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Alde President Ken Elwell

Alde President Ken Elwell

Alde Corp., a 50-year supplier of hydronic heating systems to the European RV marketplace, is intent on changing the norm in the North American arena as the Swedish-based firm has continued to gain ground with OEMs, and consumers, since its entry in 2012.

Eyeing additional exposure and, in turn, market penetration, company representatives were touting the advantages of Alde’s “quiet heat” technology during RVIA’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky. Ken Elwell, president of U.S. operations based in Vancouver, Wash., told RVBUSINESS.com that 2016 marked a significant advancement for the firm as it added a high-profile manufacturer to its supply chain.

“Our first partner in the U.S. was Roadtrek motorhomes in 2013, and now we’re standard in every Sprinter van they build,” Elwell said. “TAB teardrop trailers was our next customer, which are smaller applications, but they believed in hot water heat. This year (2016) Airstream came on board and is using our heaters as standard in their Classic travel trailer line.”

Elwell stressed that a key selling point for Alde is its singular concentration on one product and one marketplace.

“The Alde hydronic heating system is the only product we sell, and we only sell to manufacturers of motorhomes and towable RVs,” stated Elwell, noting that Alde’s parent company also oversees subsidiaries in Germany and the U.K. “We specialize in radiant or convective heat, which uses 40% less LP than standard forced air furnaces and delivers even, uniform heat throughout the interior with very little difference in temperature front-to-back and side-to-side.”

“We also have all kinds of accessories that an OEM can spec out, in terms of performance. Do they want heated towel rails? Do they want heated floors? Do they want to do heated tanks? Everything is provided by the one boiler.” 

While working the floor at the Louisville Show, Elwell took the time to further explain the company’s focus and the technology behind its product to RVBUSINESS.com.

RVB: Tell us a little bit about your success in the European market.

Elwell: “Alde is dominant in the top 10-15% of the market, meaning we are the premium supplier of heating systems. If you buy a top-end RV in Europe, they all come with an Alde system. In fact, there are even cases when a manufacturers has a model that has been successful, and when it’s time to do a model year change many times the only addition they make is to add Alde. The Alde name has really become a customer buzzword, if you will, for comfort. With that one change they have stepped up their product.

“In Europe, they have a contest where customers vote for the most important component in the RV. They call it the King Awards and Alde has won that award seven years in a row. That speaks to our brand recognition with consumers. So we’ve tagged onto that, marketing Alde as the “King of Comfort Since 1949.”

RVB: It sounds like you’re trying to create that same model in the U.S. market.

Elwell: “For sure. Forced air systems and having ducts blowing hot air in certain areas has just been the standard for many, many years. And those heating systems work, there’s no doubt – they’ve heated RVs for years. But what we’re trying to bring in is more than just a heating system, it’s an experience that a customer has when they’re in their RV. If it’s 35 degrees outside they can even have the windows open, and they’re warm inside because it creates an envelope of heat that starts from the outside in.”

RVB: Tell us about the process behind your heating systems.

Elwell: “We’re a specialized heating and hot water company. We start with our compact 3010, which is our basic heating system. You have a modulated, two-step LP burner and two electric elements that are 1,000 watts each. We heat the antifreeze solution and then circulate that antifreeze through baseboard convectors that are installed into the furniture. That’s what gives you very even, uniform heat throughout the interior. We don’t use any fans, although fans can be added, but our core technology is using fully radiant. We rely on the natural forces of air that cold air is heavier. So it falls to the ground, and it’s drawn through the convectors and circulated through the interior.”

RVB: Why is it an upgrade from the conventional ducted heat system?

Elwell: “The biggest reasons are the noise and efficiency. You can’t hear our system at all – there’s no sound whatsoever. In addition, we’re combining two components in one, so you have both a water heater and the furnace in one device, which saves floorspace. From a cosmetic standpoint, the sidewall has a much cleaner look because we use a very small outdoor flue instead of having two doors cut into the side of the vehicle that discolor and leak over time.

And with regard to efficiency, the system draws less than one amp on 12 volts instead of having a 910-amp motor that’s blowing air. So the silence, the comfort, and the efficiency are all reasons that make the Alde a premium system.”

RVB: And by doing so, you improve the experience for RVers?

Elwell: “Yes, we want to provide the customer with a comfort experience. In the past, heating systems have just been a commodity. You throw a box in and you heat in one area and that’s just standard for an RV. But for us, we want to envelop that customer in a warm, quiet, comfortable environment.”