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Newell Rubbermaid launches a tool brand

The Electronic Gauge with Vacuum Sensor is a hybrid gauge that offers analog and digital displays.

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After three years of research and development, Newell Rubbermaid has launched a new brand of tools into the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration market.

The Hilmor line of professional-grade tools — designed to make the technician's jobs easier and more efficient, the company said — was introduced to the trade at the International Air-Conditioning Heating and Refrigerating (AHR) Expo, held Jan. 28-30 in Dallas. This represented the first foray into HVAC/R for Newell Rubbermaid, a $6 billion company whose stable of brands also includes Irwin and Lenox tools. Hilmor will compete in the category against names like Ridgid, Fluke, Klein and Yellow Jacket.

The initial Hilmor line features 150 tools, including a thermometer with two digital readings to make the calculation of superheat and subcool easier; the industry's first hybrid gauge offering both analog and digital displays; an aluminum manifold available in two-and four-valve combinations; and a compact bender designed to fit in the tight spaces HVAC/R technicians work in regularly. There are 10 patents pending on the line, which begins shipping in March and April — just as the air conditioning season ramps up.

"HVAC technicians are some of the most skilled tradesman and often work in the worst, most challenging situations," said Emily Bavaro, director of marketing for the Hilmor brand. "And despite all the changing regulations in the industry, the tools haven't changed much at all."

In fact, Bavaro said that during the company's extensive research period they discovered that some of the patents on existing HVAC/R tools date back to 1917, adding, "You would ask guys about their tools, and they'd show you tools passed down from their fathers and grandfathers. Many of them have arthritis in their thumbs, often making the outdated tools difficult to turn."

The launch of the Hilmor brand is part of Newell Rubbermaid's Growth Game Plan, a strategy to accelerate the company's growth into a larger, more global and more profitable company. According to Bavaro, Newel Rubbermaid has identified its tools business as a "strategic priority" for the company, which also owns brands in the commercial, writing, baby and parenting, home solutions and specialty categories.

"The buzz from the AHR Expo is that nobody has seen anything like this in HVAC for many years," she said. "It's new, fresh and we feel it's a game-changer in the industry."

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