Portable Heating Solutions – When and Where You Really Need Them

L.B. White

One of the fundamental instigators of a healthy economy is a strong construction industry. In the United States, the construction industry is anticipated to grow by eleven percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are challenges to be met, one of which is meeting the need for temporary heating, particularly in cold, inclement, and unexpected weather conditions. Those that plan and budget for such conditions remain one step ahead of the rest. They have to be in a very competitive market.

Assisting project planners and contractors with construction site heating solutions, is L.B. White, a leading manufacturer and designer of portable heaters. Established in 1952, the company has its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility based in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

Maintaining the proper temperature on construction projects is done for many reasons, from material preservation and consistent workflow to worker comfort and efficiency. L.B. White’s heating solutions use diesel, kerosene, natural gas, or propane fuel to heat direct-fired, indirect-fired, or radiant heaters, each specific to a project’s particular requirements. It is a matter of choosing the appropriate product for a particular project.

L.B. White manufactures seven key trade name lines serving the construction industry and, “each has its own characteristics,” says Henry Glover, Vice President of Sales for L.B. White Company. These include the Boss, Foreman, Premier, Sun Blast, Tradesman, Workman and handheld Torch line.

Marketing Product Manager April Gnadt explains some of the distinctive heating methods of each line, noting the Tradesman is a direct fired portable forced air line while the Boss is direct fired with a higher CFM well-suited to wide open spaces that require a lot of air movement. The Premier is also direct fired and “has an enclosed flame and ductability, so that makes it unique.”

The Foreman series is indirect fired, “which is definitely a big differentiator for it.” The byproducts of combustion are vented so only clean, dry heat is moved into a space. Vented heat is especially important for projects sensitive to combustion byproducts or that require fresh air only like hospitals or schools. The new Foreman 230 launches later this summer joining the lineup of Foreman 500 and 750 models.

The Sun Blast offers radiant heat, and the Workman series offers convection heat. The Workman is “really a job site favorite,” she adds. “It doesn’t require electricity. So it’s really great at the beginning of a job.” The Torch line delivers a direct flame, making it multipurpose. “There are a lot of uses for those.” It can be used to melt ice or pipes in the winter, and in the summer, these torches may be used to keep weeds in control around job sites.

There are several variables that go into the decision of which specific heating solution will be used. “We work through a matrix channel of distribution,” Henry explains, and this aims to provide, “the right solution for the application,” in terms of delivery, cost, and product.

“There’s a broad, broad spectrum of applications that [customers] are using heaters for, and oftentimes there are multiple solutions for a particular application. So it can get fairly complex. For some [customers] it isn’t obvious to them what they should use. In these situations they need someone that can consult with them.”

Within this channel of distribution framework, L.B. White has sales managers working and training with sales representatives who also train rental and supply houses. These representatives are, “acting as consultants to rental houses and end users,” Henry continues. In turn, rental and supply houses are acting as consultants to contractors. From traveling showrooms designed to fully demonstrate product operation to online heat calculators, L.B. White provides resources and tools to support sales and training throughout a product’s lifecycle.

Project managers have a crucial role to play in anticipating heating needs and the all-important accompanying estimates and budgets. So a few factors come into play. “There are a lot of applications, and they range from simple and straightforward to very complex and very large,” says Henry.

As an example of a simple project, he mentions a single-family home completion or the renovation of a retail space. Even then, there are options. “There are several ways you could heat that space,” he says. “Those don’t require a lot of planning.” Henry affirms that very large contractors can manage heating sources themselves, but there are some contractors on larger projects that opt out of this task. “They would go to one of our customers for the specific heating requirements.”

There will be associated considerations like how many British Thermal Units (BTUs) must be produced, the number of rooms to be heated, and how the requirements change through each stage of progress. For example, whether the project is in a huge empty space or insulation has already been added will affect this.

“As those projects grow in complexity, it’s critical that project managers are working with a knowledgeable heating expert,” continues Henry. “They’re probably going to use different types of heat as they go to different parts of the building and as they go thorough different phases of construction. It can get pretty complex,” he explains.

“Planning to move thorough those phases efficiently is most critical for project managers,” says April. Because of this, heaters are offered that use dual fuel and run on natural gas or propane for project phases that are not yet hooked up to natural gas lines. “The project manager may need to budget for propane,” she says. “But later, when that’s subcontracted into the job site, they can switch over to natural gas and potentially look at their budget differently, because that fuel wouldn’t be something they would need to account for.” In such instances, “bringing in a heat expert at the forefront can help make the budget more strategic.”

Quality and safety are vital in any manufacturing process. Having both is perceived by customers as a winning combination. “We have a closed-loop quality system,” Henry says, noting that if an error is discovered during the manufacturing process, the company deals with it promptly. “We put corrective actions in place so that it doesn’t happen again. We have multiple quality tests, and every heater we manufacture is test fired before it leaves our building.” The quality control department randomly pulls completed units out of production and dismantles the units to ensure that, “every part meets our quality standard.”

“Our construction heater designs are certified by third parties to the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA),” April adds. “We have a very high market share in the United States and Canada. We were the supplier of the year for the Canadian Rental Association (CRA) in 2015.” There are a few products that are not sold in Canada and do not carry the CSA seal, but, “depending on distribution, we have the appropriate third-party certification for safety.”

“We have very detailed owner’s manuals,” Henry says, indicating that it is essential for customers to read such manuals for a detailed comprehension of product use. “Obviously, there’s a potential for a safety hazard if they aren’t used correctly.”

Along with owner’s manuals, the company offers, “on-site technical support teams, and they are there to help advise,” adds April. This technical support team understands, “applications and situations that manuals are navigating.”

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 14, 2019, 8:34 AM EST