• Contractingbusiness 506 Topazportableac

    Dealers Find a Niche with Portable Solutions from TEMP-AIR

    June 1, 2009
    When an air-conditioning system goes on the fritz in an office building or in a home, it can quickly become a major inconvenience for all those affected.

    When an air-conditioning system goes on the fritz in an office building or in a home, it can quickly become a major inconvenience for all those affected. But when a misfiring system affects a service or application that requires a preset cool temperature — a computer server room or a specialized assembly line, for example — it becomes more than an inconvenience — the business is at stake.

    That's where a company like TEMP-AIR can save the day — and potentially save a business from losing lots of money. The Burnsville, Minn., company is one of the leading providers of temporary heating, cooling, dehumidifying and air-filtration services, and it has solutions for every application. For HVACR distributors, TEMP-AIR manufactures its TOPAZ line of portable air conditioners, which are designed for portability and convenience. TEMP-AIR also has two other areas of business: its rental operation, run through its 12 locations in the United States, and its thermal remediation division for pest control.

    TEMP-AIR was started in 1965 as Rupp Industries, and it remained a family-run operation until a group of investors purchased it. In September 2007, they changed its name to TEMP-AIR. “The primary things that attracted my interest in TEMP-AIR were the quality of the people, the quality of the products they manufacture and the exceptional service that TEMP-AIR provides,” said TEMP-AIR CEO Jim Korn at the time that the investors purchased the company. “It is my hope to build upon the tradition at TEMP-AIR of attracting quality people, manufacturing quality products and giving our customers outstanding service.”

    TEMP-AIR's TOPAZ air-cooled and water-cooled air portable air conditioners represent a product line that can help to set apart HVACR wholesalers from the pack. Building managers and contractors who have worked with commercial buildings have found it helpful to have a TEMP-AIR dealer that they can count on when they need portable air-conditioning equipment for a job.

    Building on its success in the rental industry, TEMP-AIR started the Topaz product line in 1999. It was poised for success with TOPAZ because of TEMP-AIR's roots in HVACR rental equipment. “We build our equipment around the rental industry,” notes Dan Grinols, TEMP-AIR's vice president of engineering. “We have a strong background in dealing with the equipment on a temporary or portable basis. That's one of the things that separates us from some of the other companies out there.” The company manufactures the equipment in the United States.

    While other companies may retrofit HVACR equipment to be portable, TEMP-AIR actually designs its equipment for how technicians will use it in the field. “We build durability and toughness into it,” Grinols says. TEMP-AIR also makes the equipment easy on the ears. Unlike other portable air- conditioning models that are loud, the TOPAZ units cool quietly at the lowest decibel level for portable air conditioners while delivering full performance at a wide range of temperatures and altitudes with a thermostatic expansion valve. This valve automatically adjusts to the environment, functioning day after day, year after year, regardless of the conditions. The units can be set through a mechanical thermostat or through a seven-day, 24-hour programmable temperature control.

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    Smaller equipment — one- to five-ton units — primarily make up the TOPAZ line. The equipment's size makes it very user-friendly and easy to move units around a building or from one application to another. In fact, it can fit through doorways as small as 32 inches wide.

    There are six different models in the Topaz product line. While some may consider that a small product line, the mix and range of models make it just right for dealers. “Although we have had some inquiries regarding additional unit sizes, the BTU/hr range that we offer meets the needs of most portable applications,” says Jessica Mulinix, TEMP-AIR marketing manager. In fact, most of the TOPAZ units actually provide more BTUs/hr than their ratings indicate — a selling point for distributors, she adds. “For example, a unit that is rated at three tons of cooling is actually capable of about 3½ tons of cooling,” Mulinix says.

    The simplicity of these portable air-conditioning units is also one of their key selling features, Mulinix offers. Distributors and contractors easily understand how the system works. There's very little installation necessary for a TOPAZ unit. It can be set up in minutes and rolled easily from one application in a building to another. “It's a very user-friendly product,” she adds. “For the smaller units, you can plug them into a standard outlet, turn them on and go,” she says.

    Knowing that a strong dealer network is the best way to reach customers, TEMP-AIR has worked diligently to build a list of distributors who are committed to HVACR and to the benefits of selling portable air-conditioning equipment. From the initial launch of the TOPAZ product line, TEMP-AIR has worked to build its distributor network. “Distributors are a critical part of our business,” says Scott Brainard, TEMP-AIR vice president of product development. “We depend on both our current distributors and locating new distributors for the current and future growth of our business.”

    Because TEMP-AIR built its business on the rental side, it developed a strong foundation of customer service — a legacy that benefits its wholesaler distributors. “When somebody calls, we're here to help them with whatever they need at that point in time,” Brainard says. “There's a lot of resources that are available through TEMP-AIR for the distributor and the end-user. Distributors like working with us because our customer service to them reflects how important they are to our business.”

    While dealers need very little technical training, TEMP-AIR does provide technical support as well as sales training. Technical training usually occurs at TEMP-AIR's Minnesota headquarters. Brainard says they encourage distributors to visit their operations so they can develop firsthand knowledge of how TOPAZ units work, and they develop relationships with the TEMP-AIR service team.

    TEMP-AIR will take sales training on the road, going directly to the distributors. “We provide a classroom-type training session with extensive information regarding the features and benefits of our product as well as information regarding the different markets and selling opportunities that our products offer,” Brainard says.

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    TEMP-AIR has well-established relationships with building managers, engineers and contractors across the country, and the company markets its TOPAZ product line directly to them as a way to drive traffic to the distributors. Advertising in industry publications and on the Web and having a strong presence at trade shows also help to build brand awareness for TEMP-AIR and the TOPAZ product line. In fact, TOPAZ air conditioners received a 2008 Reader's Choice Award from Building Operating Management magazine, recognizing its products as among the most popular among readers.

    TEMP-AIR also works with the distributors to help them market the products, providing them with product catalogs and reimbursing them for a certain amount of their annual marketing program. TEMP-AIR's 12 regional offices are separate from its network of independent distributors. While they are two different markets, the offices complement the independent distributors. “That's what makes the distributors so important,” says Grinols.

    Brainard points out that when an end-user needs products, “time is of the essence.” Failing to get products to a customer can mean the loss of a sale. “Having distributors with product throughout the country is critical in increasing awareness and meeting customers' needs,” he says. “Because of the nature of our business, we encourage our distributors to carry inventory. If the distributor does not have a specific product on hand, it may be available through one of TEMP-AIR's 12 regional offices and shipped the same day, Brainard adds.

    TEMP-AIR may be about products that provide temporary air-conditioning solutions, but the company says they establish permanent relationships with their distributors. The company understands the importance of the distributor who is on the ground and knows his market. “We recognize that we need those partnerships in order to grow our business and reach out to customers throughout the United States,” Brainard says. “We are always looking for new distributors and are willing to talk to anyone who is interested in supplying our product, regardless of how big or small a company they are.”

    Michael Maynard is a business writer based in Providence, R.I. He writes frequently on HVACR, construction and architecture issues. Contact him at [email protected]

    Best Practice

    TEMP-AIR provides their customers with custom-engineered solutions for their unique air-management needs.

    Definition and Example: Because TEMP-AIR specializes in temporary HVACR, each project brings its own set of unique challenges. From being the leading supplier of temporary heat for the U.S. construction industry to providing supplemental cooling for national TV broadcast suites at the 2008 Republican National Convention, to custom manufacturing equipment for overseas military applications, TEMP-AIR can provide a solution for any application.

    Significance: With more than 40 years in business, TEMP-AIR uses their experience to design each project for maximum effectiveness. TEMP-AIR is flexible with a wide variety of equipment types and sizes, and multiple fuel options including natural gas, propane, electric, steam and hot water.

    Benefits: When costs of equipment, fuel consumption and electrical usage are all taken into consideration, TEMP-AIR systems can provide their customers with the most efficient and economical results.

    Procedure: For each application, TEMP-AIR supplies their customers with an accurate estimation of heat loss, humidity levels and fuel consumption to size the project. Certified service technicians provide equipment delivery, installation, routine site inspections, adjustments and preventive maintenance. Emergency service is available 24/7/365.

    People involved: Sales, Engineering, Product Management, Production & Service.

    Timing: 24/7/365

    Cost: Dependent on the project.

    Contact: Jessica Mulinix, marketing manager, Direct: 952/707-5166, Toll-Free: 800/836-7432, e-Mail: [email protected]

    TEMP-AIR Inc. at a GlancePresident & CEO: Jim Korn Vice Presidents: Tom Danley, sales Dan Grinols, engineering Scott Brainard, product development Headquarters: Burnsville, MN Operations: 11 additional regional offices throughout the United States Employees: 160 companywide Major Product Lines: TOPAZ Portable Air Conditioners, TEMP-AIR Rental Services, Thermal Remediation from TEMP-AIR pest management equipment and services Website: www.TEMP-AIR.com; www.gotopaz.com; www.thermalremediation.com Year Founded: 1965