A Rainbow At the End of the Ductwork
Quite often, the HVAC system in a home or building does not get much attention. Most people don't think much about the system at all. As long as the system delivers hot or cold air as needed, there's not much need for any interaction except to occasionally adjust the thermostat setting.
When an HVAC system malfunctions or quits working, people often notice it by interacting with two components of the system: the thermostat and the registers.
The thermostat is often the focus of a failed HVAC system. Frequently, it's also the primary face of the HVAC system. Tapping the thermostat is often the next move made in the quest to get the HVAC system working again. Should that adjustment fail, the phrase, "we need to call the HVAC contractor!" is often heard.
Another action to determine whether the HVAC system is not correctly operating is placing a hand over the registers to feel the presence of air movement. It is an easy way to determine if the system is not functioning correctly. If there is no sensation of indoor air movement from the register, it is often the final confirmation that the HVAC system is no longer operating. In many cases, both actions precede a semi-emergency to get the HVAC working again, as often it fails during heavy operating loads due to extreme hot or cold weather.
Anyone associated with the HVAC industry understands that the registers and grilles are essential HVAC system components. Simply stated, without registers and grilles, HVAC systems have no reliable way to deliver conditioned air into indoor living spaces. That's a big statement for an overlooked and unappreciated component of an HVAC system. But it's accurate.
Thermostats, registers, and grilles are perhaps among the most recognized components of an HVAC system. I admit that my opinion is slightly biased. Still, I don't understand why HVAC technicians don't place a greater emphasis on registers and grilles when they install or repair HVAC systems. In an older home, it's highly likely that the registers and grilles are worn out or are not directing the conditioned air appropriately to adequately heat and cool indoor living spaces. Besides, the color of the walls in the living space may have changed since the HVAC system was installed. As a result, the current registers and grilles are considered an eyesore. Better yet, they have been painted and are now a primary source for potential mold and mildew growth.
Let's take a closer look at registers and grilles for HVAC systems. Registers have several functions. One, they cover the holes in the walls at the end of the ductwork. Two, they help to distribute conditioned air throughout rooms. Three, they blend into a room to the point of being nearly invisible. Grilles cover the holes where return air ducts are needed and deliver essential airflow back to the HVAC system.
Depending on your perspective, registers and grilles are located at the end or the beginning of an HVAC system. When I co-founded TRUaire® registers and grilles, I saw both views when I decided to found a company to provide the HVAC industry with a better alternative to existing registers and grilles.
As indicated earlier, registers and grilles are designed to blend in with a wide assortment of ductwork and interior designs of homes and buildings. That need frequently created inventory issues with HVAC distributors. I heard contractors complain that distributors never had stock readily available. If the availability of registers and grills was a problem, I saw that as an opportunity and one that did not seem very hard to fulfill. Callbacks to an installation for the sole purpose of installing registers and grilles are not a profitable venture for the majority of HVAC contractors
Many HVAC contractors shared their concern that distributors did not have adequate inventory available to satisfy their needs. One factor to the lack of inventory rested with the then-current manufacturers of registers and grilles. I discovered at that time, many of the manufacturers were not very reliable. Further, they suffered from poor customer service, low-quality products, and inconsistent delivery of products. Inventory management and product availability were vital components to the success of TRUaire.
The initial business goal of TRUaire was to resolve the availability issue. As the company worked on that goal, a more considerable opportunity quickly evolved. The quality level of existing registers and grilles was not equal to the other components of an HVAC system. Cheap, flimsy, and noisy registers created problems for HVAC contractors. TRUaire needed to excel with availability and deliver a quality product, outstanding customer service, and maintaining competitive pricing. That combination presented many challenges to our growing company. Our company had to operate with minimal middle management. To succeed, we had to be a lean organization.
Developing a higher-level quality product quickly and at a competitive price is a daunting challenge to any company. That is especially true in a market where the available products are of lower quality and inexpensive. My company focused on exceeding customer expectations and creating an atmosphere of trust between the manufacturer and the customer. TRUaire took a shock-and-awe approach to customer service. We shipped our products quickly and frequently. We went the extra mile on every order to help ensure that we performed better than our competitors. Our company reputation became equally important as the products we were manufacturing.
If the primary purpose of registers and grilles is to cover ductwork holes and direct the air across the room, what defines a quality difference? The quality level of a register or grille is evident when you compare brands. Several factors identify a top-quality register and grille. You can feel the difference between the weights of the products. Paint coverage must be consistent and provide a quality finish to the product. The smooth operation of dampers is essential. Rattling sounds are an indication of a low-quality product. It's not unusual for rattling sounds to be associated with the HVAC system's performance and not the register. HVAC contractors hate callbacks, especially for any problems connected to the registers or grilles.
Product availability was an initial goal for TRUaire, and the company has not strayed far from it. Today, the growing company focuses on availability and maintaining a high-quality product at a competitive price and offering industry-leading customer service. We want to be very flexible to customers by quickly resolving problems and making those decisions quickly. That philosophy has helped the company to be successful over more than 36 years. Moreover, it has guided the company from offering only a handful of SKUs to a complete line of residential and commercial grilles and registers.
In December 2020, TRUaire was acquired by RectorSeal. Today, the combined organization focuses on the core TRUaire mission and making it more relevant for the future. The core goals of TRUaire, such as product availability, timely and accurate shipments and ease of doing business have been supplemented with enhanced training and technology support for contractors & distributors.
From a humble beginning to a major manufacturer supplying the HVAC industry, the TRUaire organization has maintained its original business goals of providing a quality product at a competitive price and maintaining inventory readily available for a wide assortment of residential and commercial needs.
While the company has grown from day one, has the performance of registers and grilles changed? Not much, I think. They still cover the ductwork holes and direct conditioned air into spaces. At TRUaire, we didn't change the product's function. We only made it much better by improving the quality, reliability, and performance of residential and commercial registers and grilles.
About the author
Yongki Yi came to the United States in 1974 as an immigrant from South Korea with almost nothing in his pocket, except several years of HVAC training that he received while working for the US government in Vietnam as a technician.
He found work in the HVAC market and quickly started his own HVAC dealership in Southern California. TRUaire was born when he left the HVAC dealership and started a business specializing in registers and grilles. The next 35 years represent Yongki’s tireless passion for bringing quality registers to the market coupled with exceptional levels of customer service.