Techs learn the ins and outs of installation and troubleshooting at Habegger Corp.’s new, state-of-the-art training center.

In a year when many in the HVAC industry are paring down, at least one independent distributor is growing - and even building. The Habegger Corp., attributes its success in part to a burgeoning interest in green heating and cooling technologies. Founded in 1952, the Habegger Corp. is a Bryant distributor that also provides a comprehensive line of HVAC parts, supplies, services, training, and equipment with 22 locations, serving markets in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, and Iowa.

On April 12, Habegger opened a new state-of-the-art training center, showroom, and warehouse - a building three times the size of its old digs. According to regional manager Mike Lohbeck, the company is also making two new hires, and will add a third position before the end of the year.

“We have weathered the recession so far without a single layoff,” Lohbeck said, “and now we’re pleased to be adding new jobs.” The company has also added a new truck, increased its warehouse space from 85,000 to over 310,000 cubic feet, established a same-day delivery policy within Fayette County, Ky., and has plans to expand even more in the next three to five years.


Technicians who broaden and deepen their training now, said Lohbeck, will have a leg up in a very tough market - and that will likely help them keep a more secure foothold as business begins to pick up again. The beefed-up training center will make it possible for more technicians to learn the ins and outs of environmentally friendly technologies that have gained popularity since federal tax credits became available for installing efficient equipment.

“There was not a designated classroom space in our old building, so fewer people could be trained at a time, and the atmosphere was not as conducive to learning,” said Lohbeck. That’s not the case in the new space, which features many opportunities for hands-on learning and can hold up to 40 HVAC technicians at a time, according to Lohbeck.

Teacher Bill Kordenbrock (right) walks technicians through the process of drilling wells and installing a Bryant geothermal system at new training facility of Habegger Corp. in Lexington, Ky. The pipes for the system are exposed for each training session, so techs can learn from a real system rather than from books and diagrams.

And the units do double duty, according to Shawn M. Wittenborn, customer service rep-Lexington. The center has “a variety of working units that both heat and cool the facility and double as training units to train our customers on the products we sell.”

Students can touch and feel while they learn to install, troubleshoot, and maintain a Bryant Hybrid Heat gas furnace/geothermal heat pump, a high-efficiency, variable-speed Evolution heat pump, and a Mitsubishi Mr. Slim ductless heat pump air conditioning system, with two zones, as well as a Bryant whole-house standby generator.

Besides courses on these units, other classes are taught there as well. Wittenborn stated, “We also teach general heating and cooling-related subjects such as gas heating, oil heating, geothermal service and installation, basic electricity, understanding wiring diagrams, to name a few.” He added, “Many of our classes are focused on HVACR tech training, but we also offer some classes for business owners, to improve their business.”

(Left to right) Nate Decker, Melvin Litteral, Shawn Calton, Bill Schmutte, and Shawn Wittenborn, the Habegger team, awaits to take orders.


When it comes to geothermal training, students learn not only about the equipment, but about the whole system, from inside to out-of-doors. “We have the geothermal system set up so that we can go out to the wells, and they can see how the pipes are fused together and follow the pipes all the way back inside,” said Lohbeck.

He said many techs working in traditional HVAC technologies would be interested to witness firsthand how ground-source heat pumps use the even temperatures of groundwater rather than outside air as a source of high-efficiency heating and cooling.

Habegger’s new showroom, warehouse, and state-of-the-art training center in Lexington, Ky., is three times the size of its former facility.

“Especially in our region, these systems are absolutely essential to know about if you want to remain competitive in the future,” Lohbeck said. “We had 300 percent growth in geothermal sales last year over the year before. Green technologies are in high demand, and dealers and contractors who know how to install and repair them will be in high demand as well.”

Lohbeck said that Habegger was taking this opportunity to more effectively cover its current territory, by boosting warehouse space and improving its training center, while hiring new inside salespeople. “In the next three to five years, we are planning to expand our territory farther south in Kentucky as well,” he said. “Interest in green technologies has helped us not only survive, but also grow, through one of the hardest periods our industry has ever seen. And we don’t plan to stop growing anytime soon.”

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Publication date:10/25/2010