Although 2010 should prove to be a "mixed bag" for the overall economy, it will be a great year for the geothermal industry, WaterFurnace President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Huntington told more than 400 HVAC contractors and distributors during the company's Annual Sales Meeting in Phoenix.

"There is a tremendous thirst for knowledge about geothermal in Washington," Huntington said. "And our voices are being heard through the lobbying efforts of the Geothermal Exchange Organization." According to Huntington, the energy bill moving through Congress is very pro-geothermal. Also in geothermal's favor:

  • Electric utilities are mandated to generate 15 percent of their power through renewable energy sources.
  • The geothermal certification test is now the fourth-most-taken exam administered by North American Technician Excellence.

"All this points to a very positive climate for our dealers," Huntington said. "The sales of geothermal equipment are expected to increase at an accelerated rate for the next few years."

Michael Albertson, WaterFurnace's senior vice president of sales and marketing, highlighted programs aimed at benefitting contractors. The focus of the programs is lead generation, which is being accomplished through customized local advertising and use of the company's Gizmo and Savings Calculator online tools.

From a product-development standpoint, Albertson said, WaterFurnace will continue to focus on higher efficiencies and price-point initiatives. In particular, the company will be re-engineering the Versatec Ultra series of commercial water-source heat pumps with a smaller footprint, creating a bigger opportunity for the replacement market. Eleven models are ENERGY STAR-rated and exceed ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1, Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, efficiencies.

Tim Shields, chairman of the board for WaterFurnace, said the meeting was an opportunity to see how the company his father, Jim Shields, started 27 years ago has grown from three employees to 280.