It doesn't take an eagle-eye for anyone in Almancil to notice the busy comings and goings of Penguin's yellow vans as they shuttle from one job to another. Since moving to larger premises at the west end of town, the company has raised its profile as one of the Algarve's leading installers of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.
Home owners are increasingly keen on minimising energy bills, and today's tough economy, coupled with ever-increasing energy rates, makes the argument for cost-efficiency doubly compelling.
Such has been Penguin's growth in recent years, the company has now changed its website and email addresses from 'Penguin Aircon' to 'Penguin Algarve', reflecting its broader expertise in all aspects of energy-saving home heating & cooling. Director Chris Blackburn explains: "Although air conditioning is still our core activity, it's just one of our services nowadays, so the 'Aircon' tag was limiting our market reach."
Established in 2008, Penguin has expanded from a staff of 5 to today's complement of 20, offering expertise in all aspects of energy-efficient home heating & cooling: air conditioning, solar systems for hot water; photovoltaic (PV) solar systems for self-generation of electricity; top-efficiency heat pumps for warm water underfloor and radiator systems, even pool heating.
Such all-round expertise attracts larger projects, and nowadays Penguin works with architects, engineers and builders to design & install fully-integrated systems for new homes, with energy-efficiency the guiding principle. Coupled with these technologies are the latest 'smart' devices to make a home easier to monitor, control and achieve maximum energy savings.
Penguin's Technical Director, Chris Blackburn, comments: “For anyone building or renovating a property, whether for residence or letting, it makes sense to invest now in systems that save money in the long-term. We're seeing increasing business as the advantages of energy-efficiency are appreciated.”
Does this mean that environmental awareness is growing too? “In part,” Chris answers, “but in the current economic climate it's financial prudence rather than environmental awareness that's the main motivation for saving energy.”
Nonetheless, this movement is also being driven by EC regulations aimed at conserving the environment, by encouraging ever-more energy-saving systems. The latest initiative, as of 1 Jan this year, is to revise efficiency ratings given on product labelling, with the new categories of A+, A++ and A+++ now introduced.
Chris explains: “This means that some air-con systems previously A-rated may remain so, whilst others - particularly the latest generation - will achieve one of the new grades. New high-performance inverters offer up to 70% reduced consumption against old, non-inverter models, so they cost you – and the environment – less. As a company advocating energy-efficiency, Penguin keeps abreast of such issues and offers systems across the range, including of course the latest top-rated models.”
With bright yellow signage and vans bearing a cute cartoon logo, Penguin Air Conditioning has been catching attention since opening for business a few years ago.
Fast-following this recognition comes a solid reputation: this is a company that wants to be noticed - and delivers what it promises.
“We set out our stall with a policy towards service“, says Chris Blackburn, “and this has struck a chord in our favour. There are numerous air-con businesses in the Algarve but few seem motivated to offer a reliable, fast-response maintenance service. So that‘s the gap we went for initially, and in doing so we develop trustworthy relationships with clients and pick up new installation work as and when it arises. Nowadays we‘re probably handling as many new installs as servicing jobs.”
With the summer heat wave has come a surge in demand for air conditioning services from sweltering property owners, management agents and even hoteliers. “We’re so busy keeping people cool at the moment, our phones are red hot!“, quips Chris. Having moved from a hectic London life to the Algarve with his wife seven years ago, Chris - a former telecoms systems consultant - wasted no time putting his natural business acumen to good use. With strong branding and a commitment towards service, Penguin was born, specialising not only in air conditioning but in year-round heating and renewable energy solutions for the home - solar heating, underfloor and pool heating.
“Penguin provides an Algarve-wide service and a comprehensive range of products,” Chris explains. “we are fully licenced and insured, with over 90 years’ collective experience in our specialist fields. When you are installing equipment with a high value and complexity, accountability and support is key - which simply can not be achieved with your typical 'one-man band' installer.”
Turning to Penguin‘s solar energy services, he comments: “The new legislation regarding energy-rating for properties, coupled with the greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness of today‘s technologies, is all combining to bring about an increased demand for solar systems - ideal of course in the Algarve‘s year-round sunny climate.”
Ensuring that all operations run smoothly is Office Manager Monica ; whilst Penguin’s promotion and sales are managed by Tony Elwood, with over 15 years’ marketing experience in the Algarve.
Penguin’s Account Manager is Carlos. “I joined Penguin six months ago“ he explains, “as they share my ethos of quality products and a commitment to service. I love the Algarve - its healthy environment, charm and culture - so I’m delighted to be working in the region, promoting Penguin’s services. Although air conditioning is our mainstay - and we’re offering some excellent summer discounts with Panasonic and Mitsubishi right now - there’s also great interest in solar heating for domestic water or pools".