Red Dot: Building HVAC for Heavy-Duty Operating Environments

Air conditioning is air conditioning. You’ve heard that before, and it’s basically true—whether you work on Corollas or Caterpillars, the same principles for removing heat from a vehicle cabin apply. 

You can even say that a heavy-duty mobile A/C system is nothing more than an automotive system with bigger components.

Just be ready for Red Dot to answer back.

“They’re both mechanical vapor compression air conditioners, but that’s where the comparison ends,” says Gary Hansen, vice president and chief engineer at Red Dot Corporation, which manufactures HVAC units, components, and parts for heavy-duty vehicles and equipment cabs.

While automotive systems are engineered for low cost and climate management, heavy-duty equipment owners need performance and durability in the most punishing conditions—plus the ability to maintain a unit themselves with minimal downtime, parts, and tools.

“If the A/C in your car conks out, you’re merely uncomfortable for awhile. But on a haul truck or a harvester, you may have to shut down the vehicle,” Hansen says. “As far as we’re concerned, the air conditioner should not stand in the way of an equipment operator’s comfort, safety, or productivity. It should enhance his ability to do the job.”

Manufacturing Excellence

For over 50 years, Red Dot has set the standard for mobile heating and air conditioning in demanding applications, including mining, agriculture, forestry, construction, and commercial trucking.

The company traces its beginnings to the late 1950s, when founder Harky Runnings started a sideline business building truck heaters at his automotive radiator repair shop in Seattle. Harky’s reputation for quality and performance grew, and soon cooling and heating trucks was his principle line of work. He incorporated Red Dot in 1965 with a plan to develop heating and air conditioning products specifically for heavy-duty vehicles and off-highway equipment.

Throughout its history, Red Dot’s commitment to these markets has never wavered. Under Harky’s stewardship, the company produced numerous industry firsts, including the trinary pressure switch; air-operated water valves and vent doors; low-profile rooftop condensers; the Grilldenser; and ProTecht A/C compressor protection and system diagnostics.

Today, Red Dot is a global supplier of integrated systems, modules, unit kits, and components to OEMs and the heavy-duty aftermarket. The company opened its first facility outside the United States in Suffolk, England, in 1998, and formed Red Dot China in 2008 to bring its expertise and technical capability to customers in the region. 

With each new market or product focus, Red Dot has been driven by knowledge, integrity, innovation, and a can-do attitude—the principles that inspired Harky to build better products for heavy-duty vehicles in the first place.

Product Focus

Perhaps no product exemplifies the company’s commitment to heavy-duty HVAC like the Red Dot R-9727. Found on equipment cabs in tough, rugged, and severe operating conditions, the rooftop-mounted R-9727 delivers 22,000 BTU/hour of cooling and airflows of 320 CFM (evaporator) and 850 CFM (condenser). It uses a sealed, long-life evaporator and condenser motor with a slinger ring and hubcap to keep out weather and dust. The components are housed in a heavy-gauge steel casing that’s gusseted and reinforced to increase its structural integrity.

You can find keys to the R-9727‘s durability in the details. For example, instead of using several small hinges for the service panel, Red Dot designed the R-9727 with one continuous stainless steel piano hinge. The result is a stronger joint that contributes to the rigidity of the housing while ensuring accessibility to the components when service is necessary.

“We have the most complete line of heavy-duty A/C units and replacement parts in the business,” Hansen says. “We’re proud of our reputation for building products that are as tough as the people who use them.”

Adapting to a Changing Market

Today, more heavy-equipment owners want A/C than ever before, and they want a true heavy-duty product.

“We understand what it takes to built units that can withstand the vibration and shock of off-road travel, consume little interior space, and deliver the performance equipment owners demand,” says Hansen. “We design for the most extreme conditions we can find.”

He recalls spending an afternoon peering deep into a freighter’s cargo hold, watching a skid-steer loader whirl around in a cloud of iron dust as it stockpiled taconite pellets.

“I’m looking down there at this ball of floating dirt and debris, and inside this ball is a machine, and inside the machine is a person,” says Hansen. “The only time they stop is to change the operator or the air filter. That’s what we deal with on the commercial-vehicle side of the business. That’s why a commitment to heavy-duty market is so important.”