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|Bobby Pratt (left), Pratt Electric, Lebanon, Tenn., listens as Chris Campbell, vice president of Tradewinds Climate Systems, answers a question about duct-free products manufactured by Gree.|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “How many of you know who’s the largest manufacturer of air conditioning products in the world?” asked Chris Campbell, vice president of product management, eCommerce, and operations, Tradewinds Climate Systems LLC. The question was one of several he parsed throughout his morning training session at Dave and Buster’s Inc., near the Grand Ole Opry, the home of country music. His answer: “One in three is Gree.”
Campbell instructed contractors and local distributors in duct-free equipment applications, sales, and service. Attendees included HVAC contractors from as far as Eastern Tennessee, and employees of Baker Distributing and East Coast Metals, two distributors serving the Nashville and surrounding area. Both distributors are business units of Watsco Inc.
Campbell’s presentation was part of a 13-city launch that took place between April 30 and May 10, to premiere Gree products in the U.S. Campbell was pleased with the contractor turnout at the exclusive presentation, billed as “One in Three is Gree.”
“Contractor involvement is important because we know they are the reason consumers buy what they buy,” said Campbell.
Gree is a Chinese manufacturing company that produces duct-free, through-the-wall, and window air conditioning, packaged terminal air conditioners (PTAC), dehumidifiers, and portable cooling products.
According to Campbell, Gree is the largest manufacturer in the world. Gree currently operates nine plants and has worked with a number of global partners including Carrier, Sanyo, Trane, York, Panasonic, General Electric, Whirlpool, and DeLonghi, said Campbell.
In addition to its line of duct-free products, Campbell said the company has plans to produce ducted equipment for the U.S. market, ready for distribution as soon as fall 2013.
“We will first be testing the waters in the multifamily market,” said Campbell.
Tradewinds Climate Systems is the exclusive source for Gree products. As part of the Watsco family of HVAC companies, Tradewinds provides a pathway for global HVAC manufacturers to deliver products to the wholesale distribution channel, and may work with multiple distributors in the U.S.
Campbell revealed surprising facts about the growth of various products in the U.S. PTAC unit sales have grown by approximately 5 percent, and current estimates project that U.S. market sales will reach 400,000 units by 2015. Gree expects its E-TAC (engineered terminal air conditioner) unit to take advantage of the replacement business opportunity especially with regard to the flood of low-rise hotel construction that occurred in the middle of the last decade. The product boasts a combination of residential and commercial features allowing Gree to address almost any price point in competitive bid situations. The E-TAC/PTAC solution features a five-year warranty, advanced dehumidification, programmable sleep timer, and comes wall thermostat-ready, according to a company press release.
Though the E-TAC product may be one of Gree’s best-selling products in the U.S., contractors at the Nashville event seemed more familiar with the duct-free offering.
Philip Carter, Rheaco Service Inc. of Dayton, Tenn., said, “I made my first install because it was a good fit. Bonus rooms over garages and other add-ons are ideal for duct-free solutions. I would definitely install duct free in my own home from an efficiency standpoint alone.”
According to industry sources, including those released by the Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA), duct-free product installations constitute no more than 6 percent of the U.S. market. In fact, Campbell prefaced one of his questions for the audience saying, “Duct-free equipment is offered as a solution. Not to take away anything from our core business models — we all have ducted business — but, did you know the U.S. is the last major market that is engaged so heavily in ducted products?”
About 75 percent of duct-free applications are one-to-one (condenser to evaporator), rather than one condenser to multiple evaporators, the latter, a feature for which duct-free products are well-known. Campbell said the multi-evap application is the fastest growing segment of duct-free products, and mentioned that all Gree duct-free products use inverter technology. The catalyst for much of Gree’s success is its patented G10 inverter technology, which delivers quiet operation, even at maximum power, and up to 27 SEER, according to the company. The duct-free products offer a seven-year compressor warranty, and the inverter technology is standard in all Gree duct-free platforms including: Terra, Evo+, Evo+ Multi, Neo, and Rio.
Though inverter technology is prevalent among duct-free manufacturers, the U.S. HVAC industry is not identified as moving rapidly to inverter technology, or even to duct-free products. Old habits die hard, and the U.S. market is a ducted environment. However, the feature is one that has been popular, and some contractors are beginning to notice. Carter said, “Inverter technology is the way to go for the future, and anyone not doing so is burying their head in the sand.”
The Tradewinds roadshow campaign to launch Gree products is part of a marketing strategy to engage customers in new and interesting ways that fit their lifestyles.
Publication date: 7/1/2013