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.
Inside Sales / Technical Services
Director of Continuing Education
Johnstone Supply #155
2661 Geraldine Rd.
Waterloo, IA 50703
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.