Like many HVAC manufacturers, Heat Controller Inc. (HCI) is in the business of making customers comfortable, whether they are at home, work, or school. What sets Heat Controller apart, noted its executive vice president Lou Rasmussen, is the company's broad product line which is designed to meet the needs of just about any residential or commercial end user.
"We can be a reliable source for nearly every HVAC application, from window-mount room air conditioners to residential heating and cooling systems to commercial equipment with capacities up to 25 tons," said Rasmussen. "In addition, our company adds value to its extensive product line by focusing on customer service. Distributors can use our websites and actually call or email our customer service representatives or talk directly to someone in technical support."
In addition, the company offers strong warranty coverage, extensive inventory, and knowledgeable sales agents in the field, said Rasmussen, which is why distributors, contractors, and end users have enjoyed doing business with HCI for over 75 years.
LONG HISTORYWhile Heat Controller was officially founded in 1933, its origins go back even further to the Wingert Furnace Co., which began manufacturing oil and gas furnaces in 1907. In 1955, the company moved to its current location in Jackson, Mich., and a new focus was placed on room air products. During the 1960s and 1970s, Heat Controller pioneered numerous innovations in air conditioning; in fact, the Twin-Pac (a forerunner of today's mini-split) was named the Michigan product of the year in 1972, beating out the Ford Mustang.
In 1975, Heat Controller acquired the Century brand name and incorporated those products and market distribution into the HCI family. The purchase of Aitons' Equipment of Canada in the year 2000 expanded distribution in North America, and today, a broad range of HVAC equipment is marketed under the Comfort-Aire(r) and Century(r) brand names.
Even though that equipment ranges from 1/2 to 25 tons and encompasses residential and commercial applications, room air products remain the best-selling equipment the company offers. "These are more than just big box products," said Rasmussen. "We generally consider anything that is primarily designed to condition one room as 'room air,' and these products continue to grow in popularity because of the flexibility they offer, their lower cost versus other cooling options, and their ease of installation." In addition, new technology has greatly improved the efficiencies of room air products, which has further increased the popularity of the units.
HCI offers many different sizes of window-mount air conditioners, with capacities reaching up to 28,000 Btuh. "We also offer window-mount heat pumps and through-the-wall units - both cooling only and with electric heat - which is ideal for the types of installations contractors come to distributors for. PTACs also fall into our room air category, and portable air conditioners were an outgrowth of the popularity of room air products."
A recent new product offering in the room air category is HCI's RPHE wall-mounted room air heat pump, which features a sleek design that resembles a flat screen TV. According to Rasmussen, it can be installed from the inside, and all that can be seen on the outside of the building are vents for air exchange and a condensate drain. These new units feature 9,300 Btuh heating, 6,800 Btuh electric heat (16,100 Btuh integrated heat), and 9,300 Btuh cooling.
Another recent product introduction by HCI is the small duct high velocity (SDHV) air-handling system, which is available in sizes ranging from 1-1/2 to 5 tons. This equipment supplies conditioned air where it's needed through small flexible ducts that can be located behind walls, ceilings, and floors. These systems utilize the process of aspiration, which mixes air in a room to eliminate stratification. The SDHV system is also ultra-quiet and maintains the aesthetics of the architecture and d‚cor, noted Rasmussen.
There is more to come from HCI in 2012, as the company plans to introduce a new geothermal two-stage heat pump that will feature a compact size, a new price point, and sizes ranging from 2 to 5 tons. New 30,000 and 36,000 Btuh single zone ductless mini-split systems with inverter technology will also be introduced later this spring.
COMMUNICATION AND TRAININGHCI distributors are made aware of the company's new offerings through regular updates on its website, as well as traditional media sources, which not only detail new products but outline features and benefits and discuss extensions of product lines. HCI prepares full-color brochures with photographs and specifications for all new products and makes these available to distributors at no cost. Product photos and PDFs of product brochures can also be emailed for use on websites or distributor publications and marketing. In addition, an extensive range of literature covering all of HCI's product lines is available to distributors for both contractors and consumers.
Besides providing marketing materials, HCI offers extensive training for sales representatives and distributors once a product is introduced. "Each year we conduct six two-day geothermal courses at our headquarters in Jackson, Mich., for distributors and their contractors," said Rasmussen. "We also offer shorter courses at distributor locations, including half-day courses on SDHV theory and application, which have been held at regional sites for distributors. Our independent sales agents are thoroughly trained, so they can also conduct training and make presentations, both technical and sales-focused."
HCI stays in close contact with its distributors through regular visits by its sales team, which includes sales managers, as well as a network of independent sales agents. "We also send emails and mailings to our authorized distributors on a regular basis and will work with distributors and their contractors on large orders or unique projects," said Rasmussen.
These are just a few of the reasons why distributors like doing business with HCI, said Rasmussen. They also like that the company does not require exclusivity from distributors, and no minimum quantity orders are required. "We ship freight prepaid on orders of 30 units or more (drop ship charges may apply), and twice a year we offer stocking programs with great discounts and dating terms, allowing distributors to plan ahead for the equipment and parts needed for the upcoming heating or cooling season. Our company is also known for its large inventory and in-season availability, which means there's a good chance we'll have what a distributor needs, and in many instances, we'll be able to ship the next day."
The after-sales support team includes a tech support hotline, staffed by experienced technicians who can help diagnose and solve installation, operation, and service issues over the phone, as well as nationwide sales agents who are knowledgeable about products and applications. Additionally, HCI's website is a handy resource for distributors, as it contains owners' manuals and other technical documentation, along with price lists, and advertising and support materials (available for viewing or download). Access is available to authorized distributors who have registered to use the site.
While the website is a great way for HCI to provide information to distributors and contractors instantly and comprehensively, Rasmussen noted that it is just as important to put a human face on the technology. "We make sure our customers can always talk directly to our customer service and sales teams. In fact, our main phone line is still answered by a knowledgeable receptionist during business hours."
This is probably another reason why customers have enjoyed working with HCI for so many years.