Heater sales benefit from Covid lockdown
Stay-at-home orders make backyard swimming pools ‘the place to be’ — increasing profits
There has been a nation-wide run on pool heaters, and while the situation may not be as desperate as the recent two-month toilet paper shortage, pool service professionals have reported that they aren’t easy to find, some service professionals have been told they won’t be available for weeks.
Jim Aleman, owner K & M Pools, Old Bridge, New Jersey, can attest that heater demand is high – last year he sold 4; this year he’s already sold 14. Now, he says, there are simply no heaters on the shelves to sell.
“I literally bought the last JXI 260,000 BTU unit that my branch had about three weeks ago. One of the manufacturers told me there was a six-week backlog, and that was two weeks ago,” Aleman said.
Aleman said that he has lost a few heater sales to other service pro’s who had heaters in stock right then and there.
“Most of my customers have stayed on board and are just waiting– I’ve offered deals: if they are willing to wait and buy from me, I’ll give them a free closing. One of my customers has been waiting 3 weeks for a 400,000 BTU heater,” Aleman said.
Difficulty finding heaters is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and stay-at home-orders, which Aleman said has also led to shortages of salt cells, replacement motors, smaller filters for above ground pools, and more. Meanwhile, he said, above ground pools are non-existent right now.
“Above-ground pools are sold out
HowaboutheatingpoolsthewaytheydoinZambia,EastAfrica?Theheaterontherightheatsthe55 gallon drum of water sitting on top of the dirt mound. Photo courtesy ofAlan Smith Pool Plastering. everywhere, from the high-quality ones to the cheap Intex’s from Walmart. My supply house told me that they are supposed to get a shipment of abovegrounds in August, but they are already allocated and sold,” Aleman said.
According to Robert Rankin, Pool Corp Vice President pool product sales are up nationwide.
“COVID obviously stopped everyone in their tracks. For several weeks we were all unsure there was going to be a ‘season’ at all. However, the stay-athome order combined with the natural propensity to ‘nest’ during times of disaster, which is what that was and continues to be, created the perfect storm, and opportunity, for the Swimming Pool and Spa Industry,” Rankin said.
Steve Gutai, Fluidra Director of Sales Western Division, had a similar take on the topic.
“I think what we’ve seen is a cocooning effect with people staying home. They are nesting in their homes and they have been in their pools a lot earlier than the typical season across the United States. Because of restaurant closures, bar closures, movies closures - across the board there has been a lot of activity with people fixing their swimming pools so that they can enjoy them. And warm water is paramount to that,” Gutai said.
Gutai said that high efficiency fuel combusted heaters are in greatest demand, relative to other heater types, because heater efficiency is important to people right now.
“We also have a Versa-flow integrated bypass system that reduces wear and tear on the heater when it is not in use, and increases hydraulic efficiency. Our sales with heaters that have bypass systems have been off the charts right now,” Gutai said.
David Nibler, Senior VP of the Commercial Pool Segment of Fluidra, said that when it comes to the heater shortage, there are two components.
“There’s demand, and then there’s manufacturing supply chain. Nibler said.
In most years, people with pool’s typically wait for summer to begin swimming. Their heater may have been broken for years, and they didn’t repair it, because they weren’t trying to swim in March.
“Now they are sheltering at home with their kids staring at them, and they are doing this in April. They probably would have let it go until summer, but this year we’ve got COVID. So, we’re getting a lot of heater replacement service,” Nibler said.
According to Nibler, demand for heaters is higher in areas of the country that opened earlier - generally the sunbelt region.
Normally, in the Northeast, pools don’t open until late May, but this year, they started opening in April. Texas and California had a relatively cooler spring, so demand for heaters has been high there, too.
For all areas of the country, demand has been highest for fuel fired heaters, but in Florida, demand for heat pumps has also been high. However, because Florida enjoys mostly year-round warm weather, the heater crunch has not been quite as high there.
In addition to replacing broken heaters on existing pools, there has also been a surge in pool construction.
“New pool starts and remodels have been very strong over the last six weeks. That is clearly causing most of this. I would say with very strong confidence that demand and sourcing are the major causes by a huge factor,” Rankin said.
On the supply side, Nibler said that production has been affected to some extent by keeping workers physically apart from one another. Some manufacturers have been staggering workers’ hours, and or fewer workers at their plants. Also, many manufacturers were forced to shut down for a time, and that affected supply.
“We’ve had to adhere to all of the social distancing criteria, so even though we’re doing great, our heater production is down based on the rules we’ve had to follow. We had to close the plant in Mexico for a short time. We had to reduce employee labor,” Nibler said.
Thenewnormalthathasbeenpresented by the coronavirus pandemic seems to have led to unexpectedconsequences; and pool heater shortages are part of that. Nonetheless, it is summer, when pool equipment is always in demand.
Pentair spokesperson Rebecca Osborn says, “This is the peak pool season when we typically experience a high demand for pool heaters. We continue to work diligently to meet our customer needs and supply our full scope of pool products.”