By B. Checket-Hanks
Of The NEWS Staff
CINCINNATI - When a supplier has been in business for 57 years, they have figured out how to keep their fingers on several pulses - not just the HVAC industry, but also those involving the economy and politics. With a variety of input, Habegger Corp. has been growing its influence in the geothermal market, helping to guide contractors into this high-end field.
“Geothermal systems and accessories are a significant and growing part of our business in all locations,” said Branson, director of marketing for the company. “We locally stock equipment, accessories, and supplies, including loop pipe, throughout our region.” The supplier provides complete HVAC equipment, parts, and supplies support through its 22 locations.
“Consumers are demanding environmentally friendly, energy-efficient comfort systems for their homes, and with the recent increases in government, utility, and factory incentives, the demand for geothermal systems has grown significantly,” he said.
TRAINING CONTRACTORSInstalling a high-end product requires high-end support. “We specialize in Bryant brand geothermal systems,” Branson said. “We differentiate from other wholesalers by providing comprehensive support to our customers, including sales and technical training, service support, marketing support, and an expanded inventory company wide.
“Most of our customers are seasoned HVAC veterans,” he added, “but many are still new to geothermal applications. That’s why we offer multiple-day courses focused on consumer benefits, sales, system design, installation, and service. Our customer service managers have been factory trained to support installation and service questions and local training.
In order to promote this growth, the company needs to increase contractors’ interest and comfort with the technology. “We have training programs throughout the regions,” which include Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, and Ohio. The company trains contractors on consumer benefits of geothermal systems, such as energy and comfort; technical issues such as sizing, installation, loop designing and building, and how the system works.
The company also takes advantage of manufacturer education programs such as Webinars. The company said it supports “the continuing education of dealers and contractors in the communities we serve. Business, training, and technical education programs are provided to help [them] learn about the latest products, effective sales techniques, and efficient business practices, as well as refresh on the fundamentals.” The company supports training by North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the Bryant Academy, Carrier University, and Mitsubishi Electric HVAC Advance Products Division.
“The demand is strong for both residential and commercial applications,” Branson said. “Residential applications account for about 90 percent of our total geothermal system sales. While we have select regions with a strong focus on commercial applications, our primary business is focused on residential business in most of the regions.”
INCENTIVES, FIRST COSTSHabegger has set goals for its regions and territory managers, and current trends would lead one to believe that they are not out of reach.
“For many applications, customers can save over $7,000 through tax credits and rebates, and up to 60 percent in their heating and cooling energy costs. The federal tax credits of 30 percent of the installed cost of a geothermal system are good out to 2016, so we see the demand continuing and growing in the years ahead.”
Traditionally, geothermal loops have primarily been applied horizontally in large, open lots. “However, the demand for geothermal solutions in traditional suburban and urban neighborhoods is growing, so there is an increasing demand for systems with vertical loops,” said Branson.
“A few of our customers have purchased the equipment and become certified in vertical loops,” he said.
“However, most subcontract out this portion of the installation due to the cost of the equipment and specialized skills required for operating the equipment. We help our customers obtain certification when desired, and we help them connect with loop providers when the need arises.”
In order to control first and future costs, Branson said, “a homeowner needs to select a certified and trained geothermal dealer.” He recommended that they go to dealer locators on manufacturers’ Websites to identify qualified installers of geothermal systems based on zip code.
Getting qualified contractors to do the work, he said, ensures that the job will be done right the first time and sized right. “Good contractors and drillers won’t leave a mess either,” he said.
He also advised that homeowners make sure the job’s contractors are coordinated. “If the consumer is being asked to coordinate the trades, that can be a problem.”
IN THIS ECONOMY“With our customers, geothermal systems are providing another solution that they can offer to homeowners,” said Branson.
“With our strong geothermal line and comprehensive support, we are also attracting new customers. Geothermal systems are a solution that homeowners are asking about. People want to do the right thing to lower their costs, and to help the environment.”
The demand for geothermal systems has been rising rapidly, he said, and it’s continuing to grow. “Our geothermal system sales are up over 40 percent. Continuing infrastructure developments, as well as employee and customer training, are part of our strategic plans for further geothermal growth.”