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Nearly 300 WaterFurnace Intl. Inc. dealers and employees from across the country mixed business with pleasure at the company’s annual meeting in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The three-day event included a minor league baseball game and featured a mix of informative presentations, factory tours, and educational breakout sessions designed to keep WaterFurnace dealers up to date on the latest products and technology.
Water Always Wins
During the opening session, WaterFurnace, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, unveiled the theme of its meeting — “Water Always Wins” — which is also the company’s motto for 2014.
“Water can be held back for only so long,” said Tom Huntington, president and CEO, during his opening remarks. “When forces become great enough to slow its progress, water is patient. It waits. It adapts to the environment around it, but when the opportunity presents itself, it will go around any obstacle, building momentum as it goes. Water always wins.”
Huntington discussed how WaterFurnace has adapted and formed innovative partnerships to help ensure the company’s future. He added that, as the country looks for more energy-efficient and renewable energy options, WaterFurnace is poised to meet those demands.
“About 74 percent of all the coal-fired plants today are at least 30 years old, and they have an average lifespan of 40 years,” Huntington explained. “As the aging plants are replaced [with natural gas plants], geothermal heat pumps offer utilities the greatest opportunity to reduce generation requirements and infrastructure cost.”
Introducing New Products
During the opening session, David Salyer, product manager at WaterFurnace, outlined some of the new products that will hit the market later this year, including the 5 Series water-to-water heat pump with Opti-Heat.
“It’s incredibly exciting, the things we’re seeing with it right now,” he said. “Even with the standard AHRI [Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute] rating points, we’re getting a COP over 3.”
Salyer added, “We’re coming out with a new radiant panel solution. We’re trying to bring it all down into a one-piece, ready-to-go product that is wired up, piped up, and ready to hang on the wall.”
WaterFurnace will also be adding a value-priced, water-to-air geothermal heat pump, the 3 Series, to its product line later this year to complement its popular 5 Series and 7 Series units.
“It’s a value-priced two-stage unit; it has a smaller footprint,” Salyer said. “It’s the first that will have an all-aluminum air coil. It’s the same we’ve been producing in our commercial products for the past eight months. We’ve seen great results with that.”
Salyer said the addition of the 3 Series will give consumers the choice of “good, better, or best” with the 3, 5, and 7 Series units, respectively. “We’ll have five sizes available at launch,” he said.
Also this year, WaterFurnace will begin offering the Symphony Web Enabled WiFi Comfort System. The system, which is WaterFurnace’s answer to increasing consumer demand for Wi-Fi-capable thermostats, gives the user and/or technician the ability to wirelessly monitor, adjust, and program his or her unit as well as receive alerts via text and email.
Bob Brown, vice president of engineering at WaterFurnace, said the decision to use a router-type system to monitor the entire unit makes more sense than wirelessly connecting only the thermostats to the Internet, especially if the home is zoned and has multiple thermostats.
“The Wi-Fi stats don’t know any more information than what’s in the thermostat itself,” he said. “All you have is the thermostat information, not the heat pump information.”
Brown added, “We believe the capability of our system is going to set a standard for this type of technology.”
What’s Next for WaterFurnace
As the construction market continues to improve, Huntington told attendees that WaterFurnace’s focus is shifting from residential to commercial, including schools and health care facilities.
“Becoming a player in the commercial market is a goal of ours,” he said. “We see health care as a very significant sector going forward.”
The company also plans on stepping up its marketing and has begun airing television commercials. The company also makes marketing materials and tools available to its dealers on its website (www.waterfurnace.com).
“At WaterFurnace, we believe great marketing starts with passion,” said Tim Litton, director of marketing communications. “Because you are all so important to the purchasing process, we realize it begins with you, and that’s why we do everything we do to try to support you.”
Yet, Huntington said the industry still has plenty of work to do to ensure Congress doesn’t eliminate the various tax credits that have been helping consumers defray the upfront costs of installing geothermal, including a one-time 30 percent tax credit for homeowners that expires at the end of 2016. The Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO), of which WaterFurnace is a member, has been lobbying members of Congress on the issue and will continue to do so, Huntington said.
“If you can get the cost of that [ground] loop eliminated, either by financing or tax credits, it becomes a slam dunk,” he added. “It becomes a no-brainer.”
But, even if the tax credits disappear, Huntington said partnerships with utility companies could be just as beneficial to the industry as tax credits. “My firm belief is that alignment with utilities is the biggest opportunity we have as we look to the future,” he said, adding that utility companies are using on-bill financing, where the savings generated by the geothermal heat pump are used to pay for the installation.
“They can, with constant pressure, be motivated and pushed,” Huntington said. “With renewable energy portfolio requirements, you’re going to see even the larger investor-owned utilities moving in our favor, in our direction. We’re starting to see more and more big investors.”
He added, “Anywhere power is a problem, WaterFurnace can be part of the solution.”
SIDEBAR: Awarding Top Sellers
WaterFurnace honored its top dealers during a formal dinner at its recent annual meeting in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Awards were given based on the company’s sales figures for the previous year, from $400,000 up to $2 million. The winners are:
• $400,000: Energy Systems,Pensacola, Fla.; A&B Cooling,South Windsor, Conn.; Geo Climate Control Inc.,Danville, Pa.; Sisler Heating and Cooling,Medina, Ohio; and Collier’s Heating and Air Conditioning,Ossian, Ind.
• $500,000: Watervale Geothermal and Radiant,Fallston, Md.; Masters Heating and Cooling,Fort Wayne, Ind.; Bullman Heating and Air,Asheville, N.C.; Precision Air Inc.,Nashville, Tenn.; and Danco Enterprises Inc.,Springfield, Ohio.
• $1 million and Top Sales Single Location: Rehagen Heating and Cooling Inc.,Westphalia, Mo.
• $2 million and Outstanding Sales award: Peters Heating and Air Conditioning Inc.,Quincy, Ill.
Information courtesy of WaterFurnace.
Publication date: 5/26/2014