Buying electrical equipment such as generators, boilers, furnaces and other specialized equipment from an online supplier is sometimes cheaper than from a local electrical supplies store.
The online-only seller has fewer expenses compared to a physical electrical store with a storefront. Prices in a physical store include running expenses such as rent, staff, storage, support and other costs the online-only seller does not incur.
Because online retailers have less overhead, this makes buying products directly from some online shops less costly and more appealing to the customer. However, when the consumers bypass the local electrical supplies stores, they are likely to encounter various problems or end up spending more on running and maintaining the electrical equipment.
Purchasing Electrical Equipment from an Online Store
Below are the potential challenges of buying some electrical equipment from an online store.
Uncertainty in equipment sizing
Without an expert’s input, consumers are likely to make the wrong estimates on the size of equipment such as a generator or HVAC. They, therefore, end up with an electrical equipment which is either too small or too big in a way that it cannot efficiently address their needs.
For example, a larger than necessary air conditioning equipment will cycle on and off more frequently; This reduces its efficiency while increasing the running costs. On the other hand, a small air conditioner will not heat or cool the room adequately.
The same happens with a generator, which will not supply enough power if it is too small or will provide more power than necessary if it is too large. The bigger generator will cost more to run since it will consume more fuel and require more control gear and maintenance.
Knowing which brand and model to buy
Consumers may be motivated by lower prices and overlook the known and reliable brands; This puts them at risk, since they may purchase unknown, unreliable or counterfeit products, which they cannot use or return due to factors such as an unresponsive supplier or exorbitant shipping costs.
Unless a user purchases popular or supported brands, they will have to contend with difficulties sourcing for parts or optimizing their electrical equipment. Lack of local support people, spares, and upgrades locally will further make the purchase more expensive.
Not possible to verify electrical equipment quality
It is not possible to verify that the equipment has gone through all the required testing for your region. The lower costs may be due to sub-standard electrical components and probably inadequate testing. As such, even the installers for such systems cannot guarantee operations when they are unable to verify its condition.
Also, overseas electrical equipment designed for other markets might not comply or meet the customer’s country safety and regulatory standards.
Difficulty in estimating total cost of purchase, installation, and running the equipment
The advantage of using local suppliers is that their professionals will carry out a site survey, and determine the requirements regarding physical space, layout, and support infrastructure. While a local distributor will provide you with the cost of equipment purchase, installation, and regular maintenance or service contract, this might not be straight forward with the online purchase.
The absence of professional advice during the purchase process has several drawbacks that can lead to spending more money when it comes to installing, running and maintaining the electrical equipment. You have to wait for the equipment to arrive, look for a local installer, see what else you require, and then proceed with the installation. And there is a risk of missing out on some of the needed accessories which you will have to purchase locally or import from overseas.
Delivery of equipment up to installation location
Some equipment such as generators and HVAC are very large, bulky, and weigh so much that they require specialized delivery trucks, some equipped with Liftgates or other loading mechanisms.
The overseas suppliers may deliver the equipment using local logistics companies but only up to the buyer’s property. In such as an arrangement, the supplier takes responsibility for any damages that occur before the equipment reaches the customer.
The electrical equipment is usually left outside the customer’s house and not where it will be installed. The customer must make own arrangements to move the equipment to the garage, basement or any other installation location. Unfortunately, the supplier’s warranty does not cover any damage that occurs during the time the equipment is in the owner’s hands.
Some logistics companies may provide different delivery options. For example, some will charge a certain amount for delivering equipment to the premises, and an extra charge to deliver and unpack at the specific installation location.
A local electrical store would deliver and install the equipment to ensure that everything works as expected.
Problems getting local expertise and support
It is sometimes difficult to get a qualified installer for the imported equipment, and especially if it is a lesser known model. Some electrical distributors may refuse to install and guarantee equipment bought from third party sources, for fear of being held liable if something goes wrong.
When there is no local expertise, or the qualified installers are too expensive, buyers may try to do the installation by themselves or engage unqualified people. This exposes them to risks such as fires, accidents, and damage to the equipment or entire electrical systems.
Lack of Warranty
Manufacturers or suppliers will only honor the warranty if the equipment is installed and used as recommended. However, chances of doing things wrong are very high, especially during delivery and installation.
While the local supplier may have special and dedicated delivery vehicles and tools, the customer may not have access to the recommended delivery methods. If anything happens along the way, the manufacturer won’t honor the warranty.
Even when the equipment delivery is successful, the installation and usage may not comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations. The warranty becomes void, especially if an unqualified electrician installs the equipment. Some of the installations mistakes that could render a warranty void include;Incorrect installation and control
Inadequate protection, grounding, etc.
Improper sizing of ducts and cables
Equipment not installed or inspected by a certified expert.
Miss out on tax credits
Some energy-efficient equipment such as furnaces, water heaters, heat pumps and air conditioners are eligible for tax credits. However, the equipment imported from an overseas supplier may not come with the required documentation to allow the user benefit from the tax credit.