10 Facts About Water Heaters

By Matt Michel

Ten Facts About Water Heaters Every Plumbing Contractor Should Know

1. There is No Such Thing as a “Hot” Water Heater

Okay, this is a pet peeve, but there is no such thing as a hot water heater. What would be the point? It’s a cold water heater, or just a water heater. It’s bad enough that consumers call them hot water heaters. It’s inexcusable for plumbing professionals.

2. One-Third of Consumers Will Opt for Upgraded Water Heaters

Around one out of three consumers who select a storage water heater through a retail channel will buy a 7-year or 10-year water heater. That is, they buy up. And there is not a lot of consultative salesmanship occurring at big boxes. At best, there’s limited merchandising, such as three water heaters that look pretty much alike and three signs proclaiming the features and benefits of each. If that’s all it takes to persuade a third of the buying public to buy up, then plumbing contractors should accept no less from their team of plumbing professionals.

3. Plumbers Usually Offer a Binary Choice

Since the retail channel delivers upsells one third of the time, plumbing professionals standing belly to belly with the customer should do better, much better. Right? Wrong. In the trade channel, 95% of water heater sales involve standard 5-year water heaters. This is because too many plumbers offer a binary choice … a 5-year heater or nothing. As a consumer, I have even had plumbers try to talk me out of buying more than a standard 5-year water heater. This is a training opportunity. Plumbers are leaving money on the table and their customers are denied options they might prefer.

At big box stores, one of three consumers upgrade to a 7 or 10-year water heater. Yet many plumbers offer customers a 5-year heater… or nothing.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, the largest business alliance in the plumbing, heating, and cooling industry. You can reach Matt by email at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com, toll-free at 877-262-3341, or follow him on Twitter as ComancheMktg.

To compete with big box stores, plumbers need to make it just as easy to buy and just as safe, if not safer.

4. Big Boxes Are Easier to Buy From

Consumers buy from big box retailers because they make it easy to buy. The big boxes are familiar and safe. To compete, plumbers need to make it just as easy to buy and just as safe, if not safer. This is done by providing options online and in-person, providing support literature, offering financing, strong guarantees like a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and a labor warranty that matches the parts warranty.

5. Big Boxes Do Not Sell Quick Recovery

One of the overlooked opportunities to sell water heaters involves quick recovery gas unit. These do not cost much more than a standard recovery but can be sold for significantly more.

Persuade a homeowner that a quick recover water heater is tantamount to a larger water heater. This can be especially important if space considerations require a smaller tank due to the new efficiency standards.

6. All Water Heaters Should Receive Maintenance

There is plenty of maintenance that can be performed on a water heater. For example, tanks need to be flushed. Sacrificial anode rods need to be replaced. T&P valves need to be tested. By itself, this may not be sufficient to warrant a service call, so combine it with other maintenance items like dye testing water closets, cleaning faucet aerators, and so on.

7. Consumers Fear Leaks Most of All

Identify the average life of water heaters in your market (it varies around the country) and promote it, suggesting that anyone with a water heater that age or older is living on borrowed time before the tank bursts. This is playing to people’s greatest fear about a water heater, a house flood from the water heater. This can lead to accelerated replacements, the sale of tankless, and the sale of water alarms with automatic shutoff valves.

8. Tankless Should Not Be Sold on ROI

Gas tankless water heaters save money, but not enough to justify the premium they command so do not talk about a return on investment. Mention the lower energy costs without quantifying a return, but stress the continual flow of hot water, the absence of a large tank that might burst and leak, and the reduced footprint.

9. Water Heaters Can Be Bundled

An excellent way to sell water heaters is bundled with a gas furnace. It should be one option for furnace replacement quotes, especially if the water heater is located in close proximity to the furnace air handling unit.

10. Most Consumers Lack the Savings to Pay for a Water Heater

According to the Federal Reserve, half the country can’t afford a $400 repair without borrowing money or selling something. Thus, more than half your customers will need to finance a water heater replacement. If you have thirdparty financing in place, you will close more sales at higher margins.

If you have thirdparty financing in place, you will close more sales at higher margins.

For more information on the PHC industry’s most affordable business support organization, check out www.ServiceRoundtable.com or call 877-262-3341 and ask for a tour behind the firewall so you can see what your competitors are enjoying.