ATLANTA — Tim Vellky works with furnaces every day as U.S. national sales manager at Napoleon, and he’ll be the first to admit: Furnaces aren’t the most sexy thing in the world.

“What a lot of customers look for is a product that is dependable, reliable, built with a lot of quality,” he said. “The other thing that most contractors look for is … is a little differentiation. They want something that will set them apart.”

Read more about
AHR Expo 2019
in the Feb. 18 issue

In other words, they want that “wow” factor.

At the AHR Expo, Napoleon displayed a product mix that aimed to hit both categories while illustrating the company’s continued development and expansion into the residential HVAC channel in the U.S., ranging from an expanding line of gas furnaces, to an air conditioner and heat pump line, to a ductless product and vertical PTAC offering. Showcased was a new furnace designed and built for the residential new construction market.

“It’s more of an appliance look,” Vellky said, referring to the Ultimate 9700 gas furnace. “Everybody who comes over here says, ‘Wow, it looks really nice.’ That’s what we’re driving for here with the stainless steel front, the Tru Vue burner. It’s patent pending by us … and allows the consumer to see how the furnace is operating.”

That design draws inspiration from other lines, including fireplaces, which are where Napoleon got its start in 1976.

“If you go to a fireplace shop, they have that nice window you can view your flames on, so we brought that into this product,” Vellky said. “Since we’re relatively new to the [furnace] industry, what we’re doing is providing that differentiation for the contractor.

“It’s not just in the looks; it’s inside as well,” he continued. “If you peel back the onion a bit and look inside, we’ve done a lot with the contractor in mind for serviceability.”

The Ultimate 9700 includes built-in service lights inside the unit, so there’s no need for a flashlight when technicians open up the panel, and there’s enough room for them to get their hands inside and service the unit easily. The Condo Pack, built for the new construction market, takes that serviceability a step further.

“It’s got modules that you can pull out on rails and service, making it easier for maintenance and operation and installation for the contractor,” Vellky said.

He anticipates seeing more high-efficiency units in the marketplace for furnaces.

“A lot of utilities are driving rebates through higher-efficiency equipment,” Vellky said. “It’s about providing that efficiency at a reasonable cost as you move things forward. I think that’s going to be critical as everyone’s hearing about global warming … you really have to focus on what’s best for the environment and energy.”

That demand is being driven in part by the way people prefer to make decisions today when purchasing their household appliances.

“Consumers have become very savvy, and they are doing a lot of research around HVAC options prior to purchase,” Vellky said. “Since an HVAC system is one of the most costly investments for a household, the importance of picking a good, reliable, high-quality product is at a premium. They’re demanding a lot of information, and they want to do it their own way. What we are planning is, through our marketing, having many different touch points — website, social media, to general marketing — to talk about the benefits of what we provide them and give them enough information. As a consumer, I like to learn and figure things out, and I think that’s going to be a major focal point, not just for us but for everybody.”

Publication date: 2/18/2019

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