friends, but relied less on product literature and government websites for assistance.  They were also more likely to have engaged in discussions about high efficiency system options even if they did not buy them.  Just knowing about these higher efficiency options seemed to help with their overall satisfaction.

Contractors can use internet-based tools to help their customers with their HVAC purchase decisions, as well as both conventional and new (i.e. social media) methods to gain referrals from family/friends.  When discussing system options, contractors should always discuss the pros and cons of higher efficiency systems even if it seems unlikely they will sell them.  Performing calculations and diagnostic tests were also correlated to high satisfaction scores.

  • To view actual survey results from this section, click here:  pdf
  1. What are some of the other interesting characteristics of HVAC consumers that were discovered as part of this research?

Key Takeaways for Homeowners:

  • Homeowners who are “currently buying” HVAC equipment appear to be much more interested in energy efficiency and comfort than those who have “already bought” a system.  The “already bought” group was more frequently in the market due to a major repair or system failure which probably limits time to research system and contractor options.  So, homeowners should probably plan for system replacement as their systems get older or as they begin to require more frequent repairs.
  • On average most homeowners take three weeks to research their HVAC purchase, do significant internet research and talk to at least two contractors before deciding.  However, some satisfied homeowners also seem to do their research faster and deal more quickly with a local contractor who they know and trust to avoid spending a lot of time deciding.
  • More research time does not necessarily lead to better decisions and better satisfaction.  What is most important is doing good, objective internet research and finding the right contractor to help.
  • A contractor who comes with a strong recommendation and who talks with you about various system options and performs diagnostic tests should help you to be satisfied with your system selection and also your overall satisfaction with your HVAC investments.
  • Homeowners who made “shopping for deals” a priority had a slightly higher percentage of “dissatisfied” responses.

Key Takeaways for Contractors:

  • Having a reputation for quality service and providing reliable systems that last a long time is very important.  Getting those referrals to your customers quickly is also important along with providing recommendations for objective, internet-based information to help them make decisions.
  • Performing diagnostic tests and providing the results of calculations will help customers know you are taking steps to understand their unique needs.  This is also important for their satisfaction with your work and with their equipment selection.
  • Homeowners will probably not be very familiar with terms like SEER and HSPF so explaining these to your customers will be helpful.  They will probably be more familiar with Energy Star, so you might be ready to explain efficiency in that context or as it relates to various rebates available in your area.
  • Most homeowners do not know what the efficiency ratings are for their current equipment.  You might take note of this when you are doing your diagnostics so you can help them with energy savings calculations later.

Links to View or Download the Entire Study:

 

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4 thoughts on “New Research Provides Insight into Most Important Factors Affecting Homeowner Decisions about HVAC Equipment

  1. I was in a flood in 2013 and bought a new central air unti and furnace. I had a problem right away it stopped cooling within a week, they came out and recharged it but it didn’t last long and then they came back out and did something to it so that was in Oct. 2013, it worked last summer and the on Good Friday of this year I had another flood and had 14 to 18 inches of water in my house. My unit quit working I called the same company and he said I needed to replace both the condenser and furnave at a price of 2700 dollars. Well, within about 3 weeks no cold air, they come out and charge it up but tell me if they have to come out they will have to chage me labor because the acoil is leaking and it is not under warrenty for the labor only the part. After giving him 2700 dollars he wants me to pay 200 more to have it worked on, after just paying him all that money. I have went around and around with him and he has send men out to recharge it but won’t fix it. I am a senior widow and have no one to help me, please give me some advice as to what to do. I have no cold air and its getting hot.Losing everything in a flood is bad enough but then to have to deal with this is just plain terrible for me. Please help me with some information if you can.
    Thank you,
    Joanie Livesay

    • Hi Joanie – You might try calling the manufacturer to see what they recommend and also, you could try calling another contractor in the area who sells and services that brand of equipment. Continuing to charge a leaking system is usually only a short term fix and could lead to more problems later.

  2. Due to my step-son’s immediate financial distress circumstance I plan to replace a failed 58,000 Btu/Hr compressor with an available used 45,000 Btu/Hr unit. My intuitive expectation is higher air discharge temp. If so and on a one on one basis, how much degradation might be expected?

    Redo to OEM condition or total condensing unit replcement before next AC ‘season’ is anticipated. Any comment appreciated.

    • Hi Richard – It would probably be better to go with a “like for like” replacement but if you try the smaller compressor you can expect at least a 20% reduction (1-45/58=~22%) in capacity which will probably affect your system’s ability to keep up on the hottest days. It will also run longer on most days due to lower capacity and you might also experience increases in temperature at the end of some of the longer ducted runs. You might also need to have a contractor adjust or replace the metering device on the indoor coil to compensate for the lower mass of refrigerant getting to it and to get the proper refrigerant charge for this new combination. You should also make sure that the compressor is designed for the same refrigerant as your current system. Compressors and other components are usually designed for just one refrigerant and most are not interchangeable. Hope this helps.

      Good luck with your HVAC project!

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