The Masterpiece that is Geothermal

Learn how to sell a geothermal heating and cooling system, and then start doing it. 

When was the last time you sold something in HVAC strictly on its curb appeal? Having been an HVAC contractor for more than two decades, I can think of a couple of things, but most commonly a nice thermostat.

Geothermal heating and cooling is one of the rare instances in which the “appeal” has to do with the “absence” of various items, which can explain some of the difficulty. There’s quite literally “nothing to see here.”

Then there is the return on investment (ROI) question. Why is it that salespeople are not asked for the ROI when someone is purchasing a comfortable bed, granite counter-tops or a good entertainment system? There are some things that we purchase for peace of mind, others for luxury, and still there are some things we pay a little extra for in the hopes that we won’t ever have to think of them again.
When your customer thinks of premium air conditioning and heating, we would like them to have a system that gives peace of mind, would be super quiet and comfortable, and they wouldn’t mind paying more, especially if they never had to think or hear of it again. 
I think that we are doing ourselves a collective disservice when we enter a sales opportunity with something that offers the myriad of premium features offered by geothermal heating and cooling systems, and then try to sell it on energy efficiency. Energy efficiency has its place, but it shouldn’t be first in line. I would suggest the sales points should be lined up more in the fashion below.
Here’s what you get when stepping up to a classic geothermal heating and cooling system:

  • remarkably comfortable,
  • quiet operation,
  • elimination of outdoor equipment,
  • long-lasting,
  • storm- and weather-proof, and lastly
  • the best energy efficiency.

I like purchasing things that can provide peace of mind, as do many folks. Peace of mind comes from some of the attributes that are singular to geothermal systems. These attributes center on the elimination of the outdoor condensor unit. Once eliminated, gone also is the noise, the weathering, the extra equipment and the potential for storm damage, whether it be from hail, hurricanes or who-knows-what. 

There are many contractors that do not yet offer geothermal heat pumps to their customers. There are two reasons that those who do not currently offer geothermal should start offering it.

1. Why not offer the best? I have found that customers like to make their own decisions, and that we should always start with the best we have to offer. I lost a large customer by failing to practice this some years back. His words to me after having purchased and paid for the HVAC system I installed were, “How dare you not offer me the top of the line? How did you decide on your own that I did not want, or could not afford the best you have to offer?” That customer owned lots of properties, and I did indeed lose his business, but I learned a valuable lesson, which I think is clear. Always offer your best first.

2. Worldwide mandated reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are for real. I’m on advisory boards for several government agencies worldwide. All of them are focused on the one technology that can eliminate combustion based heating efficiently, which is geothermal heat pumps. If you’re not involved, you’ll be left behind. There are benchmarks set for 2020, 2025, 2030, all the way to 2050. Many jurisdictions plan to outlaw combustion heating in buildings by 2030, some even earlier.  

Here’s how to get involved. Get trained as a designer or installer of geothermal systems. To find out more, visit www.igshpa.okstate.edu and www.geoexchange.org, our industry organizations. IGSHPA is already training our building inspectors on geothermal heating and cooling systems.

Jay Egg is a geothermal consultant, writer and the owner of EggGeothermal. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems published by McGraw-Hill Professional. He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com

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