Natural gas can offer the homeowner some compelling arguments for conversion. However, one advantage with oil or propane heat is that, as a homeowner, you control your own destiny. Recent summer storms have knocked out power for millions in the Midwest. It’s not uncommon for winter ice storms to do the same in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. What does this have to do with heat? Not much directly, unless you warm the house through electricity. Natural gas outages tend to be rare by comparison. But, will that always be the case?
We are moving into uncharted territory where the foundation of our economy is concerned. There is a possibility, if you look at it from a glass half empty standpoint, that the future will have far more uncertainty where infrastructure is concerned. In other parts of the world such as Argentina, the impact of economic disruption is clearly felt in the utility sector, where power outages and even gas outages are common rather than rare events. Were the utilities nationalized and government operated (and budgeted) this would certainly be more concerning. But even with them operating as private entities a tough economy will increasingly strain their ability to maintain quality service.
I believe the recent storms provide an example of this trend in action. The storms were severe and caused significant damage that takes time to repair. But the severity of the storms was not all that unique compared to past decades. What was unique was the amount of time required to get service restored during the past half-decade from such events. My assumption, which admittedly could be misguided, is that maintenance staffing is cut to the bone to primarily handle standard requirements along with less spending on infrastructure upgrades that might boost reliability. Would this improve in a tightening economy, or become worse?
I believe that for some customers a compelling “off the grid” argument can be made against a gas conversion, and not just for the survivalist set looking to heat the bunker compound. Further, extra business could be gained by a diversified dealer providing grid independence solutions. And the type of work required would generally mesh with a dealer’s existing core competencies.
If there is fuel in the tank there is going to be heat. If you sell them a generator system there will be electricity even if their neighbors are stuck in the dark or sweltering in the heat. And while a specific dealer might go out of business there will likely be another one around to fill the gap.
Will it be an easy sell or represent a mass market – probably not. Nor should scare tactics be used to push the concept. But it can be positioned as added piece of mind for those customers with the resources and an honest concern over maintaining their current quality of care-free life.