Encourage your customers to invest in more efficient heating and air conditioning products.

Last spring I was invited to speak at an American Standard distributor's (CFM Inc.) annual dealer meeting in Sacramento, Calif. While I was there, I heard of a great idea that one of their customers was using to provide home buyers a better, more satisfactory HVAC system. This contractor does both the plumbing and HVAC work for several homebuilders, and he already has a showroom set up where their customers can come and pick out the plumbing fixtures for new homes. He recently added a showroom for upgrade HVAC systems and add-ons such as better air filters, zoning, humidifiers, setback thermostats, and other air-quality accessories. Brilliant!

Let's face it, although HVAC systems usually draw the most complaints from new home buyers and they have the greatest potential to save energy, create comfort, and reduce health-risk factors, upgrades are usually the last thought in a new home buyer's mind - somewhere after cabinets, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, security, marble, swimming pools, etc. So, I have seen million-dollar homes with the very cheapest of builder-model HVAC units and spaghetti ductwork. Yes, it's a problem, not for us, but for the unwary home buyer.

What about you? Would you allow some homebuilder to low-bid the HVAC system in your home? I think not.

Now, I realize that I'm writing to supply house owners and managers, not to HVAC contractors. However, from reading other articles in this magazine I realize that many of you who do plumbing wholesaling also have showrooms. So, have you thought about making these showrooms available to your customers who do new-home construction? And while you're at it, what about setting up showrooms to sell upgrade HVAC products?

Many years ago, I worked for a brief period for a new homebuilder. And it often made me sad to see how unhappy people were with their air conditioners, once they had closed on the home and moved in. There were sunny rooms that were always too hot, air conditioners that irritated allergies, and excessively high heating and cooling bills. And this wasn't good news for the homebuilders either, because they received too many complaints, and there were several lawsuits - as well as items that made the local news. But by then it was too late to offer the customer a comfortable option.

Several years ago, a major electric utility (Alabama Power Corp.) invited me to speak to some of their largest homebuilders about offering better HVAC systems to their customers, but I never heard if anything came of it. The problem that they have, of course, is just finding ways to help people qualify for the loans. However, the home finance provider Fannie Mae has a program to allow home buyers to qualify for a more expensive home if they choose more energy-efficient products. The idea is that if they lower their utility bills they can afford a more expensive home. You can find more information about this on the Internet at: www.efanniemae.com/sf/mortgageproducts/options/energyefficient.jsp

Fannie Mae says: “The Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) is offered through our Housing and the Environment Initiative, which promotes the design, construction, and purchase of more efficient homes.

“The EEM recognizes that energy-efficient homes cost homeowners less to operate on a monthly basis than standard homes because they use less energy. Borrowers who choose energy-efficient homes can afford to spend more on their housing expenses because they will likely spend less on their energy costs. The EEM allows borrowers to qualify for a larger mortgage as a result of the energy savings. The EEM benefits those buying new, energy-efficient homes or those purchasing existing homes that need energy improvements.”