Bought on the Internet
Elsewhere in this newsletter you will find an announcement from boiler and water heater manufacturer Navien that they will not warranty any equipment purchased on the Internet. Stickers on the packing make it clear to the purchaser. It’s likely we will see more announcements like this in an age where one can buy anything online, including HVAC equipment. There are serious safety and liability issues when this equipment is installed by people that are not qualified to do so.
In this country, the homeowner is king. They are allowed to do virtually any type of work on their home. “You can do it,” the big box renovation retailers advertise. They can buy an air conditioner on the Internet, install it and charge it with propane from a local retailer.
Some countries have limits on what a homeowner can do, but that doesn’t seem to apply in Canada. Technically, they should have their work signed off on by a licensed trade person, but how often does that happen? The do-it-yourself brigade can really hurt themselves and their families with a bad installation.
From the manufacturer or wholesaler’s point of view, they want to know the equipment is being installed properly. The manufacturer’s instructions make it clear that the equipment is only to be installed by qualified trades. It’s not only the safety/liability issues; they want it to work as designed. Bad installations damage a manufacturer’s reputation because the resulting problems are usually blamed on the equipment.
That being said, it’s tough to turn down a sale. Most wholesalers in the HVAC/R industry make it perfectly clear – often with a sign on their front doors – that they sell to the trade only. But equipment available for sale on the Internet often originates with a wholesaler somewhere in the chain.
A few years ago I reported how a contractor in Edmundston, N.B., a dealer for a well-established heat pump manufacturer, found himself competing against a wholesaler just across the border in Maine who was advertising and offering free delivery of equipment from the same manufacturer. Never mind that it was slightly different and not certified for use in Canada; it was cheaper. Just about everyone in the industry has heard about cases like this.
The Internet isn’t all bad; as fewer wholesalers maintain an aisle of obsolete parts, sometimes it’s the best way to track down that piece you need for a 30-year-old boiler, or whatever.
But I suspect the liability issues alone will have us seeing more stickers on packaging like that from Navien. The industry must protect itself.