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On April 26, Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US LLC (METUS) celebrated the opening of its new 400,000-square-foot distribution and training center in Florence, New Jersey, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The facility — strategically positioned near the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes as well as Port Elizabeth — is estimated to ship thousands of high-efficiency all-climate METUS heat pumps each month, reduce CO2 emissions from its operations due to more efficient supply chain logistics, train 500-600 students annually, create new jobs, and launch heat pumps to the forefront of American consumers’ minds.

METUS Distribution and Training Center.

400k: Thousands of heat pumps will ship from its new warehouse each month. (Courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US)

“This is ground zero for the heat pump nation revolution,” said METUS CEO Mark Kuntz. “Historically, they have been a single-digit or maybe low double-digit proportion of the marketplace. And we believe that the technical capability, the economic viability, and now the public awareness of heat pumps is such that we can completely invert that. So instead of 10% heat pump, 90% fossil [fueled equipment]: Flip that. We’d like the nation to adopt heat pump as the default instead of the exception.”


The New Digs

In addition to the new Florence facility, METUS has distribution centers in Suwanee, Georgia, and Mira Loma, California, and training centers located nationwide at 75 locations. Landing on this specific Florence facility took quite a bit of analysis done on METUS’ network — researching where their demand materializes and then deciding the optimal location.

“There are a lot of great tools out there in supply chain these days that will hone in on where an ideal spot would be, and what came up were few potential hotspots in [southern New Jersey],” said Robert D. Smith, vice president of supply chain at METUS.

The close proximity to the turnpikes and Port Elizabeth — which results in a facility accessible for both shipments and students who attend the training classes offered — will result in 13 million fewer miles being driven by METUS per year when delivering products, which equals out to about 23,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions eliminated from METUS operations, Smith said. Another major draw for the area is the METUS customer base nearby. METUS is now able to serve these local customers in ways they haven’t been able to before.


Training the Workforce

METUS intends to use the facility to create 60 distribution center jobs, and its training center will offer 40-45 training classes for both the residential and commercial side of METUS’ business, training 500-600 HVAC-empowered students annually.

“It’s not too overstated to say it’s a revolution,” said METUS CEO Mark Kuntz, speaking of the jobs that are going to be created from the new facility.

Classes will cover residential and commercial product lines and topics such as heat pump installation, start-up and service essentials, advanced service, and controls. Students will work on actual Mitsubishi Electric equipment, with the products installed for training purposes, which include four commercial VRF systems with seven styles of indoor units and seven residential heat pump systems with six styles of indoor units.

“And those training classes are very comprehensive, not only hands-on machine operation but training on how to install and service the product,” Smith said.

The systems in the training center are extremely sophisticated electronic devices — they have to be in order to produce heat efficiently in below-zero temperatures — and the controls the systems go through to produce that efficient heat is just as sophisticated.

METUS Distribution and Training Center.

SOPHISTICATED: The training offered will teach HVAC technicians in the more sophisticated sides of the field. (Courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US)

“And it means a whole different viewpoint from this standpoint of the of the service technician,” Kuntz said. “If they're not comfortable with what's inside there, they're going to shy away from promoting and eventually installing these systems. So the whole industry is going to need to up their game.”

As the nation looks ahead and becomes more heat-pump-fluid, recruitment into the HVAC industry starts to get a little more interesting. Right now, many people imagine a career in HVAC as crawling through attics. Kuntz hopes more and more will realize that it’s actually very different from that perception. Today, a career in HVAC is a sophisticated, technically complex, and a high-quality job opportunity, he said.

“And we think that's going to spawn a new generation of service techs, a new perspective from the owners of contracting firms that if they raise their bar and get sophisticated, there's a whole new universe of opportunities that's laid out for them.”


A Heat Pump Nation

Ensuring technicians are trained for heat pumps, however, is only one part of METUS’ plan to transform America into a heat pump nation. Historically, heat pumps have only made up low proportions of the HVAC marketplace, but as manufacturers like METUS work towards America’s transformation, that’s bound to change.

“Obviously there are a few parts of the world that might be good places to continue with some fossil-fired equipment, but I think everywhere else, heat pumps — and especially the all-climate version of heat pumps — really makes it a viable technology for every home, every building, and allows for a completely electrified future,” Kuntz said.

According to Kuntz, the most common questions around heat pumps are how they work, how they contribute to decarbonization and electrification, and whether they can really operate in cold climates. It’s a hard perception to overcome. The idea that heat pumps will create energy-efficient, comfortable space at sub-zero Fahrenheit just hasn’t taken hold yet, due in large to the fact that a lot of Americans think of heat pumps primarily as a southern technology.

“And so a large part of what our marketing team is doing is demonstrating those capabilities with case studies, testimonials, all sorts of really interesting ways where heat pumps have proven themselves,” Kuntz said.


Supply Chain Setup

“We can get products in the hands of our customers in very short amounts of time. Where we were talking about three to five days before, we're talking about one day.”
- Robert D. Smith
vice president of supply chain, METUS

Proving the capabilities of heat pumps is one challenge. Creating an efficient heat pump distribution network is another, which was one of the driving forces behind the placement of the Florence facility.

Demand for heat pumps has been strong in the Northeast, where distributors and contractors proved that the products performed extremely well in all climates and applications. Due to the demand generated around decarbonization from the Inflation Reduction Act, it became a region where METUS heat pumps were adopted at scale.

“They proved it to the extent that the utilities and the local governments decided, ‘Let's put some incentives in place so all of our citizens can enjoy these great features,’” said Kuntz.

Now all the product stored down south needed to be sent up to the Northeast, and it was taking a lot of travel time to ship from METUS’ facility in Suwanee, making it apparent to METUS executives that the company needed a major warehouse in the Northeast for the sake of efficiency.

METUS Distribution and Training Center.

MEETING DEMANDS: The new major warehouse in the northeast provides easy access for customers and students. (Courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US)

“We can get products in the hands of our customers in very short amounts of time,” Smith said. “Where we were talking about three to five days before, we're talking about one day. A technical aspect of our business, like most companies, is that we invoice at the moment that we ship. We often can get the physical product in the hands of our customers even before the electronic invoice shows up. That's how close we are in proximity to our customers. … If we can mirror that kind of service level across the rest of the region, it’d be fantastic.”

Looking ahead, Kuntz believes the entire HVAC industry will rapidly progress due to the cold climate capability of heat pumps.

“That’s the underlying assumption of the entire IRA — that we have got to be able to do this everywhere,” he said. “We're fortunate to have already developed the technology and have it in market and ready to go, but we're completely supportive of everybody getting in with that same capability. The fact that the whole industry is doing it is going to help us overcome our voice in the wilderness. … And that's going to trigger an even faster level of adoption. So we welcome that opportunity as the industry migrates five years from now. Everybody, all of my competitive members of the industry, will be leading with heat pumps. And I think that's going to be a game changer.”