This Virginia service company's Mini Cooper is used for estimating calls and running parts. Now it saves nearly $4,000 a year in gasoline.

The efficient Mini Cooper of Herndon Plumbing & Heating Inc.

The Herndon Team (from l to r): John White, Mario Rink, Carl Schmieg, James Brew, Cris Martin

'You Can't Preach Water And Drink Wine'

Commodity prices have sky rocketed  ― $80, $90, $100 a barrel for oil. That translates to a world of hurt not only for homeowners with heating fuel costs, but also for gas-guzzling service trucks traveling to repair heating systems.

Herndon Plumbing & Heating Inc. in Herndon, Va., said enough was enough.

“We bought the Mini Cooper two years ago and use it for estimating calls and for running parts. It just didn’t make sense to use the big vans that get 15 miles/gallon,” says Mario Rink, Herndon’s service manager.

The Mini serves to save on fuel to be sure, however it also catches the eyes of locals as a rolling advertisement ― it is painted with the company’s logo and colors.

The car also makes an ecological statement.

“Herndon definitely has a different approach to energy savings,” says Rink, who immigrated to the United States from Germany seven years ago. The company was started in 1958 by Earl White, and continues its family operation today with current owner John White.

Rink acknowledges that there is a lot of waste going on in the U.S. when it comes to boilers and heating systems. “I would lose my plumbing license in Germany if I didn’t install an outdoor reset control,” Rink says. “At Herndon, we’re believers and promoters of solar and geothermal technologies, and radiant and hydronic heat. But you can’t preach water and drink wine.”

Using the Mini is one subtle way to show customers Herndon is serious about energy efficiency. Still, selling homeowners on fuel-saving systems hasn’t been easy. “Many don’t want to invest in the long-term,” Rink admits. “But rising energy prices are helping us now.”

Rink told PM that he did his own calculations: Herndon could save nearly $4,000 a year on gas by using the Mini. The company now is looking into a newer, longer model to add to the fleet, in order to carry more equipment.

“We could even start using the Minis for minor plumbing and faucet repairs.”

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