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2022 Residential Contractor of the Year: Doctor Cool & Professor Heat

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Congratulations to Doctor Cool & Professor Heat in League City, Texas for being named a finalist for ACCA’s Residential Contractor of the Year! This is the company’s second time they’ve been honored with this distinction, having been named a finalist in 2011. 

The third generation company was founded by Jim Barry, who in 2013 succeeded the business to his son, James. Granddaughter Kiley Barry is now the marketing manager. James has served on the board of the Texas ACCA organization as secretary, director, and president.  

It can’t be disputed that part of the company’s success has been due to its catchy name distinguishing it within its greater Houston and Galveston markets. 

“The name Doctor Cool & Professor Heat came to my dad in a dream and was stuck in his head for a number of years,” James says. “He had been working in New York for a company called Allied Technical and then moved to Houston and worked for a couple of years at another company, Mischer. When that company closed in 1979 my dad started this company and he remembered that unique name.” 

Doctor Cool provides air conditioning, heating, air balancing, air quality, high performance, clean air duct systems, and electrical services for residential homes. About 5 percent of the company’s business is in light commercial – installing HVAC units that are 20 tons and under, for small businesses in strip centers and other locations. Even during the pandemic, the company has performed more than 700 equipment installations since the beginning of 2021, and now has more than 3,900 maintenance agreements. 

“Our company strives to be the best, and we have a strict formal training process to ensure homeowners receive top quality service,” Kiley says. 

Favorite projects 

These days it’s the mini split by Mitsubishi – “I enjoy those probably the most,” James says. 

“The installs can be challenging with so many design options that you can customize for the homeowner’s space and needs,” he says. “We’ve been retrofitting a lot of historical homes in Galveston and Houston where the homeowner’s did not like the eye sore of their current package unit sitting on the side of their house, and the ductwork underneath was really nasty.” 

Doctor Cool retrofits homes with ductless mini-split units, which also create a slimmer line that blends in better with the house and can be decorated with landscaping. The units are also highly efficient and don’t sweat in high humidity. 

“We’ve been installing mini-split units for about 10 years and there is so much change going on that you have to stay up on technology,” James says. 

Most challenging projects

With south Texas’ high humidity, duct sweating can be a constant problem – particularly for homes that have spray foam insulation, which changes the home’s parameters inducing duct sweating  – not to mention stained heaters in attics. 

“When we go to service HVAC systems at these homes, we have to educate them on the house changes and how that impacts safety and health,” he says. “Because the home is spray foamed we use sealed combustion equipment, and add dehumidifiers to help with their ducts sweating. We have actually had to educate city inspectors about this issue as oftentimes they are also unaware.” 

Customer service philosophy 

From the very beginning when customers call, Doctor Cool’s team members answer the phone by saying, “How can we make you smile today?” 

“We realize often when a customer is calling, their home is hot and they are not thrilled to be needing our services, it gets a lot of them laughing a little bit,” James says. “They realize we’re a really relaxed and friendly environment right then and there.” 

James empowers everyone at the company to make a decision if a customer is upset, though if team members are uncomfortable, they can refer complaints to him or the other managers. 

“If it’s a matter of giving money back or giving free service, I tell my employees to treat customers like their mother or grandmother – you can’t go wrong with that,” he says. “For the few complaints that I do get, I feel that we let the ball drop and I’m going to make it right and do it for free. We’re going to make sure customers are happy.” 

Doctor Cool guarantees no hidden fees and provides the full price before performing any work, says Adina Nolan, operations manager. Technicians perform the entire job before asking for payment, so if customers are not 100 percent satisfied with the work performed, they do not have to pay until the company has met their expectations. For new installs, Doctor Cool always performs a quality assurance inspection that the company’s install supervisor follows up after the installation. 

“Our install supervisor is there to inspect the equipment and ensure it was done not only to city code, but also meets Doctor Cool’s standard of excellence,” Adina says. “Who wouldn’t want that peace of mind on their investment? Our quality assurance inspector even does a performance test to make sure the system is operating as intended by the manufacturer.” 

Moreover, technicians “always show respect” to customers by wearing protective shoe covers in their home, she says. During the pandemic, the company has heightened its protective wear by having all field employees wear disposable masks and gloves in customers’ homes to ensure the safety of both customers and the employees. 

“We coach our employees on the foundation that there is no right way to do the wrong thing, and that the customer is always right,” Kiley says. “If any customer ever feels overcharged or that the work was not done properly, and we cannot show them otherwise with photos and documented proof, there will be no charge or we will refund or repair to their satisfaction. The work we perform will always be done honestly, and with the best quality. No exceptions, no excuses.” 

Staff expertise 

Doctor Cool’s technicians have certifications for EPA, NATE, Indoor Air Quality Association – Certified Indoor Environmentalists, National Balancing Institute – diagnostics and air balancing, Spring Valley College – Heat Gain Load Calculations, Refrigeration Thermodynamics, National Certified Carbon Monoxide Analyst, and Duct Blaster Duct Leakage Certification. 

The company works to retain its employees by offering growth opportunities, helping them continue their education by sending them to training programs, and by fostering team bonding with luncheons and holiday parties. 

“We pride ourselves in our employee tenure,” Kiley says. “As we all know in the HVAC industry, getting and keeping good employees is difficult, and your customer trusting who is coming into their home and their recommendations is vital. With employees who have worked here for as long as 25 years, our customers know who is coming to their home, and trust their expertise and advice, knowing they are not just trying to sell them something.” 

Company recognition 

Doctor Cool is the only HVAC company in the greater Houston area to win the BBB Award for Excellence, Winner of Distinction, for 15 consecutive years as well as being a two-time BBB Pinnacle Award winner – the bureau’s top honor. 

“The Pinnacle award is a coveted award that spotlights a commitment to excellence in the marketplace, with only one winner each year among hundreds of HVAC companies in Greater Houston,” James says. “Being the only HVAC company to earn this award twice sets us apart from the competition by giving proof we are a company you can trust.” 

Doctor Cool has also been named Trane’s National Contractor of the Year for 15 consecutive years, as well as the Finalist Best Contractor to Work For in the US Southern Region. 

Community service 

As a family-owned business, Doctor Cool believes giving back to the community is “vital,” Adina says. The company accomplishes this in many different ways, from collecting back-to-school supplies, to donating more than 1,000 pounds of goods to a local food pantry, to collecting and delivering nearly 100 toys and bikes to Dickinson Police Department’s Blue Santa toy drive. 

“With so many struggling in the pandemic last year, Doctor Cool’s team decided to take their giving even further by ‘adopting’ 54 foster children from Benchmark Family Services in League City, as well as sponsoring over 40 children and 10 adults from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree,” she says. “Our company also has a pink and purple truck where a portion of the revenue generated by these vans goes to MD Anderson Breast Cancer Center and Alzheimer’s Houston Chapter.” 

What makes Doctor Cool & Professor Heat the best choice for ACCA’s Residential Contractor of the Year? 

“With nearly 1,000 Google reviews, you don’t have to take our word for it,” James says. “The respect and honesty we show our customers, quality of work, and employee satisfaction speaks for itself. At Doctor Cool we have a win, win, win moto – when the customer wins, the team members win, and ultimately the company wins. This has proven itself to be effective with referrals being our No. 1 source of new customers.” 

Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Posted In: ACCA Now, Residential

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