Event Attracts Hundreds Down on Geo Farm

November 22, 2010
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More than 200 contractors made their way to Verasteau Lane where distributor Corken Steel and manufacturer ClimateMaster joined forces for the Geo Farm training event.

AURORA, Ind. - The address 4340 Verasteau Lane is not the easiest place in southern Indiana to find. One must purposefully be off the beaten path of Interstate 71 near Cincinnati to find it. Even lost strangers rarely stumble across it. But for several hundred geothermal evangelists seeking training, the Verasteau House at the end of the drive is much more of a magnet than a navigational mistake.

The Second Annual Geo Farm Event was held down on Bucher’s farm in early September. It looks like a place Bob Dylan might well have sung about, but no protesters were present this time, just a lot of contractors seeking education and training. Dwight Bucher owns a scenic 300-acre farm that overlooks a peaceful section of the Ohio River, and also owns Bucher Services, a geothermal drilling company. His farm played host to one of the most inclusive geothermal training events in the country. The location provides ample surroundings to demonstrate vertical, horizontal, and lake loop installations. In addition to loop installations, a complete ClimateMaster geothermal system is installed in the Verasteau historical home, built in 1811, adjacent to the Bucher property.

Corken Steel Products has been distributing ClimateMaster products since 2000. The two companies co-sponsored the massive training event at Bucher’s farm. Bucher’s ties with Corken Steel go back to the time when his brother was the director of operations at Corken.

Jay Kaiser, vice president of sales and marketing at Corken Steel Products, one of the largest ClimateMaster geothermal distributors, said of Geo Farm, “Me and Dwight sat down a few years ago with Andy Bucher, our sales manager, and dreamed this thing up.”

The three were talking about how they might utilize the huge farm and came up with the idea to develop geothermal training programs for the drilling side of the business. The Bucher company had been in the excavation business for many years, but got into drilling only a few years ago, partially at the encouragement of his friends at Corken Steel.

Kaiser said, “About 20 percent of our equipment sales are geothermal. We try to connect contractors and drillers, such as Bucher Services, so that the jobs are completely turnkey for homeowners.”

John Bailey Jr., senior vice president, sales and marketing for ClimateMaster, who was in attendance, said, “Geothermal sales have been growing, especially with the more generous tax credits of up to 30 percent of the installed cost (uncapped), and these credits run into 2016; whereas the $1,500 tax credits are set to expire at the end of this year.”

A pond loop demonstration involved the sinking and raising of a pond loop on the Bucher farm during the event. Contractors were drafted into service as men carried the loop to the pond whereupon it was sunk within 15 minutes.

TRAINING STATIONS

Jeff Corken, president of Corken Steel, said early in the morning, “We are expecting about 200 people today, which is 100 more people than in 2009, our first Geo Farm event.” However, from observations later in the day, they had easily eclipsed that mark.

Attendees rode hay wagons to each of the six training stations that were positioned around the farm. Included were stops for geothermal design, pond loop and fusion, a ClimateMaster review and update, vertical and horizontal loops, the Verasteau house ClimateMaster Tranquility® installation, and a horizontal boring demonstration.

At station No. 4, Jeff Williamson from Gehring Heating and Electric taught a training session on horizontal trench loop installation. He discussed a six-pipe horizontal loop and explained designs for a variety of soil conditions. According to Williamson, clay soil is best for horizontal trenches, and responded to one person who asked for a rule of thumb regarding horizontal versus vertical loops, “It of course depends upon where you are, but for this area, 800 feet per ton for horizontal, 300 feet per ton for vertical.”

Attendees rode hay wagons to six training stations, including ones on geothermal design, pond loop and fusion, a ClimateMaster review and update, vertical and horizontal loops, the Verasteau house ClimateMaster Tranquility® installation, and a horizontal boring demonstration.

Mike Wolking of KW Mechanical, Covington, Ky., asked, “How much space is required between the [horizontal] loops?” Williamson said, “About 1 foot between pipes with a gradual bend on the return end of the run.”

More questions ensued:

Q: What about flammability of methylnol?

A: In the normal diluted state, which is 21 percent, it is not flammable. Even up to less than a 50 percent dilution, it is not flammable.

Q: What is the minimum depth for a horizontal loop?

A: That depends upon the soil condition, but in southern Indiana it is 4 feet.

Jeff Williamson from Gehring Heating and Electric taught a training session on horizontal trench loop installation.

Station No. 2 combined a pond loop demonstration, freeze protection comparison, and a pipe fusion demonstration. The pond loop session involved the sinking and raising of a pond loop assembled on what appeared similar to a latticework raft. The audience was drafted into service as about six men carried the loop to the pond whereupon it was sunk within 15 minutes.

The Verasteau House, which was built in 1811, had a training station on the first floor, where explanations were given on some technical updates such as Energy Star requirements related to geothermal equipment and compressor soft start kits, and a white paper on formicary corrosion. Effective July 7, 2010, ClimateMaster announced tin-coated coils [u-bends] on packaged products, as a measure for preventing corrosion. The speaker projected that several manufacturers of unitary equipment will begin shipping tin-coated equipment in a majority of the U.S. markets.

Jay Kaiser, vice president of sales and marketing at Corken Steel Products, got everyone off to a good start the morning of the Geo Farm event.

The basement of the historical house served as training Station No. 5, where the Tranquility product installation was discussed.

And so the day went with plenty of questions, answers, and interaction at all of the training stations.

During the Geo Farm event two different types of vertical drilling rigs were demonstrated, as well as a directional boring machine. Other demonstrations included pond loop installation, and horizontal trench loops.

For vertical loops a mud rig or an air rig is commonly used. A mud rig is used for sand and gravel, or soil with underground water. An air rig is used for drilling in solid rock. Bucher Services displayed its own air rig, while the Baroid Industrial Drilling Products company, a Halliburton division, brought its mud rig to demonstrate.

John Christ, of Baroid Industrial Drilling Products, discussed grouting procedures for vertical drilling.

GEOTHERMAL POTENTIAL

Regarding commercial and residential applications, Jerry Class of Tom Rechtin Heating and Air Conditioning, Bellevue, Ky., said, “All of the schools are coming out with geothermal specifications. Residential new construction makes a lot of sense for geo applications because we can help owners build the cost into their mortgages. We are trying to weigh all the benefits for residential retrofit, but we haven’t quite gotten into that market yet.”

However, all business is local. Just a little further to the west, Jim Phelps of Hodgenville, Ky., said of his opportunities, “The commercial business has all but dried up, but the residential geothermal work has still been quite attractive for us.”

All who attended the mostly outdoor experience of Geo Farm were also treated to some amazing food, courtesy of Dwight Bucher and his family. Surprisingly, a lot of the food was prepared early in the morning at the farm. In addition, those attendees from Ohio or Kentucky could sign up for continuing education hours as may be required for Ohio Master and Kentucky Master/Journeyman programs.

For more information on the event or Corken Steel training opportunities, contact Jeanean Vincent at 859-815-1253 or jvincent@corkensteel.com.

Publication date: 11/22/2010

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