By Tom Giardina, owner
American Heating & Cooling, in Lake of the Ozarks, MO
An HVAC business doesn’t stay in business for 33 years without experience and integrity. But that doesn’t happen without making some mistakes and learning some lessons along the way. Our business is no exception.
Last summer, during that awful heat wave, I was called to a repair a woman’s air conditioning. The capacitor was bad, so I replaced it with an inexpensive capacitor I had on my truck and got the AC running. Well, a week later, the customer’s AC had quit again. I stopped by her house and discovered that the capacitor had popped. I knew right away what was going on: low-quality capacitors aren’t made to last or withstand extreme conditions like the heat we were experiencing. But that’s all I had on my truck, so I installed another cheap capacitor, and then returned the next day to install what I should have in the first place, a Genteq capacitor.
All in all, that one issue cost me four service calls. I lost $240, since I could only charge the customer $80 for the original service call.
This is why I now only stock and use motors and capacitors from the most reputable companies – sometimes when you look for ways to save money, it actually ends up costing you money. I know contractors who would rather use an inferior part because that’s all their distributor offers rather than drive a little farther for a better quality one. To that I say, “Really? You want your name associated with cheap junk?!”
The price difference between an inexpensive capacitor and one made by a respected American company is nominal. I pay $4.45 for a low-quality 35/5 cap, and $5.50 for a Genteq cap. I would estimate that I have 100 capacitors on each of my trucks, and additional inventory at the office, which comes to a pretty sizable investment for 500 capacitors. I could save myself $500 if I purchased the cheaper capacitors, but if they have a failure rate of 10%, that’s $8,000 that I would lose on service calls, not to mention the damage to my reputation. So on cheap capacitors, am I really saving money?
I don’t have any problem selling high-end products to my customers, even if it costs a little more, because people believe in them. We are not the cheapest company on the block, but that’s because we don’t cut corners on quality and we make sure, as much as possible, that the parts we use are from a respected company. We’ve learned our lesson about cutting corners on inexpensive components – it’s no cost savings at all!