Case Studies

Total Comfort

Teaming up for improved indoor environments and HVAC
  • Written by: Molly Shaw
  • Produced by: Total Comfort
  • Estimated reading time: 6 mins

Indoor comfort is more than just hot and cold air – it’s a detailed measurement of air flow, air quality and full scope of various factors. Twin Cities-based Total Comfort is helping home and business owners realize this through the Total Comfort difference.

Named among the top heating and cooling contractors in country, Total Comfort is changing indoor environments for the better. “We specialize in air-flow diagnostics and efficiency optimization,” tells Gary Katz, CEO of Total Comfort. “We frequently go to homes where occupants complain they’re uncomfortable and we design solutions to make the home more comfortable. These designs are more than equipment-related.”

Total Comfort takes the time to educate customers about systems, services and options to work toward improvement. Today, the company offers full residential and light commercial HVAC service, replacements and retrofits. Total Comfort also partners with Home Depot, maintaining an exclusive relationship as the major retailer’s regional preferred HVAC contractor.

Appliance repair to full-residential HVAC

Total Comfort is now a major industry player, but the company started small in the 1950s in Cleveland as a refrigeration repair company. “My father started the business in the early 1950s,” tells Katz. “It eventually evolved into a full appliance service company and we started on the HVAC track in the 1970s; it was a natural add-on because the company was doing everything else in the home.”

At one point, the early company operated in seven states. “Our promise was same-day appliance repair -that was really the first niche and believe me the phones rang off the hook when people saw the same-day promise in the Yellow Pages,” recounts Katz.

Katz purchased the company from his father in 1994. “At the time, we only had six employees, but I bought it with the focus to turn Total Comfort into more of an HVAC company and expand,” he tells. “We closed the appliance repair side in the mid-1990s and grew very quickly into the HVAC market.”

Today, Total Comfort focuses on residential heating and cooling. “We used to be primarily service-drive, now we do more replacements and retrofits, but still some service as well,” notes Katz. “However, we don’t do new construction.”

Light commercial makes up a small percentage of the company’s annual revenue. “About 5 percent of our revenue is in the light commercial market,” says Katz. “Our biggest growth over the last several years has been with Home Depot.”

Bringing HVAC home for Home Depot

Years ago, Home Depot didn’t offer installation or additional services, just in-store products, but as the company has evolved into one of the largest retailers in the U.S., additional services have popped up, including HVAC. “Home Depot got into heating and cooling in the early 2000s,” tells Katz. “They partnered with Trane to find companies to do HVAC installation and service for them.”

With a strong reputation and robust service division, Total Comfort was an attractive option to the retail giant. “Now, say you’re looking to buy a furnace from Home Depot; our sales person comes out to the house to make an analysis and once the unit is purchased, we do the installation,” explains Katz. “We’re one of only two companies in the Twin Cities market and the only provider in the Kansas City market that do all of Home Depot’s HVAC.”

This relationship has allowed Total Comfort to extend its reach, from the Twin Cities metropolitan area, Minnesota and to Kansas City. “Home Depot was unhappy with the original Kansas City contractor, so they asked us if we would move some service to the region,” tells Katz. “We’ve grown a lot through the past few years through this program.”

A high service standard

To keep its relationship going with Home Depot, Total Comfort has to meet a very high standard of customer service and satisfaction. “Home Depot randomly surveys customers to see how their experience was,” shares Katz. “Their standard is no less than a 9.5 rating out of 10; we maintain a 9.7.”

“Most people think mechanical contractors aren’t as neat, clean and professional as others, but we want people to see this isn’t true,” adds Katz. “We want people to see we are neat, clean and courteous and we want them to like having us there. When we leave, they’re happy and there’s a good lasting impression. That’s how we keep relationships, including the major one with Home Depot.”

In Kansas City, Katz says Total Comfort has developed a slightly different business model where the company uses install partners to do the majority of its work. “We sub everything out expect for sales and service, but we have a close network of partners we’ve established and they all have to live up to the same 9.5 out of 10 satisfaction standard,” he notes.

In Minneapolis, the home of Total Comfort’s single physical location, the company self performs all mechanical-related service. “Anything mechanical is done internally, with the exception of electrical and some plumbing services,” mentions Katz.

Outside of the Home Depot, Total Comfort maintains a solid customer base. “We don’t do a lot of traditional marketing; we operate mainly on referrals from our current customer base,” says Katz.

But Katz says the company has realized a major opportunity to gain new customers through Home Depot as a vehicle. “We’ve planted employees in the stores and they talk up our HVAC services, tune ups and free estimates,” shares Katz. “We’re finding the majority of people who come into Home Depot stores don’t know the store offers heating and cooling services.”

Making a difference, the company has worked on many interesting projects over the years, including installing the first Mitsubishi ductless commercial system in Minnesota and large homes with complex central heating and cooling systems, but Katz says there’s one recent project in particular that really shines. “Arden Schlegel is 10-year-old girl with multiple chronic health issues and she has spent a lot of her life in pain,” tells Katz. “Arden has Primary Adrenal Insufficiency and she is allergic to nearly everything from food to mediation and many things in the environment.”

Arden’s life was very limited at a young age. She cannot go outside because grass, weeds, trees and even the sun aggravate her skin, causing hives and welts. “This is particularly important in the home,” explains Katz. “In her home she has to make sure she has minimal exposure to mold, dust and fabrics.”

Total Comfort stepped in to help the Schlegel family and Arden live a more normal, comfortable life. “Also, Arden’s body can’t regulate heat so her environment needs to be at a safe temperature at all times,” tells Katz. “She is also asthmatic which requires very healthy air standards to avoid attacks. This includes a low humidity level in the home, a challenge in our Minnesota summers.”

Katz spent time researching the best possible solution to keep the temperature regulated as well as the humidity levels in check. “The goal was size it perfectly so the cooling cycles would run longer, therefore decreasing the humidity,” he tells.

Total Comfort employees, Scott Horn, Scott Koshiol, Piotr Nasiadka and Steve Hawes donated their personal time for the design and installation and Katz donated all of the equipment. Thanks to this team, Arden and her family have experienced the Total Comfort difference firsthand.

“The Total Comfort team also added several vents to ensure that the air circulates properly,” adds Katz. “The temperature and air in their home is now cool, comfortable and circulating, helping Arden around the clock. Her parents told us, ‘it is because of special people like you, Gary, that Arden is a living testament to human kindness and goodness that isn’t always seen in the world we live in and we thank you.'”

Throughout Minnesota and Kansas City, more people are realized the Total Comfort difference with improved indoor environments and clean, quick, professional HVAC service.

Published on: July 2, 2015

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