A 30 percent federal tax credit and high levels of consumer knowledge have spurred growth in the geothermal heat pump market. While most estimates have the market at around 1-2 percent, distributors would be wise to educate their customers on geothermal as some predict as much as a 100 percent increase by 2017. Geothermal manufacturer ClimateMaster wants to make that process as easy as possible for distributors.
“The ClimateMaster brand name has significant equity in the geothermal and water-source marketplace,” said John Bailey Jr., senior vice president of sales/marketing for ClimateMaster. “Not only are we the largest player in this marketplace, our product depth is second-to-none. Also, water source is all we do. It is our passion and I think our customers recognize this.”
Bailey has been in the HVAC industry for almost 30 years, the last 17 of which have been with ClimateMaster.
One of the ways ClimateMaster makes life easy is with its online Business Center. This is a Web-based tool that is at the customer’s disposal 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The customer can complete an array of tasks through the portal including ordering and checking shipments and finding the exact part in a specific unit to click and order. ClimateMaster created this not only to allow distributors to save time and money, but to also put a plethora of knowledge at the fingertips of the distributor.
TRAININGTraining is important in any HVAC technology, but especially geothermal. ClimateMaster makes a commitment to training and this is evident during new product launches.
“All product releases are supplemented with a full range of training. The range is from complete product documentation, classroom training at the factory, regional training, as well as training videos stored online,” Bailey said. “These videos help technicians with installations and any possible troubleshooting down the line.”
ClimateMaster worked with distributors to help educate contractors last summer with their GeoFarm series. They would work with distributors to bring contractors in to learn more about geothermal and ClimateMaster products.
Each contractor spent close to an hour at each of the six stations to get a better grasp of the geothermal sector. The stations included Geo 101, pond loop, vertical drilling, directional drilling, new geothermal equipment, and horizontal geoexchange. One such event took place at Wolff Brothers Supply Inc. in Medina, Ohio.
“We couldn’t be happier with the results of the turnout,” Tom Rundle, HVAC product manager for Wolff Brothers, said. “The customers are engaged and glad to be here. They’re really pleased to see all of the work stations and to have ample opportunity to learn about so many facets of the technology and to ask questions. Their level of interest is especially high, too. We’re getting some great feedback from them.”
ClimateMaster values its relationships with distributors.
“I think in any relationship it is important to have open and ongoing dialogue. We try to encourage this,” Bailey said. “We obviously use email and surveys but I personally try to pick up the phone or schedule a personal visit and have a discussion with them. I think it is important to hear the inflection and emotion in their voice as well as on their face during a visit. There is no substitute for that. Many times we just use electronic media, and I feel that the message is not properly conveyed to its fullest.”
PRODUCTSAnd, of course, at the end of the day it comes down to the products. And ClimateMaster is extremely proud of what they produce.
“Within the last year, we introduced the Trilogy Q-Mode, winner of the The NEWS’ Dealer Design Award and AHR Innovation Award, as well as a new line of high-efficiency packaged and split geothermal systems for the residential market,” Bailey said. “In addition to improving efficiency to higher levels, for the first time in the geothermal industry, we introduced integrated variable waterflow (vFlow™) and communicating controls (iGate™) resulting in significant reduction in operating costs and time to install and service these units. These units are also recognized by EPA as Most Efficient in 2012 and 2013.”
The manufacturer’s bestselling line is the Tranquility 30, which was introduced late last year.
“This is an updated version of our Tranquility®27 which was introduced in the early 90’s. This was the first unit to go over 27 EER in our industry,” Bailey said. “It is a work horse of a machine, efficient yet has a proven record of being very reliable. The TE30 is the TT27 with updated refrigeration components and the addition of vFlow and iGate. We sought to combine the best of the old technology with the latest enhancements. The TE30 differs because of integrated pumping and controls, and it ensures performance while reducing the dealer’s installation time and costs. It combines a significant EER increase with variable-speed pumping.
GEOTHERMAL FUTUREWith the tax credits in place until 2016, the future of geothermal looks strong. ClimateMaster believes the key to selling geothermal is to simply communicate the benefits.
“Most of the time consumers in the market for HVAC systems are not even presented with geothermal options due to misconceptions that dealers have about geothermal and high drilling costs in some markets,” said Raj Hiremath, director of marketing - regional products, ClimateMaster. “With reasonable drilling costs and the tax credits, geothermal systems don’t cost that much more than high-efficiency air-source systems, and the incremental cost has a quick payback due to operating cost savings.”
Bailey agrees and believes the market will continue to grow.
“We feel the demand for energy-saving products will continue to increase. Everyone knows that energy is a scarce resource and the cost will continue to rise,” Bailey said. “We expect the demand for our energy saving products to grow in all markets, commercial and residential. The only struggle is upfront cost. However, if a person or business does a very careful review of the long term savings versus the initial cost, geothermal is a no-brainer.”