Taco sees growth in system approach; contractors can expect to see technology advances.

John Hazen White Jr. (center) stands on the factory floor with employees.

John Hazen White Jr.is the third-generation leader of Taco, a family-owned manufacturer of hydronic heating systems and products with production facilities in Cranston, R.I., and Fall River, Mass.PMinterviewed Johnny White in mid-September in his office in Cranston.

PM: Where do you see growth in the hydronics industry?

JHW:The commercial side of the business is really the biggest growth opportunity for Taco. But the problem is that the commercial hydronic segment of the HVAC business is really only about 10 percent of the total HVAC industry, and it’s shrinking. This is what’s driven us to think about system design. I’ve been saying for years that if we’re not careful, this business becomes selling cast iron by the pound, it really does.

So, what we’ve tried to do is to bring some value added to the whole equation, which is to have a system design built around what we call LoadMatch. Our LoadMatch is a system design approach that is totally focused on comfort and efficiency. It’s been very successful for us.

PM: What can your customers expect to see from Taco in the fourth quarter and in 2010?

JHW:They’ll see a tremendous advancement technologically on the circulator side of the business with products that will fulfill the wishes of those who want super high-tech products. On the commercial side, they’ll see the same thing. The commercial side of the business is poised to continue some solid technological advancement.

Aside from our circulators, they should continue to see growth in valves. They’ll see it across the Taco product line.

Another place we’re investing a tremendous amount of time and money right now is in electronic controls. We made an acquisition last year of a company called Innovex, and it’s taken us a while to bring that around to a workable, saleable, repeatable product. But we will begin to introduce that in the fourth quarter. It’s a huge opportunity for Taco.

PM: What benefits will electronic controls have for your customers?

JHW:The benefits will come on a couple of different fronts. With the advancement in the electronic controls, we bring much more capability to our own system design approach to the market. So, we’re integrating controls into the package and bringing a whole other level of control for efficiency and comfort.

And these controls are easy. The focus is to be user-friendly and Internet-based.

PM: Will any product materials be different next year?

JHW:You mean like going from metal to plastic? No. We are furthering our stainless-steel product line; we are converting our entire bronze circulator product line over to no-lead to meet the pending California requirement. It’s a cost increase across the board to us. But I think it’s the right thing to do anyway.

PM: What do you see as Taco's most distinguishing features?

JHW:What distinguishes Taco are a number of things:
  • Longevity. We’ve been in business 89 years with a proven track record of success.

  • We’ve continued to provide products that matter to this industry and are designed for this industry.

  • The systems approach, which has become much more important to us as we include electronic controls.

  • Most important, we’re a small company that has thrown its personality into our industry. Big companies can’t do that. They don’t have a “me” who can talk personally to customers. If something should go wrong with one of our products, they can call me.

PM: If you had one message to give hydronic heating contractors, what would it be?

JHW:The growth and development of Taco has always been on behalf of our customers. We try to do what matters to the people who use our products. That would be all the things that add value to them, making our products easier to install and making them more profitable.