If you ever wanted proof that contractors appreciate products that can be conveniently installed, maintained, and serviced, the overall scores and comments from the judges inThe News'Dealer Design Awards Program would provide ample verification.

And, if there was an underlying theme in the comments from The News' independent panel of contractors who judged the entries in the first edition of the Dealer Design Awards, it could be summed up this way: The simpler, the better.

"No question," admitted one News contractor-judge. In truth, the contractor-judges had a difficult time selecting the winners among the more than 150 products submitted for consideration by manufacturers. Each entry was reviewed and scored by five independent contractors, who focused on design features that assisted in installation, maintenance, and service, as well as quality and performance.

After all, The News thought it was time to recognize companies that go the extra mile to ensure their products are designed with dealers, contractors, and service technicians in mind. Consumer features on many products are easily recognized and glamorized, but what about the time, effort, and expense that goes into designing a product that helps the dealer as well as the homeowner?

The News created the 2004 Dealer Design Awards Program to recognize these efforts. We called for entries from manufacturers that are proud of new products designed make the contractor's job at least a little bit easier.

The Procedure

Companies had the opportunity to enter a product or service by completing a four-page entry form that asked for entrants to include a product description, including information about a typical application and how the product's design and manufacture assisted the contractor. Along with the entry form, manufacturers were allowed to include support information, including product brochures, CDs, videos, spec sheets, and installation manuals. The entry deadline was April 16.

Entries were placed in one of the following 10 award categories:

  • HVAC Equipment - Residential.

  • HVAC Equipment - Commercial.

  • Refrigeration Equipment and Accessories.

  • Ventilation Products.

  • Components and Accessories.

  • Residential Controls, including Zoning.

  • Commercial Controls, including Building Automation.

  • Testing and Monitoring Products.

  • Contractor Services and Software.

  • Miscellaneous.

    The panels of qualified independent contractors did all of the judging. The News wanted a mix of qualified, independent, non-partisan contractors - and we found them. The News managed to locate helpful and much-respected contractors from all parts of the country. Participating judges handle all types of work, from residential to commercial, including service-only contractors and specialists in refrigeration work.

    The News would like to thank all of the contractor-judges who participated. With more than 150 entries, each judge was called on to do plenty of reviewing, reading, and examining - during a busy time of the year for each.

    Scoring Scenario

    Each contractor-judge received score sheets compiled by The News' editorial staff. Each judge was asked to rate the entries according to five criteria: (1) ease of installation; (2) ease of maintenance; (3) ease of service or repair; (4) differentiation from other competitive products; and (5) overall installation and service benefits to the contractor (diagnostic capabilities, time saved, serviceability by both experienced and inexperienced technicians, etc.).

    Products had to be rated on a scale of 1 to 10 for each criterion, with 10 being the highest score. A score of five, for instance, would be considered "average" for products on the market. Meanwhile, a score of seven meant the product was "well above average." A score of eight would be considered "excellent," nine would be "outstanding," and 10 was to be considered "groundbreaking," or something that would eventually change the way other products are designed. The product with the highest point total in each category received the gold award, while silver and bronze awards went to the products with the second-highest and third-highest point totals, respectively.

    The score sheets allowed for a comment section, and many of the contractor-judges did take the time to supply written remarks, especially if they were impressed with the product.

    The highest overall point total among all of the entrants, regardless of category, went to Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems for its Evolution Controlâ„¢, the Gold winner in the category titled HVAC Equipment - Residential. In fact, in the area of "overall installation and service benefits to the contractor," the product earned a perfect score from three of the judges. One contractor commented, "This is cutting edge technology that will surely change the industry."

    Several categories featured extremely close races in the run for the gold. Among Components and Accessories entries, there was a difference of only 1.8 points between the first-place finisher (the Copeland Scroll UltraTechâ„¢ from Copeland, Division of Emerson Climate Technologies) and the silver medalist (the CheckTrolâ„¢ isolation flange from Bell & Gossett).

    In the Contractor Services and Software category, gold winner Right Proposal Plus Module from Wrightsoft Corp. edged silver award winner Luxaire® Business Analyzer from York Unitary Products Group by two points, while three points was the difference between first and second in Commercial Controls, including Building Automation. In this category, the HPC/LAC Low Ambient Controller and Head Pressure Controller from EDC International Inc. received the gold, and runner-up Comfort System™ Z-1600 Commercial Zone Control System from Jackson Systems LLC received the silver.

    Until Next Year ...

    In the final analysis, if the entry did not reach a certain point level, it did not receive an award.

    Thus, not all categories had three winners overall. However, several products in other categories far exceeded that magic number, but had to settle for an Honorable Mention. Among all of the categories, Testing and Monitoring Products had the most entries. That's one reason why Emerson Climate Technologies should be especially proud for coming away with the gold award for its Comfort Alertâ„¢ Diagnostics, the company's monitoring and analyzing system for residential cooling systems.

    "We are most pleased with the number and the quality of products entered into our first-ever Dealer Design Awards Program," said News publisher John Conrad. "I am certain that our contractor-judges scrutinized each entry forward, backwards, and sideways. All in all, I thank all who entered and all who judged."

    The winners of the 2004 Dealer Design Awards are profiled in this issue. In approximately a year from now, the winners of the second-annual Dealer Design Awards Program will be announced. Look for more details in The News at the start of 2005.

    Sidebar: Contractor-Judges Needed For 2005

    If you are a contractor and you believe you can provide quality and fair assessments of products that will be entered into The News' second annual Dealer Design Awards Program, we want to hear from you.

    When applying, please tell us why you qualify and provide a breakdown of your company's business (residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, refrigeration, service-only, new construction, replacement/add-on, etc.). Along with your name, please indicate: (1) how long you have been in the industry; (2) your title and name of firm; (3) city and state of your firm; and (4) contact information (phone number, fax number, and e-mail address). Please indicate if you are a dealer of a specific brand or brands of air conditioning, heating, and/or refrigeration equipment.

    The amount of entries for next year's contest will determine how many contractor-judges will be needed for 2005. If you want to be in the pool of potential News contractor-judges, let us know.

    Send in your credentials to: Mark Skaer, The News, 2401 West Big Beaver Road, Suite 700, Troy, Michigan 48084. You can also e-mail the information to markskaer@achrnews.com.

    Publication date: 07/19/2004