Chapter Corner

Old Houses, New Business

Posted in: Features, May/June 2015

old_houses_revised.gifEach spring, many homeowners look to improve their homes by undertaking some remodeling projects. For some electrical contractors, the practice of “upselling” has come to espouse a negative connotation, implying that consumers can be convinced to purchase more expensive options that do not provide necessary benefits. However, as the expert, you are presented with an opportunity to enhance your clients’ safety, aesthetics, and quality of life with the opportunity to provide products and services about which your customers may be unaware. As an electrical professional, you are uniquely positioned to employ your training to enhance the lives of those you serve. While upselling products and services can certainly add to your bottom line, you will likely find this result without it being your primary objective.

May is National Electrical Safety Month, which is an awareness campaign to advance electrical safety sponsored by the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) and supported by individuals, businesses, state governors, and even the President of the United States. The 2015 campaign theme, “That Old House, This New Update,” highlights common hazards posed by America’s aging housing stock and features a variety of updates that can be made to homes of any age to improve efficiency, appearance, or functionality. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than four in 10 of the nation’s housing stock was built before 1970. But it’s not just aging homes that need attention. Unlike the original owners of these homes, new homeowners may be less familiar with the maintenance and repairs required to ensure continued safety and performance, especially among older homes. National Electrical Safety Month is a great opportunity showcase depth of services you can provide your customers.

In any project, the National Electrical Code (NEC) will dictate some electrical upgrades, but many would be up to the owner’s discretion. Each client’s exposure to electrical safety technologies is different, so be sure to take the time to explain how they work. For example, an older couple may be unaware about the life-saving potential of tamper resistant receptacles, a relatively recent technology. Explain the benefits of this permanent safety feature, especially if they anticipate visiting grandchildren. Even if a technology is already present in the home, like a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacle in a bathroom, gauge whether your client understands the functionality and its link to safety. This understanding may encourage them to engage in maintenance activities like testing them each month. With this foundation of trust, a client may be more receptive to learning about convenience features, like such as USB outlets, once you’ve demonstrated true concern for their well-being. Or in the reverse, an inquiry into a convenience feature, such as USB outlets, can be used to encourage the installation of safety features, like tamper resistant receptacles, as some technologies can be combined in a single outlet.

Additionally, some projects provide opportunities for improved efficiency, which will save the client money long- term. A project initiated by a problematic light switch could lead to a discussion about more efficient lighting solutions, such as motion sensors, timers, dimmers, and the unique features of the variety of bulbs on the market. As incandescent bulbs are phasing out, a re-education is needed in order to understand the associated terminology and the benefits of these emerging lighting solutions. With your help, customers can understand efficiency upgrades as an investment in future cost-savings on their utility bills and a reduced carbon footprint.

These are but a few examples of ways in which you can “upsell” safety in homes of all ages. As the unbiased authority on electrical safety, ESFI encourages you to utilize our resources during these conversations to give further credence and explanation to your suggestions. The 2015 campaign includes a variety of resources that could be utilized by electrical professionals, including:

  • A side-by-side comparison of available outlet types, such as arc fault circuit interrupters, GFCIs, tamper resistant receptacles, and more.

  • A featured section highlighting the potential dangers of aluminum wiring in older homes.

  • Signs of problems related to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

  • Information about surge protection technologies.

  • Outdoor electrical safety reminders and best practices.

  • Hindsight testimonials from new homeowners and recent home remodelers.

  • And much more!

This May, help make electrical safety your bottom line.

PROMOTING THE CODE WITH NATIONAL ELECTRICAL SAFETY MONTH

To commemorate May as National Electrical Safety Month, ESFI spearheads an annual campaign to educate key audiences about the steps that can be taken in order to reduce the number ofelectrically-related fires, fatalities, injuries, and property loss. ESFI’s National Electrical Safety Month 2015 campaign features the release of the second edition of its campaign publication, Electrical Safety Illustrated, which is a magazine that discusses timely electrical safety issues and equips consumers with the knowledge to protect their homes, families, and communities from electrical hazards. The subject of this year’s publication is “That Old House, This New Update,” which will inform readers about common hazards posed by America’s aging housing stock and features a variety of updates that can be made to all homes.

For more information on the Electrical Safety Foundation International and National Electrical Safety Month, visit www.esfi.org.

Brett Brenner is the President of the Electrical Safety Foundation International, a non-profit dedicated to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace through education, awareness, and advocacy.