The grim reaper unexpectedly visited my coffeemaker last week.

The morning started like any other. I awoke, waging a bare-knuckle battle with my snooze button before bumbling down the stairs and into the kitchen. Somehow, I only managed to step on two loose Legos. Someone cue The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine.”

After filling the carafe with four cups of coffee strong enough to put hair on Vin Diesel’s head, I flipped the brew button on, and, nothing. Not one drip. I flipped it again. Nothing. I unplugged the machine and plugged it back in. I tried another outlet. I hit it with a palm strike.

This wasn’t good. Hell hath no fury like an un-caffeinated Herbert.

So, I woke the kids, gathered our daily necessities, and headed out the door, fighting the urge to commit every imaginable crime against humanity.

And, while I loathe paying $5 for a cup of coffee, it happened that morning.


Like most modern-day shoppers, I surfed over to Amazon. What was the going rate for a quality coffeemaker? How soon would it arrive? My decision hinged on user reviews. What did my fellow coffee enthusiasts say about each of these machines?

After reading 15 or so reviews, I narrowed my search down to three devices. And, based on price, peer opinions, and popularity, I’d made my decision. In two short days, my lovely jet fuel would be polluting my bloodstream once again.

I follow this process with pretty much all purchases. Yes, I’m that guy nose deep in his iPhone researching prices and reviews, clogging the aisles of Bed, Bath, and Beyond.


Experienced opinions carry great value in today’s connected marketplace. Oscar-nominated movies tend to draw more eyes than those failing to nab nominations, a restaurant heralded by Yelp users is going to attract more diners than one without such accolades, and, more often than not, a consumer is likely to select a five-star product over one that his or her peers deem ineffective — even if it costs a few bucks more.

Unfortunately, for HVAC contractors, such options are limited when it comes to defining the usefulness of mechanical equipment.

Enter The NEWS’ Dealer Design Awards (DDAs).

Created more than a decade ago, the DDAs recognize the effectiveness of HVAC equipment through the eyes of working contractors. A team of contracting judges evaluate equipment on several criteria, including ease of installation and use, maintenance, application/repair, reliability, and competitive difference. The DDAs showcase the time, effort, and expense spent designing products that are “dealer desirable.”

If you are reading this and are interested in entering the Dealer Design Awards, there is still time. Manufacturers — big and small — have until March 28 to enter their products into the competition. The contest spans 15 product categories, so there is a place for each and every product introduced to the market after Jan. 1, 2015, and before April 30, 2016. Like a five-star review, prospective contractors are more likely to purchase equipment that’s been heralded by their peers than one that’s not. And, like any contest, you can’t win if you don’t enter.

As a contractor, are you interested in judging such equipment? One of the perks of being a Dealer Design judge is getting access to a plethora of information on many new products that were introduced in the last year. We always attract some prestigious voices to this group, and we appreciate their opinions; however, we can always use some new blood. If you are interested in becoming a judge, please email me at the email address next to my floating head atop this page. For more information on the DDAs, visit

Publication date: 2/1/2016

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