A person with two paths to choose from, and one side has more money than the other.

Direct Costs | HVAC Pricing Series Part 3

Part 1 & 2 of the series covered Pricing Awareness and What is the Right Price. Part 3 will start to take a deeper look into how we can begin thinking about where your bottom line is before you can find the right price point for your products and services. To do this, there are two kinds of costs in any company: Direct Costs and Overhead Costs. Direct costs are the costs you have because you get a job, while overhead costs are the costs you have whether you get a job or not.

Direct costs happen because you actually get a job and you have to buy things to perform that job. These kinds of costs would include most, if not all of the following tasks. Each of these items should be written down and have a cost assigned to it so that there is a record of the materials used on the job. Writing down these amounts makes sure that you don’t forget anything and they act as a permanent record of what you estimated was needed on the job. Having that record helps you do a better estimation for the next job.

The six most common Direct Costs:

Materials:

For a typical HVAC company examples of these items could be furnace, coil, condenser, line set, thermostat, pad, whip, disconnect, wiring supplies, fluing supplies, brazing supplies, gas piping supplies, sheet metal supplies, grills and registers, drain supplies, repair parts, cleaning supplies. Freight costs to deliver these materials to your company or the job site are also included. The costs for each of these items are easily found from your invoices or receipts. Usually you have a very knowledgeable idea what the specific material costs for a specific job will be before the job is performed.

Subcontractors:

These costs are incurred when you hire another contractor to do part of the job. Examples of subcontractors are electricians, chimney sweeps, plumbers, cranes, core cutters and others. You will know before you set your price exactly what the cost will be for these subcontractors because they have bid the job and given you a price (or you can reasonably estimate their prices because of your experience.)

Permits:

These are the state, federal or local permits needed to perform the job legally and to code.

Labor:

These costs are the actual costs of the labor to perform the job. These costs are probably the hardest costs to estimate to be able to come up with the Right Price as they have the largest elements of the unknown. How long will it really take to do a specific job? Who will perform the labor on the job, the fast guy or the slow guy? Do we need a helper on the job? Will we run into unexpected problems such as rain, heat, breakdowns, illness, and customer issues? Most experienced HVAC professionals have a pretty good idea how to estimate the labor for any job based on the prior performance of their techs (or themselves) on similar jobs. So, based on experience determine the number of hours of labor to complete a job for each tech and multiply those hours times the labor rate of each tech. That labor rate should include the fringe benefits you pay such as taxes, FICA, health insurance, vacation, sick leave, etc. So if you pay a tech $10 per hour base rate and he also gets $5 per hour in benefits, that tech has a labor rate of $15 per hour. If it will take 20 hours to perform the job, then multiply 20 hours times $15 per hour to get a total labor cost of $300. When in doubt add a few hours to the job.

Specialty Equipment/Tool Rental or Purchase:

These items could include scissor lifts, fork trucks, unloading equipment, jack hammer rental, lifting devices and others. Oftentimes, an owner will include a portion of the replacement costs of the specialty equipment/tools if the company actually owns the items.

Sales Commission:

This is the money that is paid to your salespeople once the sale is made. It is only paid if there is a sale so it is considered a direct cost.

Once you have written down all your direct costs, add them all together to come up with a final dollar amount. Knowing your actual (or professionally estimated) direct costs is a key number in the mathematical formula used to determine the Right Price for your job. Obviously, the right price must cover the direct costs incurred to perform the job or you will lose money on the job.

Download cfm”s Direct Cost Worksheet to make figuring out your direct costs a little easier. In the next article, Overhead Costs | HVAC Pricing Series Part 4, I will cover overhead costs in more detail, and help you to better understand the complexity that they too add to your price planning. If you have any questions or comments about direct costs, let us know in the comment section below or contact us directly at 1-800-322-9675.

Cal Berry

Cal Berry

former Vice-President of Sales and Marketing – Retired at cfm Distributors, Inc.
Cal is a former Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for cfm Distributors with over 30 years’ experience in the HVAC industry.Now retired, he still assists cfm as an educational helper in HVAC product knowledge and marketing.
Cal Berry