Pursuit of Perfection
It isn’t hyperbole when Antonio Poccia states he’s been building geothermal heating/cooling systems since he was a kid and has been mastering radiant heating jobs since 2005.
Poccia says he wasn’t always the nicest brother growing up and his father, Colin, the founder of Perfection Contracting, made him work on jobsites since he was 14 years old.
“I wasn’t allowed to stay at home,” Poccia says with a laugh.
Poccia went to work for his father full-time when he turned 18 and hasn’t looked back since. Gathering all that knowledge from such a young age - and a continuing desire to learn - has helped Poccia take Perfection Contracting, which he bought from his father in 2004, to new heights and become a leader in the New Jersey radiant heating and geothermal systems market.
Poccia estimates Perfection Contracting will install an average of 100,000 to 200,000 sq. ft. of radiant heat tubing in an average year, topping out at 500,000 sq. ft. during a big year. “Usually the local supply houses never have enough for me,” he says.
He adds the company will complete 60 to 80 geothermal systems each year and the work done by Poccia’s crew speaks for itself.
“All our work comes from referrals,” Poccia says. “We don’t do any advertising.”
An all-in-one-shot dealFor every radiant heating and/or geothermal system Perfection Contracting completes, it keeps a database full of details, pictures and notes regarding the project. Poccia and company rely on those notes when needed.
“There’s always some correlation to past jobs,” Poccia explains. “The longer you’ve been doing geothermal the bolder you are with your designs. I have complete confidence in my designs.”
One job in Chatham, N.J., provided a unique set of challenges for Perfection Contracting. Alan Walters was building a new 4,400-sq.-ft. home and wanted a geothermal system that includes radiant heating. Perfection used NIBCO 1/2-in. PEX tubing, Grundfos pumps and SharkBite ball valves to connect the tubing and bring the system together. Walters also required Poccia and his crew to install Warmboard as the subflooring.
On any radiant heating job, Poccia will design the system on paper long-hand. He says doing it this way gives him more flexibility in making the systems run better than any computer program could do.
“What are the parameters? What if I move this manifold 10 ft.?” Poccia asks. “I can play with that so I can utilize the smallest circulators.”
He says that having radiant heating in conjunction with a geothermal system takes away from the overall return on investment, but Walters insisted on the added comfort of radiant heating. “He wanted those warm floors,” Poccia says.
Despite the luxury, Poccia was able to rein in the energy used for the Walters’ residence from a continuous 87 watts to 15 watts with a 9° pressure drop. It has 10 radiant zones with two Grundfos circulators.
“That’s a huge savings,” Poccia notes. “We stretch the capacity out.”
For every radiant job Perfection takes on, the company assembles pump stations. Poccia says that is an important step as it makes each system look and run at an optimum level and keeps labor costs low.
“We prebuild our pump stations at our shop to the specifications that we’re looking for,” he says. “We put this whole thing together with the zone valves, the circulators, the pump controllers and the mixing valves. We prebuild and send it to the job so it can be connected onsite.
“These guys that are building the stuff onsite, it can’t possibly come out as nice because you don’t have all the tools and materials at your disposal that you do at your shop. It’s just much better when you’re building it in a controlled environment.”
Another demand from Walters was to place the mechanical room in a specific area so his future plans to finish the basement wouldn’t be hindered. This didn’t end up becoming a major issue, however.
“We had to make sure the mechanical room was in a specific location,” Poccia says. “It worked out well though because it was where we both wanted it.”
The mechanical room was a blip on the radar. The initial drilling for the Walters’ well proved to be a complicated matter. With $15,000 budgeted for drilling, the first session was a struggle. Perfection did not encounter rock at the depth where it expected it to be. Installing casing for the system was not an option because of the high expense.
“Any tax credit Walters would’ve received from installing a geothermal system would’ve been used up,” Poccia explains.
He brought in a new driller to do mud-rotary drilling. Once completed, the crew found that too much sediment would seep into the geothermal system and the original design had to be altered. Perfection designed a filter system that would block the sediment and allow water through, causing no issues for the homeowner.
“We found a way to make it work,” Poccia states. “We listened to what the geology was telling us.”
Perfection installed a WaterFurnace boiler for the geothermal system. It equipped the system with WaterFurnace’s Intellizone so Walters can control the temperature in every room of his house. Poccia says he’s impressed with the equipment’s efficiency, warranty and the controls.
“I can install the thing fearlessly,” he says. “WaterFurnace always has been state-of-the-art. They also look nice, they’re quiet and they never under-perform.”
A new era of PerfectionAfter Poccia purchased Perfection from his father, he quickly enhanced the company’s profile. The company has grown 311% since Poccia took over. Perfection Contracting currently has 24 employees and 12 vans - including three Toyota Scion XB cars for the salespeople.
The only thing the recession did to Perfection Contracting was to hinder how aggressively the company grew, but the downturn couldn’t stop it. Since 2004, Poccia says the company has grown from 8% to 30% per year. He credits Perfection Contracting’s sales process and the quality of the work done in the field as the biggest factors for its major growth spurt.
“We were bursting at the seams,” he says. “The recession hasn’t affected us. Our growth rate slowed, but we continued to grow.”
Another major improvement Poccia did for his company and its bottom line was to move the company into a 13,000-sq.-ft. building in 2008. The move allowed Perfection to apply the skills and smarts it utilizes in the field and bring it home. The new headquarters has radiant heating, a geothermal system and a solar array, and the benefits were noticed immediately. Poccia says the energy used at the old building - a 2,600-sq.-ft. office - was significantly more than in the new location.
“It’s a net-zero home,” he says of the new building.
All the technology that Poccia has at his disposal provides the perfect system to the customer, even if the customer is himself.
“We take a lot of pride in making the system just right for the house,” Poccia states. “It’s not over-designed and it’s not under-designed. And it’s going to have the lowest operating costs. We try the best we can to make the jobs look as good as possible.”