Getting customers on board with the energy-efficient units can increase your profit margins
Heat-pump water heaters (HPWHs) are one of the most energy-efficient options for water heating, taking care of a household’s hot water needs today while saving more than 60 percent of electric water heating costs for years to come.
They can also be a business booster for plumbers and contractors. Installations are straightforward and typical of other plumbing products, and the profit margin on a HPWH can be higher than a standard water heater, making each sale a valuable opportunity.
In the Northwest, Hot Water Solutions (HotWaterSolutionsNW.org), an initiative funded by utilities in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington through the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, is working to dramatically increase consumer demand for HPWHs through consumer awareness, training, and monetary incentives over the next few years. Hot Water Solutions is also working with plumbers and contractors to help increase their sales.
There are already Northwest companies building a business around HPWHs, such as Fast Water Heater Company and GreenSavers. Fast Water Heater Company CEO Jason Hanleybrown and Elliot Firestone, home performance specialist for GreenSavers, offer these tips to other plumbing contractors looking to sell this energy-efficient technology:
- Present HPWHs as an option
HPWHs are a great product for customers who have an interest in energy efficiency, as well as those who are just looking for a way to spend less money on their monthly water heating bill.
Hanleybrown and Firestone say their customers do not usually ask for HPWHs and most haven’t heard of the technology before, so it’s important to bring it up. Once customers learn about the savings opportunity, many will be on board with the idea.
- Focus on wasted energy versus saved energy in your sales pitch
Firestone says HPWHs are a no-brainer when it comes to increasing a home’s overall energy performance. In terms of upgrades for the home, HPWHs are in the top tier for both energy savings offered and for return on investment.
While the energy savings and green aspects of HPWHs are appealing, many times the most effective sales technique is to talk about the dollars wasted by using less-efficient technology. Hanleybrown says focusing on the pocketbook always works best with his customers.
- Know the latest HPWH rebates
Many local utilities offer rebates that can provide a sizable discount on a HPWH. Help your customers by being an expert on the latest options and how they apply to their purchase. Hot Water Solutions offers a tool for utility offerings in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana at HotWaterSolutionsNW.org/participating-utilities.
Hanleybrown trains his staff to walk customers through the rebates and do the math for them. In many cases, a HPWH will be less expensive than a standard model. After that, they can reap energy savings for years to come.
- Keep HPWHs in stock
Nearly 90 percent of people who are looking to buy a water heater are calling with an emergency need. To be ready, ensure you have HPWHs available to sell, so a customer whose basement is flooded, or has no hot water, can choose a HPWH when they need it.
At Fast Water Heater, Hanleybrown says he always has HPWH units in stock, so that he can provide the technology to customers quickly.
- All sales staff should be HPWH experts
Anyone involved in making a sale to customers should be well versed in HPWHs. This way, it's possible to confidently recommend the technology and be sure it's a good fit for a customer.
HPWHs are ideal for garage and basement locations where there is adequate space for the unit, and the sound (like that of a refrigerator) will not bother a sleeping household.
Firestone says that HPWHs work for many customers, but it’s good for them to know how they are different from a traditional water heater.
To keep sales growing, Hanleybrown says he regularly offers incentives to staff, such as tickets to a ball game or another fun prize. Out of the 25,000 units his company sells each year, HPWHs are a growing piece of the pie. The company began offering the technology about six years ago and HPWHs are expected to account for about 5 percent of sales in 2017.
About the Author
Jill Reynolds oversees the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance's heat-pump water heater initiative, Hot Water Solutions, which focuses on promoting the development and adoption of heat-pump water heater technology. Before joining NEEA, Reynolds managed several residential programs for a variety of Northwest utility and municipal clients.