Looking for an answer to all of your heating questions? Ask Dan Holohan. He’s the founder of the #1 online resource for heating questions: HeatingHelp.com. If Dan doesn’t know the answer, “The Wall” will (read below to learn more). I don’t remember how I stumbled across HeatingHelp.com, but I’ll tell you one thing…I stayed on the site for a solid hour—learning more about heat pumps, how to stay safe in snowstorms, radiant floor heating, how solar works, and the story of Dan (and his love for his wife Marianne).
Totally hooked, I reached out to Dan and asked him if I could interview him. I wanted to know more about him and how he gets all of his answers. I also wanted to know more about what it’s like to be in business with a spouse and where I could meet him in person.
YOU SHOULD CONTINUE READING IF:
- You’re a heating professional with a lot of knowledge to share. You, my friend, are needed on “The Wall” (See answer #3)
- You own a home and have questions about heating
- You are an entrepreneur and need inspiration from another passionate entrepreneur (Read the whole article)
- You want to learn how to start a successful blog using data from Google Analytics (See answer #3)
- You’re hoping to start a company with your spouse (See answer #6)
- You’re taking life too seriously (See answer #7)
- HeatingHelp.com is the place to go to get all of your heating questions answered
- “The Wall” is a forum for all things heating and when you contribute, chances are high that your knowledge will be shared via the HeatingHelp.com blog
- Each day is precious
- And more…
You can reach Dan directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
HeatSpring: What makes you the #1 online resource for heating questions? Where do you get all of your answers?
Dan Holohan: We’ve gathered a huge amount of information about older heating systems. A lot of this comes from my collection of old books, magazine articles, and manufacturers’ literature. A lot more comes from the members of the site who have taken the time to scan and share over the years. We started the site in 1997, so we’ve had lots of time to collect. And if the answer isn’t in the System Help Center or Heating Museum parts of the site, it’s probably going to show up on The Wall as soon as the curious person asks the question.
HeatSpring: Tell me more about “The Wall.” What is it and why should people in the heating industry know about it?
Dan Holohan: The Wall has been the soul of HeatingHelp.com since we started the site. It began with a small group of friends and grew to a tribe of interested (and very interesting) people that numbers close to 50,000 these days. They’re a mix of heating professionals, engineers, facilities people, wholesalers, and very sharp homeowners who have taken the time to get educated about their heating systems. The people who post respect each other. There’s no flaming and it basically runs on its own. Someone asks a question and gets an answer, usually within a minute.
We recently rebuilt the whole site, making it very friendly for smart phones and tablets, so people working in the field now have quick and easy access to what I think of as the Main Brain of the site. We get about a half-million visitors each month. Everyone is welcome.
HeatSpring: When you don’t know an answer, who are your top 3 go-to heating experts?
Dan Holohan: I’ll always go to more than three experts by posting it on The Wall. I often put together articles for the site’s blog that begin this way. For instance, we recently noticed in Google Analytics that a lot of visitors were searching the site for information about whether PEX pipe splits when frozen. This was during a very cold spell. I asked the question on The Wall and also did a search of The Wall (which goes back a lot of years) and then compiled what the tribe had to say into a blog article. We shared that with the subscribers to our Thursday morning e-newsletter and the visitors to the site soared.
HeatSpring: Tell me a little bit more about the Dead Men…who were they?
Dan Holohan: I was doing a steam seminar for a manufacturer’s rep that I worked for during the early-’80s, and, to keep my contractor audience interested, I always began by reciting a long poem I had written and memorized. Its title was Dangerous Dan and the Hole in the Ground. (I was quite taken by the poetry of Robert Service at the time). The poem was about the day I advised a contractor on how to install a steam boiler (this was the first job I had ever visited). After he placed the boiler told him to put it, the basement floor opened up, swallowing the boiler, my textbook and me. It measured 9.9 on the Sphincter Scale.
Anyway, it begins like this:
I’ll tell you a tale that will keep you spellbound
Of Dangerous Dan and the Hole in the Ground
It started out simply on a day just like this,
At a steam seminar I wanted no one to miss.
Especially Pete, who was a plumber by day,
And who wanted to come, but his boss said, “No way!”
But I wanted him there for this was Pete’s dream.
You see the plumber by day was a student of steam!
And he studied the steam and work of DEAD MEN,
Who had come years before and who weren’t there then
To teach him the art he so wanted to know.
So when he heard of this class, well, he just had to go.
So that’s where Dead Men began. The poem goes on for a long time from there and it got the attention of the editors of Supply House Times. They sent a reporter to my seminar and wrote an article about it and my teaching style. They also made up Rep of the Year.
At the time, I never dreamed that I would grow up to be one of Supply House Times’ monthly columnists, but life is funny that way.
So here’s to the Dead Men, and to all those who came before us in this wonderful business.
HeatSpring: How do you heat your home? Did you design the system?
Dan Holohan: We have hot-water heat with baseboard. Our house was born in 1950 and is as old as I am. It once had a radiant floor but that failed in 1970, We bought the place in ’77 and the baseboard was waiting for us. We heat with fuel oil and have a great, full-service oil dealer. I got out of their way when it came time to change the boiler. I’m a huge believer in picking the professional and then doing what he or she thinks is best. It’s a matter of trust.
HeatSpring: How’d you meet your wife and what’s it like having her as a business partner?
We were in high school together but never met. We both grew up in Hicksville, Long Island, and there were thousands of Baby Boom kids in that school (I sat next to Billy Joel in many of my classes). I knew Marianne’s big brother and we used to hang out (go figure) in a local bar. Marianne showed up on Christmas Eve, 1969. She was 17 years old and not supposed to be in the bar (the drinking age was 18). I was smitten. Her brother, my friend, gave me the stink eye. We were married in ’72 and have been laughing ever since.
We started our business in ’89 because we had had four daughters in three years (cheated a bit with twins the last time out) and knew that in 2000 they would all be in college at the same time (and they were). I went to the guy who owned the manufacturers’ rep firm and said I didn’t know how I was going to afford that working for him. He said he didn’t either. I asked what he would do if he was me. He said he’d quit, which is what I did. When someone told us we needed a mission statement, we made a sign and framed it. It read, “Let’s Put Four Young Women Through College.”
Our company is compact. I’m good at telling stories and bringing people together (that’s about it). Marianne is good with managing money and people. It is not easy being in business with your spouse, but if you don’t take yourself too seriously, keep laughing, and never go to bed angry there will be peace in the valley.
HeatSpring: Any upcoming heating conferences that you’ll be attending that you think the HeatSpring community should know about?
I’m on my last year of doing seminars. My last talk will be at AHR in Orlando next January, which will coincide with my 66th birthday. I will then shut up.
But since this is my last year, I’m suddenly popular. Ferguson hired me to go coast to coast with a seminar we’re calling What Hydronics Taught Holohan. I’ll be doing it a cappella—no PowerPoint, just me telling stories. I may even bring back Dangerous Dan and the Hole in the Ground.
Come May 2016, our daughter, Erin Holohan Haskell, who has worked with us for years, will take over the business. I’ll advise her for some time and continue to write for the magazines for as long as they’ll have me. This will free up more time to play with the grandkids, each of whom comes, like milk, with an expiration date.
Each day is precious.
HeatSpring: Anything else you’d like to share with the HeatSpring Community?
Dan Holohan: Just my thanks for reading me. The reader is always more important than the writer. Thanks for being there for so many years.