Over the past few weeks, I have talked to several contractors who sell oil, LP gas, pellets and heating equipment. During these conversations, they all seem to all have a standard question for me–when are we going to get the cold weather? As I have stated many times, my crystal ball broke a long time ago. However, I do however realize that we have about 4.5 months to get those degree days converted into gallons of either LP or oil delivered along with boilers and furnaces installed.
Think about your supplier who has millions of dollars in inventory they pre- bought in anticipation of the seasonal cold winter, like we had during the winter of 2014, which has yet to arrive. I know that there are still some LP and natural gas companies installing new underground LP tanks and gas lines, when normally they are ahead of schedule in preparation for frost and snow.
This should be a banner year in fuel sale, due to the fact that oil prices have declined to a more affordable price and fuel oil is more in line with the LP gas. In some areas, the gas equipment rebates still hold the upper hand and some contractors are still taking advantage of the sales opportunity.
Another area of concern that I hear far too often is, where do the contractors find the new technicians that will allow them to take on more work? My answer, to start with, is simple–reduce the amount of time between the classroom and OJT in order for new tech’s to get the required license sooner. Most states require an apprentice to serve two years before taking the Journeymen’s test that would allow the candidate to work legally. Keep in mind that some HVAC technical training programs cost in the area of $20,000 per year for a two-year program. Why?
What’s Happening to the Factory Reps?
Many of you will remember the times when if we had an equipment issue we could call the local direct factory representative, who seems to have begun to disappear over the past couple of years. As recently as a week ago I heard that another manufacturing company has decided to eliminate the direct factory representative positions. Some of these reps’s that I have worked with for many years are gone.
This is not to say the new rep. agencies who are taking on these lines won’t do a good job, but the tradesmen have brought their concerns about these missing connections to my attention. They are asking, who the replacements are and if they will get the support and promptly when needed. I always tell contractors, they need to give the new reps a chance to prove their worth. I, like many in this profession, have worked with reliable representatives and with great success.
On another note, not Among the Missing. I recently visited a manufacturing company located in Connecticut that is now under new ownership, and recently restructured. This was done not only to take their products to new heights, but to wake a once a sleeping giant. As I see it, the owner, as part of the restructure plan, put in place factory representatives who understand and relate to their customers’ needs and concerns. All of these people came with many years of trade related experience and drive, which I’m sure were prerequisites.
Here’s another area that is frequently discussed in my travels, which is the area of product warranties not being long enough. For many years, most products have had a one- or two- year warranty. However, on a very positive note to address the missing long term warranty issue, a major burner manufacture is now adding a 5-year program on every part attached to their burner. The missing labor allowance will always be an issue, but I have heard that on some special circumstances here have been some labor concessions. Remember the old saying, that a half a piece of pie is better than none!
In closing out 2015 and moving into 2016, may you all have a happy, healthy and successful New Year!