It is not because of any malice that people often can't choose which HVAC system or accessory they have installed. Usually it's just due to a builder or contractor having already decided which equipment would work best for a particular home or office - especially in new construction.
Customers are learning to speak up, however. They are asking for higher SEER and AFUE ratings, upgraded filtration, and zoning. They are also looking for more options in the world of grilles, registers, and diffusers. Many companies are complying with this request by offering these products in a wide range of materials, sizes, styles, and finishes.
In fact, business is booming. Ked credits the Internet with allowing his business to really grow. Before that he had to rely on print advertising. Now he can sell directly to consumers and contractors through his Web site (www.radiatorcover.com).
Barker Metalcraft makes custom grilles, diffusers, radiator heat covers, baseboard heat covers, convector covers, and convector fronts. The company only does custom work. The lead time ranges from one to four weeks.
"We offer 12 different grille designs, and they go from traditional to contemporary," said Ked. "We're working in the cold-rolled steel line, and we're doing stamped grilles and louvers. We offer these in painted colors, including white, off-white, grays, browns, blacks, and beiges. In the grille field we offer chrome, brass, copper, antique brass, and brushed chrome. Our market covers commercial and residential and just about anything in between."
Barker Metalcraft has fabricated a wide variety of grilles, registers, and diffusers, mostly for the retrofit market. Ked says that on the commercial side, it's all about manufacturing products that are not available anywhere else. To that end, the company has manufactured a 150-foot-long grille for a prestigious Chicago hotel, a 110-foot-long grille for a local gymnasium, and a 48-inch by 10-foot grille for an exterior HVAC unit.
On the residential side, "We want to make something special, something you can't find anywhere else," stated Ked. "We're catering to the needs of an individual who can afford something a little bit better. That being said, we do it at a reasonable price. So, while we're more expensive than a stock grille, the average homeowner can still afford it."
Ralph Oosterhuis, chief executive officer of Decor Grates, noted that the bright brass and textured black finishes are very close in volume, but the most popular category is wood, which makes up 40 percent of the company's sales.
Decor Grates does not do any custom work; it makes only the popular sizes to keep the cost of manufacturing down. The company's mandate is to give consumers the best-quality products at a price that is not prohibitive to a multiple purchase.
Decor Grates' products are stocked at local home improvement outlets such as Home Depot. "Most contractors are missing the boat when it comes to decorative registers," said Oosterhuis.
"There is a growing trend now for HVAC wholesalers and custom home improvement stores to display these items along with flooring options in product showrooms."
Roth stated that decorative registers are not for every application because they can cost three to four times more than a standard register.
"Although this is usually not a concern to someone who has an expensive home and has the desire for products that enhance the home's dÃ©cor." Hart & Cooley offers an extensive line of decorative products including brass, wood, and brass/wood inlaid products.
Customers like to choose the items going into their homes - these are no exception. Upgraded equipment and decorative grilles go a long way to ensure customer satisfaction while increasing a contractor's bottom line.
Publication date: 02/14/2005