Ryan and Eric Griffiths took over Griffiths Mechanical Inc. in 2019. Their father, John Griffiths, founded the commercial refrigeration company in 1981. Since then, the brothers have been on a constant growth trajectory.
“We could always use more employees, but we have the best guys in the surrounding counties, hands down,” said Ryan, president of the company, now a full-service refrigeration, heating, and cooling business. “We’d be nothing without our employees. A lot of them have been here close to 20 years, and we haven’t lost anyone to job jumping since the pandemic began. Even though we’ve grown, we maintain the family-owned culture.”
The Griffiths employees take good care of John and Eric, and the favor is returned through profit sharing and good benefits. They truly make the company a place they’d like to work… because it is where they work.
Above: Brothers Eric (L) and Ryan Griffiths created a partnership when they took over the family company in 2019. Griffiths Mechanical Inc. has been voted Best of Hillsdale County for five years running. Pictured right is Royce, the Griffiths’ office greeter.
John started by serving local Mom-and-Pop groceries as a refrigeration professional. Based in Jonesville, MI, he travelled out of state quite a bit to stay busy.
“By the 90s, Eric and I started coming into the business,” explained Ryan. “At that point, we started transitioning toward HVAC in addition to refrigeration. That quickly grew to include residential work. I was still the guy Dad sent out of town for commercial projects. That’s hard on families, and Eric and I have made a concerted effort to keep our techs close to home as much as possible. Residential work made that easier, and we really enjoy being an active part of our community here in Jonesville.”
During those early years of transition, Griffiths Mechanical’s work was 70 percent commercial. It’s now evenly split between residential and commercial. Two years ago, Griffiths acquired a residential HVAC company in nearby Hillsdale, MI. That went well, and in late 2021, they purchased another, in Bronson, MI. They’re currently in the process of acquiring a third, in Angola, IN. All these acquisitions are yielding great new residential clients.
“We’re as busy as we can be right now, and Eric and I oversee different parts of the company. He’s vice president, managing the service department. He does an outstanding job, working in the field at times and keeping up his training with our techs. We’re best friends in and out of work.”
Griffiths now has 21 people on payroll, not including Ryan and Eric. Two years ago, the firm had nine employees.
Busy but ever-changing
Hydronic heat accounts for roughly 40 percent of Griffiths’ work, 90 percent of which is residential.
“Our hydronic work fluctuates in this area, and not just seasonally,” said Ryan. “Most of our boilers are retrofitted, but we do install hydronic systems in new homes from time to time. With new construction clients, we always lead with in-floor radiant paired with mini-split heat pumps for AC. That’s simply the most comfortable system available, and we want people to be aware that it’s an option.”
Griffiths’ hydronic installers recently found a way to expedite boiler installations, while at the same time increasing value to the homeowner. They began installing the new Alta condensing combi boiler, made by U.S. Boiler Company.
The 95 percent efficient Alta combi boiler features gas adaptive technology, which provides simplicity, rapid installation and optimal efficiency in all variety of outdoor conditions. The boiler self-calibrates in response to component wear, variation in fuel, environment, and vent air pressure. The combi boiler also ships with U.S. Boiler’s FastPipe premanufactured primary/secondary piping kit.
“After installing a few Alta combi boilers late last year, our boiler install crews put their feet down and told us to stop selling anything else,” said Chad Berger, Griffiths comfort consultant. “Start-up is effortless, ease of installation is great, and the manuals provided from the factory flattened any learning curve.”
The company now has five Alta combi boilers in the field, ranging in application from apartments to vacation homes. There are three more scheduled for installation in the coming weeks.
“The second Alta boiler we ever installed serves a lake house,” said Ryan. “The owner, Shawn Smith, was a project manager at a manufacturing plant where we’ve done work in the past. He appreciated our work there and asked us to look at his personal boiler system.”
The 55-year-old, 2,200-sqaure-foot home was still served by the original boiler and a stand-alone, atmospheric gas-fired water heater. The tank was old, and the boiler – which was original to the home – was leaking. The 80 percent efficient boiler served only two zones. The first zone, which used fin-tube baseboard, heated the whole home except the kitchen. The second zone, which heated the kitchen with in-floor radiant, was added some decades later.
Above: The Smith Residence, where Griffiths Mechanical, Inc. recently installed a new Alta condensing boiler.
“Comfort was not ideal,” said Smith. “The kitchen was fine, but the master bedroom was always sweltering, because it was closest to the boiler. The rest of the house was always cold.”
Griffiths plan to remedy the issues was to replace the historic boiler with a 136 MBH Alta combi and break the fin-tube zone into several smaller zones using new circulators while installing new Honeywell wireless thermostats.
Installers Ryan Center and Devin Newsome spent two days on the job. The new boiler was hung on a wall and two-inch pipe was vented out the side of the home.
“Our installers have raved about the simplicity of setting the boiler up,” said Ryan. “You quite literally pipe the Alta and walk away.”
Above: The Alta installation include all-new near-boiler piping, including new zone circulators, zone control and wireless thermostats.
The Alta features three-sided, unobstructed service access and sensor-less reset, which achieves outdoor reset accuracy without drilling, wiring or installation of an outdoor sensor. It also greatly simplifies LP conversion if needed, by flipping a single switch and making a change on the display. A conversion kit is not needed. This was an advantage at the Smith residence, where natural gas isn’t available.
The Alta boiler line also includes a 136 and 200 MBH combi models, as well as heat-only models of 120, 150 and 180 MBH capacity.
Long time coming
“We limped the original boiler along for two years before replacing it,” said Smith. “That’s another reason I chose Griffith’s for the retrofit. One of their technicians, Randy Hull, has an outstanding reputation for understanding old boiler systems. He’s the go-to guy for old boilers in this area.”
According to Smith, the retrofit yielded great comfort improvements. The bedroom and living spaces are now controlled independently.
“In regard to the boiler model and the new zones, which was their suggestion, Griffiths steered me in the right direction. I like the Alta, and I like the way the house feels even more.”