When it was time to tour the Comfortech exhibits, HVACR, hydronic, and plumbing contractors streamed onto the trade show floor to examine the latest products and services being offered in the mechanical systems industry.

The following is our recap of the event that is Comfortech. In addition, throughout 2014, we will share many of the show’s seminar presentations here in Contracting Business.com magazine and online.

Emerson Party Rocks Again
A long-time Comfortech sponsor, Emerson Climate Technologies, again stepped up to host the annual Wednesday Night Welcome Party. The event always serves as a fitting start to the activities to come. It’s a time to network, enjoy good food, and meet up with old and new friends, all against the backdrop of an Emerson HVACR innovation.

This year, Emerson celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Copeland Scroll compressor, an HVAC industry-leading breakthrough that has surpassed 100 million installations.

Many historic Copeland Scroll innovations were on display in the ballroom of the Philadelphia Marriott Hotel, and Emerson again held a raffle for a great selection of prizes.

National Comfort Institute held its “NCI Meets” Conference, continuing its tradition of sharing best practices among NCI members, to help solidify their futures. Day-long sessions featured productive collaborative roundtable

discussions of profit-building ideas.

Women in HVACR began its annual meeting with a report by WHVACR President Patti Ellingson of 2013’s successful outreach events. Laura DiFilippo, ContractingBusiness.com’s 2013 Woman of the Year, shared her story of success with a message called, “Forward Thinking, and Always be Yourself.” Rodney Koop, CEO of the New Flat Rate, shared how important it is to “know where you come from and always fight for what you believe in.” Other presenters at the Women in HVACR meeting: Matt Michel, CEO of Service Roundtable; Carol Wallace, CEO of Cooper-Atkins; and motivational speaker and author Mark Matteson.

The urged business owners to “Come Out Fighting,” during its “International Roundtable,” combining SR’s Alliance Day, International Roundtable, and presence at Comfortech 2013 to meet with a wide range of residential contractors, industry experts, manufacturers, and distributors. Among the highlights, keynote speaker, John Jantsch, author of “Duct Tape Marketing,” provided hours of advice on “How To Build A Referral Engine.” For the ninth consecutive year, the Service Roundtable brought the largest group of contractors to Comfortech.

RPA Brings the Heat — and Cooling! — to Comfortech
The Radiant Professionals Alliance (RPA) held its Annual Membership Meeting on Wednesday at Comfortech in Philadelphia, preceded by a reception on Tuesday night. RPA also brought its technical track to the show with presentations on the evolution of thermostats, reducing steam heating systems into warm water comfort systems to save costs, solar thermal design concepts, using infrared imaging technology, and a special four-hour course, “Radiant Cooling for Skeptics,” that explained the design principles involved in using radiant cooling in high-humidity regions.

'Fab Five' Provide Many Ideas for Contractors in 'Townhall' Format
This year, Comfortech featured a “Mechanical Townhall,” with the "Fab Five” a select group of HVACR and plumbing contractors, who shared their thoughts on what it takes to be successful.

Steve Miles, general manager of Jerry Kelly Heating & Air Conditioning Co., St. Charles, MO — and a past CB Residential Contractor of the Year — spoke of the importance of running a profitable HVAC business, not just a business that breaks even.

“You can have all the sales in the world, but if you’re not structured for profitability, you’re going to go out of business, so you better know your numbers,”  Miles said. “We use flat rate pricing. Salesmen don’t get to design or make up prices on the fly. We job- cost everything we do.”

Eric Aune, owner of Aune Plumbing, LLC, Zimmerman, MN, was chosen to serve on the panel because of his experience as a smaller contractor making his way up the ladder of success.  “I’m not employing 65 people. I’ve had as few as four employees. But I realized early that I had to employ the help of many other people to make my business work,” Aune shared.

Alana Ward, president/owner of Baggett Heating & Cooling, Clarksville, TN — and the ContractingBusiness.com 2012 Woman of the Year — recently acquired the business from her father. Ward offered comments on the importance of social media.

“We have a website with pertinent information. And we’re also on Facebook. We use Demand Force automated marketing and communications software. It allows me to collect an email address, and sends a welcome message to customers, and allows them to rate and review us. If it does nothing else, it feels good to get those reviews. And, it’s important to our team members as well,” she said.

Dave Yates, president, F.W. Behler, York, PA, is a very successful plumbing and hydronics contractor featured often in the pages of Contractormagazine. His topic was “expanding your business portfolio.”

“When it comes to HVAC, very few people in our industry are really dealing with indoor air quality (IAQ) issues. We’re moving into IAQ. Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology is creating dramatic change, and we’re determined to stay on the leading edge of that technology. We’ve also pushed the envelope continuously in energy conservation. I do that by showing a customer a 20-year spreadsheet projection of operating costs for new and existing equipment,” Yates said.

Anthony Reikow, manager, education/training, B.J. Terroni Co., Bensalem, PA, made an impassioned plea for continuing education.  “Training is important, and it’s close to my heart. I go to every class I can. You can’t get anything done without training. You have to get the knowledge, which also keeps people safe,” he said.

Executive Leadership Forum Features Manufacturers' Viewpoints

HVACR and plumbing contractors always want to hear what leading manufacturers have to say about industry trends and issues. For that reason, we brought together executives from five leading OEM’s to address questions submitted by leading contractors from around the U.S. Serving on the panel were John White, Jr., president, Taco, Inc.; John Galyen, president, Danfoss North America; John Warner, director of sales, Laars Heating Systems; Craig Johnson, president, White-Rodgers; Gary Michel, president, Residential Solutions for Trane/Ingersoll Rand.

The panelists’ remarks were informative, and covered a variety of topics. This discussion was moderated by Mike Weil, editorial director of ContractingBusiness.com, and Bob Mader, editor of Contractor magazine. Here’s what these industry leaders had to say about some of the topics. You can find for more of their comments online, at
bit.ly/CTECH13review.

Energy Efficient Products:
John White, Jr.:
“The issue of energy efficiency is just beginning to unfold in terms of the extent to which we see it going. But we’re seeing a heavy-handed approach on regulating energy efficiency standards by the Department of Energy. In my opinion, DOE’s approach has some advantageous impact on all of us, but is also a bit scary.”

Gary Michel: “At Trane, we’ve been focused on providing energy efficiency in terms of the homeowner. This year, we’ve launched our new TruComfort product from Trane, trying to bring energy efficiency to a broader market space, combined with what homeowners really want: home comfort, the ability to control the environment and see a decrease in what they pay. We’re finally seeing home prices and home values firm up. People are looking at ways to invest in their homes, but they want to do it in a smart way.”

John Galyen: “There are many exciting products that offer significant energy efficiency, but 80- to 85% of the market is at the base level today, so there are existing and known technologies that are available. On the commercial front of HVAC, I think we’re reaching “max tech” where there are diminishing returns in the commercial building space, and a renewed focus on “whole building efficiency.”

John Warner: “I think it’s widely held that the global demand for energy will outpace supply in the future, so, clearly, energy efficiency will become more important to us. It is apparent, at least in recent years in the residential sector, that there’s a movement toward wanting lower first-cost solutions, which tends to put energy efficiency on the back burner. We at Laars think that’s going to change over time.”

Hot Market Segments:

Gary Michel: “Residential new construction has been very good this year. We’ve seen a lot of home building. We expect that to continue, maybe not at the same rate but certainly at a growth rate into next several years. The replacement market is starting to firm up. Ductless has been a big growth area as well. We’ve seen it up as much as 20%.

Craig Johnson: “I think there’s some concern, as interest rates escalate, that it will limit the upside to the housing market. New home starts are up, and the inventory of existing homes is down. We’ve seen that market bottom out and it’s now climbing out of the low point of a few years ago. We think the light commercial market will be relatively strong going forward.”

John Warner: “The 2013 economy is fairly regional, especially in the commercial sector. Some regions are very strong, others are marginal. We look at it from market to market, and find some areas of the U.S. are doing much better than others. I think commercial hydronics is growing and will continue to grow in the light commercial sector as well.” 

Third-party online sales of HVAC equipment.
John Warner:
“We don’t condone it, and don’t like to see it, but in some cases it’s very hard to control. We sell a lot of our products through wholesale distribution channels. Non-professionals might be buying equipment, or might be using a contractor to put in something he knows nothing about.”

Craig Johnson: “A number of our parts are safety devices, whether it be ignition controls or gas valves. We cringe a bit when we see those being sold online, where a homeowner ‘do-it-yourselfer’ has access as opposed to a professional contractor network. White-Rodgers thinks this is and will remain an applied industry model, one that requires professional HVAC contractors to do the specification of the job, the installation and the maintenance in order for the homeowner to get the full benefit of the equipment. The role will continue to be focused around traditional wholesale and professional contractor channels.”

Thursday Night Extravaganza GOES LIVE!
The Thursday Night extravaganza was held at XFINITY Live dining and entertainment complex in South Philadelphia. Guests were treated to several appetizer buffets, drinks, and activities. Contractors could view the Thursday night football game on one of the largest big screen TVs in the country, take pictures with cheerleaders from the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football Team, or try to hang on while riding the mechanical bull. The event was sponsored by Rheem and Ruud, Nordyne, and Danfoss.

Vicki LaPlant Wins Tom McCart Award
Vicki LaPlant of Vital Learning Experiences won this year's Tom McCart Award for excellence in consulting.

“I am so honored to receive the Tom McCart Award,” Vicki LaPlant said. “First, to even be included in the same group with Tom McCart is an honor in itself, and then to be chosen by Service Roundtable members makes it all the more humbling. As [husband and business partner] John and I have always said, everything we know we learned from good contractors in this industry. We hope we’re paying back what others through the years have shared with us.”

Hilmor to Award Three $10,000 Scholarships, Tools and Other Prizes
Attendees and HVACR students were treated to a variety of new products and offerings from hilmor on the show floor at Comfortech. In an effort to help the next generation of HVACR technicians, hilmor announced earlier this year that it will offer its Retool Your Futureprogram, which includes sponsoring a contest that will offer a $10,000 scholarship to three current or future HVACR students. Hilmor introduced 150 new products to the industry in early 2013. Three students will be awarded $10,000 scholarships, a hilmor merchandising Green Wall donated to their school, and travel to the AHR Expo 2014.

Comfortech’s Annual
Product Showcase Awards

The ContractingBusiness.com editors were busy on the show floor talking to the 2013 Product Showcase winners.
All exhibitors were given an opportunity to enter a product that they were exhibiting at Mechanical Systems WEEK in our contest, to see which product was most useful to contractors. The winner in each category was given a sign at their booth saying they’re the winner, and had an editor do a video at their booth, highlighting the product that won.

The following are the winners in the various award categories:

  • Business/Technical Services: The New Flat Rate’s SOS Equipment Sales System
  • Controls: Mr. Pex Systems’ IDC Network Based HVAC Control System
  • Forced-Air Cooling:Daikin’s VRV-WIII Water Cooled System and Trane’s XV20i TruComfort System
  • Forced-Air Heating: Rheem’s 90% Gas Furnace Platform
  • Indoor Air Quality: Belimo Americas’  Zip Economizer
  • Instrumentation/Diagnostics: Emerson’s HVAC Check & Charge Mobile Application
  • Miscellaneous: VLE Enterprises’ Hit the Target Incentive Program
  • Software: dESCO LLC’s ESC Version 13
  • Tools: Aeroseal’s Aeroseal Duct Sealing Technology
  • Training: Genteq E-Lab Training Application
  • Zoning Equipment: Jackson Systems’ Barometric Zone Damper
     

Trane Celebrates 100th Anniversary with More Innovations
In September 2013, Trane released the XV20i line of 18 and 20 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps with Trane TruComfort Technology. Trane showcased the TruComfort line at 2013 Comfortech, where it won a Product Showcase Award in the Forced Air Cooling category. ContractingBusiness.com Executive Editor Terry McIver interviewed Gary Michel, Ingersoll Rand senior vice president and president, Trane Residential Solutions.

“There’s an excitement around TruComfort,” Michel said. “It gives the consumer a great solution for energy efficiency in their homes. This unit provides an average 38% reduction in electricity costs. That’s something contractors can sell. The expected price point puts it at a place that’s affordable. It’s really going to change the mid-efficiency/high efficiency market quit a bit. It combines the comfort of the home for the homeowner along with an electric bill reduction that is unmatched.”  Read more at bit.ly/GaryMichelinCB.

 

A Comfortech Hallmark: Super-powered Educational Sessions
Quality educational sessions are always the centerpiece of HVAC Comfortech, and this year was no exception. This year, attendees gleaned a wealth of information from three major tracks: business management, service management, and sales and marketing.

The business management trackincluded two timely sessions on the impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), a session on preparing for the 2015 water heater efficiency standards, and a session on the value of a good geothermal loop contractor, in which consultant Andy Fracica, contractor John Furnace, and geothermal well-driller Mike Kaufman took a look at all aspects of succeeding in the geothermal business.

The service management track included sessions on the power of strong service management leadership, and a panel discussion on how to achieve service agreement sales success.

The sales and marketing trackhelped attendees book more calls, wow more customers and make more money — which just happened to be the title of one of the sessions. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Other sessions in this track included how to create a successful sales culture in your business, and a look at the latest mobile apps that are available to maximize your sales and marketing efforts.

This year’s show also included a special technical track that covered the do’s and don’ts of working with electronic expansion valves, and the business opportunities presented by new variable refrigerant flow and inverter technologies.

It’s said that knowledge is power, and the attendees of Comfortech’s educational sessions always leave the show with superpowers!  

Mark your calendars today: From September 10-12, 2014
Contracting Business.com and Contractormagazines bring COMFORTECH 2014  to
Nashville, TN,. We will have some new show innovations in place, with loads of educational content, a fabulous exhibit floor, and the renowned Comfortech entertainment!  So Get Ready to Learn! Get Ready to Play!