The bigger isn’t better message for choosing the right size HVAC system has been pounded into our minds a million times in this industry. I guess it warrants a million reminders since it goes against the grain. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but America certainly loves our Texas sized steaks, homes, SUVs, wedding rings, etc. I’m finding this isn’t the only put-a-fork-in-me, over-used message in the industry though.
Better is Not Better
If homeowners were surprised to find a bigger HVAC system doesn’t always give their home more air-conditioning comfort, then they will be floored when they learn a better filter might be doing more harm than good. If you watch enough car shows on TV, it’s easy to see where some of these notions come from. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we could push a button and our HVAC system would get super-charged like a drag racing car boosted with Nitrous Oxide?
Sure, HVAC industry insiders get it. Yet, these homeowners don’t know what you know so they assume reducing the amount of dust and allergens dispersed throughout their home via the HVAC expressway will be a killer idea. They don’t know all the inside information you know about the the negative effects using a high MERV filter can cause.
I’m sure it’s frustrating when you spend a few days designing the perfect system for a home, only to have everything derailed with one short visit to Home Depot. What is to be done? (If you want to know all the specifics about high-MERV filters, then read this blog by Energy Vanguard.)
Prevention Program: Do You Speak Your Customer’s Language?
I’m not suggesting you learn 5 languages so you can converse with a lot of different cultures in their native languages. I’m talking about using stories to illustrate the points you want to drive home. People love stories. We grow up with our parents telling us bedtime stories, and it shapes who we become. Later, we form our own stories to tell our children. And throughout life we are told stories to help us understand concepts that might have otherwise flown over our heads.
Stephen Platka, one of Wrightsoft’s trainers, always has a great story to tell me when I start asking him questions. Recently he illustrated to me why the better filter effect doesn’t help air-conditioning work better. The illustration had to do with getting in your car on a hot day after it’s been baking in the sun for a few hours in the parking lot at work. He asked me if, “When I go to get in my car, do I turn the A/C on low or on high?” I said, “Of course I turn it on high because the faster the air moves, the faster the car will cool down.” Steve is a mechanical engineer, so he could have told me all the specifics about pressure and whatnot. I doubt it would have hit home as quickly. In fact, it might have been like a Charlie Brown cartoon when all Charlie Brown registers from his teacher is blah, blah, blah. (I’m still working on my advanced knowledge of pressure, resistance, and other engineering concepts, but for now I get stories.)
Example #2: Now imagine the homeowner’s “better” air filter starts to get clogged with dust and particulates. If you are speaking to a woman, ask her to consider her hair dryer’s filter. When the filter isn’t cleaned regularly, sooner or later the filter gets so clogged, the dryer overheats and shuts off. Ask her why she thinks this has occurred. Suggest it might be overheating from lack of air flow, and most likely her eyes will light up with a clear understanding. Her amazing new filter might collect enough dust, it will do the same thing to her a/c unit sooner or later. Remind her a blown out hair dryer is a minor inconvenience, but an HVAC system that isn’t working in the middle of summer is quite traumatic and expensive.
Stories will help you explain things in an uncomplicated way. Once the homeowner has gained the basic understanding of a concept, then it will be easy to describe all the negative consequences a bad air filter choice can create.
Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario is to educate homeowners when you install their new unit and then have those same folks live in the home till the next time their system needs to be replaced. This is a rare occurrence these days. Over the last 15 years, studies show the average home tends to change hands every 6-10 years. Given this high turn-over rate, it might be a good idea to put a disclaimer right on the system where the air filter is placed. Homeowners will be less apt to forget what you originally told them when there is a reminder in plain view each time they go to change the filter. The next homeowner will certainly be appreciative when they move in and find clear information is waiting for them when it’s time to change the filter for the first time.
A Beneficial Conversation…
There is no doubt Goldilocks would have said this 5” filter is just right. If your homeowner is really concerned about dust, then this filter might be the one she really should buy. As you know it has approximately the same filtration rating as the 1” filter she tried to upgrade to, but it will still allow air to flow properly. This conversation will give you the opportunity to retrofit her system to accommodate this filter – the one that is going to provide her with everything she wants without creating any negative side effects.
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