December 2011
Interview

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Eric Stromquist

EMAIL INTERVIEW - Eric Stromquist and Ken Sinclair

Eric Stromquist is VP of Sales and Marketing and co-owner of Stromquist & Company based in Atlanta, Georgia, a master distributor of HVAC, building automation, and industrial controls. He is the creator of Controltrends.com, an HVAC Controls multimedia training, information, and blog site.






Creating Controltrends

Controltrends.com uses a video blog format to introduce new products, technical tips, troubleshooting procedures, and HVAC control trends. Topics are easily searchable so that busy HVAC professionals can quickly locate the information they need.


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Sinclair: How did you get involved in the HVAC Controls Business?

Stromquist:  My Dad started Stromquist and Company in 1951. After graduating from college and doing apprenticeships with Ostrom Boiler Service and Honeywell Service I joined Stromquist & Company in 1980 as an outside salesperson. I was part of Stromquist & Company’s growth into one of the premier HVAC controls distributors in the country.

Sinclair: With over thirty years in the Industry, what are some of the major changes you have seen?

Stromquist:  I’ve seen two important changes. The first is that the product lifecycles of HVAC controls have diminished as control technology has improved. When I first got involved in the industry, a product would last for twenty to thirty years before it was replaced by something better. Now companies like Honeywell, Johnson Controls and other HVAC manufacturers bring out new products every year that make the earlier controls obsolete.

The other change is the downsizing of HVAC maintenance and engineering staffs. When I visit commercial customers like School Boards, Universities, Hospitals, and even many HVAC contractors, it seems like there are two to three people in facilities doing the jobs that as many as eight or ten people did a decade ago. This is problematic for the HVAC professional who needs to keep up with more technology and product changes but has less time due to downsizing. There is rarely time to sit down with vendors to learn about new products and technologies.

Sinclair: Is this why you created Controltrends.com?

Stromquist:  Exactly. Controltrends.com was devised to address this problem, allowing HVAC controls professionals to learn in formats that are short and easy to understand. This free content is available 24/7, giving HVAC professionals the option of learning whenever their schedules permit. Controltrends.com uses a video blog format to introduce new products, technical tips, troubleshooting procedures, and HVAC control trends. Topics are easily searchable so that busy HVAC professionals can quickly locate the information they need.

Reliable Controls Sinclair: What trends are you seeing in the HVAC Controls Industry?

Stromquist:  The biggest trend is the movement away from proprietary control systems to open systems. By ‘open’ I am not just referring to open protocols like BACnet or Lon, but open in terms of giving the building owner choices. A vendor that provides an open protocol product that does not allow an owner to have multiple contractors install and service the system will see sales diminish as building owners become better educated about their choices.The strategy of winning on bid day and making up the difference servicing the system with premium prices will soon expire.

Another significant trend is the integration of all the buildings controls systems (HVAC, lighting, and access and security) into one front end package, allowing the building owner “single seated control.” So instead of opening one software package to look at building HVAC, another to look at lighting, and a third to look at energy submetering, a Systems Integrator can tie all these systems together and customize a graphics package for the owner.

Not only is this system easier for the building owner to operate, but innovative systems integrators are taking advantage of a common platform to create unique control strategies that were not possible when the systems were on independent platforms.  For example, when someone enters a building using their key card access, the system lights the way to their office and turns on the HVAC to the specifications of that user.

It is truly amazing what is happening. I just posted a video interview I did onsite at a systems integrator on Controltrends.com . Check that video out to see what sorts of things are possible.
http://www.controltrends.org/2011/11/control-talk-interviews-system-tech-services/

Sinclair: What is next for Controltrends?

Stromquist:  One of my teachers used to say, “Nothing is obvious to the uninformed.” Stromquist & Company has always been a great proponent of training our customers. We provide instructional classes at both our Atlanta and Florida locations. Due to time constraints, most HVAC professionals can only attend a few of the classes available.

In order to address this, we have just started streaming training classes live. This means that a HVAC pro anywhere in the world can attend our live training classes remotely. We also archive the classes, so if a class is missed it can be viewed at Controltrends.com




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