SOLANO, Calif. - According to Larry Waters, service manager, trainer, and comfort advisor for A-1 Guaranteed Heating and Air Inc., 2009 “was our best year ever, breaking the $2.7 million mark.” This was chiefly due to the company making “a true green commitment,” Waters said.
“My boss and his wife have always been recycling kind of people, so they took it to the next level in the company. Every piece of paper that doesn’t include customer information is cut into four squares and turned into note pads. We don’t buy note pads.” The company also recycles old air conditioners, bins for bottled water, and changed all the lighting (now using sensors and low-energy fixtures).
This company has done an efficiency makeover on the building it bought roughly five years ago, he said. In addition to its mechanical system, its “drought-tolerant landscape system uses very little water,” Waters said.
To date, the company has installed Trane XL16i ultra-high-efficiency air conditioning, an XV 90 furnace, two-stage zoning, and IAQ (the CleanEffects ionizing air purifier). The total facility is about 6,000 square feet, with the office about 2,000. Eventually, the shop will be moved to a different location, Waters said.
This is where the contractor really becomes green by example. “During our sales process, we show clients the green system of our choice, in our building,” he continued. “We try to get that down to our customers, what a green product is.” This includes doing an energy analysis, going over electric bills, “figuring out where they are and where they want to be, and how much energy their system is using,” Waters said.
In addition, “For every air conditioner we install, we perform a PG&E Check Me (for the refrigerant charge), duct pressure testing, and certification. We sell duct pressure test services on our maintenance calls; there is a $200 rebate on now for duct sealing from the utility, and that was just from a maintenance contract. In summer, we do a Check Me on every single one of our maintenance contracts, and we get money back from PG&E if there’s a problem, and we just give refrigerant up to one pound,” Waters said.
The company has five certified Check Me techs, and has invested and earmarked nearly $10,000 for training in April and May.
Its green truck, a Ford Transit Connect, is the first part of its commitment to its fleet. The vehicle probably is driven 125 miles a day by the service manager and estimator. “Over the next five years we will be replacing all the older vehicles with new vehicles like that,” he said; “nothing but American-made vehicles.”
This is a smart way to reach the company’s socially conscientious customers. “We actually do a lot of business in Berkeley-Oakland-Emeryville, where they’re very much into the green thing,” Waters said. “My philosophy is, it’s our Earth, and every major decision we make should include the environment as one of the factors.”
This year the company is getting into solar systems, and is looking to become a BPI-certified contractor, to get involved in the whole-house energy-savings program. “We are well on our way to BPI certification,” said Waters; “we are 30 percent finished with training and will be ready for the roll out of the federal Home Star program that is currently in legislation.”
APPRECIATIONCustomers definitely appreciate the contractor’s professionalism, which is sometimes described as being reminiscent of another era. The company has been voted Best of Solano for five years, and was awarded “Best of the Bay Area” by the San Francisco Chronicle, in addition to “Best in Northern California” by KRON TV viewer voters.
“Our business also gives back to the community through various charities that all the staff have brought to the attention of the owners,” said Waters. “One such charity is the breakfast club, a before-school meal program that provides a healthy start for kids that may not get it at home. We actually go in and serve the kids once a month on the day of our monthly whole company meeting.”
In addition, “We cut in a new heating system for a low-income senior this year in cooperation with our suppliers and a local program, and had an e-waste drop-off fundraiser to support a local women’s recovery center.
“I have been in the trade for 28 years,” said Waters. “I came to join this team to build a service department.” In 2008, he said, “this 12-year-old company had only one basically part-time tech.” In 2009 “we built it up to five techs and $200,000 in service; my techs are now offering a wide variety of extra products and services.” The 2010 service department budget is $300,000; January alone was $48,000, he said.
To thank the entire staff for their hard work, the owners took them all on a Mexican cruise vacation. “I am very excited about this company’s commitment to community, employees, and customers,” Waters said.
“The owners of this company were always very frugal people, but they parleyed that into the whole green approach,” he summarized. “We take our trucks to a low-impact, recycled car wash. We don’t wash the parking lot, we sweep it. We have signs to report water leaks. Every time this company has taken a step forward, they share it with the company.
“There’s a green culture and quality culture that I haven’t seen anywhere else,” Waters said. “They put together a product guide with 10 green products, presented to the customer as we’re doing our work, and the guys don’t need to really sell it. It’s been very good for us.”
For more information, visit www.a-oneguaranteed.com.
Publication date: 06/14/2010