Geothermal HVAC…Your roadmap to profits

Do you remember the first time you found a profit center that really rocked? For me, it was in the early 1990s. Egg Systems was a thriving HVAC service company. Property managers were calling on us more frequently, and we found it pesky that we were asked for budget figures to upgrade equipment in their office and warehouse facilities for planning expenditures. It was a tremendous amount of work, and I didn’t think would result in a return on my investment.

Still, we did a good job in researching the best upgrades and calculating the tiered costs of different types of capital expenditures for mechanical replacements and upgrades. Mostly, I did it so they would continue to use my services in the meantime.

About 12 months later, the investment of my time paid dividends. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. I was getting purchase orders that exactly resembled my budget figures for these property managers, and I was grateful that I did my research! I had allowed for respectable profit margins, and found myself realizing those profits.

Geothermal heating and cooling is here to stay. It's not just a fad or a gimmick, but a disruptive technology that is changing and improving everything about our business. Even though geothermal has been around for quite some time, those getting in the business now have the opportunity to ride an incredible wave of profits. There is a right way to go about getting into the geothermal business.

I'm about to share with you what I believe to be the roadmap for success in geothermal heating and cooling.

1. Get trained/certified.
2. Get your name out there.
3. Integrate geothermal as a first offering. Every time.
4. Forge alliances.
5. Participate regularly in continuing education.

The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) has the most widely known and accepted geothermal design courses available. Most of the time, these involve a few days to a week of training to become certified in different geothermal focused disciplines, such as installer, drilling, designer, or building analysis. IGSHPA is located at Oklahoma State University, but there are training classes going on all around the country. Many consumers, architects and engineers go to the IGSHPA website to select their geothermal designers and contractors. Getting trained, and then getting your company information on the IGSHPA Directory of Accredited Designers and Installers, is an important step on the road to geothermal success.

At the last IGSHPA Convention, I delivered a presentation entitled, “Energy Efficiency is Over-Stated and Over-Rated: Let's Market the Tangibles of Geo.” The title is an attention grabber that reflects waning confidence/interest of some buyers toward energy efficiency; it’s like an unknown quantity to many potential buyers. Get them excited about some of the other multiple benefits of geothermal HVAC, because oftentimes, it’s not just about energy efficiency. Sometimes, comfort, longevity, simplicity or just the elimination of outdoor equipment and associated noise will do it for a particular buyer!

The Geo Exchange Organization (GEO) is the geothermal industry organization that represents geothermal HVAC interests with legislators at many different levels, all the way to lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. Geo Exchange maintains a comprehensive list of contractors, engineers, architects, suppliers, drillers and other trades that are affiliated with the geothermal heating and cooling industry. This is the forum to which many consumers look to select a geothermal professional. What’s more, GEO provides up to the minute status updates in the form of newsletters, and informative workshops all around the country. You need to have your name here.

There are great geothermal equipment manufacturers. It is important to forge alliances with a manufacturer/distribution network that will support your needs as seamlessly as possible. Develop a relationship with your manufacturer’s representative, and make sure you really understand the equipment they provide, its capabilities and limitations, and its options and abilities.

Continuing education is imperative in all industries; geothermal is no exception. The American Ground Water Trust has perhaps the best up-to-the-minute workshops. Called, “Geothermal Heating and Cooling Innovations: Design, Financing and Regulation” workshops, these are insightful and comprehensive. Attendance offers continuing education credits for contractors, architects, and engineers. It's quite likely there will be a workshop hosted at a location near you within the next 12 months.

It cannot be overstated the importance of these annual regional forums for your business! The people that come together at these annual workshops forge alliances of which any successful contractor needs to be a part. As an example, in Baltimore on April 2, we listened to 40-minute, comprehensive presentations on everything from legislative updates and the status of current Senate bills, utility funding for geothermal projects, new drilling techniques, variable frequency driven geothermal heat pumps, hybrid systems, standing column geothermal wells, and even a presentation on a multi-thousand unit neighborhood going geothermal (you should have seen the contractors lining up to talk to that guy!). Let's just say that there were many people on the edge of their seats, grateful to be shaking hands with movers and shakers currently designing geothermal systems that have to be installed by someone.

Additionally, manufacturer’s representatives were on hand with displays from ClimateMaster, Bosch ThermoTechnology, WaterFurnace, piping suppliers, specialty manufacturers, distributors and geothermal drilling companies. Suffice to say, one of these presentations would provide any forward thinking entity with most of the relationships needed to proceed with the successful geothermal HVAC venture.

This is the roadmap. For some it may be best to attend a one-day workshop first, to see what it’s all about. Follow it and you will succeed as a leader in the greenest thing to happen to air-conditioning ever; geothermal heating and cooling.

Jay Egg is a licensed geothermal consultant, columnist, and the owner of EggGeothermal. He has co-authored two textbooks on geothermal HVAC systems published by McGraw-Hill. He can be reached at jayegg.geo@gmail.com.

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