WaterFurnace’s bread and butter is its residential sales of geothermal and water source heat pumps, but as decarbonization mandates grow nationwide, it’s seeing growth in sales of its commercial products.
The company’s biannual commercial national sales meeting this week was a chance to highlight the company’s ever-expanding list of Fort Wayne-made heating and cooling products, and the company itself.
Those there at a specific time on the first evening got a look at a product that will be released next year.
The secret under wraps was a little something extra for the 160 commercial representatives signed up for “Redefine,” held May 23-24. Representatives from Ireland, the Netherlands, four Canadian provinces and 37 U.S. states attended the event.
The sales event was a chance not only to highlight and educate about WaterFurnace’s products but also Fort Wayne as the company looks to hire. Founded in 1983, the company has 250 employees and has 5-10 openings at any time, Eric Pulley, marketing operations manager, said.
On May 23, the reps got a chance to tour where the products they sell are made and tested, at its headquarters at 9000 Conservation Way, near Fort Wayne International Airport.
Many people are familiar with WaterFurnace’s residential products, but it’s the commercial line that’s really growing, Pulley said.
“In the last year and a half, we have expanded our product line dramatically,” Pulley said.
“Everything you see is built here, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, right here at this location,” Paul Selking, commercial vice president of sales & marketing, said. “…And that’s pretty unique among many of our competitors.”
And none of WaterFurnace’s products use gas combustion, he said. All of its products use electricity and water to transfer energy. The products use a compressor that changes a refrigerant to pull out heat or cooling.
“We can actually heat with 40-degree water,” he said.
For its geothermal products, it’s using 55-degree water under the earth.
As many states and cities look at eliminating gas combustion, commercial spaces are wondering what to do with a gas water heater, for example, Selking said. WaterFurnace can replace the combustion water heater with an all-electric system.
Earlier this year the company announced the renaming of its product lines under two main brand names – Versatec and TruClimate. The Versatec brand identifies the company’s commercial line for water-to-air products. The TruClimate brand identifies the company’s water-to-water heat pumps and modular chillers.
On the tour, attendees got a chance to watch as employees used blow torches to fuse copper pipes as they assembled units. Products are built to order, so employees can be working on very different products successively, vs. making all one kind of unit before retooling for a different kind.
Like companies all over, supply chain disruptions have lengthened delivery time. It’s 3- to 7-day timeline may be 6-7 weeks or sometimes 10-12 weeks, Pulley said.
Dave Richison, general manager, has been in manufacturing for 35 years, 17 of them at WaterFurnace. “I never remembered such things as a wire terminal causing us to almost shut down,” he told the attendees. The company is working around delays in parts and trading parts with its sister companies to meet customer demand.
Employees do CNC bending, tube straightening and gas flux brazing for switches along with other jobs with over 400 million possible combinations of units to build. The company is doing its best to forecast sales so it will have products available for its sales representatives, Richison told them.
In another area of the headquarters, the company had employees set up in a trade show manner to answer representatives’ questions about parts and systems. The second day of the sales meeting was held at the Grand Wayne Center and included an industry overview provided by WaterFurnace CEO John Thomas followed by breakout sessions with WaterFurnace product and market experts.