This month’s spotlight shines on Arzel Zoning Technology, Inc., a Cleveland, OH-based manufacturer of HVAC zoning systems. Founded in 1983 by Al and Ruth Zelczer, this 37-year-old company has always been driven by a passion for innovative solutions to HVAC comfort and energy-saving issues.

Their zoning solutions are designed for new construction and retrofit, residential, and light commercial applications. From its very beginning, Zelczer and his team were committed to simplicity as an integral part of their product design.

In fact, because Al understood that his product line would serve a universal need for consumers, his product design, from the very beginning, had built-in flexibility and universal application. In this light, Arzel was the very first to develop retrofit zoning technology in the HVAC marketplace.

A Little History and a Lot of Chutzpa

Arzel VP of tech sales, Ken Barton
Ken Barton, vice president, technical sales.

Originally an immigrant to the U.S. who worked as a baker, Al Zelczer eventually found his way into working for an electrical contracting firm and found he had a knack for it. Eventually, he struck out on his own and opened an electrical contracting firm in the Cleveland, OH area.

Sometime in the early 1980s, when he began thinking about retiring from the electrical contracting business, he had an “Ah Ha!” moment.

You see, he was having comfort issues involving uneven temperatures throughout his home. During that time, very few HVAC contractors knew much about zoning, and the companies he had out to his house couldn’t propose an easy solution. They all quoted him multiple system solutions, which were expensive and not cost-effective to operate.

He couldn’t understand why something couldn’t be retrofitted into the existing ductwork to control airflow. Of course, at that time, there was nothing like that. So, he set out to resolve the issue on his own.

It takes a lot of courage, or as they say in Yiddish, ‘Chutzpa’ to go from baker to contractor to designer and manufacturer, but that is exactly what Al Zelczer did. In 1983 his design became a reality, and Arzel Zoning was born.

According to Ken Barton, vice president of technical sales at Arzel, that original product was a pneumatic system, unheard of in a world where zoning used electro-mechanical motorized damper systems. The original Arzel design needed to be different and easily retrofittable into existing ductwork.

“Al wanted to eliminate the motor, springs, and gears. By making his system pneumatic, he did just that,” Barton says. “His first design was a blow-up bag-style damper. Once it inflated and squeezed against the side of the duct, it stopped airflow. It was a zone damper. Today’s version is more conventional-looking.”

From Contracting to Manufacturing

Al Zelczer isn’t the only member of the Arzel team who moved from one side of the industry to another. Ken Barton began his career working for an HVAC contractor in the Greater Cleveland area. He was a technician who fell in love with zoning technology because it helped him solve his customers’ comfort issues.

“It just worked,” Barton says. In all the years I worked with the Arzel zoning product, I just installed it and never had to come back out to fix it. It just never broke.”

Over the years, Barton worked his way up in the contracting business, eventually becoming an operations manager who was responsible for the recruiting and hiring of new techs.

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