Tag Archives: hvac

bond-of-steel

The Unified Group Membership Melds Businesses Cross-Country

Interstate Mechanical (IMCOR) was sandblasting a cooling tower for a client of Chicago-based company Air Comfort when IMCOR employee Jeremy Ettesvold realized the metal was in worse shape than it looked from the outside. He contacted Air Comfort, sent a revised proposal with a change order and then rerouted a few IMCOR employees to pull and replace one of the tower’s metal panels by the end of that same work week.

This is the kind of integrity that defines the partnerships between The Unified Group (TUG) members such as Air Comfort and IMCOR. TUG is a group of 50-plus U.S. companies that share best practices by way of digital and in-person forums.

Kim O’Connor, service operations manager at Air Comfort Corporation, has been in the HVAC business for nearly 20 years. When she was promoted to her current position, she had a lot of industry experience but had never held a management position before filling the vacancy at her company.

“The first TUG forum I attended was a management forum,” O’Connor says. “After the speaker introductions, we went around the room and told what company you were with, your position and a little about yourself. I did this and mentioned my new position and that I had no management experience. During the breaks and at the group dinners throughout the three-day forum, the members took turns coming to me and offering support. My last day there, as I was looking around the room, I realized how fortunate I was to attend this forum. Where can you get 20 or 30 mentors in your exact field at one time?”

Air Comfort is one of the founding members of TUG. It has worked with IMCOR for five years, O’Connor says. “Their response time to emergency calls along with the quick response time for providing quotes or updates on repairs has always been fantastic,” she says. “IMCOR has several maintenance agreements in place for Air Comfort customers.

Top: Seated, left to right, Jim Bartolotta, Julie Bishop, Matt Todd, Kevin Almond, and IMCOR’s Dave Dickens, standing, at a TUG conference

Top: Seated, left to right, Jim Bartolotta, Julie Bishop, Matt Todd, Kevin Almond, and IMCOR’s Dave Dickens, standing, at a TUG conference

“Air Comfort is 100 percent comfortable with all of The Unified Group members when calling upon them for assistance,” O’Connor says. “TUG members have a commitment to training which allows not only their technicians – but all their employees to provide top-quality service.”

O’Connor says it takes only a few minutes after an e-mail to all the members to get a response or solution to any question sent out. “When we look for potential members, we’re looking for companies who do exceptional work and are constantly striving to become even better,” says Allison Rodgers, marketing coordinator for The Unified Group.

“Participation is critical to The Unified Group. Participation can take the form of attending meetings or training sessions, we typically have four to six a year, actively sharing ideas and best practices with other members, utilizing the resources and e-mail tools, and getting as many people within the organization involved and engaged with the group.”

Membership in The Unified Group is geographically exclusive, there’s strength in an environment where companies can share best practices without fear of a competitor in the room.

Left to right: Kevin Almond, IMCOR’s Jeremy Ettesvold, Bill Flynn, and Tom Rowles.

Left to right: Kevin Almond, IMCOR’s Jeremy Ettesvold, Bill Flynn, and Tom Rowles.

“The goal with this partnership was to ultimately grow our business but we also grew our team and extended our footprint,” says Dave Dickens, who handles service sales at IMCOR’s Facilities Service Group Division.

Dickens estimates IMCOR was awarded eight major projects and gained 10 new customers through its Unified Group participation. The projects include cooling tower refurbishments, storage tank replacements, rooftop unit retrofits and HVAC and plumbing services.

“Working with Air Comfort has connected us to Jones Lang LaSalle and select properties that fall under their portfolio,” Dickens says. “They have used us for HVAC/plumbing service and special projects. We have also built phenomenal relationships with other members like Pacific Rim Mechanical (southern California), Yale Mechanical (Minnesota), Innovative Service Solutions (northern Florida), Tweet Garot (Green Bay), Vital Mechanical (Seattle) and many more that have led to new customers that we are still working with today.”

Many IMCOR employees have had the opportunity to attend service management classes, sales forums, leadership training, as well as owner and customer service meetings over the last five years, says Dickens. The meetings address industry trends, best practices and working in collective groups to find better ways to take care of customers and grow business.

“We like that each meeting pushes you to be attentive and affords you the opportunity to immediately implement your new found knowledge in a presentation or role play setting,” he says. “Each meeting has provided us many take-a-ways that have been implemented into our overall go to market strategy thus driving business and gaining market share.”

awning-of-an-era

The Awning of an Era

In 1973, beneath a metal awning in a Phoenix backyard, a 31-year-old sheet metal worker with less than a decade of experience established what would become a multi-million-dollar company.

Merle “Rick” Karber Jr. was working for HAPCO A/C at the Metro Center complex when he decided to try and make a living on his own as a sheet metal worker. Prior to that, his contracting experience began as an apprentice journeyman and foreman for several air-conditioning companies in the Phoenix area.

Nine months after founding Karber Sheet Metal, he moved from beneath the awning and into his brother’s backyard shed. Shortly thereafter, Karber’s brother, Michael, quit his job with Stiles and Allen A/C to join him. The company then changed its name to Karber Air Conditioning Company.

In 1978, the brothers began to see some success and their father, Merle Karber Sr., who was a sheet metal worker in the construction industry from the time he got out of the Army in 1944 until he retired in 1982, quit his job with Goettl A/C and came to work with his sons at Karber A/C that same year.

“I think our father could see that even though we were making progress in our business he had vast knowledge that he could share with his sons,” Karber says.

As it happens, he worked as a sheet metal worker on the Sky Harbor Control Tower in the early ‘40s — nearly 60 years before IMCOR won a bid to complete HVAC and plumbing work on the new air traffic control tower in 2004.

Karber says IMCOR has always derived positivity by providing a good workplace for employees. As business grew so did its need for space.

“We quickly ran out of room in Michael’s shed,” Karber says. “A good friend, Joe Banks, offered us a place to work in the corner of his shop, Banks Welding, on east Washington Street. We eventually bought the vacant lot next door to Joe’s shop and built a sheet metal building. We presently own and occupy the city block in that location.”

Karber’s first commercial project was to install sheet metal flashings on a row of buildings on east Van Buren Street for $1,200. One of the company’s recent, larger projects was to install the air-conditioning, sheet metal and plumbing for the Civic Plaza complex in downtown Phoenix — a contract for more than $50M.

The journey wasn’t as direct. The company would see one more merger before it became IMCOR as its known today. The Karber brothers started Interstate A/C while still operating Karber A/C.

“Karber was a union contractor and became unable to compete on the public works jobs that were its main market due to the Arizona Supreme Court ruling that repealed Arizona’s version of the Davis-Bacon Act,” he says. 

IMCOR had a plumbing subcontractor that was unable to perform on a certain project, so Karber decided to form its own plumbing company, Allied Plumbing, to do this project.

“After that, we used this entity on several other projects until we got the bugs out and then we merged Allied Plumbing with Interstate A/C to form IMCOR,” he says.

Though the company has a lot of history in its 40 years, Rick’s fondest memory is forming a nationally accredited, four-year apprenticeship training program in the name of his late brother, Michael, who passed away in 1990. The program, established in 1993, has graduated many journeyman tradesmen since its inception and has contributed greatly to the industry, Karber says.

Cut Energy Cost With Energy Star Program, Other Upgrades

Cut Energy Costs With Energy Star Program, Other Upgrades

In an economy where every dollar counts, mortgage payments are not the only major bills on the minds of homeowners. Utility expenses also take a painful bite out of the household budget. For now, the solution to cutting energy cost is right inside the home.

The Energy Star program, created in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy, suggests some tips that should be adopted by the homeowner looking to cut excessive energy usage. In addition to these tips, homeowners can also make use of some common sense upgrades that have proven to work well.

Change your air filter

The Energy Star program recommends changing your air filter regularly — at least once every three months. Air filters block dust, mold and other airborne particles from entering the home through the duct. When the air filters are clogged and filthy, your HVAC system will be forced to work a lot harder than it’s suppose to, which would then increase your energy cost.

While you are at it, you might want to tune up parts of your HVAC system to enhance performance. Doing this once or twice a year is good enough. An expert should be called to help unless you know everything about your system. To ensure your system is up to par, look for and fix loose electrical connections, apply lubricants to squeaky moving parts, and remove trapped dirt in the blower compartment. Fine-tuning your HVAC system makes a significant difference, but that’s not all.

Properly seal your ducts

The Energy Star program also recommends seeing to it that your ducts are always properly sealed. Ducts act as tunnels through which the warm or cold air travels to reach your rooms. They are known to be energy wasters when in bad shape. You can improve energy efficiency by as much as 20 percent if you fix your defective ducts. One simple way to test them is to find out if there are rooms in your home with vents in them that just don’t get warm or cold enough compared to other rooms. If that’s your situation, it’s likely you have defective ducts that need repair.

Replace incandescent light bulbs

You can top up Energy Star’s recommendations by simply adding some common sense energy-saver tips that have also proven to be very effective. One of them is simply replacing incandescent light bulbs in your home with energy-saver bulbs. This effort not only saves you money, but it also helps the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a not-for-profit science organization, reported that if every U.S. household replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an energy saver bulb, it would help prevent 90 billions pounds of harmful gas emissions from power plants (coal and the like).

Energy-saver bulbs are often priced slightly higher than regular bulbs in stores, but the difference can quickly be recouped within one- to two-months’ use. If you happen to go shopping for a couple of them, look out for bulbs with the Energy Star logo.

Upgrade old home appliances

Upgrading your old home appliances to newer versions can also seriously help cut costs. If you’ve been to retail stores that carry appliances, you may have noticed most of them are decorated with energy-saving stickers. The most popular one is that of Energy Star. Some appliances like the wall-mountable AC’s are also equipped with programmable features that can be set to conserve energy while in use. The prices of appliances continue to fall most likely due to competition from various brands. This might be the right time to start replacing your old, energy-guzzling home appliances.

Insulate your walls

Lastly, unless you have already done so, insulating the walls of your home is one smart way of reducing energy cost. For those who are building new homes from the scratch, it’s highly recommended that you add wall insulation from the outset. One other factor that forces your HVAC system to work a bit harder is when hot or cold air leaks in and out of your walls. Besides, if you are thinking of placing your home on the market, full-home insulation is one of several positives for pitching your home value. Maybe your current budget is not good enough for a full home insulation. You can still do a little bit by looking for areas in the house that are not usually covered with dry wall, such as the attic, basement and garage. By simply applying spray foam or rolled fiberglass to relevant areas, you will notice some difference in heating behavior at home. If you are not the handy type in remodeling, utilize the services of an expert.

Try implementing these energy saving tips mentioned, then sit back and watch your energy bill go down. Moreover, you would also be contributing to the reduction of harmful gas emissions into the atmosphere.

For more information about the Energy Star program, visit energystar.gov.

Energize Phoenix - Commercial Loan

City Of Phoenix Makes Changes To Commercial Loan Program

Energize Phoenix, an energy efficiency upgrades and savings program, announces that businesses participating in the commercial loan program are now eligible to receive additional rebates from the commercial rebate program.

The program rebate cap for businesses that secure an Energize Phoenix commercial loan has been increased from $200,000 to $500,000. The rebate cap remains $200,000 for those who do not obtain a commercial loan from Energize Phoenix.

For a limited time, low fixed-rate terms (as low as 3.99%) are available for commercial loans starting at $50,000 (after rebates) with term length between 12-120 months, subject to credit approval.

Businesses considering installing energy efficiency improvements such as lighting, HVAC, chillers, motors, controls, windows or other energy efficiency measures are encouraged to take advantage of this rare opportunity to receive unprecedented rebates and low-cost financing.

Energize Phoenix commercial loans and rebates are available on a first-come-first-served basis until funding is depleted. With the Energize Phoenix program scheduled to end in May 2013 and summer right around the corner, now is the best time to save energy and money. To take advantage of this opportunity, interested businesses should visit energizephx.com or call Mitchell Hayden at (602) 534-2002 for more information.

The city of Phoenix was awarded a $25M federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Neighborhood Program through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to launch the Energize Phoenix program in partnership with Arizona State University and with support from Arizona Public Service. The Energize Phoenix program saves energy, creates jobs and will transform a diverse array of neighborhoods along the Metro light rail.