Industry Blogs

Three considerations for right-sized tankless installations–and increased customer satisfaction Propane tankless water heaters use less energy, cost less to operate, and produce fewer emissions than other options, which is why a growing number of homeowners are requesting these systems. As contractors know, determining the right configuration for their projects isn’t always straightforward. Whether considering a Read more

Three considerations for right-sized tankless installations–and increased customer satisfaction

Propane tankless water heaters use less energy, cost less to operate, and produce fewer emissions than other options, which is why a growing number of homeowners are requesting these systems.

As contractors know, determining the right configuration for their projects isn’t always straightforward. Whether considering a single unit for the whole home or multiples that run in tandem, knowing how to predict demand is key to giving customers a setup that meets their performance and cost expectations.

Here are three factors to consider when right-sizing a tankless system for projects.

How much water will the customer need?

Knowing how many people will live in the home, who will be using hot water, and for what purposes is the first step toward installing a system that will fulfill their specific needs. Additionally, understanding a customer’s lifestyle and habits–when they shower, how often they do laundry, and whether they expect to install radiant heating–can help determine expected peak demand times.

Take stock of the number and type of appliances and systems requiring hot water and note their water delivery rates. To calculate peak demand, the Department of Energy (DOE) recommends counting the number and gallons per minute (GPM) rate of faucets, showers, and appliances that could be in use in the home at any given time. Features such as in-floor radiant heating and spas can considerably raise a home’s hot water demands. Propane tankless water heaters provide an endless supply of hot water, averaging roughly 222 gallons per hour, compared with an average first-hour delivery rating of just 62 gallons per hour for electric storage tank models.

How much will the water need to be heated?

It’s important for contractors and installers to know the difference between outdoor ground temperatures and the desired indoor hot water temperature. That will reveal how much the water will need to heat and, therefore, how quickly the unit can deliver hot water.

For example, a typical shower head delivers 2.5 GPM, so a 9.4 GPM unit would run three to four showers depending on the inlet ground water temperature. According to the DOE, the average groundwater temperature across the U.S. is 50 degrees. In most cases, water should be heated to at least 120 degrees, so the home will need a tankless unit that can heat 2.5 GPM by 70 degrees. Lower flows can be heated to a bigger temperature rise and higher flows to a smaller temperature rise. Most propane or natural gas tankless water heaters on the market can handle a rate of 5 GPM at a 70-degree temperature rise. As fixtures are added, demand on the system increases and that 5 GPM rating can quickly get overwhelmed.

While a tankless unit will provide hot water almost instantly at the unit, the water still has to travel to the faucet, so location of the units is an important part of system design. Oftentimes, two smaller units, each placed closer to the end use site, can provide the project a higher level of satisfaction than one large or two smaller units installed in a single location. This also provides some redundancy if a unit or fixture needs to be serviced.

What can the home accommodate?

Peak demand scenarios are why contractors shouldn’t assume an undersized system will cover their client’s full range of needs. Oversizing isn’t as big of a concern with tankless systems. While oversizing a traditional tank water heater would result in significant wasted energy over the life of the unit, tankless units vary their flow rates based on demand and, therefore, having excess capacity doesn’t necessarily mean a tankless system is using more energy.

New projects can more easily accommodate tankless units at the point of use than existing homes, which are often designed for a central tank system–and may be better suited for one or more units installed in the basement. For most projects, one unit is sufficient. Multiple units may be used to handle larger loads or as homeowners scale up in the future as their hot water needs change. Because of the popularity and dependability of propane tankless water heaters, new products are available on the market that would allow customers to have “multiple” heaters in a single cabinet, or on a single rack that comes to the project ready for installation making system design easier still.

To determine the optimal number of tankless units for a home, help customers understand their consumption habits and how the system can be sized to meet their expectations. Determine peak demand and gauge actual usage and lifestyle habits. Then, compare prices for systems that meet those needs relative to a client’s budget. Put in as much capacity as those factors will allow to balance cost and comfort. By simply installing a propane system, customers will see optimal cost savings. That’s because propane tankless water heaters offer reduced energy costs, a lower total cost of ownership, and a longer service life compared with other options. Notably, propane tankless systems can reduce energy costs by up to 50 percent and eliminate standby energy loss from the tank.

To learn more about propane water heating systems, visit Propane.com/Water-Heating.

Bryan Cordill the director of residential and commercial business development for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be reached at bryan.cordill@propane.com.

 

The right residential water heater solution depends on multiple factors Tankless water heaters are one of the most talked-about topics in the home services industry. The rising popularity of tankless water heater technology is being driven by the perception that tankless heaters provide the same dependable performance as traditional tank-type units while using less energy Read more

The right residential water heater solution depends on multiple factors

Tankless water heaters are one of the most talked-about topics in the home services industry. The rising popularity of tankless water heater technology is being driven by the perception that tankless heaters provide the same dependable performance as traditional tank-type units while using less energy and taking up less space.

That is true for certain single-family residential applications. The efficiency and reliability of tankless technology is sufficient to meet many household needs. As long as homeowners do their homework, have a clear understanding of their hot water usage, and work with a professional to select and install the right equipment, there are usually very few issues.

In many circumstances, however, traditional tank-type water heaters still offer maximum performance, reliability and value, and remain a solid option to meet the hot water needs of most families. Both tankless and tank-type applications can be an appropriate solution, depending on a number of factors, including the size of a home, its existing water heater configuration, the demand for hot water, budget, fuel type availability and personal preference.

For a typical residential application — a single-family home with two bathrooms, standard shower heads, a dishwasher and washing machine — one tankless unit will usually be sufficient. But homeowners can run into issues with high-flow, high-demand luxury fixtures, like a car wash shower head or a 90-gallon soaking tub. People may find that their new tankless product works fine 99% of the time, but they can’t get sufficient water pressure out of their high-flow shower head. This is because the flow rate of the fixture exceeds the amount that the unit can produce. Additionally, remodeling or adding to a home with an existing tankless water heater might create more demand than the installed unit can supply.

In those situations, a tankless water heater paired with a storage tank might be the only available option. But this approach is rarely a preferred solution, because most homeowners choose tankless in the first place because they wanted its efficiency or space-saving features.

Tank-type water heaters maintain a constant reservoir of hot water. Tankless heaters only work when a fixture opens, using less energy overall. But tankless requires more energy when it is used, making the transition from tank to tankless a challenge in many circumstances.

Most gas tankless water heaters provide between 120,000 and 199,000 BTUs, compared to about 40,000 BTUs for tank-type residential gas heaters. In order to switch from a gas tank-type heater to tankless gas, the capacity of the gas line may need to be increased, adding complexity and cost to installation. Similarly, an electric tankless water heater can use double or triple the power of an electric storage tank heater, requiring major electrical upgrades.

Venting is another potential roadblock in transitioning from tank to tankless. Adding or expanding the capacity of existing exhaust and intake pipes may be required, which could mean cutting additional holes in the walls and roof.

Maintenance is critical for the longevity and performance of tankless water heaters. Unfortunately, water heaters tend to be the forgotten appliance. They’re hidden behind a utility door or inside a closet, and many people don’t think about them until there’s an issue and they don’t have hot water.

We know many people don’t keep up with the recommended maintenance of their water heaters, but tank-type units can last for 10 years or more with few problems. Tankless water heaters, however, are more likely to show reduced performance and suffer breakdowns if users don’t follow a regular maintenance schedule.

As the popularity of tankless water heaters continues, new features are becoming available, such as recirculation, connectivity and built-in buffer tanks. The Bradford White Infiniti® K Series tankless gas water heaters offer top connections, which make switching from a storage tank heater more convenient. At the same time, innovations like electric heat pump water heaters and condensing gas water heaters are opening new possibilities for energy efficiency in tank-type water heaters.

In the end, the distinction between tankless and tank-type water heaters isn’t as neat as it is often presented. Both technologies offer advantages, and tank-type water heaters will continue to be a solution in many circumstances for years to come. It’s about choosing the right product for the job at hand. As long as consumers know what they’re looking for and work with a professional, they can be confident that they’ll find the right configuration for their home.

GUEST AUTHOR: Trevor Pinto is the Product Manager of Residential Products and Application Support for Bradford White Corporation and has been with the company since 2012.  Pinto began his career in the Product Management Department starting out as a Product Analyst and has grown in the ranks over the past several years.  In his current role, he oversees the residential product line as well as the application support team.  The application support team is responsible for assisting Bradford White’s customer base with selecting the appropriate product for a specific application and providing general product knowledge. 

Prior to joining Bradford White, Trevor graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in Criminology.  He grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and is a passionate Philadelphia sports fan, enjoys music and the outdoors including camping, hiking, and fishing.  He currently resides in Lansdale, PA with his wife and two children.

I’m sure many of you have heard of Mary Kay cosmetics, one of the largest network marketing companies in the world. There are more than 800,000 Mary Kay beauty consultants throughout the world, who have accomplished more than $1.2 billion in sales. The founder of this hugely successful organization was named Mary Kay Ash — Read more

I’m sure many of you have heard of Mary Kay cosmetics, one of the largest network marketing companies in the world. There are more than 800,000 Mary Kay beauty consultants throughout the world, who have accomplished more than $1.2 billion in sales. The founder of this hugely successful organization was named Mary Kay Ash — and I am one of the many people who have purchased her products and contributed to those numbers.

Many people have asked Mary Kay what she owed her success to. What was her secret to building an empire and acquiring so much wealth? There are two quotes in response to this question that I want to share with you today. I frequently ponder on them and even have them posted in my house as a reminder of how I should live my life.

  • Quote No. 1: “I have learned to imagine a sign hanging from every person’s neck that says, ‘Make me feel important today.’”
  • Quote No. 2: “Everyone wants to be appreciated, so if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret.”

Isn’t that an amazing mindset and perspective to have? Imagine if we could all master the art of appreciation in our lives. How different this world would be! It’s not that we would do this to make more money and have more power. Perhaps it would be a natural result as was the case with Mary Kay. But I believe that if we expressed appreciation to those around us on a daily basis and proactively sought out ways to make people feel important, not only would our own lives be enriched, the lives of countless others would also be uplifted and changed for the better. Everything about humanity would be better.

Appreciation is especially vital in the workplace. I have heard many business owners say “Why do I need to reward my employees for doing their job? That’s what I pay them for.” I have also heard “What’s the point of incentives? I shouldn’t have to pay someone to do their job in the first place.” I hope you’re like me and cringed when you read that.

So, let’s break it down: There is a difference between paying your employees to do their job, appreciating them for doing their job, and incentivizing them to take it to the next level. I am going to provide you with some ideas that I hope you will find valuable and helpful in connecting and growing your team.

Paying Employees to do their job

Everyone in your company is going to be all about the WIIFM — what’s in it for me? Your team, no matter how much they love what they do or find purpose in it, will always want to know how much they are compensated for doing their job. Having clear roles and responsibilities is very important so people know what is expected of them in return for a paycheck. But so often employees are given new or different tasks that might be outside of their daily duties. Sometimes people are more than happy to jump in and help, but if they are given a project that backs them up with their normal job and takes them away from their family and having a life, they are going to want to know the WIIFM.

Appreciating employees for doing their job

So, you pay your people to do their job. But appreciating them to do their job is different. It has to be a show and tell. Many business owners and leaders might give shout-outs at company meetings or say things like “I appreciate all you do.” Words of affirmation are great, but they are just words. What are you doing to show your team you value them? Here are some ideas that I’ve seen just within the last year since the pandemic hit:

Since my husband started working from home full-time, his company has sent him a swag box in the mail every single month to say thank you. It would have a new sweater or jacket, Yeti water bottle, Cabala’s gift card (we love that store), gourmet chocolate, journals, flashlights, etc.

Sarah Hammond, owner of Atlas Plumbing, Air, and Electric, buys each employee a bag of fruits and vegetables every single month to take home to their families. She advocates health and wellness and wants to support them in this way.

Jennifer Bagley, owner of CI Web group, got all of her team members a Peloton exercise bike, and they actually do company workouts together from home.

Ryan Kohler, owner of Hire Dimensions, provides a housecleaner to each one of his employees every month to do the deep cleaning.

These are just some of the ways the leaders are saying thank you to their employees. They are saying thank you with gifts and actions, not just words. Gifts matter.

Incentivizing your team to take it to the next level

Apart from paying your employees to do their job and appreciating them for doing so, motivating them is a whole new ballgame. No matter how much someone loves what they do, they will get burned out. Everyone needs a break to reset every now and then. They also need something to always stay motivated to continue helping you build your empire.

Incentives should be short-term and long-term. You might need a certain task completed by a certain deadline — such as scheduling membership appointments by the end of the month or reaching a specific revenue goal. If you are needing something done fast, creating individual and team incentives is the way to go.

Long-term incentives can also be super beneficial — like at the end of the year if your business reaches a certain level, everyone gets to cash in on the prize. Bonuses, spiffs, and incentives are a great way to keep your team motivated, help them feel appreciated, and provides you opportunities as a leader to keep people engaged in growing your business.

Short-term incentives can come in the form of gift cards, PTO, spiffs, work-from-home day, prize box, lunch, etc. Long-term incentives could come in the form of vacations, (I know a contractor who gives away a cruise for two every month to his employees), large scale and expensive prizes, cash, gym memberships, etc.

Just have fun with it! Find out what your employees want and then help them get it by creating a plan of action to achieve their goals.

I want to encourage everyone, and challenge myself, to find someone each day of our lives who we can make feel important. We always remember the thoughtful things people do for us. Let’s all commit to becoming better at being the person who does thoughtful things for others on a daily basis.

Erica Leonor is Executive Trainer for Power Selling Pros. As an Executive Trainer at Power Selling Pros, Erica Leonor is constantly developing new content and curriculum that will enable home service businesses to achieve a higher level of success for themselves, their teams, and their customers. A mentor, coach, presenter, and public speaker for over 10 years, Erica also serves on the Board of Directors of Women in HVACR. She received a B.A. in anthropology from BYU-Hawaii.

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month to honor the heroic and historic accomplishments of women in all areas of accomplishment. In plumbing, we look to Lillian Baumbach, the first female master plumber in the United States. Women, like Lillian, paved the way for modern female plumbers and other tradeswomen. The best form of honor Read more

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month to honor the heroic and historic accomplishments of women in all areas of accomplishment. In plumbing, we look to Lillian Baumbach, the first female master plumber in the United States. Women, like Lillian, paved the way for modern female plumbers and other tradeswomen. The best form of honor is respect. There is no better way to respect tradeswomen than acting like a true ally.

What is an ally? An ally is an individual, contractor, manufacturer and/or retailer who stands with and for tradeswomen.

Women constitute a mere 1.5% of the construction trades industry workforce. With numbers so low, it’s easy to feel alone and isolated in your work environment. Below, find some tips to being an ally.

An ally:

  • Mentors – Providing sage advice to apprentices and young people in the skilled trades helps them feel welcomed in their work environment. This extends to facilitating networking and social events.
  • Does not assume – When in doubt, ask. Also, do not assume stereotypes about women or women who work in the skilled construction trades. Having low expectations of tradeswomen is another gaffe. Do not assume tradeswomen possess less experience or cannot complete the same tasks as a tradesman.
  • Isn’t shy – An ally calls people out and does not tolerate inappropriate and demeaning humor or remarks. Additionally, get involved with women’s committees. Both men and women can support women in the trades. An ally can also get involved with policy. Share information about the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, sexual harassment training, and pregnancy discrimination.
  • Doesn’t mansplain – This should go without saying.
  • Encourages all voices – Keep an open mind. As a leader, create environments where all voices can be heard and appreciated.

It’s not simple, but it’s worth it. Allies, like tradeswomen, come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds. An ally is a powerful tool for recruitment and retention of tradeswomen. Rest assured, tradeswomen will still be here with or without allies. But, they help to improve the workplace for all.

Guest Blogger – Allie Perez founded Texas Women in Trades in 2013, an organization working to bring more women, minorities, and young people to the trades. She also serves as the VP of Marketing and Operations at George Plumbing Co. in San Antonio and on the National Taskforce for Tradeswomen as the Communications Committee Co-Chair. A graduate of New York University, Allie has contributed to trade periodicals for more than seven years. To contact her directly, email texaswomenintrades@gmail.com.

It’s every business’ dream to have as many streams of incoming revenue as possible. New customers generally make the bulk of a plumbing business’ revenue but with diversification on many people’s minds nowadays, perhaps it’s time to take a look at some alternatives. What’s one that immediately comes to mind? Repeat customers, of course!  Acknowledging Read more

It’s every business’ dream to have as many streams of incoming revenue as possible. New customers generally make the bulk of a plumbing business’ revenue but with diversification on many people’s minds nowadays, perhaps it’s time to take a look at some alternatives. What’s one that immediately comes to mind? Repeat customers, of course! 

Acknowledging the value of returning customers

The first step is acknowledging the actual value of customer loyalty. I’m positive you’ve never thought to yourself “I hate loyal customers”; after all, it’s no doubt a good thing to have people choosing to hire you again and again: wear it like a badge of honor! But just because you’re happy about that, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re properly appreciating the value that these repeat customers provide your business with. 

From a statistical point of view, retaining customers is up to 5 times cheaper than acquiring new ones. Returning customers also spend more: up to 300%! That’s a whole lot of value to be taking more seriously, which means strategizing how you can retain even more customers is important, too. 

Equally, it helps to keep things in perspective; your plumbing business might be different, so it’s important to sit down with your own numbers and see if they do, in fact, match up to this potential. 

Regardless, thinking up strategies to boost your returning customer rate is never going to hurt: even a little can go a long way. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from 2020 it’s that keeping your eggs in the same basket is not ideal, so having diverse streams of income is always a good idea. 

Understanding why customers return to you

“Because I did a great job!” is the most natural answer to this question and oftentimes it’s also the right one. But, with competition in the plumbing industry being what it is nowadays, it’s hubris to say that you’re the only plumber in town who can do a good job. 

If we’re going to be honest about it, most customers have a hard time telling an average job from a great one. As long as nothing breaks down for a reasonable number of days and there isn’t a massive mess, they won’t think twice about it.  

To push the example, check out your own reviews and those of a competitor, then count how many times “great customer service”, “convenient”, “easy to communicate with” and other such phrases are mentioned. Then compare the number against how often “my hot water booster installation was a work of art” shows up. 

It’s not the big things you do, but more often the run-of-the-mill details – like sending email confirmations and having techs wear polo shirts – that often make the biggest impact. Some other tips to get more repeat customers (and positive reviews) would be:

  • 24/7 availability with the help of an online booking portal 
  • Keeping customers in the loop with automatic email/text notifications
  • Sharing technician arrival times & tracking info so they’re not taken by surprise
  • Training your techs & admin to always be presentable and make a good impression
  • Sending feedback requests after the work is done 

How much is maintenance work worth to you

Servicing appliances isn’t high up on anyone’s list of favorite jobs. It’s mundane, presents little to no challenge, and doesn’t seem to bring in much profit. The latter isn’t difficult to fix – if you use your net profit per hour to set prices instead of gross margins, every job will be a (highly) profitable job. 

Regularly servicing appliances helps ensure that they work properly, don’t use up more electricity than they should, and that they last longer. Not to mention it helps avoid dangerous malfunctions that people might not even be aware of. These are all reasons to inform your customers and sell them on a service deal. 

This can even work as a sales strategy, where you offer a “subscription plan”. Instead of charging them, say, $164.99 next year, when you come for the maintenance check, they can pay $13.75/month and have a technician available to them at all times for free check-ups and advice. $13.75/month might sound like change, but rack up 50 of these 30-minute jobs, and you’ve got almost $700/month guaranteed for only 25h of work! 

Educating techs on how to be better salesperson

A technician’s priority is to do a great job – that’s always going to be true. But they’re also oftentimes the only face-to-face interaction customers have with your plumbing business. The level of trust they’re afforded shouldn’t be taken for granted, which means that pushy sales techniques and tactics don’t have a place in this situation. This being said, a technician can always learn to judge a situation on their own and make recommendations accordingly. 

Whether it’s by presenting an additional product (where you can earn a mark-up if you have a good vendor relationship that affords you reduced rates) or a subscription like the one above, they’re in an unique position to make a great impression and help customers decide on hiring you again in the future. 

Another way they can help the business is by using a quoting tool to show multiple options for a future project the customer might be interested in. This is the good, better, best approach also known as  bronze/silver/gold service. Studies show that people rarely go for the cheapest option when they’re presented with 3 prices; you’re almost guaranteed that they pick the middle, or even the premium one. 

Don’t leave it to the customer to schedule your jobs

And speaking of that future project (or maintenance work for that matter): you can’t rely on the customer to call you again. Sure, it’s great that some do, but for the most part and especially for that lucrative service work, people follow a “if it ain’t broke, why fix it” mentality. Chances are they won’t book a job until something breaks down. 

This is why sending regular service reminders is essential. Not only does it give them a little nudge, but if you time them right (or better yet, schedule them in advance), they can also help the customer feel like they’re getting a more personalized treatment, seeing how you “remembered” when their appliance was due a check-up.

If you need a few more ideas, this is a complete guide to service reminders

Simply keeping in touch with customers is essential and I don’t just mean sending them discounts or brochures. If you do decide to commit to a newsletter or regular emails, it’s best to try and keep it engaging. It does take more effort, but don’t overthink it; high production values are overrated. Relatability and being down-to-earth is a lot more valuable so the odd DIY tutorial on how to do an easy fix or some insight from the business (a “Get to know your plumber!” sort of thing) will go a lot further in establishing a long-lasting relationship. 

The takeaway

All in all, earning customer loyalty means being great at what you do and having an eye for the kind of details that make a difference. As you grow your plumbing business, it can get more difficult to keep track of everything, from scheduling to payments to customer service. 

Digital tools are already a mainstay of our everyday lives and Commusoft is one that strives to make remarkable customer journeys a breeze for any contracting business. If you’re looking to learn more, check out our Customer Journeys page.

Guest Blogger: Cristina Maria is a Marketing Executive at Commusoft, a job management software company, where she helps educate and empower field service businesses to deliver a remarkable customer experience.