By TIM HORAN
“You don’t look 100.”
That’s the standing joke among friends and acquaintances of Greg Hottman. His business, Smith Heating and Air, not Hottman himself, is celebrating a 100th birthday.
A reception was held Wednesday afternoon at the business located on West 14th Street.
Hottman said that not much was known about the business founded in 1912 by Mort and Horace Smith at 500 N.E. 8th Street.
“The phone number used to be CO3 2412 in the 60s and 50s and on back,” he said
Hottman said the business started as a Lennox dealer which it remains today. He said Smith Heating and Air had to finish the 2012 year before being recognized by the dealer for 100 years of service. A nice plaque is scheduled to be completed in June.
Hottman said David Lennox founded Lennox in 1895. It was later purchased by John Norris but he kept the Lennox name, much like Hottman did in 1989 when he purchased the Abilene company and kept the Smith name.
Hottman was working at Salina Heating and Air at the time.
“We, at the Lennox dealership in Salina, heard that this one was closing down,” Hottman said, referring to early partner Larry Martin. “We heard that there were no buyers.”
And 1989 might not have been the best time to purchase a business as interest rates were at 13.5 percent.
“There were a lot of empty buildings downtown with paper in the windows,” he said. “The economy was tough in ’89.”
Hottman and Martin bought the company and Hottman bought out Martin a couple years later.
Giving a little bit of history of Dave Lennox, Hottman said Lennox patented the first cold rolled steam heat exchanger. Before, people built cast iron heaters and bolted them together.
He said that Willis Carrier developed the first air conditioner.
“Dave got credit for the furnace that had a heat exchanger,” Hottman said. “Those things back then...holy cow...no fan, standing pilot. The efficiently on them, I don’t even know, below 40 percent probably. You can image. It was just a flame burner.”
Hottman said today’s heaters are all about efficiency. In fact, the current heaters are 98 percent efficient with variable speed blowers.
“When you can get 98 percent out of a furnace, that is about as far as they can take it,” he said. “Air conditioning is what they are continuing to get more and more from.”
He said the next new product is the XC 25. He said it is an inverter-driven verbal speed compressor. The model won’t be available until this summer.
“That simply means they take AC voltage and convert it to DC and they can slow this compressor down and have it run at 35 percent capacity all the way up to 100 percent capacity.”
It makes the compressors extremely efficient in the middle of the night when the sun is not shining and the temperatures cools.
“We stress customer service,” Hottman said, adding that 95 percent of the business is residential. “I don’t go after the big commercial businesses.”