REMEMBER KERMIT THE FROG singing, "It ain't easy being green"? He sang it slow and low, kind of like the blues. In the mind of Kermit, not only is the glass half empty, it's got a rapidly leaking hole in the bottom.
I disagree with our old green friend Kermit. I think it's easy being green. I think your contracting company can be green and, consequently, can collect lots of green.
No, don't panic. I can hear you thinking, "I am not ever going to be a tree-hugging, granola-crunching individual."
Really? You won't hug a tree? Well, what if it's a money tree, growing right behind your shop? C'mon, you big macho guys and girls, you'd give that tree a big bear hug and maybe a little shake, wouldn't you? And you don't even have to wear flannel or own a pair of Birkenstocks.
First off, if you're selling and installing hydronic systems such as radiant floors, or even plain old baseboard, you already are green, you just don't know it. You're probably too scared to admit it. I know this because you're not telling your customers. No place is it more important to tell your story than with being green.
Think about it. Does a baseboard system and radiant floor system use less energy than an old leaky hot-air system? If it's burning less fuel that means we are putting less risky stuff in the air, right? See, you do have a little flannel hanging in your closet, don't you!
Now, let's give this exercise a little more thought. When was the last time you used 50-50 solder? I bet you use non-toxic antifreeze in systems instead of car-style antifreeze.
I think it's easy being green.
When you put in AC, you sell 410A systems, right? If not, why not, and, if you are, do you explain it? When Boucher Energy Systems works on AC systems, we recover the old refrigerant gas and turn it in for proper disposal.
Now, after you take out that old junker air conditioner or boiler, what happens to it? At our company, we recycle it. You probably do too. We also have a recycling dumpster solely for cardboard. But here's the kicker: Are you telling your customers that? If not, they are always going to just think of us as a dirty industry, not clean and green.
Do you scrap copper, aluminum and cast iron? Of course you do with the prices we've seen lately. I had an "ah-ha" moment the other day as I've totally forgotten to tell people about those little round gold thermostats, you know the mercury-filled ones? We take those off the wall and recycle them. I had completely forgotten to tell our customers that (idiot!).
At BES, we sell a wall-hung, gas-fired condensing boiler; it's as clean and green as they come. This boiler has incredibly low emissions. It's so clean that it produces a minute amount of NOx and carbon monoxide and what homeowner wouldn't want that?
Want to "wow" homeowners? Put a carbon monoxide detector right in front of the boiler exhaust and watch their jaw drop when it doesn't go off. Then hold it in front of their car exhaust. I can hear some of you right now: "Too expensive, too complex." You say, "The customers in my market will never buy it."
In my mind's eye, you're starting to resemble a little green frog, but you're not looking like Kermit. You look like the little guy from the classic '80s video game "Frogger." That's you, the green little guy trying to cross the highway in a frenzied panic. "Too expensive, too complex. I don't understand. Customers don't understand," you chant. SPLAT! You are toast, you are a road stain, and you are a flat frog.
My dad started our company 30 years ago selling "Alternative Energy." Solar systems and wood boilers! Hey, what goes around comes around. Now we have a great interest in alternative fuels again.
Are you doing solar? If not, why not? There are even tax rebates for it. "Too complex," you say. "Too expensive."
Really? You're a hydronic contractor, aren't you? You're in the comfort business, right? OK, so in addition to selling efficient boilers, you can offer that big, glowing orb in the sky. Poof! You're a solar contractor. You already know most of what you need to know about pumps, pipe sizes, GPM, etc.; you're just offering another heat source.
Steve, my partner in comfort (not crime), just attended a solar class. Of the attendees, no more than a third were HVAC/plumbing contractors. Huh? What? Only a third? Who were the rest? They were solar and green energy start-up companies.
These are folks who already do whole-house energy audits. Folks with MBAs from Tree Hugger U and other well-known business schools. These guys have passion. They have drive. They have the marketing skills. They probably do not eat bacon, but they are out to steal yours. They also don't have the knowledge you do. One whole day of the class was spent discussing things such as "how does a circulator work?"
So, are you going to let them steal your customers or are you going to climb on the green bandwagon? Or, SPLAT! Are you going to be like Frogger, getting squished on the road! You know who just ran over you? It was a couple kids driving a bio-diesel powered Eurovan, wearing Birkenstocks, on their way to the bank with "green money." Money that should have been yours.
Are you going to let them take it? Peace, dude.
Joel Boucher is vice president of Boucher Energy Systems in Mendon, Mass. He can be reached via the company's Website at www.boucherenergy.com.