Kentucky distributor, Habegger Corp., is using a surge in geothermal and high-efficiency HVAC sales to fuel major growth.

Teacher Bill Kordenbrock walks technicians through the process of drilling wells and installing a Bryant geothermal system at Habegger Corp.'s new training facility 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.

In a year when many in the HVAC industry are paring down, cutting back and laying off, at least one independent distributor is growing - and even building. The Habegger Corporation, a Bryant distributor with 22 locations in the Midwest and Kentucky, attributes its success in part to a burgeoning interest in green heating and cooling technologies.

Habegger has just put the finishing touches on its new state-of-the-art training center, showroom and warehouse - a building three times the size of its old digs. According to regional managerMike 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, and has plans to expand even more in the next three to five years.

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. 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.

“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. Not so in the new space, which features many opportunities for hands-on learning, with three fully functioning comfort systems, plus a Bryant whole-house standby generator. Students will be able to “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.

“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. All Bryant air conditioners, including geothermal heat pumps, use environmentally sound, chlorine-free Puron refrigerant.

“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.”

Founded in 1952, the Habegger Corporation’s primary product line is Bryant heating and cooling systems. They also provide a comprehensive line of HVAC parts, supplies, services, training and equipment with 22 locations serving markets in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Iowa.

Source: Habegger Corp.