The products made at Hartford-based Broan-NuTone LLC have been installed into about 90 percent of the homes in the United States, helping ventilate bathrooms, kitchens, attics and other spaces. Broan-NuTone also designs and builds products that help clean, decorate and organize homes.
The company’s best-known products are its bathroom and kitchen ventilation fans and systems, said David Pringle, president and CEO. The fans, sold under both the Broan and NuTone brand names, are typically available in home improvement stores and through direct suppliers.
Although new home sales have been sluggish over the last few years, Broan-NuTone’s bath fan sales have remained robust because of home remodeling projects, Pringle said. The company’s sales have been helped through new features and continued improvements.
“We’re in about 90 percent of the homes in North America with a product that we used to sell for $10,” Pringle said. “Now we’re moving into the more than $100 territory. There is a real market. If you can get to the customer and show them that the fan is quiet and still stylish, they will buy it.”
Broan-NuTone is seeing similar demand for its kitchen ventilation hoods and fans. The company sells products ranging from economy lines sold at big box home improvement stores to high-end custom kitchen hoods and ventilation systems that cost up to $5,000.
“(Customers) used to have a choice of spending between $50 and $100, and most of the fans were pretty noisy and un-stylish,” Pringle said. “Now we can make them almost a work of art. Some of them are made out of copper and are made in our state of the art design facility in Italy.”
Like its bathroom fans, Broan-NuTone’s kitchen ventilation systems are available in many different designs, materials and in different configurations.
The company also manufactures medicine cabinets, ironing centers, trash compactors, central vacuum systems, portable heaters, ventilation and air purification systems and related products.
Broan-NuTone is headquartered in Hartford, where it has about 700 employees. The company has about 2,600 employees in total, and has manufacturing facilities in Canada, Mexico, Poland, Italy and China. The facilities in Poland and China make products for the European and Asian markets, while some of the Italian-made product is imported to the U.S. and other parts of the world.
In its 500,000-square-foot facility in Hartford, Broan-NuTone makes bathroom and kitchen ventilation systems for customers in North America. It ships products to U.S. customers from Hartford, Ohio and California.
The company has been able to maintain its manufacturing presence in Wisconsin through heavy investment in automation, Pringle said.
“We make one bathroom fan every four seconds and a kitchen fan every 7.5 seconds,” he said. “From a labor view, that’s nullified foreign manufacturers, especially with our customer base.”
Broan-NuTone sells to customers through big box retail stores and through contractors who are building new houses or remodeling existing homes. While the company is not seeing many new housing-related sales now, its sales through retail stores have been strong, Pringle said.
“As the economy gets worse, people spend more and more time in their house,” he said. “We had a good year last year while the housing industry was in a depression. It’s a tough housing market out there now. People have to compete against a lot of other houses now and if they want their house to stand out, that’s helping us.”
Pringle would not disclose Broan-NuTone’s sales figures, but said the company exceeded its goals last year and remains above its goals for this year.
Part of the company’s success came from its new product offerings, Pringle said. Broan-NuTone has introduced more than 1,200 new products in the last five years, he said, and it remains focused on new product development.
Last year, it introduced new energy efficient bathroom and kitchen ventilation products, as well as models that automatically turn on when humidity or temperatures rise. And later this year, it will introduce a solar powered ventilation fan that requires no wiring.
“For us, having the most energy efficient, best lighting, best performance and best quality is huge,” Pringle said.