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Home Climates Inc. offers unique programs, services

Aug. 5, 2015
Home Climates Inc. offers unique programs and services. They have programs, such as “After Hours Advantage.”  Home Climates doesn’t focus on one type of work in exclusion to another. Plumbing service calls and high-end new construction are pursued with the same energy and commitment to customer satisfaction. 
The Home Climates Inc. team.

ELIZABETHTOWN, PA. — Seven years have passed since Home Climates Inc. opened for business in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. At the time, the full-service HVAC/P shop had three owners. Between Nathan Shambaugh, Terry Amig and Jim VanHorn, the leadership was a perfect alloy of veteran wisdom and ambitious energy. 

Out of unique ideas and a desire to build a different, better business model, grew what is today a 14-person company. A fourth owner came onboard last year, when Justin Fisher brought his 12 years of plumbing experience and forward thinking to the firm. 

Healthy growth of that sort — especially during what most would agree weren’t stellar years for business — is rare. If you ask them what they attribute their success to, the folks at Home Climates will tell you that it’s a real focus on service. Not service in the sense of annual maintenance, but rather serving others. Serving customers to the absolute best of their ability.

Home Climates President, Nathan Shambaugh and Plumbing Division Leader, Justin Fisher, in mechanical room at Columbia Water Company.

“During development of our business plan and looking at models we’d seen in the past, selecting specific things to improve upon was a hugely helpful practice,” said Shambaugh, president.  “While there were a number of areas where we could streamline processes internally, customer service kept coming up. We believed — and have since been reassured — that treating each customer as best as humanly possible is the most direct route to success.”

“In addition, we’ve put every effort into changing the stale old image of ‘the service guy,’” said Fisher, plumbing division leader. “We’ve built a unique culture using today’s trends and technology, whether that be web-enabled t-stats, mobile design software or using smart phones as time cards. We want it to be ‘cool’ to use Home Climates. Pun totally intended.”

Another way Home Climates Inc. differentiate themselves is to offer unique programs and services.

Programs that work

Terry Amig checks temperature and pressure readings during geothermal system start-up.

One such program is what they call their “After Hours Advantage.” Weekdays, weekends, nights and holidays get the same flat hourly rate, regardless of the emergency. There’s no buy-in, it’s simply a perk of hiring Home Climates. 

It has all but eliminated the surprised, often confrontational calls from customers that come after receiving a bill for late night no-heat calls, or AC failures on humid August Sundays.

They also have a standard five- or 10-year parts and labor warranty, depending on the type of installation. Their commitment to customer satisfaction even extends to service calls, where their work is covered by a five-year guarantee. 

“That’s a pretty big commitment on our end,” said Shambaugh, one of the members who initially called for the warranty program. “To help us make good on our promise, we need to use products that come with the same assurance.”

Of the manufacturers they routinely install, U.S. Boiler Company, ClimateMaster geothermal equipment and Amana heat pumps all offer a warranty they can stake their reputation on.

Pictured left to right, Justin Fisher, plumbing division leader, and Nathan Shambaugh, president.

“Not surprisingly, all three are American companies,” said Shambaugh. “But a solid warranty is only part of the equation. The equipment has proven itself in the field, and the result is happy customers and systems that work.” 

Columbia Water Company

About 20 minutes south of Home Climates’ shop is the town of Columbia, Pennsylvania, on the bank of the Susquehanna River. The town’s age and early years of prosperity are displayed through its stone mansions and brick storefronts. Most have been repurposed, like the building that’s now home to the Columbia Water Company. 

The utility occupies only the ground floor and basement. The upper two levels make up a 2,700-sq.ft. apartment, which the Water Company rents out. 

Though it’s been a forced-water system for number of decades, the heating system for the apartment was originally gravity fed, and the big pipes remain in use. When Home Climates was urgently called in late-2014, the existing 175 MBH boiler was leaking through a cracked heat exchanger.

“This needed to be a one-day project,” said Fisher. “We had to avoid displacing the tenant, and it was very cold.” After a quick load calculation, they began to demo the old boiler while sending a truck to pick up a 150 MBH Burnham K2 condensing boiler.  Before the end of the day, the new boiler was hung on the wall, and new copper piping was ProPressed together.

“Given the huge water volume and oversized radiation, this was a fantastic application for a high-efficiency boiler,” Fisher continued. “We shoot for a 20° delta-T, and the boiler condenses almost the entire time it’s running.”

Home Climates uses the stainless steel Burnham K2 for almost all hot water applications. The standard five-year warranty, competitive price-point and user-friendly design make it a great solution for their customers.

“The gas bills are about 30 percent smaller this winter,” said Dave Lewis, VP and general manager at Columbia Water Company. “Home Climates gave me a solid quote and stuck to it. They came quick, and the installation looks very professional.”

Terry Amig, VP, arrives at the home in Hershey on a dreary December day.

“Startup and piping on the boiler is simple, the primary circulator comes installed inside the cabinet, and a 90° grey vent pipe is supplied,” said Technician Chris Green. “You also have terminals for three zones without needing a separate zone control.” The boiler offers thermal efficiencies up to 94 percent, and is available in five sizes from 80 to 180 MBH.

Uptown green

Home Climates doesn’t focus on one type of work in exclusion to another. Plumbing service calls and high-end new construction are pursued with the same energy and commitment to customer satisfaction. That reputation has forged relationships with homebuilders who can provide the type of work that a capable, growing company needs. 

Nearby Hershey is often referred to as “The sweetest place on earth,” in reference to the namesake chocolate company. Locally, it’s known for the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. The town boasts a strong custom home market and several top-tier builders.

New construction work is only one small part of Home Climates’ service offering.

In recent years, Massimo Rizzotto, owner of Carricato Homes Builder, has seen some of the high-end market trend toward slightly smaller, more detailed and greener homes.  In rural Hershey, he currently has three adjacent homes in different stages of completion. All feature ground-source heat pumps.

The 5,000-sq.ft. home in rough-out stage incorporates two ClimateMaster geothermal heat pumps; a four-ton packaged unit and a split system of the same capacity. As a ClimateMaster GeoElite dealer, Home Climates is able to offer soup-to-nuts, design-build solutions.

The packaged unit conditions the basement and first floor, while a split system handles the upstairs. A Generalaire humidifier on the packaged unit keeps the home at a comfortable humidity level year around, while Nest thermostats offer web-enabled control regardless of where the homeowner is. 

“There’s a desuperheater on both heat pumps,” said Terry Amig, VP. “The hot water generators provide DHW via a 50-gallon tank. This reduces the load on the exchange field while also salvaging waste heat.”

The lawn above the home’s four, 150-ft. deep bore holes will soon be lush green, ready for volleyball or barbeques.

“We have a great relationship with ClimateMaster based on the quality of product and the support we receive from HVAC Distributors, the local wholesaler,” said Amig.  “ClimateMaster’s large product offering and commitment to serviceability have been huge advantages. Last year we jumped at the opportunity to become GeoElite dealers.”

ClimateMaster’s GeoElite Dealer Program was designed to give the best installers a leg-up in their territories with benefits like exclusive availability to Trilogy systems and access to a special tech support hotline. GeoElite dealers can also offer their customers a one-year, 100 percent satisfaction guarantee backed by ClimateMaster. 

A four-ton ClimateMaster split system conditions the second story of the large home.

But those benefits aren’t given without discretion. To hold GeoElite status, a number of requirement must be met. Dealers must have sold at least 15 units in the past year, must sell only ClimateMaster geothermal products and avoid displaying material from competitive brands. As a GeoElite dealer, Home Climates personnel must also go through extensive factory training.

Inventive inventory

Like most full-service companies, Home Climates’ inventory is split down the middle; one room for plumbing, one for HVAC. But, true to form, the young company put an interesting spin on stocking shelves. 

“What we do is called consignment warehousing,” said Shambaugh. “Instead of maintaining inventory ourselves, supply houses stock our shelves for us, and we pay for it as we scan it out. One room is plumbing parts, stocked by Hajoca as if it were an actual branch. The other room is our heating and cooling inventory, which is maintained by HVAC Distributors.”

As parts are scanned out, a list at one of the supply houses is updated. If a component goes un-used on a project, it’s simply scanned back in. As the bins get empty, supply trucks show up to refresh the cache.

“It’s one less thing taking up mindshare here at the office,” continued Shambaugh. “If there’s a product, practice or technology that we can implement which leads to improved customer satisfaction, I want to know more about it. That’s how Home Climates has grown and will continue to grow in the years to come.”

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