"… While I have always received good service from your company, (the technician) was exceptionally thorough and courteous. He explained how to care for the system, and described clearly—but without pressure—the additional products and services your company offers. I was very pleased and wanted to tell you so."
In 75+ years, United Air Temp has evolved into a regional firm that serves the greater Washington DC and Atlanta Ga. areas, with over 20 branch offices and more than 200 technicians and staff.
United Air Temp's history isn't what one would expect in such a large firm. It began humbly in Erie, Pa. in 1931. Founder Clifford B. Fowler started the Fowler Heating Company, to manufacture incinerators and crematorium equipment, and Aire Flow Distributing, which was a purchasing operation for controls and other materials for product assembly.
Over time, the sales of residential and commercial HVAC installations evolved as demand increased. By 1940, the company employed 25 people in all phases of its operation.
By 1950, Mr. Fowler placed the manufacturing arm of the company with a personal friend and concentrated on the HVAC business completely. He preferred the engineering environment and held patents on devices such as climate control systems for burial mausoleums and an air drying system for potato chip manufacturing, but felt that HVAC held a much better future. He added a line of private label furnaces and water-cooled air conditioners, as well as service vans equipped with spare parts for more efficient calls to residential and commercial customers. All the sheet metal work was done in the metal shop shared with manufacturing.
During the 1960s, it was evident that the Erie marketplace was saturated and further growth would be minimal. Fowler Heating had installed at least one system on every street of the little town. The business volume remained level.
During the 1970s, Mrs. Fowler, observing her aging husband's desire not to abandon his employees, many of whom had been employed for more than 30 years, approached their son, William C. Fowler, with the idea of taking over the company. William, known as Bill to everyone, returned to Erie from Washington DC in 1976 and purchased the firm.
Bill had worked for the Trane Company and learned valuable insights into the residential HVAC business. These concepts were introduced to the firm, and its name was changed to Fowler Heating and Air Conditioning. The focus changed to promotion of preventative maintenance and service. Friends from Trane suggested a franchise and Fowler-Trane was created in 1979.
Bill faced the same flat growth market that his father did in the 1960s. He saw that expansion, if it were to occur, had to be geographical. After extensive market research, Bill placed a manager in charge of the Erie operation, moved his family to Alexandria Va., and opened United Air Temp in its first office in Falls Church, Va.
The next seven years flew by with extensive growth in the Washington DC area market. In 1990, the manager in Erie purchased Fowler Heating and Air Conditioning, allowing Bill to concentrate fully on the United Air Temp operation until his retirement in 1999.
During the period from 1990 to 1999, the company expanded to seven branches with a refinement of systems and a strong emphasis on training. During this period, Bill Fowler designed a management program that attracted principled individuals dedicated to serving the needs of the company's customers. A significant number of the managers have become stockholders and/or managing partners of the company. This system, with its guidelines and structures, empowered the managers to better serve their customers.
The growth since 1999 is nothing short of spectacular. United Air Temp has grown to 17 service branches, including two in Georgia, three installation shops, two telemarketing locations and the headquarters are now located in Lorton Va.
From a small town in Erie Pa., to a four-state operation in very competitive markets, United Air Temp has proven itself a true leader in the home comfort industry since 1931.