As HVAC Rentals is Canada’s largest heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) fleet rental specialist, client partners get far more than temperature-controlled vehicles. That is because, to keep a firm of this size running smoothly, being a master of logistics management and value-added services is crucial.
HVAC Rentals’ over 10,000 clients benefit from several strategic features, the foremost being that its fleets are based conveniently close to its clients. “Our equipment is local. We’re the first ones to get on-site, and we’re continuously developing, buying, and investing in new products and new equipment,” says Luc Despatie, Chief Executive Officer and President.
Despatie has led the company through many acquisitions into significant growth, most recently in Calgary, Alberta. Its mergers have typically targeted events firms that complement its HVAC offering, giving clients everything they could ever need. Now, its latest purchase in Canada’s east brings mechanically frozen outdoor rinks to the company’s portfolio. The decision was driven by the new reality of an increase in the need for outdoor events.
The addition of outdoor ice rinks to its offering comes in the wake of the physical distancing measures that COVID-19 brought. “We have been doing rinks in arenas for a long time, so we have a lot of experience,” says Despatie. One of its most famous arena projects comes around every time the New York Red Bulls play in Canada. “Natural rinks are a thing of the past [due to climate change.] [So] I think more and more people will want [our temporary] outside rinks and skate ways. It is our new focus,” he adds.
Founded as a tiny service outfit with a staff of five in Montreal’s downtown, the company evolved into a rental company around the year 2000 as the film industry pivoted to new heights in Quebec. Today, its employee count is just shy of 230 people but growing. HVAC Rentals also has its own manufacturing facilities, and the strategy has stood the firm in good stead, especially when COVID-19 shutdowns affected supply chains.
Having experienced similar circumstances in the past, Despatie anticipated the dire need for HEPA filters used to clean air in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The company’s high-efficiency, particulate-absorbing (HEPA) filters can trap nearly all particles around 0.3 microns introduced by airflow. It hit the market at the perfect time, allowing the company to further diversify and expand its product range.
“From coast to coast, we have so many clients in so many different industries. We are [also] the premium events supplier in Canada. But with COVID, we lost the whole event industry,” Despatie says. However, because of its HEPA filters, “We were considered essential service workers, creating an overload of work for us. Our sales went up with COVID-19. It was very difficult, but we were one of the lucky ones.”
And, as he points out, signing up hospitals and healthcare providers as new customers was not just a matter of accepting new business. These clients were desperate for filters so they could take care of sick people, and the company’s staff gave the mission their best, despite the risks involved in working in COVID-19 contaminated facilities. “It was a lot of work. It was a lot to demand from people. But they all [showed up], and I’m really proud of our whole gang, here,” he adds.
HVAC Rentals has a tremendously self-sufficient team and can supply clients with everything needed for power generation, fluid cooling, chillers, dehumidifying, and humidifying, including parts complementing its heating, ventilation, and cooling equipment. It serves industries ranging from server hosting facilities to mines and almost everything in between.
To illustrate, it added several new clients to its list when an unusual heatwave had Canadians reaching for their air conditioning not long ago. When the government realized that hospitals, retirement homes, and other care facilities across Quebec needed cooling during the high temperatures that hit the country, the company sold close to nine thousand air conditioning units and installed all of them in a month.
As it happened, it was well-stocked with enough raw materials and components to supply client demand for quite some time. “I was really proud of that. Luckily enough, [supply issues] didn’t affect us that much,” Despatie says.
Despite extensive diversification, its chillers remain one of HVAC Rentals’ most popular products alongside its temporary electrical distribution service and custom fabrication. Its main strength, however, is in its people, most of whom are quite experienced in the heating, ventilation, and cooling industry. Their skills are, therefore, focused on equipment performance as opposed to client needs and what would work best in each unique situation rather than making a quick sale no matter what.
As a result, clients have the pleasure of dealing with knowledgeable industry experts rather than rental consultants. “It’s getting more and more difficult to [find] companies with people who know what they are doing. One thing that we’ve focused on is [employing] trained professionals [who] know what they’re doing. That’s what distinguishes us from the rest,” Despatie tells me. “Any rental company can buy equipment. But to find good people is very hard.” The company is always in search of talented people who can make a difference.
To achieve this, HVAC Rentals invests heavily in the training and professional development of its people. It also flies in trainers to host courses at its premises to ensure that when its staff members arrive at client venues to repair company equipment, they can get right to the heart of the problem immediately minimizing equipment downtime. Increasingly, remote diagnostics play an important role in monitoring equipment between service periods, ensuring the safety of merchandise in the case of refrigeration units.
With headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, the company’s Canadian footprint includes facilities in Toronto, Windsor, Calgary, and Edmonton. Three more facilities are in the pipeline for HVAC Rentals over the next one to two years, with more planned to welcome clients across Canada.
Future expansions will also see the firm moving further south into the United States toward the regions surrounding New York and Boston, where its units have an advantage over the competition. All HVAC Rentals’ units run on 600 volts, as opposed to American fleets that more often run on 480 volts, securing better overall power efficiency.
“We did a lot of events prior to COVID down in the United States,” says Despatie, and these are set to continue as soon as possible. Speaking with Despatie, it quickly becomes evident that HVAC Rentals is a dynamic, well-run company ready to take on any challenge thrown at it. And, with this nimble and positive disposition, it is set to achieve even more incredible heights and successes in years to come.