Slowdown Prompts Omaha Contractor To Explore Geothermal

March 2011, Vol. 66 No. 3

“Vertical drilling certainly had a learning curve,” Schmitt says. “You go through different layers of the earth’s crust and that brings a lot of different situations. We learned to adjust many aspects of the drilling process; things such as mud mixings, how to effectively clear cuttings from the hole and adjusting to the many different types of material that could be encountered. Learning to become a good vertical driller will likely be an ongoing process and probably not something that anyone can learn in less than a year.”

With regard to installation specifics and drill plans, Schmitt explains that the HVAC contractors they work with leave it up to NEBCON to handle the details. Among the things Schmitt and his crew must consider in advance of starting a new install are things like the location where the bore will penetrate the house, specifics regarding the location of the loop system, or in the case of a vertical drill, the physical location of the bore, materials and fabrication and actually connecting the system to the heat pump and making it operational.

“For the most part, we try to penetrate the foundation through the floor and come up close to the new geothermal heat pump,” Schmitt says. “This provides for a much cleaner installation. We also choose the loop placement, a decision that requires knowing the intricate details of the existing septic system (if applicable), and any utilities -- gas, water, sewer and such -- along with consideration for the terrain, including hills, slopes, low lying areas and property lines of course.”

With the site plan completed, Schmitt will then draw up the drill plan, including specifying drill positioning to minimize footprint, drilling angles, tooling most effective in navigating specific and anticipated soil conditions, the type and size of loop material to be installed, estimates the time necessary to complete the installation and any adjustments that may be required along the way.

“As with any new piece of equipment, we had a few bugs to work out initially,” Schmitt says, “but we are very happy with how the drill has performed. The auto rod loader is great because we don’t have to handle every rod like a conventional well driller has to. And the means to go horizontal, vertical or any angle in between eliminates the need for another machine.”

Bright future
Schmitt is delighted with the expansion of company’s services via ground source heat pump installations and remains optimistic about the future.