An interview with Mike Peacock, Manager of Energy Programs - Rinnai America Corporation
1. What are the primary markets for your technology today?
Rinnai Tankless Water Heater technology is applicable to the residential and commercial markets, including multi-family, hotels, restaurants and more. Rinnai’s advanced controls, ultimate comfort and endless supply of hot water are designed to meet home or business demands. Rinnai has the answers and support team to ensure 100 percent satisfaction for any application.
2. What can gas utilities do to promote the deployment and acceptance of your product?
In addition to helping promote the benefits of tankless and increasing awareness about tankless technology, gas utilities can:
- Alert Rinnai of rebates offered to customers purchasing qualified products.
- Identify opportunities for lunch and learns with key players, i.e. developers, architects and engineers.
- Identify and share success stories with Rinnai for non-competitive markets.
- Identify and target gas customers with older electric water heaters.
- Take advantage of Rinnai’s employee purchase program, live burn program, and showroom displays.
- Hold open houses and exhibit at local home shows with Rinnai support.
3. What new products are you bringing to the market this year?
In 2012, Rinnai expanded its current portfolio of trusted products with enhanced engineering, products, new technologies and accessories, including:
Condensing Tankless Water Heater with Top-Down Burner — for built-in reliability and longevity, Rinnai® Ultra Series Condensing Tankless Water Heaters are engineered with an enhanced down-fired ceramic burner that allows condensation to drain from the bottom of the heat exchanger. This process protects the primary heat exchanger and burner, as well as maintains top product performance down the line.
Tankless Rack System (TRS) — makes multi-unit condensing tankless water heater installation easier and more flexible for commercial contractors. The system is available in free-standing or wall-mounted options for indoor or outdoor applications and can be ordered, built and shipped fully assembled, including gas and water manifolds, to any location, including the job site. The free-standing version of the fully assembled Rinnai TRS fits through a standard 32-inch doorway, even with attached water heaters, for easy moving and installation on the job site. The racks are constructed of powder-coated aluminum to stand up to the most demanding commercial environments, while minimizing weight.
Common Venting System — which allows for the connection of up to eight condensing units together using the same exhaust and intake venting. The Common Venting System allows for longer vent runs and utilizes only two terminations for each bank of units.
Circ-Logic™ — built-in programming that controls the on/off sequencing of an external pump and helps ensure maximum comfort and/or efficiency when used with a recirculation system.
Enhanced Scale Detection – which detects lime scale buildup and alerts the user when maintenance is required to prevent corrosion.
Lock Protection — to prevent users from easily changing the water temperature, thus protecting them from scalding.
Ultra Low NOx Tankless Water Heaters — which meet the South Coast Air Quality Management District requirements and produce less CO2 and NOx than ever before.
Condensate Neutralizer — an effective way to eliminate acidity from condensation that drains within a condensing boiler or condensing tankless unit.
Scale Control System — helps to ensure the performance and efficiency of Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters that are used in areas with a high concentration of mineral deposits in the water supply.
4. How can your product(s) impact the environment and help get more gas water-heating equipment installed?
The innovative design behind a Rinnai Tankless Water Heater provides hot water only when it is needed, and in some cases, it can save up to 40 percent on energy bills. Rinnai units have an Energy Factor (EF) rating ranging from .82 to .96 depending on the specific model, which translates to significant energy savings when compared to traditional tank water heaters. Also, the compact size and long life of the unit means significantly less waste going to landfills, compared to traditional tank water heaters.
Rinnai units help contribute to cleaner air, producing very low NO2 and CO2 making them an environmentally sound gas appliance.
5. What are the competitive advantages of your product compared to other water-heating technologies?
Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters have a typical life expectancy of 20 years, far exceeding their traditional tank-style counterparts. Tankless Water Heaters from Rinnai are ENERGY® STAR qualified and offer an Energy Factor (EF) rating ranging from .82 up to .96. Additionally, Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters are a fraction of the size of traditional tank-style water heaters, and one or multiple units, can easily be mounted on any interior or exterior wall. Because Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters have a 100% modulating gas valve, you only use the exact amount of gas needed to heat the amount of water being used.
Rinnai offers a full line of services, including application engineering, training and 24/7 technical support, coupled with an on-site CSA-certified laboratory. Rinnai has a dedicated staff that calls specifically on the commercial and hospitality industries, developers and engineers and energy companies. To assure our customers product availability, we have national distribution at over 2,000 outlets in North America.
6. What misconceptions do you deal with when talking to potential customers about your product?
One misconception is that our units are point-of-use water heaters and not whole-home water heaters. Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters come in a variety of sizes and prices and multiple units can be combined to meet the hot water needs of larger homes and commercial applications.
A second misconception is that tankless units are for residential use only. Rinnai Tankless Water heaters can be used for both residential and commercial applications. Up to 25 units can be linked together to operate as one large tankless water heater, providing an unending supply of hot water to any commercial application.
A third misconception is that tankless water heaters have to be installed where the old traditional tank water heater was located. Because of their small size, Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters can be installed in locations traditional tanks can’t, such as a kitchen or master bath, drastically reducing wait time for hot water.
A fourth misconception is that hot water is available instantly. Tankless Water Heaters provide an endless supply of hot water, not instant hot water. The wait time to get hot water is primarily a function of the distance between the water heater and the point of use. Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters produce hot water within a few seconds of first water flow from a cold start.
7. Who is your customer – a property/homeowner, a contractor or a distributor, and why?
Although we sell through plumbing and HVAC distributors, all of these audiences are primary targets for Rinnai. In order to grow the tankless water heater market share, which is currently a small percentage of the total market, these three audiences need to be educated about the general benefits of tankless as compared to a traditional storage tank.
8. What are your strategies to communicate with and educate these customers?
Over the past 12 years, Rinnai has trained more than 100,000 contractors, plumbers, engineers and others on tankless technology, and we are committed to continuing to train across North America.
In addition, Rinnai America Corporation employs robust consumer and trade awareness campaigns to help educate on the key benefits of tankless water heating, including energy efficiency, comfort, design flexibility and product longevity. These campaigns include: classroom training, online training, a user-friendly website, social media, national advertising, regional advertising, trade shows, literature, partnerships and show homes.
9. What do you consider crucial to greater deployment of your product?
Installers are the key to greater deployment of our product. They are front line with the consumer and directly influence the selection of a water heater. To help familiarize and help many installers feel more comfortable with new technologies, Rinnai offers classroom and online training to increase their awareness and knowledge of tankless technology. Once the installers are comfortable with tankless installation and technology, many find that they can build their business around the product. Also, it is critical to the future of gas companies and gas appliance manufacturers to become involved in Trade Schools to educate future installers on gas technology and gas appliances.
10. As the economy begins to rebound, where does Rinnai plan to focus its efforts?
Rinnai manufactures only gas appliances. We want to focus on creating partnerships with energy companies by providing product solutions to help them increase burner tips and sell more gas. As electric rates continue to rise and gas prices remain low for the foreseeable future, the opportunities for increased gas sales will continue to grow.
We are working to deliver heating and hot water solutions that help energy companies maintain and grow their multifamily business, an area that has suffered during the soft economy. Rinnai will continue to work with engineers and developers as well as national, regional and local builders to educate them on Rinnai’s innovative products and the value to their customer and the future environment.