Sunward readies solar hot water for business

VERGENNES — Outdoor power equipment maker Country Home Products this week spun out its solar hot water systems unit as a standalone company.
The new company — Sunward Systems LLC — will continue to offer residential solar hot water systems, and it will soon roll out a new line of products designed for business establishments, according to its new CEO Tom Hughes.
“We’re excited to expand our product lineup shortly,” Hughes said. “In a few weeks we will be rolling out light commercial options that will be perfect for small businesses that use a lot of hot water, such as restaurants, salons and B&Bs.”
Sunward Systems will continue to be located in the lower level of 75 Meigs Road in Vergennes, and Hughes said that, at least initially, there would be no change in overall employment levels.
“The new company hired several Sunward division employees and the remaining personnel will stay on with CHP in new roles,” he said. “We do expect to grow the new company this year, and will add sales, marketing and assembly personnel as we go.”
Sunward Systems will take over all of the solar hot water assembly and distribution work that was previously handled by Country Home Products.
“This allows us to focus on making the best solar hot water systems all day, every day; without having to compete with CHP’s core outdoor power equipment business” under the DR Power Equipment brand, Hughes said.
CHP President and CEO Joe Perrotto said Sunward sales grew by more than 50 percent last year, but that its growth did not align with CHP’s targeted sales channel.
“In most cases existing customers won’t notice the transition,” Perrotto said in a press release. “This is a win-win. CHP and Sunward Systems will focus on what they each know best, and customers will reap the benefits.”
Hughes noted that one significant change in operations is that while Sunward Systems will continue to be a distributor of solar hot water systems, it will leave installation up to its qualified local installer network.
“This way we can each focus on our core strengths,” Hughes said. “And we look forward to growing the installer network in Vermont and nationally.”
He added that the company is also working to develop strategic partners that will “help make going solar easy and affordable,” though he wasn’t ready to discuss details.
The new company will be led by Hughes and Chief Operations Officer Doug Merrill. Hughes has been in sales and marketing roles at CHP for four years, and has led the Sunward division for the last year. Prior to CHP he managed various campaign and political activities for Vice President Al Gore and Gov. Howard Dean. He directed the political action committee Democracy for America from 2005-2007 and is a graduate of the University of Vermont.
Merrill, an MBA and engineer with degrees from Cornell University, has been a consultant to CHP on product and supply chain issues since 2008. Prior to CHP, Merrill spent 14 years with General Electric and three years in leadership roles at Husky Injection Molding. He teaches manufacturing processes and manufacturing systems as an adjunct faculty member at UVM.
The Sunward Systems website (www.GoSunward.com) and telephone numbers remain the same. Warranties on existing products will continue to be serviced by Country Home Products.

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