In the world of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), Bristol Compressors is creating quite a stir. In just 25 years, the Bristol, Va.-based company has become a recognized technology leader. Bristol Compressors is one of the largest compressor manufacturers in the world and has nearly 40 percent of the domestic market.
“Our compressors are the key component in an air conditioner or heat pump,” says Tom Huntington, the company’s vice president of global marketing and sales. “We offer a dual technology strategy, with advanced reciprocating and scroll compressor technologies that provide enhanced comfort with tremendous energy efficiency. These innovations provide our OEM customers a significant edge over their competition.”
A compressor is the heart of an air conditioning or heat pump system. In simple terms, the compressor pumps heat, via refrigerant gas, either from a space to cool or into a space to heat. In today’s residential HVAC equipment, there are two basic compressor designs – reciprocating and scroll. The reciprocating compressor is similar in operation to an automobile engine relying on a reciprocating piston for refrigerant compression. The scroll compressor, on the other hand, uses a continuous reduction in volume of a crescent-shaped compression chamber to compress the refrigerant.
On both fronts, Bristol Compressors is pushing the technology envelope. Bristol’s new Twin-Single, or TS™ Technology, compressor is a major innovation in reciprocating compressor design. A unique and patented crankshaft coupled with a reversible, high-efficiency electric motor shifts the compressor from either standard two-cylinder, full-output operation or to one-cylinder, reduced-output mode. Compressor output is dictated by the thermostat.
Typically, the full output of an air conditioning system is required only 20 percent of the time – on the hottest days of summer. With a TS™ Technology system, cooling demand is satisfied 80 percent of the time with single-cylinder compressor output. This means the compressor, and thus the air conditioning system, runs with much higher energy efficiency – nearly twice that of a standard system. Other than higher efficiency, TS™ Technology systems offer lower operating noise and more consistent humidity and temperature control. Homeowner testimonials attest to much improved indoor comfort.
Bristol Compressors has also developed a significantly enhanced scroll compressor. The NxGen Infinity II™ scroll addresses OEM needs for low sound, reliability and compact size. The sound level of the NxGen compressor has been reduced by half. A significant reduction in compressor components, along with the complete elimination of threaded fasteners, has resulted in a scroll compressor with unmatched reliability. The compact size of the compressor allows OEMs to build smaller, more cost-effective air conditioners and heat pumps.
The Right Products
“Bristol Compressors’ dual-technology product strategy is unique in that we have chosen to invest in both advanced scroll compressors as well as advanced reciprocating compressors. As a result of these investments we can offer our customers the right compressor for an application –whether it be a scroll or reciprocating compressor,” explains Wayne Kennedy, the company’s president. “Bristol, in partnership with our customers, is constantly seeking ways to improve energy efficiency, to reduce sound, to improve reliability and to enhance the comfort of the homeowner. These are features that the homeowner expects, and when we can help our customers exceed those expectations, we all win. When a heating and air conditioning manufacturer wants innovation, technical and sales support, they call us.”
Founded in 1975, Bristol Compressors has grown to now include three manufacturing and assembly facilities. The Bristol facility, through several expansions, has grown to an 800,000-square-foot operation that includes manufacturing, assembly, administration and warehouse space. As demand for Bristol compressors increased, the company added a plant in Sparta, N.C., in 1994, which boasts nearly 200,000 square feet. In partnership with the Carlyle Compressor division of Carrier Corporation, Bristol Compressors now operates the Scroll Technologies plant in Arkadelphia, Ark. This 350,000-square-foot plant was recently recognized by Industry Week magazine as one of the 10 best manufacturing facilities in North America.
While some of Bristol’s customers are household names in heating and air conditioning (Goodman, Rheem, York, Carrier), many others are overseas giants in their own right. The expanding economies of Asia, Europe and the Middle East offer further opportunity for the growth of Bristol Compressors. Placing an emphasis on technology and customer service means Bristol must meet some very high expectations. Manufacturers expect ever-increasing quality. They need just-in-time delivery to respond quickly to their customers and Bristol Compressors is meeting the challenge.
“We are an ISO 9001 manufacturer that meets the quality standards set by our OEM customers,” says Barbara Dittmar, vice president of material. “Our customer line reject rate is less than 300 parts per million. Our warranty failure rate is well less than 1 percent and continues to improve. And we are proud to say our on-time delivery performance exceeds 99 percent.”
Not content with the status quo, the Bristol Compressors team of engineering, manufacturing, materials and marketing personnel have outlined specific plans to further reduce product lead time. More efficient manufacturing operations along with significant investments in materials planning and forecasting software have been put in place to increase responsiveness to customer needs.
Anticipating higher government-mandated energy efficiency requirements, as well as new environmental standards for the use of refrigerants, Bristol Compressors finds itself well positioned to serve the changing market place. The U.S. Department of Energy will establish higher efficiency standards for air-conditioning equipment to be effective in 2006. Higher efficiency standards along with the required phase-out of ozone depleting refrigerants fits well with Bristol’s strategy. New compressor models have been developed to operate with refrigerants currently used as well as those planned for future use. A growing segment of sales are in Europe, where there is an even more accelerated phase-out of some refrigerants.
“We are seeing solid growth in both domestic and international markets,” Huntington says. “Our NxGen Infinity II™ scroll and TS™ Technology compressors are turning heads in the marketplace and we are poised for another steep growth curve.”
What’s in the air at Bristol Compressors? An aggressive, innovative company focused on what has made it an industry leader – exceptional customer service and technology that is a step ahead of the market. With that kind of future, the air has a sweet smell of success at Bristol Compressors.