Open Forum

Improving our reputation as an industry

  • 1.  Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-22-2017 10:48
    What methods do you think we could use to improve successful installations of GSHPs? Do we need to deal with poor installations and if so how would that be handled?

    Garen Ewbank

    Ewbank Geo Testing, LLC
    Fairview OK

  • 2.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-23-2017 09:19



    You pose a great question. This is often a dilemma not just in the geothermal section of our industry, but the HVAC/R market as a whole. I wish there was a simple answer to this situation, but unfortunately there are many factors involved. Right now there is a shortage of qualified technicians and installers, there is also still a great need for training. Training at the manufacturer level, training at the distributor level, and training at the contractor level. We as a distributor have focused on training for our equipment customers in a lot of markets. Over the course of the last 7 years, we have focused on this training and invested a lot of time, energy and money into it. We are just now starting to see the effects of this in the industry. Many of our customers are embracing better practices as well as equipping their staff better. This not only results in a better relationship with our customers, but helps them be more profitable as well.

    There are many factors to your question, but it is my belief that training is a key part to the solution.


    Tom Knight

    Inside Sales / Technical Services

    Director of Continuing Education

    Johnstone Supply #155

    2661 Geraldine Rd.

    Waterloo, IA 50703

    Phone:  319-233-0525


    Fax:      319-233-3001


  • 3.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-23-2017 10:39
    A good system begins with good design. An hourly energy model is crucial to sizing the system accurately and calculating how much pipe is needed in the ground to service the system properly. An hourly energy model should be used as a design tool to inform the owner / architect / mechanical system designer about things that can be done with the building or mechanical system to reduce, and more importantly, to balance energy loads to and from the ground heat exchanger as much as possible. This will reduce first cost and create a system that will operate efficiently for the life of the building. Balancing the loads will also prevent long term temperature degradation that will reduce heat pump efficiency over time. A good design is only as good as the is incumbent on the design engineer to ensure the design is installed as specified. That means site inspections, especially during construction of the ground heat exchanger. The distribution system must be designed with the operating parameters of the equipment in mind. The ground heat exchanger must be designed to minimize pressure drop to minimize pump power to minimize electricity consumption addition of excess pump power (heat through friction) to the ground heat exchanger.

    Ed Lohrenz
    GEOptimize, Inc.

  • 4.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-23-2017 13:26
    I would agree with Mr. Knight and Mr. Lohrenz.  GSHP needs good design, followed by good installation practices, which will only be done once training for GSHP's is done by the contractor.  Also don't forget about the inspection.  Locally, there is no inspector that is fully aware of what to look for in these installations, other than the normal, i.e. breaker size for amperage, wire size (NEC issue), ducts sealed, etc.  

    A number of folks locally ask the contractor first to design a system.  I only know of one contractor that has a design engineer on staff.  Of those contractors locally that advertise GSHP, I suspect most don't have any real training.  I may be mistaken, but of those that advertise that I visit, (I'm a community college instructor so I get out to talk to local employers),a number tell me they may advertise installations, but don't really know about design and service of the systems.  I've seen bad press locally due to poor installations.  And unfortunately I've gotten calls about DIY installations that are beyond poor installations - they are awful.  Of course they often attribute these awful installations to "heat pumps don't work" rather than take the blame for using PVC pipe with glued fittings, etc.    

    But things are looking up locally.  I've seen a few really good installations lately.  Local contractors can have design assistance through one of the local distributors and its manufacturers reps.  Also, I know a a company locally that has 2 Accredited Installers through IGSHPA.  As I and some others talk about this wonderful technology, we are getting some people to think about training, education and calling in qualified people to design, and then do, the work.  

    Best Regards.

    Charles Cooke

    Kankakee Community College
    Kankakee IL

  • 5.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-24-2017 07:45

    I would have to echo Ed Lohrenz and say that a good system begins with a good design, but more importantly that a good design is only as good as the installation of that system.


    Along these lines, I think the best way to improve successful installations of GSHP systems is to include an unbiased, 3rd party commissioning agent on the project during ground loop construction. This independent commissioning agent should have a background in GSHP design and also be familiar with current installation standards and best practices. It should essentially become their duty to ensure that the ground loop is installed to the engineer’s specification. As such, it is critical that this agent be on-site frequently during ground loop construction, as this is the only time that installation errors can be identified and corrected without a significant additional cost to the system owner.


    Independent 3rd party commissioning is a way to hold both designers and installers accountable. If an installer is taking shortcuts that will harm the long-term performance of the system, then proper commissioning will uncover it. Alternatively, what happens if the installer executes a flawless installation to the engineer’s specification, but after a few years the loop begins to overheat? If the system was commissioned properly, then the team will know that the installation was sound and it was the design or building load calculation that was flawed.


    If done correctly, independent ground loop commissioning should benefit all parties and will help professionalize our industry. Building owners will gain peace of mind that they are receiving a quality system, engineers can rest easy knowing that the system will be installed according to their specifications, and installers will feel confident knowing they have someone who will validate their work and stand behind their installation if the system performance gets called into question.

    Seth Parker
    Project Manager, Melink Geo
    Melink Corporation
    O: 513-965-7348
    C: 937-935-6425

  • 6.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-27-2017 08:14
    It was great to meet everyone at the conference, and I look forward to helping out where we can. On this discussion topic, every industry or trade (plumbing, hydronics, electrical) has the same concerns about quality and safety of installations. An obvious solutions is to codify minimum requirements, and then train building inspectors to inspect for the important aspects of installation. I know - easier said than done -  but the first step is now complete: the model Code now exists in ANSI/CSA C448-16. C448 becomes the official "Code" once jurisdictions adopt it. A standardized training program to inform inspectors about C448 could be developed and made available to all those jurisdictions for a fee.

    Lance MacNevin

    The Plastics Pipe Institute
    Ashburn VA

  • 7.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-27-2017 12:12
    Seth is right on the mark -- some sort of 3rd party oversight is needed.  We created an app called GeoAssured to directly and most cost-effectively solve the 3rd party oversight issue.  It is a GHP/GHEX specific self-guiding app to allow the geo contractor or GC or anyone else on site to collect 100% of the info and details needed for an expert to remotely confirm proper installation.  Although on-site inspection is great, it is only worth anything if the right "expert" is doing the inspection which is generally cost prohibitive.  Instead, we use Time & GPS tagged photos, check lists, alarms, live video, etc. to gather all the needed data and let us, or you, remotely perform the same level of detailed oversight.  In reality, this oversight will usually start off with semi-live feedback being needed until a new geo contractor understands what is required, then will reduce to more of a detailed record keeping task with minimal oversight required.  Included are stacks for residential and commercial jobs, and specifically for C448 compliance assurance.  One excellent by-product will be a far richer set of data for the permanent installation record.

    We will be re-releasing GeoAssured later this year and hope it will help our industry meet this urgent need. 

    Rick Clemenzi, PE, CGD
    Geothermal Design Center Inc.
    Asheville, NC

  • 8.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-24-2017 09:48
    I feel there are a lot of good points that were discussed here in this topic. But i feel that the consumer has been left out of the equation. They are the end purchaser of the Geothermal system. How many of them do you think have even heard of IGSHPA? Very few i feel, a good emphasis should be driven to the consumer via maybe the electrical co-operatives. They have the fastest link to the consumer market thru there monthly billings. And letting the electrical co-ops know about IGSHPA and its new found direction creates a win win situation for all.

    Best regards!

    James Strandlund

    Strandlund Refrigeration
    Mora MN

  • 9.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-24-2017 14:28
    All, some really good points are being discussed.

    As an industry how do we insure the design, energy and grounds loads were done correctly?

    Next we must address standards and procedures then move to testing, evaluation, measurement and verification (TEM&V). All of this does not carry additional costs. The design, energy and grounds loads must be conducted. I have seen replacements done on the basis of what was tonnage was previously installed and then "rules of thumb" designed the ground heat exchanger.

    Third party TEM&V must be required and particularly if any credits or incentives are received for the project. I suggest that incentives be aimed at the TEM&V. Generally incentives are aimed at the equipment. The reason incentives are offered is to improve the business case for those giving the incentives. When projects go south no one wins except the one that cashed the check.

    Jim I do like you comment on engaging the RECs but even more important is we need to let customers know that we as IGSHPA members have been trained and we follow the training.

    Garen Ewbank

    Ewbank Geo Testing, LLC
    Fairview OK

  • 10.  RE: Improving our reputation as an industry

    Posted 03-27-2017 15:54
    Great comments all - better training, better design, site QC by the person who designed the system, etc.  Might add that for commercial systems one of the worst problems is bad controls - the EOR might have a good sequence of operation but if the controls contractor is not in synch, everything from the ground loop to the technology in general will be blamed.  As with making good contract administration site visits for the loop and hardware installation, consider adding in CA for the controls.  And consider most 3rd party Cx teams may not savvy GSHP fundamentals so do not necessarily trust a 3rd party Cx abilities; experienced GSHP designers or contractors might want to verify the Cx people assigned to their job know the correct commissioning steps/procedures for a geo installation. Might save a ton of grief later.

    Another issue is wholesalers selling to the DIY guys and contractors who have not been trained as noted by others in this forum.  I fear we will always have this problem but we need to keep hammering on this weak link in our industry.  The vendors who do this have to one day understand that a big sell today might kill their future sales of heat pumps.

    The other part of bad installations are those projects, both residential and commercial scope, where they are driven by a utility, state/province, or federal rebate (I think GEO might be making progress to get the US to reinstate federal tax credits).  Unfortunately most incentives have no validation requirements.  So be prepared for more problematic systems if the US federal incentives are re-authorized.  I think we will have more good systems out there but we all know a bad job's rep travels on a faster horse - we need to brag up all of the good jobs!

    [Terry] [Proffer] [Geothermal Manager, CGD]
    [Major Geothermal]
    [Wheat Ridge] [CO]