Rising out of Oklahoma City, Okla., ClimateMaster has emerged as the global leader in the water-source heat pump industry. Dan Harvey reports on the company’s avowed mission: to control the interior climates of architectural structures throughout the world with the most innovative and top-quality technology.
It’s safe to say the nation eats, sleeps and breathes ClimateMaster technology. The Oklahoma City-based company provides products that help control interior climates, and its advanced heat pump concept is ubiquitous.
Serving commercial/industrial and residential markets for a half century, ClimateMaster has installed more than a million units in places where people work, live and shop – including settings such as schools, homes, office buildings, sports venues and assisted living facilities. Well-known locations benefiting from the ClimateMaster advantage include the Prudential Tower, Rockefeller Plaza, Trump Plaza, Marriott Hotels, and the Arco Arena.
Recognized as the world’s leading manufacturer of advanced heat pump technology, ClimateMaster has broken down barriers through its strong focus on innovation and quality. “Almost any application you can throw at us, we’ll have a product for it,” says Jeff Hammond, ClimateMaster’s director of marketing. “Whether the project engineer is designing a school, a hotel or office building, we’ll have a product line that fits the application.”
Innovating its Way to the Top
ClimateMaster calls itself the “world’s largest and most progressive leader” in the water-source heat pump/geothermal heat pump (WSHP/GHP) industry, and it has a 50-year track record of success to support that boast. No other heat pump-industry company can touch it as far as comprehensiveness and innovation.
As Hammond indicates, compared to its competitors, ClimateMaster offers the most comprehensive product line of any WSHP manufacturer. Its units include packaged, vertical stack, rooftop, console, water-to-water, and split systems, and offer the most options in terms of size, configuration, performance and cost. “No other manufacturer provides as many options,” adds Hammond.
Innovation is facilitated by a senior management team that has a combined 200 years WSHP/GHP industry experience. Strongly focused on research, development and advanced manufacturing processes – and implementing computer-controlled production processes – the company consistently develops products that offer the highest heating/cooling efficiencies and lowest sound levels via award-winning designs and industry-exclusive features.
As a result of its product line and forward-looking approach, ClimateMaster has garnered the highest percentage of market share in the commercial/industrial markets and is tied for the highest market share in the residential market. Moreover, its sales have doubled over the past five years.
ClimateMaster’s products provide substantial benefits over conventional air-conditioner systems. Advantages offered by WSHPs include lower maintenance and operating costs, longer life expectancy, higher comfort levels and quieter operation.
Simplicity is a keyword. Often it turns out that the simplest of designs turn out to be the most efficient, and “simple and efficient” is how ClimateMaster sums up the water-source heat concept that goes into its products. Energy- and cost-effective, the technology saves money while conserving energy. Essentially, ClimateMaster heat pumps recover potentially wasted energy and direct it to where it can be more fully utilized and, in turn, provide a less expensive heating/cooling alternative for commercial buildings and homes.
More specifically, ClimateMaster systems are comprised of packaged, reverse-cycle heat pump units interconnected by a water loop. During cold weather, each heat pump takes heat from the loop (via a refrigerant-to-water coaxial heat exchanger) and releases that heat into the air. Conversely, in hot weather, heat pumps take the heat from the air and transfer it back to the water loop through the coaxial heat exchanger.
Simplicity of design not only reduces operating and maintenance costs, it makes ClimateMaster products easier to install, as they take up less space and need less piping than conventional systems. In addition, they’re easier to service.
The company has been developing water-source technology since it was established in 1956, when several companies merged to consolidate their resources into a single water-source heating/cooling concept, one that was at once simple yet complex enough to translate into the most advanced heating and cooling systems available.
These companies included Friedrich, ClimateMaster and California Heat Pump, which was founded by Robert Lodge,
who developed the idea of water loop heat pump applications. Today, Lodge remains actively involved with ClimateMaster.
“The essence of the technology, as advanced by Lodge, is the installation of multiple heat pumps in buildings and connecting them to a common piping system so that you can transfer heat throughout the building,” explains Hammond.
Monitoring for Quality
As the company advanced, quality became another keyword, as ClimateMaster goes to great lengths to ensure product excellence. The company employs an all-inclusive quality control program that results in the finest products offered in the heating/cooling market. The core of the program is the automated Integrated Process Control System, a highly advanced computer-controlled quality system that coordinates 100 tests that every unit must pass before it can leave the factory. Within the process, all of the components are bar-coded, and each station has a specific pass/fail criteria.
As they’re processed through this system, each unit receives a “report card,” “Many of our competitors have some sort of a run test, but they are not running under actual jobsite conditions,” says Hammond. “Our process checks water flow, water temperature, air temperature, air flow, refrigeration pressures and temperatures, and it actually prints out a report card, so that you have a record of how a unit ran before it ever left the factory. This provides all of the data you’d typically need when starting up a job. That’s one of the major elements that separates us from our competitors.”
There’s also a built-in, fail-safe mechanism that the company calls its “Watchdog System.”“The system won’t allow a unit to be packaged if its skips any step in this quality-assurance process,” informs Hammond. “The stretch-wrap machine that packages the product simply will not work.”
All of this goes on at ClimateMaster’s single manufacturing plant located in Oklahoma City. The 300,000-square-foot facility produces more than 80,000 units per year. Recently, the company has made significant investments to substantially increase capacity, including a $2 million investment in new sheet metal and copper fabrication equipment, a new $300,000 quick-changeover powder coat spray system, and $2 million upgrade of all production lines for computerized process control.
One of the major targets of the investments is bottlenecks in processes. “The biggest one occurs in sheet metal, and there’s a lot of sheet metal and copper that go into our products,” says Hammond. “We’ve added laser cutters to enhance our ability to keep up with our production lines. These can process up to 100 feet of sheet metal each minute. Besides increased speed, there’s also less waste and better accuracy.”
ClimateMaster’s product line includes several significant industry firsts and exclusives. For instance, the company offers two levels of solid-state digital controls: the CXM and DXM control board.
The standard CXM control board is programmed with ClimateMaster’s Unit Performance Sentinel (UPS) which monitors unit performance and notifies the owner of potential unit problems before a lockout occurs.
“It’s an early warning system, sort of like a ‘check engine’ light on a car,” explains Hammond. “It is built right into our controls, so if the unit is not performing up to par, it sends out a signal notifying the occupant that something is not right.”
Additionally, to protect a unit from damage, the CXM has eight standard safety features including anti-short cycle, low voltage, high voltage, high refrigerant pressure, low refrigerant pressure (loss of charge), air coil low temperature, water low temperature, and condensate overflow.The DXM control board, an enhanced controls option, offers the advantages of the CXM board and has added features that include multi-stage operation, night setback, emergency shutdown, reheat control, and boilerless electric heat.
Further, ClimateMaster offers factory-mounted LONWorks or Multi-ProtoCol (MPC) DDC controllers on all products. These controllers allow users to implement a variety of building automation systems such as BACnet, ModBus, and Johnson N2. Through a Web-enabled PC, individual units, unit zones, and entire building systems can be monitored and controlled with the click of a mouse. The systems provide unit status, set-point control, performance curves, and fault indications.
ClimateMaster products utilize a variety of technologies that result in the quietest units in the industry. Units come with an exclusive double isolation compressor mounting system and a dual-level isolation that deadens vibration and provides quiet operation. “With our products, compressor noise level is almost a non-issue,” says Hammond.
Also, blower motors on select models are mounted with a unique torsion-flex mounting system that allows for easy service and reduces vibration from the blower motor during operation. Further, ClimateMaster’s UltraQuiet optional sound suppression package enhances sound performance via dual density acoustical insulation and other strategically placed sound attenuating materials.
As for the future, ClimateMaster has witnessed a huge demand for WSHP/GHP technology. As such it has engaged in ongoing expansion efforts to meet capacity requirements. Hammond anticipates that by the end of this year, ClimateMaster will nearly double its capacity.
Looking ahead into its next 50 years, the company intends to focus on the heating/cooling needs of more businesses and homes around the world. In this way, ClimateMaster is determined not only to maintain its position as a manufacturer of unique products, but to keep meeting its avowed mission of being the world’s largest and most progressive leader in the WSHP/GHP industry.