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Article Changes Contractor's Path

February 27, 2012
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Call me crazy, but I love going to AHR Expo because I always learn about some really cool products, meet a lot of interesting people, and hear about how The NEWS has had an impact on the HVACR industry. Visitors to our booth will share stories about how an article about them or their company resulted in lots of inquiries or how generations of a family contracting firm have been avid readers.

At this year’s show in Chicago, I heard a story at a cocktail party that really makes me proud to say that I work on The Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration NEWS. It is a story about Dan, who started in the industry as a contractor from Indiana.

I was chatting with Dan at LSB Industries’ hospitality event (a swanky affair held at the Art Institute of Chicago), and he started telling me about an article he recently pulled out of his files that originally appeared in The NEWS in March of 1982. According to Dan, “That article changed my life.”

Back in 1982, an editor for The NEWS had seen Dan’s company display at a trade show and asked about coming to Fort Wayne to do an interview. The story appeared in the March 15 issue that year, and the headline read, “Solar is a cost-effective asset to Genesis heat pump system.”

After the article appeared, Dan started getting calls from all over the country asking about the Genesis system. Up until then he was focusing his business in parts of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, but the reaction to the story prompted Dan to think on a national scale. “I really have to wonder if I would be where I am today had this bit of publicity not come along and changed my path,” he said.

Shortly thereafter, Dan received a call from Dave Hatherton, a well driller also installing heat pumps in Canada, which started a lifelong friendship and led to their first business partnership. Dan also received a call from Herb Kay, the owner of Command-Aire in Waco, Texas, who read the article and was interested in how Dan was using his commercial heat pump for the Genesis System. This initial contact resulted in Dan and Dave becoming the exclusive residential distributor for Command-Aire throughout the United States.

The business partnership with Dave Hatherton led to the formation of a little company called WaterFurnace. The initial geothermal heat pump product was called Command-Aire by WaterFurnace.

As some of you have already guessed, Dan, the contractor from Indiana, is Dan Ellis, one of the founders of WaterFurnace and now the president of ClimateMaster, a large manufacturer of geothermal heat pumps.

The link between The NEWS and Dan’s career didn’t stop there. He went on to say that one article in 1982 also resulted in a call from Chancey Walker III, a Virginia Beach contractor who became one of the first distributors for WaterFurnace and another call from Jim Soden of Soden’s Heating and Cooling in Trenton, N.J. Before long Soden started doing condominium projects with Dan and has been a customer and friend ever since.

And in the final link of the communications chain, the story also struck a chord with a maintenance engineer at J. Lynmar Manufacturing. He encouraged the owner, Joe Redina, to consider geothermal for a new plant in Masontown, Pa. The result was the first commercial vertical closed-loop multibore geothermal system installed in the country.

You can imagine how my chest swelled as I heard about the role our magazine played in the career of Dan Ellis, who has become a key figure in the growth of the geothermal business over the last 30 years.

Dan Ellis said it best, “The NEWS is the bulletin board of what’s happening in our industry.”

Note: For a PDF copy of the original NEWS article from the March 15, 1982 issue referenced in this column, click here.

Publication date: 02/27/2012

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