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Getting What You Pay For

March 11, 2014
Replacing equipment with the lowest-priced option may cost more in the long run.
“You get what you pay for.” How often do we hear that? It applies to most products and services, including HVAC. In December, I posted about the higher cost often associated with allowing equipment to fail, rather than replacing it before it fails. Regardless of timing, replacing equipment with the lowest-cost option also may be more expensive in the long run. This is not to say lower-cost products necessarily are inferior; however, especially in competitive markets, price generally is an indicator of quality and/or value. In the case of services, it also may be indicative of the competence and experience of the service provider.

A notable example of price relating to quality is the recent Chinese drywall fiasco. To date, proposed settlements have exceeded $1 billion. By some estimates, that’s around 10 percent of total annual gypsum-board sales! For comparison, think about the cost if automakers recalled one out of every 10 cars sold each year.

Every market, including HVAC, has a place for the belief of, “If it’s cheap enough, it’s good enough.” There are air-conditioning contractors who provide equipment they know is of a lower quality but that they believe will make it through the warranty period. The most successful contractors and equipment suppliers (and service providers), however, are those who believe customer loyalty comes from good quality and good service, not being the lowest-price solution. Those who don’t believe that perhaps should try investing in product improvement—or hiring more qualified technicians—rather than “buying” their business by offering deeper discounts. Over the long term, they probably will make more money.

In HVAC, like with everything else, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth paying for.

About the Author

Larry Clark

A member of HPAC Engineering’s Editorial Advisory Board, Lawrence (Larry) Clark, QCxP, GGP, LEED AP+, is principal of Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC, a South Florida-based engineering firm focused on energy and sustainability consulting. He has more than two dozen published articles on HVAC- and energy-related topics to his credit and frequently lectures on green-building best practices, central-energy-plant optimization, and demand-controlled ventilation.