In a soft housing market, homeowners are staying in their homes longer. While this may be bad news for the real estate market, it offers opportunities for HVACR contractors as their customers replace aging and inefficient heating and cooling systems with new, more efficient ones. Bosch Thermotechnology has been at the forefront of this movement with high quality and resource-efficient hot water, heating and cooling solutions that include geothermal and solar thermal systems.

Bosch is a well-recognized name around the world – it was founded in Stuttgart, Germany in 1866 – with a presence in diverse markets. In North America, Bosch supplies automotive original equipment and aftermarket products, industrial drives and control technology, security, healthcare and software innovations and packaging technology. Consumers may know Bosch for its power tools and household appliances such as dishwashers, ovens and refrigerators – and this helps create brand awareness of its HVACR products. Bosch has been in North America since 1906, and it has about 100 locations with reported sales of $8.8 billion in 2010.

Bosch Thermotechnology Corp. is the North American operation of the Bosch Group’s heating and hot water division. It has earned a reputation as a leading supplier of geothermal heat pumps, tankless, solar thermal and boiler products for modern water heating and indoor comfort as well as controls and accessories. “Our high-performance, eco-friendly products deliver truly integrated systems, improving energy efficiency for residential homes and commercial facilities under the brands Bosch, Buderus and FHP,” says Nuno Fernandes, director of marketing, product management and training for Bosch Thermotechnology North America.

Bosch recently launched the first Bosch branded residential line of high-efficiency geothermal heat pumps. Its water source and geothermal heat pumps for larger-scale commercial applications remain under the FHP brand. Bosch acquired FHP Manufacturing in 2007, a move that allowed Bosch to add water source and geothermal heat pumps to its renewable product portfolio. Fernandes says FHP has been one of the premier geothermal heat pump manufacturers in the United States since its founding in 1970. Both the Bosch residential and FHP commercial lines of water source and geothermal heat pumps are manufactured and tested under strict Bosch quality standards.

Versatility of Bosch’s product lines is key to its success in the competitive HVACR market. Bosch has expanded its product portfolio as it continues to evaluate market trends within the industry. “With the downturn of the housing market, it was important for our products to be versatile in order to accommodate the growing retrofit market,” Fernandes says.

The biggest trend in the retrofit market is energy-efficient systems. With a number of previous tax credits and other incentives, it’s become an easier conversation for HVACR professionals to have with customers about the economic advantages of upgrading from a conventional heating and cooling system. They can pay for themselves in just a few years, Fernandes notes.

With this in mind, this year Bosch introduced Greenstar, a new gas-fired condensing boiler line, and the Compress Heat Pump Water Heater. The boiler line offers up to 98.7 percent efficiencies for saving on fuel bills, emissions and space, while the hybrid water heater is twice as effective when compared with a traditional tank water heater, and the estimated payback is just three years.

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In addition to its energy savings, the Bosch Greenstar series of gas-fired condensing boilers provides some other important features. The Bosch Heatronic III is a device integrated into the base of the boiler that provides instant access to the hot water and heating controls and a removable front panel that provides direct access to the boiler’s heat cell. For service technicians, a plug-in diagnostics module streamlines the unit’s serviceability. For homeowners, an important keypad safety lock button feature prevents unwanted tampering that will provide reassurance to homeowners with children.

Additional Bosch products, including solar applications, are programmable using supplemental module control options from the unit. Such interoperability is one of the distinguishing features of the Bosch product line. “Our products are designed to work in a matched system to reduce extensive installation time and troubleshooting,” Fernandes says. “We feel that system integration is the future, and we’re already working toward this today.”

Bosch was one of the first companies to partner with a third-party developer to create a real usable and sellable Net Zero home with the Eco Plus Home in 2008, he says. Bosch provided the HVACR products – geothermal heat pump, solar thermal system, photovoltaic panels as well as the home appliances – for a home in New Brunswick, Canada, that generated more emission-free electricity over the course of a year than the house consumed. A family lived in the home for a year to showcase the possibilities for sustainable living. (To learn more, visit www.ecoplushome.com.)

Integrating specific products such as geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaic, solar thermal systems, heat pump water heaters and other products allows Bosch to offer energy- and efficiency-savings to homeowners. Fernandes says such integration represents a “great business opportunity” for HVACR professionals who partner with Bosch, adding that Bosch is one of the only companies in the industry to offer such a comprehensive product portfolio backed by training and marketing support.

Either paired together or stand-alone, the Bosch suite of products uses the latest innovations and materials to reduce heating and cooling costs while decreasing carbon footprint. “Our products use a variety of sources – gas, oil, solar, geothermal – that can either be the key energy source or act as a backup based on the system’s demands,” Fernandes says. Bosch engineers its products with world-class innovation and builds them with top-quality components to exceed industry-leading standards. “This is demonstrated through our facility in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, where we manufacture our residential and commercial lines of heat pumps,” Fernandes says. “Each unit undergoes rigorous factory testing within a certified ISO 9001:2008 facility ensuring consistent quality and reliable performance.”

Because consumers are familiar with the Bosch brand through its home appliances and power tools, HVACR distributors know that it is a strong and reliable brand to partner with, Fernandes says. With this in mind, Bosch is able to experience synergies in some areas of the country because distributions overlap. For example, Bosch has distributors that not only sell multiple products from its Thermotechnology product lines but also sell Bosch dishwashers and power tools.

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Fernandes notes that building its relationship and loyalty with HVACR professionals is one of Bosch’s top priorities. “We partner with our distributors and dealers, providing them with tools to grow their business,” he says. He cites Bosch’s online dealer portal, Bosch WayToGrow, as an example of the most comprehensive tool available to distributors and dealers. In addition to lead generation for registered and trained dealers, the portal also has tools that simplify marketing and align the distributor with a proven leader.

Bosch recruits and partners with HVACR professionals who are innovative and looking to grow their business with renewable technologies such as geothermal. “It’s the belief of our organization that geothermal, along with other renewable technologies like solar, represents a viable alternative to conventional home heating and cooling,” Fernandes says. “The geothermal market in the United States particularly has remained for the most part a niche space with manufacturers providing products to select regions.”

Bosch has a new training program they designed to help them get started with selling, installing and servicing energy-efficient solutions manufactured by Bosch. But partnering with Bosch on geothermal also opens many other doors for distributors, creating a broader spectrum of potential customers and supporting sustainable business growth.

Part of the recruitment effort by Bosch for HVACR distributors and dealers is to educate the general public about the technology and its potential for reducing energy consumption, increasing the value of their homes and lowering monthly energy bills. Bosch also helps to promote available tax credits and local incentives for consumers to go geothermal. Bosch is the first manufacturer to release a TV commercial promoting the benefits of geothermal heating and cooling across the United States.

Fernandes characterizes the trend toward sustainable solutions as “unstoppable” as fuel costs continue to rise and utility bills increase. With this in mind, Bosch will continue to invest in the research and development of alternative technologies.

So what are the savings for consumers who invest in a Bosch geothermal system? Fernandes says such a system can save homeowners up to 70 percent on their monthly heating and cooling and water bills, depending on the type of application and region. It’s all about the efficient operation of a geothermal system compared with a conventional heating and cooling system. Then there are the environmental benefits. The system has no carbon dioxide emissions or any other negative effects on the environment. “Bosch geothermal systems are the most environmentally friendly way to heat and cool a home,” Fernandes says.

Bosch is also committed to distributor and dealer education across all of its product suites. HVACR distributors, dealers and contractors all face a competitive selling environment, Fernandes says, and education can make a big difference. “HVACR professionals at all levels need to arm themselves with the latest advancements and technologies to stay ahead of the curve and offer their customers the best service available,” he says.

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Bosch Solutions Centers in Irvine, CA, Londonderry, NH, and Ft. Lauderdale, FL, provide comprehensive training on Bosch’s complete product portfolio. Training is also available anywhere in the country upon request. If you are interested in signing up for Bosch factory training in your area, visit Boschwaytogrow.com.

Bosch also extends its education efforts to consumers so that they can have a better understanding of what they can do to save money and make their homes more energy-efficient. Bosch last year launched a new consumer education website (http://bosch-climate.us) that links to product information covering its entire residential Thermotechnology product portfolio. Visitors can also explore an interactive Energy Efficient Home, learn about available tax credits and rebates around the United States and determine the appropriate products for their heating and cooling needs.

“The economy has taught homeowners to be more aware of how they consume resources,” Fernandes says. “Geothermal and other renewable energy solutions are a smart way to drive down energy consumption, reducing dependence on foreign energy sources while saving the homeowner money.”

Michael Maynard is a business writer based in Providence, RI. He writes frequently on HVACR, construction and architecture issues. Contact him at michael.maynard@lycos.com.

Best Practice

The Bosch WayToGrow dealer portal (www.boschwaytogrow.com), a free lead generation and marketing support platform, has provided our customers with the powerful advantages of our global brand and put them to work for their business to grow sales. The portal is but one example of our company’s commitment to growing geothermal as the preferred heating and cooling technology in the United States. We realized this commitment would require arming HVAC professionals with the best tools available. To drive home the level of commitment, we offer the tool free to registered users.

Definition and Example: The WayToGrow portal features customized marketing support across multiple communication channels (print, online, social media, local market radio/TV) and an enhanced consumer-to-professional interface. The Bosch WayToGrow program is the most advanced in the industry – all content and features for the portal are user-controlled. This means feedback from our registered contractors and wholesalers is actively used to both tailor and create new features based on audience need. For example, we’ve already used the feedback to tailor our local market support for distributor events and promote them to local contractors.

Significance: The portal has been a tremendous success in terms of sign-ups and feedback from users. In just a few short months, we’ve added dealers to a majority of the United States, with more being added daily. One significant advantage with the portal is the lead generation program which simplifies the often cumbersome task of networking and local-level advertising. The Bosch Thermotechnology website, www.bosch-climate.us, uses a ZIP code search function that puts our registered, qualified professionals in touch with the end user for consultation. It puts the registered HVAC professional in a positive sales environment with a consumer ready to move forward with the geothermal process. The portal is a valued resource for lead generation to closing the sale as well. The full suite of product literature and sizing software further aids the professional and offers customers assurance their decision to work with a Bosch professional is the best route.

Benefits: In addition to sales support, the portal is a critical hub for disseminating product information and simplifying the registration process for sold units. We run exciting, incentive-backed giveaways and trips for registered products that really charge the users to sell the product and take full advantage of the portal’s tools. For Bosch, more registered products mean we can more accurately assess our sales figures and provide more detailed projections and information to manufacturing and the sales force.

Procedure: Available at www.boschway togrow.com are company logos, contact information and special promotions being offered. Online training classes and continuing education sessions, including certification and product maintenance demonstrations, can be found in a tab at the top of the page.

To generate leads, a star ranking system determines the best HVAC professionals in the area. Ranging from one to five stars, a HVAC professional’s rankings can be improved through product registrations, training participation and positive homeowner feedback provided through the site upon completion of a job. A higher accumulation of stars results in a priority listing in a ZIP code search feature made available to consumers through the Bosch Thermotechnology website. A full suite of product literature and sales collateral – customizable to include the HVAC professional’s company logo, photos and text – is available for use in the selling process with consumers in both print and digital formats.

People involved: The dealer portal was a cross-collaboration with members of the Bosch Thermotechnology marketing team, sales force and our colleagues with the global Thermotechnology practice. We worked extensively with HVAC professionals and third-party developers to perfect the formula and ensure we had a productive and ultimately powerful tool for contractors and distributors carrying the Bosch brand.

Timing: The launch of the new dealer portal coincided with our official rebranding of the FHP residential line of geothermal heat pumps to the new Bosch Geo series in April 2011. We wanted to emerge from the rebranding ready to assist dealers in selling the Bosch brand to their customers. With the Bosch global footprint, we borrowed best practice models from our company’s other divisions to tailor the program based on what contractors most sought.

Cost: The dealer portal is an integral component of a multi-year marketing and sales generation program through Bosch Thermotechnology. This multi-million dollar initiative is designed to recruit, educate and retain HVAC professionals for selling geothermal heat pump products. Conversely, a strategic marketing campaign is aiding awareness levels amongst the consumer for adoption of the technology as the more efficient and smart way to heat and cool today’s home – both new construction and retrofits.

Other considerations: The implementation and support of the dealer portal isn’t possible without our valued distributors committing to the platform. They’re often the front line in managing the user’s Bosch experience along with our sales force.

Contact: Visit www.boschwaytogrow.com to learn more and register for free.