For 90 years, Holby Valve has kept its doors open and its customers happy on the promise of commitment to quality and dependability with one simple, yet remarkable product—the Holby Tempering Valve.
In the 1930s, scalding hot water was an all too common problem in many apartment buildings. Most buildings in New York City were, and still are heated with steam boilers with a submerged coil used for domestic hot water. This arrangement requires no hot water storage; however, water temperatures are typically in the 200-degree range.
At the time Al Brown & Sons, a local plumbing company, looked for a solution to address the problem. Working with an engineer by the name of Vernon A. Holby, they designed a thermostatic tempering valve to continuously mix cold water in with the 200-degree hot water—resulting in the Holby Tempering Valve. With the exception of changing the material of the valve to a low-lead alloy as required by the Clean Water Drinking Act, the design and functionality remains the same nine decades later.
“The Holby Tempering Valve was developed at the perfect time,” says Tom Lentine, vice president and part owner of Holby Valve. “Today, 90 years later, it remains the perfect solution.”
The Holby Tempering Valve: From Inception to Creation to Longevity
Engineered for long life with ease of maintenance, the Holby Tempering Valve is as American a story as they come. Manufactured in the heart of New York on 61st Street and 2nd Avenue meant it was always readily available to meet demands. And there was plenty of demand.
The Holby Tempering Valve came to market at the end of the Great Depression and multi-family housing construction in New York was booming. Although there were eventually other tempering valves on the market, Holby had the advantage of being local as well as being a company with a singular focus—producing the best tempering valve possible.
“At the time,” Lentine notes, “the goal was to develop a valve that would last as long as the building it was going into. And, that’s exactly what they accomplished.”
Lentine recalls being called to a building to assist with an old 4-inch Holby Tempering Valve a few years ago. “The building had just completed the installation of a new domestic hot water system and the building owners thought the Holby Tempering Valve was not functioning properly. As we surveyed the mechanical room, they explained that this new domestic hot water system is the second time the system has been replaced. We checked the serial number on the Holby Tempering Valve and found that it was sold more than 30 years ago when the building was initially built. Our Holby Tempering Valve out-lived two hot water plants.” It turns out that the problems the building was experiencing with the valve in the new system was the result of a piping error.
The Holby Tempering Valve has only three internal parts to service, and because of its simplicity and durability, it has been the preferred mixing valve among consulting engineers, owners, and plumbers for generations used in hotels, multi-family residences, commercial facilities, and so much more.
Making Connections and Building A Network
Although business was good and relationships with customers were strong, it wasn’t until the 1960s that Holby recognized the need to build a network of manufacturer’s representatives.
“We put a lot of thought and effort into building our network,” Lentine says. “We now have more than 30 rep agencies across the U.S. working to educate contractors and engineering firms about how the product works and what sets it apart. Being a rep entails working with consulting engineers, specifically plumbing engineers. So, it’s important to train our reps about the proper application, as well as the proper piping configuration and size selection. It is absolutely critical, and we have focused a lot of energy into that.”
In addition to working with design engineers, Lentine and his teamwork with the plumbing wholesalers, contractors, and end users such as building mechanical staff to continue building on that network. They provide lunch-and-learns and well technical support when necessary.
“We also exhibit at a few tradeshows every year,” Lentine says. “The largest show we do is the AHR Expo where we have exhibited for 31 consecutive years. Almost all our reps attend this show, and they make it a point to stop by our booth to catch up for a while. We also have visits from rep agencies that would like to represent our product. My favorite visitors are the contractors and consulting engineers who stop by the booth and tell us how long they have been installing or specifying our valve and how much they love this simple, yet rugged valve.”
Today, Holby Valve has a dedicated full-time sales rep, Tim Devine, who covers the New York market. In addition, the company places a big emphasis on customer support. Maria Lopes is always at the ready to answer calls, process orders, and handle customer engagement. Jim Lentine is the Holby Valve’s product manager and helps in training reps and getting them up to speed. “Our Holby Tempering Valve is a great valve, but that does not mean we don’t need great customer service, too,” Lentine says. “We have a great team in place to make sure we keep consistent with the promise to deliver quality and dependability, always.”
The Company. The Product. The Success Story
For more than 80 years, the Holby Tempering Valve was manufactured in New York City. The company designed its valve into nine sizes ranging from ½-inch to 4 inches. Each valve has a cast body, piston, and bonnet, and all the castings require a considerable amount of machining, which was done internally. They would machine the three components for each valve using two 1940s vintage turret lathes. It would take approximately 8 hours to completely machine each valve.
In 2011, the company had a change in ownership and moved its operation from New York to Newark, New Jersey. “We now work with a foundry that is literally next door and the machine shop is directly across the street from us,” Lentine says. With this close set-up, the foundry delivers castings with a forklift truck to the machine shop, and after they are machined by state-of-the-art CNC machines, the finished castings come back across the street to the Holby location where they are assembled and tested.
“One of the major factors in our success has always been that we have all of our valves and parts in stock,” Lentine says. “That has not changed. When domestic hot water is involved, customers need hot water ‘now,’ not tomorrow or next week. We can deliver that and that’s one of the reasons why the Holby Tempering Valve has become the valve of choice.”
Although remaining successful for nearly a century with one product is an amazing accomplishment, Lentine and his team recognized the need to innovate. “In 2014, we also introduced a new product—the Holby Monitor.”
The Holby Monitor is a wireless temperature monitor designed to gauge the performance of tempering valves. Just like the valve, simplicity is key. “It’s easy to install and simple to operate,” Lentine says. “The monitor allows the valve to be connected to the “cloud” and along with the Holby App, allows the monitor to send temperature alerts by text message or email whenever the valve begins to go out of temperature range signaling that maintenance is required.”
Times continue to change, and technology will play a part in heating water. “We know that there are electronic valves available and some customers are giving them a try,” Lentine says. But he cautions, “when it is time to service these complicated valves, who is going to do that service? Our owners and contractors know that the Holby Tempering Valve has a 90-year reputation and can be serviced very easily with only three internal parts. The Holby Tempering Valve was and, we believe still is, the best tempering valve made. And it will continue to stand the test of time”
Ninety years, and now two products, the promise of commitment to quality and dependability remains as true today as it did when the Holby Tempering Valve first came to market. “We are always available to our customers to answer any questions about sizing, installation, or servicing. We stand behind our products and our commitment to you.”
Congratulations on 90 years Holby Valve. Cheers to another successful 90 going forward.