Originally Posted 9-1-2023
By Williams Comfort Air; Heather Langone
Over the years, we have run many features geared toward HVACR owners on the importance of selling maintenance plans to stay competitive. But we have never run a feature that turns the tables and examines the homeowners’ point of view – until now. The following relevant and current research was conducted by Williams Comfort Air and Mr. Plumber based in Indianapolis, IN. Given that the survey results reveal that most customers are not budgeting for expensive replacements and repairs, this information should be worked into sales pitches and cited by all your customer service representatives, salespeople, and technicians to make a case for why it’s essential to plan. Utilize this information to relay more confidently the importance of consistent preventative maintenance both for the upkeep of HVACR systems point of view, but also to show evidence of potential long-term savings.
Williams Comfort Air and Mr. Plumber by Metzler & Hallam have been serving the Indianapolis area for seven decades: Williams Comfort Air since 1966 and Mr. Plumber since 1946. Since its inception, the homegrown company has expanded into a large organization with 150+ team members now serving the entire Indianapolis area as well as many Central Indiana towns.
From Survey to Pitch: What You Need to Know
Homeowners can get the most out of their HVACR and plumbing systems and equipment by choosing the right equipment and more importantly, performing preventative maintenance on it over time. Consistent maintenance extends the life of these systems, saving people time and money. Williams Comfort Air and Mr. Plumber set out on a mission to find out if Hoosier homeowners are proactively having maintenance performed, and if they would be prepared to cover the cost of emergency HVACR and plumbing repairs if needed. So, in May, they launched the 2023 Hoosier Home Maintenance Survey.
After surveying more than 550 anonymous Indiana homeowners, the results were “concerning” according to the organization. Results showed that by and large, people are not prepared to cover the often-costly emergency HVACR and plumbing repairs. Additionally, people are largely not proactively having routine maintenance performed on their core comfort systems (air conditioning, furnace, heat pump, and water heater). This is important information for HVACR owners to know.
Key findings from the study of Indiana homeowners found:
• 69% of homeowners do not currently have an ongoing preventive HVACR and/or plumbing maintenance plan.
• 40% have scheduled at least one maintenance visit for their HVACR and/or plumbing system in the last year.
• 30% have never had an HVACR and/or plumbing maintenance visit.
• 65% have less than $1,000 set aside for emergency home repairs.
• 57% describe paying for an unexpected bill over $1,000 as “very difficult” or “somewhat difficult”.
Financial experts – see any of Ruth King’s columns on maintenance – often recommend saving and setting aside one percent of a home’s value for emergency home repairs, with more savings recommended for those owning older homes. For example, if your home is $226,350 (the average Indiana home price as of June 2023, according to Zillow), you should have $2,263 set aside for emergency repairs.
Research shows homeowners spent an average of $1,953 on emergency projects per household in 2022. Based on Williams Comfort Air and Mr. Plumber’s survey findings, 57% of homeowners in Indiana would have trouble covering that cost. With their annual HVACR and plumbing maintenance plans starting at an average of $8.95 per month, it is usually more affordable in the long run to spend a little on ongoing maintenance, rather than spending a lot on a whole new system.
What Could Go Wrong?
Most homeowners understand that eventually heating and cooling systems will break down after years of use and eventually require replacement. However, not everyone realizes that there are a whole host of other problems that can arise as well with HVACR and plumbing systems. According to Paul Hallam, Director of Plumbing for Mr. Plumber, it can get bad if not attended to. Said Hallam:
Some of the worst damage I have seen was caused by the sump pump, or sump pump switch failure. Not protecting your basement from flooding is just like gambling in a high-stakes poker game. Eventually, the house will win! Frozen pipes bursting can also be very expensive and is often avoidable with preventative maintenance and proactivity.
A clogged air conditioning condensation drain line, an overworked air handler blower motor, or a cracked furnace heat exchanger are all examples of HVACR issues that can be caught early through proper maintenance. Added Roger Elkins, Director of HVAC Services for Williams Comfort Air:
A cracked heat exchanger can be very costly, and it can also cause carbon monoxide to leak into the home. Not replacing the air filter or cleaning dust buildup inside the furnace can restrict air flow, making the heat exchanger run hotter. The excess heat can cause the heat exchanger to crack, which unfortunately means replacing the entire furnace.
Annual maintenance and tune-up services performed by professionally certified and licensed HVACR service contractors and plumbers extend the lifespan of HVAC systems and plumbing equipment and can help prevent unforeseen repairs. Results from the Hoosier study found nearly 7 out of 10 Indiana homeowners (69.6%) do not invest in an HVACR and/or plumbing equipment maintenance plan.
Maintenance is best performed annually for each of your home comfort systems (air conditioning, furnace, heat pump, and water heater). Many HVACR and plumbing company maintenance plans include annual system inspections – but only 40% of Indiana homeowners say they have scheduled at least one maintenance visit for their HVACR and/or plumbing system in the last year. Even worse, 30 % admit they have never scheduled a maintenance visit for their home.
And said, Hallam:
Maintaining your plumbing system is no different than maintaining your car. You would not drive your car for years without changing the oil or rotating the tires. Most homeowners know very little about their plumbing systems until they don’t have hot water, a stopped drain, or a leak. Having an annual maintenance evaluation on your system is critical to preventing these and more potential problems.
How Much Does Preventative Home Maintenance Cost?
Williams Comfort Air and Mr. Plumber call their HVAC and plumbing home maintenance program the True Comfort Membership. While regional pricing will vary, the example below is relevant to understand the monies spent vs. the money for emergency repair.
During maintenance visits, certified plumbers thoroughly evaluate a home’s plumbing system. This includes:
• Inspecting drains
• Flushing out the water heater
• Checking water pressure and water quality
• Testing emergency shut-off valves
• Examining crawlspaces and basements for potential problems
During maintenance visits, certified HVAC professionals thoroughly evaluate a home’s heating and cooling systems. This includes:
• Inspecting indoor coils and cleaning outdoor coils
• Checking refrigerant levels (if applicable)
• Inspecting the heat exchanger
• Testing all electrical components of systems
The benefits of a membership plan go beyond annual preventative maintenance visits. As you will see above, your memberships can also include discounts on other HVACR and plumbing services, 24/7 emergency services without the typical overtime charge, prioritized service placement, discounts to events in the area (like local sporting events or concerts), and more.
The Survey Methodology
The 2023 Hoosier Home Maintenance Survey was conducted by SurveyMonkey on behalf of Williams Comfort Air and Mr. Plumber. Fielded between May 11-12, 2023, the results are based on 556 respondents. Selected respondents were screened and qualified based on the following criteria. All those surveyed were required to be residents of Indiana, 18 to 99 years of age, and current homeowners. The research was conducted with a +/- 4.25% margin of error.
The President of Williams Comfort Air and Mr. Plumber, Greg Wells, summed up the results and concluded:
According to our research, most people do not invest in preventative maintenance, until they have major problems. It seems counterintuitive to spend money on HVAC and plumbing systems when nothing is broken. We want to help educate the communities we serve that proper maintenance can extend the life of systems—often by years.
We agree – but more importantly, the facts support the research. As Wells and so many others have warned, the truth is that in the home service industry not acting proactively with regular preventative maintenance will cost your homeowners more in the long run. And as evident in questions 1 & 2, homeowners aren’t always educated on the value and savings of paying upfront membership costs versus heavy-duty costs for repairs later. Now, armed with the results of the survey and data you can speak directly to those customers, addressing these concerns and allowing them to make better-informed decisions about HVACR maintenance.