Fire & Ice just began accepting Bitcoin for all of our HVAC services (read more here). This has prompted discussions with our customers and also internally. Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies have been around for over a decade now, but they’re still a source of confusion among many Americans.
We like to be forward-thinking in our business practices. That means meeting our customers where they’re at. Other times, it means educating them to demystify topics that might be of value. Usually this means educational articles and videos on HVAC topics. Today, though, we’re going in a slightly different direction.
Because we’re accepting Bitcoin as payment for services, and because this has inspired interest and questions from many in our customer base, we want to unpack the world of cryptocurrencies for our audience. Too much information on Bitcoin is sensationalistic, focused on people who have supposedly gotten rich quickly from it. But there are more mundane, everyday uses for it that become lost in the media frenzy.
And of course, like any financial topic, there’s a deep well of information beyond what is included in this article. We couldn’t hope to scratch the surface of the entire societal movement surrounding Bitcoin. However, we can explain the basic concepts in ways that will help people to understand what it can do for them.
By the end, you’ll know:
- What Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are
- What the technology is that logs Bitcoin transactions
- Considerations for the usage of cryptocurrencies
- What types of services (beyond HVAC with us) they can be used for.
Ready to become the next Bitcoin billionaire (or at least know what uses it has in the modern world)? Read on.
What Is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a currency that is entirely digital. It’s not based on something like the gold standard, nor are there physical bitcoins.
Bitcoin began in 2009, and the creator of Bitcoin used a pseudonym, meaning that we don’t actually know the creator’s name. This has shrouded its origins in a bit of mystery, but the beginnings aren’t as important as with many businesses, because Bitcoin isn’t owned or run by a single person or entity.
The currency can be publicly traded, either for goods and services or between individuals. There is no banking middleman in the trade, which can reduce both logistical and financial overhead.
What Are the Benefits of Cryptocurrencies?
Proponents of cryptocurrencies have called them the currency of the future.
As mentioned earlier, the lack of a central bank removes money managers like you’d see in a traditional banking system. This can reduce the value of transactions, and Bitcoin avoids that.
Blockchain technology, which we’ll discuss in more detail below, is also seen as a benefit for some. The way transactions are logged and recorded creates an impressive amount of security. Many have called blockchain logs more secure than traditional payment systems.
Others simply see cryptocurrencies as an investment. As we’ll see in a bit, individuals can make money on Bitcoin investments, but it’s far from a sure thing.
How Is Blockchain Being Used?
Imagine a string of transactions, like a ledger for a company. Each transaction has a timestamp on it and a unique code associated with it. Additionally, that code is dependent on the transaction that came before it, so that the two are inextricably linked.
If a transaction is altered or tampered with in some way, it will be identifiable, because it will no longer be compatible in the ledger chain. So if a hacker wanted to alter a record, they’d need to do so for every single record in the ledger chain.
This is blockchain security in a nutshell, and it’s part of the reason why its proponents like it so much. Obviously the above analogy is an oversimplification compared to the entire technology, but it’s useful for understanding how it operates at a basic level.
Within the blockchain ledger for a particular currency, names are kept anonymous but transactions are public. Anyone can download the chain, so the record for Bitcoin transactions can—and does—exist on many systems simultaneously. This is further protection against fraud or hackers, because the ledger of transactions can always be cross-referenced.
That doesn’t mean the system is foolproof (but what is?). But blockchain technology is attractive enough that it’s being used for things outside of cryptocurrencies. Hospitals, for example, have begun using blockchain technology for records and payments.
So it’s useful to think of blockchain and Bitcoin as separate entities. One (Bitcoin) is the currency. The other (blockchain) is the technology through which the currency is transacted. But the two are tied closely together.
What Are the Drawbacks of These Technologies?
Along with excitement and curiosity in a new product or technology, comes skepticism and questions. Is this digital currency really worth dealing with? While it’s undeniable that cryptocurrencies are gaining traction, there remain some valid concerns surrounding them.
- Investment Value. Currencies don’t generate value. This is true of traditional money as well. So for Bitcoin and other cryptos to be a good investment, someone has to pay more for the same thing than the last person did. This isn’t in line with how we view traditional investments, such as in companies that can increase their value over time. So it creates a different market environment with different risks in investment.
- Wallet Security. While blockchain technology is fundamentally secure, methods of storing and using Bitcoins have proven to be occasionally risky. For example, Coinrail, a Korean crypto exchange, was hacked in 2018 and lost over $40M in cryptocurrency tokens.
- Lack of Insurance. The money in your bank is insured by the FDIC. Bitcoins are not. If it’s stolen, or if—for example—you lose the thumb drive containing your coins, there is no replacement. Somewhat famously, a man has over $200 million in Bitcoin locked on a storage drive, but has forgotten his password for it. While this may seem like an extreme example, it’s not the only story of this type to crop up in recent years.
- Lack of Oversight. The anonymity of Bitcoin transactions is appealing to some, and it also removes many of the fees associated with traditional banking. However, this also means that crypto transactions could potentially be used for suspect or illicit practices. While this won’t affect an average consumer, it’s a larger security issue that has been discussed at the state and federal levels.
The view of cryptocurrencies as an investment has been slow to take hold in recent years. For everyone claiming potential riches, there’s another investment expert warning that it’s highly speculative. Regardless of which holds more sway, Bitcoin and other cryptos are not going away any time soon.
What Can You Use Bitcoin For?
We’ve talked a lot about the technology and investment side of this, but what can you actually use Bitcoin for?
Quite a lot, it turns out. The first ever Bitcoin payment was for a pizza (in a transaction valued at $80 million currently!). In the years since, many more vendors have opened their doors to crypto payments.
We’ve compiled a list of major companies below that accept Bitcoin, and provided some resources to find more. But whenever you’re reading this, chances are this article will be missing numerous vendors that have adopted Bitcoin as payment in more recent years.
Among other companies that accept Bitcoin as of the publication of this article:
- Etsy. This popular e-commerce shop has several individual vendors that will accept Bitcoin payments.
- Overstock. This general online retail deals in numerous types of goods.
- Zynga. The mobile games empire, whose game catalog features games in the “Words With Friends” and “Farmville” series, accepts Bitcoin.
- Expedia. The popular travel site has partnered to take advantage of Bitcoin payments.
- OKCupid. The popular dating site has adopted Bitcoin payments.
- Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning. Shameless plug here, but as far as we know, we’re the only HVAC company in Central Ohio that accepts Bitcoin as payment.
More broadly, there are a lot of smaller businesses and vendors who will accept Bitcoin payments. It would be too hard to list even a small number of them, but you can find many of them on CoinMap, an interactive map that displays crypto vendors by location and business type.
Given the speed with which some technologies are adopted, we’re fully aware that other resources likely already exist that will help you find ways to use Bitcoin. But hopefully the links and information above can get you started if you’re interested in making use of your crypto investments.
Fire & Ice Heating and Air Conditioning: Now Accepting Bitcoin
As Columbus’s most trusted HVAC dealer, and as a locally-owned company that cares about working alongside the customers we serve, we aim for nothing less than full transparency in our practices.
That’s why we’ve put together an FAQ that covers the most common questions we receive from potential and existing customers who are interested in using Bitcoin for their HVAC installation, repair, or tune-up.
We’re proud to have made this available to our customers, because it represents another way that we can meet our customers at the cusp of new and exciting developments in the industry.
If you’re ready to get started, give us a call or click below to enter your zip code and contact us here on the web. We’re excited to meet you and help you with your comfort needs!