A gateway drug is one that is habit-forming, and while not addictive in and of itself, it may lead to the use of other addictive drugs. For example, many have maintained that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to other illicit and more harmful substances. For HVAC contractors, could adding insulation be a gateway drug toward full involvement in home performance contracting?
Adding insulation is one of the most beneficial things you can do to make a home more energy efficient. Take a look at a Manual J calculation from one of your recent retrofit jobs. (You do run load calculations on your homes, don’t you?) Run some simple calculations to see what the addition of insulation would do for the homes total heat loss/gain? This additional service in your company could provide an ideal way to increase your labor productivity, (billed versus paid hours) or to increase capacity by adding new people to perform this function. Before making this plunge however, you need to do your homework.
The first thing to realize is that you are not just getting into the insulation business, you are getting into the business of making the home perform better. That means finding and sealing leaks in addition to insulating. Sealing air leaks means stopping air that comes through your homes envelope – outer walls, windows, doors and other openings. This will lessen the pollen, dust and insects entering the home, while reducing outside noise and providing better humidity control. According to Energy Star, most homes in the US do not have enough insulation and have significant air leaks. They maintain that a typical home has leaks that average the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year! When your customers understand this, they are incentivized to do something about it.
You also have to prepare the employees within your company for this new capability. Sales staff need to be trained on how to offer insulation and air sealing, while getting their buy-in to do so. Simply mandating that they attend training and start offering these new services will not get the job done. Once they understand the benefits to both their customers and themselves however, they will be more inclined to seek out these opportunities on every sales call.
Similarly, your technicians need to be trained on the proper techniques and tools to be used when sealing and insulating a home. Organizations such as Everblue offer a BPI Weatherization Certification Course where students can learn in a certified environment. Learning about the types of insulation to be used in a given application will depend on each homes individual needs and climate/location. Finally, your scheduling staff must be trained on what is required in order to properly stage insulation/air sealing with equipment installation.
By successfully adding this capability to your business, you will have opened the door toward becoming a true home performance contractor, as opposed to a company that merely installs heating and air conditioning equipment.
Typical Sources of Air Leaks in the Home ~ courtesy of Energystar.gov
Image courtesy of Energystar.gov