JOHNSON CITY, TENN. — A.O. Smith Water Products Co. recently dedicated a new engineering design center that will serve as the focal point for its residential water heating development efforts.
The 26,500-sq.-ft. facility is designed to provide product development, testing and certification support to all of A.O. Smith's wholesale and retail residential water heater brands.
"This new facility underscores A.O. Smith's longstanding commitment to being the innovation leader in the water heating industry," said Kevin Wheeler, senior vice president and general manager of U.S. retail water heaters. “It consolidates all of our residential product development activities in one center and significantly expands our testing capabilities. We have aggressive product development plans for all of our North American brands, and this gives us the resources to deliver the innovative products our customers want and need.
"Johnson City and the tri-cities area offer extensive technical resources and a dedicated workforce. This was also an opportunity to locate an important engineering facility adjacent to one of our largest residential water heating plants."
The fully equipped engineering center features a total of 20 development stations used for water heater performance testing, safety testing and certification work to achieve regulatory approvals. Each stand is equipped with water, natural gas and propane service.
The center has a total of 72 reliability test cells for accelerated life testing of residential water heaters. Ten specialized Department of Energy test cells also monitor and record water heater efficiency to comply with federal government regulations.
In addition, there are two specialized test rooms used in the development of flammable vapor ignition resistant gas water heaters and an indoor wind lab that is used to test the venting systems of gas water heaters that are vented outdoors.
The engineering center also includes a model shop that builds prototype units and fabricates specialized components used in development programs. Plans call for obtaining CSA-International certification for the new engineering center later this year.
Construction began on what was the 100-year-old Vaughan-Empire Furniture property in autumn of 2006, shortly after A.O. Smith Corp. acquired the American Water Heater Co. here.
A multi-story, 100-year-old factory on the site was removed, and most of the original building's materials, most notably the bricks and wood beams, were salvaged. The engineering center project focused on a newer one-story building also located on the property. Remodeling began in July 2007 and was completed in early March.
"A.O. Smith greatly appreciates the support we have received from Johnson City during the construction of the new engineering center, and we look forward to working together closely in the future," Wheeler said.