US Builders Review                                                    

Dry Air Systems Inc.

Diversified HVAC and plumbing services in New England
Written by: 
Tom Faunce
Produced by: 
Brandon Bagley

Headquartered in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Dry Air Systems Inc. works in the industrial, commercial and residential markets. Since 1989 Dry Air Systems has relied on its reputation and relationships for establishing the company as one of the top HVAC and plumbing contractors in New England. “A lot of our customers are people that we have worked with for 25 years,” says Jeff Brunelle, president of Dry Air Systems. “We’re not necessarily a cold-bid company, we‘re pricing jobs for people that we have established relationships with.”

Brunelle founded Dry Air Systems as a subcontractor for a dehumidifier manufacturer that was lacking in a service department. “I started the company to pick up all of the work that they were letting go as a manufacturer,” says Brunelle. “After about a year I decided to branch out and provide full HVAC services for other clients.” Brunelle has kept the name of the company although the services provided have extended to full HVAC, plumbing, and a division focused on electrical controls called Diversified Automation Systems. The company even includes a fire protection division known as DAS Fire Protection. “We do it all.”

With 65 employees, Dry Air Systems performs work throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and southern Maine. Working in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors, no job is too big or too small for Dry Air Systems. “We also work in the high-end residential market,” says Brunelle. “We do work that ranges from $200 to $3 million.”

A strong portfolio

Dry Air Systems has recently completed installations for fit-up retail and office buildings as well as full mechanical installations for private schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. St. John’s Prep School in Danvers and Brookwood School in Manchester have been two of Dry Air Systems most recent clients. The company will soon be starting a design-build project with Great Bay Kids’ Company in Exeter, New Hampshire, which will involve HVAC and plumbing installation.

In the high-end market, Dry Air Systems has worked in condominiums and country clubs. In North Reading, Massachusetts, Brunelle and his team have been working on a project with a 10-year time span “It’s a three phase project and we’re in phase two,” says Brunelle. “We also did Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead, Massachusetts. We did that project from the ground up a couple of years ago.”

Brunelle refers to a project the company recently completed in Salem, Massachusetts as a highlight for Dry Air Systems’ capabilities. The job involved a retrofit to a high-end senior living center called the John Bertram House, an old historic building in downtown Salem. “We had to go in and rip out a boiler chiller system and put in all Mitsubishi hyper-heat pumps,” Brunelle explains. “The entire job took about six months to complete.” From a logistical standpoint, Brunelle notes that a successful aspect of the project was the fact that none of the residents were displaced throughout the entire job. “Logistically it was very challenging. We had to move some people around for certain hours of the day but overall it was a complete success.”

Brunelle also points out another design-build job that Dry Air Systems completed in 2014 as a memorable project for the company. The Warwick Theatre, which opened in 1919 in Marblehead, underwent a complete renovation, including tearing down the original building and constructing a 50,000-square-foot facility. “It involved the theater, a restaurant and high-end office space,” says Brunelle. “The entire job was done with Mitsubishi city multi units.”

Looking ahead

Dry Air Systems is prepared for 2016 as well as the remainder of 2015 with a strong backlog of work. The company’s diversity has given it the ability to not only survive tough times like the recession, but to thrive through such downturns. “We’ve grown every year starting before the recession,” says Brunelle. “The fact that we don’t stick to one market or sector makes us unique,” says Brunelle. “When the housing market crashed we were doing a lot of residential work with apartment buildings and houses so when that slowed down we picked up a lot of commercial work. We’re able to do whatever is available and right now everything is available so we’re doing it all.”

Among the many challenges that all companies in the industry face, qualified manpower is one of the most common. With fewer young people becoming involved in the trades, the entire industry is witnessing a downturn in qualified applicants. To combat this, Dry Air Systems has taken the initiative to work with a local trade school in Haverhill. “We’re working with Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School,” says Brunelle. “We’re starting to use some of their kids as interns. We take them on part-time in their junior and senior year and get them trained with the hope of having them join us full-time when they get out of high school.”

With Dry Air Systems recently celebrating its 25-year anniversary, Brunelle reflects on his career in the HVAC industry, starting back when he was 18 years old. After a job delivering ice for a refrigeration service company, Brunelle was ambitious to further his knowledge of the industry. “Sometimes when I would finish my job early they would give me the option to go home or stay and help some of the guys with what they were doing,” recalls Brunelle. “I was eager to learn so I would always stay.”

Once he decided that he wanted to remain in the industry full-time, Brunelle began taking courses at Wentworth Institute of Technology. “I continued to work during the day and went to school at night,” says Brunelle. “I got licensed and started Dry Air Systems when I was 24 years old.

Along with the success that his company has achieved, Brunelle remains cognizant of his company’s presence in the community. Dry Air Systems will often give back in the form of sponsoring athletic teams for children or volunteer work for local schools. “The company’s image is very important to me,” Brunelle explains. “We are a positive influence on the community and all my employees are very professional. It gives me a great sense of pride when I go to a jobsite and see trucks from all three of our companies there.”

As the company progresses into the future, Dry Air Systems will be relocating its headquarters to a state-of-the-art facility that will house all operations of the company under one roof. The company’s metal fabrication shop, warehouse and fleet maintenance will also be located at the new facility at 62 Forest Ridge Drive, Rowley Massachusetts.

While Dry Air Systems Inc. continues to grow its name and reputation, Brunelle and his team will maintain its quality, service and integrity.

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