Nortek Global HVAC: Leading with Innovation

Nortek Global HVAC: Leading with Innovation

Until last year, Nortek Global HVAC was called Nordyne and Nordyne International. Changing these names to Nortek Global HVAC signified a unified strategy to help drive growth globally while recognizing the innovation that the Nortek name is known for.

Comprised of brands familiar to consumers and dealers alike, Nortek Global HVAC covers a wide spectrum of the commercial and residential HVAC market. Brands like Frigidaire, Maytag, Westinghouse and Reznor are all part of the Nortek Global HVAC product lineup.

Having such a broad lineup of household brands is one of the major reasons HVAC distributors like to carry Nortek Global HVAC products – consumers are already sold on them and that makes it easier for dealers to close a sale. After all, everyone remembers the television ads featuring the lonely Maytag repairman (Maytag equals dependability) and Frigidaire (a trusted name in homes for decades).

Until last year, Nortek Global HVAC was called Nordyne and Nordyne International. Changing these names to Nortek Global HVAC signified a unified strategy to help drive growth globally while recognizing the innovation that the Nortek name is known for. The “Nortek” in Nortek Global HVAC is the parent company. Based in Providence, Rhode Island, Nortek is a global, diversified industrial company that operates within six business segments with air management and technology-driven solutions for lifestyle improvements at home and at work.

“By changing the name it really gives a better picture of who we are across our companies,” says Carol Baker, vice president of global marketing for Nortek Global HVAC, which is based in St. Louis. Because Nordyne was never a product brand name, it was an easy decision to unify the business and its brands under the Nortek name.

While the business name changed, Nortek Global HVAC didn’t touch the brands. “We have been using these brands for a long time,” Baker says. “We wanted to go to market with brands that consumers are comfortable with. This is a category that consumers don’t buy very often and having this brand awareness drives credibility and trust for the contractor.”

Nortek Global HVAC’s distribution strategy for the HVAC market is mostly through independent distributors, Baker says. “Distribution is key because they’re the ones buying product from us directly. They’re the ones who are getting the contractors,” Baker says.

Left to right: The first-ever aluminum Micro-Channel evaporator coil; Contractor accessing technical literature library on his iPad; Frigidaire R8HE gas/electric packaged unit, the first ever to achieve 95 percent heating efficiency; Maytag iQ Drive® PSA4BG Air Conditioner, 20 SEER with inverter-driven technology. The company brought this technology to the ducted market in 2006.

With so many licensed brands, Nortek Global HVAC is one of the largest manufacturers in terms of independent distribution in the U.S. and Canada. But even with its size, Baker says, Nortek Global HVAC still must “fight for mindshare with the distributor.”

An active team of salespeople are continually in front of distributors, staying in touch with them to ensure they are solving issues and driving home key messages about the brands. Lunch and learns at branch offices bring together distributors, their dealer contractor customers and Nortek Global HVAC’s technical support team. In-person meetings are backed by videos and webcasts to reach an even greater number of distributors and their customers. An annual technical advisory meeting for distributors builds excitement and gives them confidence about the new products and innovations.

Nortek at a Glance
Parent Company: Nortek (Nasdaq: NTK), www.nortek.com
Founded: 1919 as International Oil Burner
Leadership: Bruno Biasiotta, COO; David LaGrand, president and CEO; Philip Windham, vice president, sales; Carol Baker, vice president, global marketing
Employees: More than 1,700 employees worldwide
Facilities: Headquarters in O’Fallon, Missouri; Manufacturing facilities in Mercer, Pennsylvania; Dyersburg, Tennessee; Saltillo and Monterrey, Mexico; Distribution facility in Poplar Bluff, Missouri; Design center in Shanghai; Additional offices in Memphis, Tennessee, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Canada, Miami, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina
Key Brands: Residential: Gibson, Frigidaire, Maytag, Westinghouse Commercial: Reznor, Mammoth Light Commercial
Significant Technologies:
  • First central AC system for manufactured housing
  • Developed industry’s first pilot light testing standards
  • Introduced award-winning iQ Drive inverter technology into ducted systems
  • First Micro-Channel evaporator coil
  • First 95 percent AFUE gas/electric packaged unit
Website: www.nortekhvac.com

Baker notes that the rapid pace of product development, innovation and changing regulations requires manufacturers to continually update their processes and continually change the product mix. “For all manufacturers, you have to focus on the best way to get new products to market and how to deliver on time,” Baker says. “There are a lot of moving parts in the process.”

lot of moving parts in the process.” Recognizing that contractors are the link between the distributor and the end user customer, Nortek Global HVAC created a robust program to build the contractors’ business and sales acumen. It not only gives them more product and technical knowledge about Nortek Global HVAC brands, but builds their confidence in making a sale with their customers

Called the 12th Man Plan, this is a complete package that gives contractors an array of marketing and sales tools they can use to connect with prospects. A big focus of the 12th Man Plan is connecting with customers on the web – through computers, smart phones and tablets. Most contractors continue to use traditional methods of advertising – newspaper ads, phone books and radio. But that’s not where consumers are looking for a contactor anymore.

“There is lots of value here for the contractor,” Baker says of the 12th Man Plan. There are sub-programs within the tool kit that promote the individual brand’s selling points. Among the benefits of being enrolled in the 12th Man Plan are professional placement in up to 15 online directories, including a Google Plus local page, inclusion on Angie’s List, help with Facebook, special discounts on tools such as GPS-based fleet management, iPad sales training and pre-qualified leads from Nortek Global HVAC’s consumer website.

Best Practices

While Nortek Global HVAC developed several notable technologies over the past 90-plus years, one of the most recent is the company’s use of aluminum indoor Micro-Channel technology.

In 2009, Nortek Global HVAC adapted all-aluminum coil technology from the automotive industry for use in outside condenser coils on its air conditioners. The aluminum coils transferred heat more efficiently, which was important as minimum efficiency standards were increasing at a rapid pace. Since then, Nortek Global HVAC has also incorporated the technology into some of its residential heat pump designs, which is an industry first. But, the most distinctive application has been the first-ever use of Micro-Channel in an evaporator coil, released in 2012. Bending the aluminum coils into the A shape is complicated, and Nortek Global HVAC has a patent on the process.

Indoor Micro-Channel coils deliver the same benefits as the outdoor coils, and a system that uses a Micro-Channel outdoor coil matched with a MicroChannel indoor coil reduces the total refrigerant needed, saving contractors service time and money.

Because Micro-Channel uses less refrigerant than a tube-in-fin system, contractors need to make sure they use the Quick Reference Data (QRD) provided with a Micro-Channel system to obtain the proper refrigerant requirements. Like any air conditioning system installation, contractors who know the exact amount of refrigerant to use and deploy the proper gauges for testing and verifications will prevent lost installation time, reduce call-backs and improve homeowner satisfaction. That’s why Nortek Global HVAC recommends that all contractors review www.microchannelfacts.com to learn more about the right installation practices and benefits of the technology.

Keep in mind that today’s air conditioning systems, including those with traditional tube-in-fin coils, feature advanced boards, motors, compressors and more. As such, using installation and verification methods that were once okay for a 10 SEER installation are no longer acceptable and are likely the leading cause of call-backs and early product failure in the industry. Now more than ever, contractors have to expand their knowledge regarding installation procedures and invest in the tools that will help them as technology quickly advances. Distributors who understand the importance of this will take contractor training seriously and pay close attention to the caliber of contractors they sell to because installation quality eventually impacts their bottom line as well.

Nortek Global HVAC’s focus on the Internet reflects the shift among consumers about how they make decisions. As little as 10 years ago, consumers relied on the contractor for information and product recommendations. Today, when a consumer is thinking about an HVAC purchase, they’ll turn to the Internet first. “That’s important because this is such a word-of-mouth industry with contractors relying heavily on that for new business,” Baker says.

The Internet has replaced the conversation with a neighbor or co-worker as that trusted source of information. “If I were to have a conversation with my neighbor and recommended a contractor, that’s one person I’m talking to,” Baker says. “Once you go to the Internet, you’re talking to millions of people and it’s a permanent record. You really have to manage what is being said, whether you’re a manufacturer or a contractor.”

Could online companies like Amazon begin a push into the HVAC market? Baker says it’s not out of the question. Companies like these have excellent reputations for customer service and reliability so if they decided there was a market to meet customer needs when it came to HVAC, it could probably work.

But this doesn’t mean that HVAC distributors and dealers should run and hide. Rather, they should ensure that they’re delivering for their customers at every stage in the process and deliver value-added service. “If you figure out a solution, the advantage is in the HVAC industry’s court right now. We have the distribution and the service.”

Training and technical support represent a big part of Nortek Global HVAC’s marketing and sales efforts with distributors and their customers. “We focus on training and support tools for the distributor. They are first in line to hear about anything new,” Baker says. “Then we try to provide them with the tools that they need to speak with their contractors.”

Distributors will typically carry several of Nortek Global HVAC’s brands – a premium brand and one of its standard brands. With Nortek Global HVAC’s marketing program, distributors and their contractor customers can build marketing campaigns around the brands they carry.

Aluminum Micro-Channel condenser coil

Just as the brands that make up Nortek Global HVAC are recognizable to consumers, Nortek Global HVAC wants to bring that same level of brand awareness to contractors. If an end customer is comfortable with the brand and the contractor who is doing the installation and servicing, that’s a win for everyone.

With Nortek Global HVAC’s 12th Man Plan advertising tools, contractors have ready-made specifications to advertise themselves and the brands for use on their trucks, web or print advertising and billboards as well as letters they can put together for use as direct mail pieces or in-home sell sheets. Because Brand Builder generates everything in electronic format, a contractor can use the materials in conjunction with the branded Comfort Consultant app, making a very professional and efficient presentation in the home.

The Comfort Consultant app for the iPad is available through the 12th Man Plan, Baker says. It has become a valuable tool for contractors. “The app helps them go through the selling process, asking questions, anticipating their needs and showing the consumers the ‘good, better, best’ scenarios that are probably more aligned with what consumers want to spend,” Baker says. “It helps facilitate conversations with consumers that otherwise might be awkward for contractors.”

Nortek Global HVAC’s market research has shown that customers like these types of conversations as well, helping them to feel like they’re part of the decision-making process rather than having a contractor dictate their HVAC choices to them. “That’s very important because the younger generation – the Millennials – that’s how they like to make decisions.”

These types of marketing and sales materials are custom made for the different brands and it is carried through all of the materials. “We want the connection to be smooth,” Baker says.

There are many new technologies from Nortek Global HVAC that distributors are bringing to their contractors and, ultimately, that give these contractors more to offer their customers.

It was Nortek Global HVAC that launched inverter ducted systems 10 years ago. Since then, the company has developed a line of these products and they’ve become easier to use. “They’re in split heat pumps, air conditioning units and even gas packs,” Baker says. “It’s exciting to see.”

The inverter ducted systems are among the leaps in technology that the HVAC industry – and Nortek Global HVAC – continue to make. Another innovation is the recently launched three-phase large packaged gas/electric system in 2 to 5 tons for light commercial use. A 95 percent AFUE gas efficiency product, it is the only high efficiency condensing gas/pak available. With new federal efficiency standards (taking effect as of January 1, 2017) that ban the production of 13 SEER 3-phase models under 65 MBTUH, the new Model R8GE, available in the Mammoth and Reznor brands, delivers energy-efficient 14 SEER cooling.

Baker notes that the evaporator coils represent another innovation from Nortek Global HVAC. Used in the Model R8GE and several other products, they are designed for longevity, are lighter in weight for easier hoisting and require less refrigerant for comparable performance. “It’s exciting new technology,” Baker says.

Michael Maynard is a freelance writer who writes frequently on topics related to HVAC, architecture and construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

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