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What Every Renewable Energy Trainer Needs to Do to Stay Relevant

Progress can make life better!

My #1 piece of advice to all trainers for the next five years: create a digital version of your content.  Do it now.  Create it in little packets so you can deliver them in an agile way across a variety of formats, and swap them out as your expertise evolves.  Do it for no other reason than it will guarantee your job security, because you’ll have created something hugely valuable for whatever organization you work for.

This article is from HeatSpring’s Online Education Playbook. We’re expert at both clean energy AND how to utilize online tools to enhance training. If you’re business depends on training, click here to read HeatSpring’s online education playbook.

In five years we’ll talk about renewable energy training in a completely different way.  Words like ‘online’, ‘webinar’, and ‘hands-on’ will sound quaint – think ‘world wide web’ – and will recede in favor of words that more accurately describe what we’re trying to accomplish.  I want to describe where we’ll be in five years to give the amazing teachers and trainers in our industry a chance to prepare.  I don’t have the technical knowledge to be a great trainer in this industry, but I rely on great trainers and want you all to have jobs in five years!

We’ve created a series of courses for trainers interested in doing more teaching online, and started writing some straightforward articles like how to convert webinars into courses that might be useful for the trainers out there.  Specifics are better than generalities, so we’ll try to give some tangible suggestions you can actually act on.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

OK…let’s start by establishing the goal of training: to transfer skills and knowledge.  There’s tremendous value to be gained by companies, customers, and the industry if we can transfer skills and knowledge to more people.  Companies can grow, industries can thrive, and customers can be better served.  That’s why manufacturers and distributors and trade schools invest in training.  Everyone agrees it’s critical.  So we start with a list of skills and knowledge we hope to transfer.  You can call this a Job Task Analysis (NABCEP), Learning Objectives (AIA), or whatever.  [here's an example]

As any trainer knows, for true skill transfer to occur you need to do more than tell someone once.  There are really five things that need to happen before they actually get it:

  1. Tell them [lecture]
  2. Show them [pictures or site-visit]
  3. Have them read it
  4. Have them experience it [hands-om]
  5. Have them teach it to someone else

As trainers we live in an imperfect world and never have enough time to do our jobs.  It’s expensive to train somebody, and a huge pain to manage because work schedules change, there’s always turnover, plus new products and new learning is happening all the time.  The training department is rarely funded or staffed appropriately to do the job as well as it could be.

Why is creating digital content such a valuable step?

Creating digital copies of your lessons is a pressure release valve for your training program.  Now you have the flexibility to deliver learning before, during, and after the time you have to physically spend with people.  You can build this set of assets in a way that helps the student experience all five methods of knowledge transfer by making it all available digitally, all the time, and layering field exercises, conferences, meet-ups, and seminars over the top of that foundation.  Training begins to melt into the routine of everything we do, rather than being held up as a special thing that we need to set aside time away from the job for.

Education is going digital – this is not a fad.

I feel fortunate to have recently joined the IREC Standards Committee and look forward to learning from my peers through that work.  IREC provides a tremendous service to the renewable energy industry and I’m humbled by the great work of my fellow committee members.  The small contribution I hope to make on this committee is to update the way we think about delivery methods.  My audacious goal for the next five years is to eliminate the words ‘online’, ‘webinar’, and ‘hands-on’ from the training lexicon in this industry and move toward a set of terms that more accurately describe what we’re all trying to accomplish.  We all have mental models for ‘face-to-face’ and ‘online’ training that I think will melt away over the next five years.  My goal is to be a small part of helping IREC get ahead of that.

The exciting part?  It’s going to make life better!  Digital delivery of basic concepts means you’ll be able to spend more time on exciting content and advanced topics.  You’ll have better visibility of what people are learning and be able to rely more heavily on metrics that show your boss what a great job you’re doing.  We’re entering a golden age of education technology where powerful tools are cheap and easy to use.  Get on board now and you’ll be leading the pack in five years.

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[Video Lesson] Magic Numbers for Sizing Residential Geothermal Systems

Rules of thumb are terrible for designers, but they’re indispensable for bidding and sales.  Here’s a quick video lesson that covers rough air and water flow requirements for an average residential geothermal heat pump system.  Brought to you by John Manning, instructor for the Entry Level Geothermal Professional Certificate course.

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Certified GeoExchange Desiger Certification – The CGD – What is it? Who needs it? How to get it?

Certified GeoExchange Designer Certification is the most prestigious credential that exists within the geothermal heat pump industry because few people have it.  It’s hard to get because you can’t sit for the exam without some combination of education and experience (these requirements are explained in detail below).  It’s also really hard to understand the process of getting it, which turns a lot of people off.  Don’t be afraid!  Read this and you’ll know what it takes to get “CGD” next to your name on your next proposal.

We see two groups who stand to benefit the most from earning the CGD credential:

Group 1: Engineers Bidding on Schools and Government Projects

For a long time, the CGD was simply a matter of pride.  There were 100 or so engineers in the world that identified as geothermal experts and they communicated that to the rest of the world by earning the CGD credential.  More recently, as the market for university and government projects has been heating up, it has been showing up as a requirement on commercial-scale RFPs.  HeatSpring alumni have reported seeing RFPs with a CGD requirement in Massachusetts, New York, and several other major markets.  It’s usually a risk-averse institution like a college or municipal client that requires it.  Restricting the bid list to Certified Designers, especially in a specific state or region, means there are only a small handful of potential bidders.  If your company likes to bid these projects, you’re likely to need somebody you work with to get their CGD.  If you fall into this first group, meaning you have an engineering degree, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Fill out and submit your application to sit for the CGD Exam ($250)
  2. Take the 20 hour CGD Prep Course
  3. Pass the CGD Exam

Group 2:  Geothermal designers & installers with deep experience that want to stand out in the market

Greg Beach with GeoHydro Supply has been designing and installing high-quality geothermal heat pump systems for the past 22 years.  He recently inquired about taking the CGD exam to help them communicate their expertise more clearly.   It turns out engineers don’t appreciate input from a well drilling company on how to correctly size a geothermal system (can you believe it!?!), even when they have 22 years of experience.  Greg felt the CGD credential would help earn them respect within the design and installation team, which I completely agree with.

When you apply to sit for the CGD exam based on your experience, you’ll need to prove that you have that experience.  Here’s how: you need to provide all of the details for at least three projects over the past ten years, including: Address, owner details, heating and cooling load calculations, ground loop design software used, schedule of equipment used, and several other small details.

What if you haven’t been keeping all of that data and information?  Well, you need to pull it together.  We’re offering up our Geothermal Designer Boot Camp as a way to pull your portfolio together and organize it for you CGD application.

To summarize the required steps for the geothermal legacy applicants, here’s how you get your CGD:

  1. Organize and document your portfolio of experience (at least 3 jobs over 10 years)
  2. Fill out and submit your application to sit for the CGD Exam ($250)
  3. Take the 20 hour CGD Prep Course
  4. Pass the CGD Exam

Important Logistical Point

Training and the exam can happen in parallel with your application to AEE and IGSHPA.  If you pass the exam before you’re approved by the AEE, you are a “GeoExchange Designer In-Training” until your approval comes through.

I’ve met so many smart engineers and experienced geo junkies that could, and should, have their CGD.  I’ve been researching and thinking about this a lot in hopes that we could simplify the process for those who want it – so feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions about the CGD: bhayden@heatspring.com or 800-393-2044 x44.

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HS TV Ep. 7: “Geothermal Will Give you Better Returns than the Stock Market”

One of our goals in 2012 is to explore what can be done to make geothermal a mainstream technology.

To get some more insights into what we need to do as an industry, I had a conversion with Harold, the founder and CEO of 360Chestnut.

The discussion is around 20 minutes, here is what we talked about:

  • What 360 Chestnut is doing around educating homeowners about geothermal.
  • Why Harold loves his geothermal system more then his kids (sometimes).
  • How and why Harold decided to get into the geothermal industry.
  • What are your thoughts on installing geothermal versus upgrading the shell of a building?
  • What is the story of 360 Chestnut? Why was it created and what specifically are you working on within the geothermal industry?
  • Why every home should be at least consider geothermal.
  • Do you think 360 Chestnut is more of a ‘geothermal missionary’, someone who is converting non-believers, or are you preaching to the choir, are you looking to find the people that already want geothermal?
  • What do you see as the main problems with geothermal industry going mainstream?
  • How does the fragmented geothermal industry, both in manufactures and installers, make it difficult for the industry to market itself to homeowners?
  • Why should a contractor work with 360 Chestnut instead of creating their own site that attracts homeowners? Why would a homeowner go to your site first, instead of companies that are actually doing the installations?
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Is there a difference between the IGSHPA Installer or Driller Certification for Your Company?

In the past, we’ve written a few articles about what exactly the IGSHPA certification is, if it’s worthwhile and when contractors should take it.

Recently, IGSHPA has announced that they will be creating a seperate certification for drillers, called an “IGSHPA Accredited Drillers Certification“. The certification will be separate and given alongside the tradition the traditional IGSHPA Installer Certification.

To address the many questions we’ve been receiving from students regarding the IGSHPA Driller Certification, we asked the instructor Peter Tavino to answer a few.

Here’s what we want to address about the differences between the two certifications from someone who has taken both and runs a geothermal company.

  1. What’s the difference between the installer certification and the driller certification. Should I take both? Why did IGSHPA split them?
  2. Many of HeatSpring students are sending themselves or their employees and sometimes it’s been confusing for them to figure out which one to go to and can paralyze their decision making process. What advice do you have for these people?
  3. What will a contractor walk away from the course understanding about drilling? Yes, it’s focused on the ground loop, but so what? How will this training make their business better?
  4. What is the story behind the creation of the driller certification. Why was it created? What does it specialized in teaching? What will a contractor walk away from the course understanding about drilling?

Enter Peter Tavino. Note: you can read more about Peter’s credentials here.

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11 Tips for Proper Manual J Calculations for Geothermal Contractors

manual j calculation software

Many geothermal and general contractors pay a subcontractor to perform Manual J calculations when its required.  Accurate heating and cooling loads are absolutely critical to properly designing a geothermal system (See 4 Steps to Designing a Geothermal System) and according to Ryan Carda creator of Loop Links, its the number one more common mistake that geothermal designers make in the design process. If you’re new to geothermal, download the geothermal survival kit to get a better understanding of how the technology works.

In many states, it is now a requirement to perform a manual J calculation to pull a permit for any HVAC job. If you are a general contractor or geothermal installer it will pay to do your own Manual J calculations because so much of the job depends upon accurate loads.  Continue reading to learn the 11 tips to creating the best Manual J calculations for your job.

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Designing a “Sellable” Solar (or Geothermal) Company – Part 2

In my last post, I wrote about my marketing plan for starting a renewable energy company that will be an offshoot of an existing construction company in the great state of Maine. Now, I’m going to discuss how we’ll be setting up the marketing and sales engine that will drive the businesses. Some have asked if I’m nervous about posting this information (as if I’m giving away some sort of “trade secrets”). My answer is absolutely not. Not only do I think it can help other solar and geothermal contractors dealing with similar issues but if anything it will help me more. Writing down the plan down forces me to focus the idea and ask myself if it makes sense.

In this article I will discuss how I plan on creating the processes and metrics necessary to optimize the marketing, sales, design and installation process of a new company that will sell geothermal, solar pv, solar thermal products. Read below for the full article and if you have any questions or comments on the article please feel free to leave them in the comment section, email me at cwilliams@heatspring.com or ask a question on HeatSpring’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/heatspring. Enjoy!

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Geothermal Powers the Statue of Liberty, President Bush’s Ranch, and the Greenest Hotel in the World

Solar guys have been good at show-casing their best solar installations to the public and politicians - the geothermal industry needs to step up and begin to showcase our best installations as well. PR and customer awarnress are key; a recent report by Pike Research shows that while there is huge upside for geothermal, its currently only 1% of the HVAC market. The main obstacles to adoption? Customer awareness. This is a problem we can fix.

If you’re new to the geothermal heat pump industry, read the Geothermal 101 Reading list. It has free tools and articles on geothermal design and installation, and sales and marketing best practices.

Here are a few high-profile geothermal installations that come to mind. Do you know of any more? If yes, PLEASE let us know by commenting below or emailing me at cwilliams@heatspring.com so we can spread the news.

Planet Traveller Hotel

Geothermal is heating and cooling the greenest hotels in the world. The property uses 75% less energy then traditional buildings. It’s located in Toronto, Canada. See the great video that explains the story of the building below.

Geothermal is powering the Statue of Liberty

President Bush Uses Geothermal in his 4,000 Square Foot Texas Ranch


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VERY Basic Geothermal Training


Ground Source Heat Pumps, GeoExchange, Ground Coupled Heat Pumps…the list goes on.  The Geothermal Heat Pump industry has had a lot of names over the years.

In this three minute video, HeatSpring Instructor John Manning explains what Geothermal Heat Pumps are, and dispels some common misconceptions.  It’s a nice introduction for those just learning about the technology, and a quick reminder for those who already know a little bit about how it works.

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What’s Special About IGSHPA Geothermal Installer Certification? Do you Really Need it?

It’s a good and valid question.

If you’re curious what certification is, you can see here: What is the IGSHPA Certification?  But more importantly, what is the value of IGSHPA certification in the marketplace – who is it valuable for and why would one bother to take the training?

While the certification doesn’t necessarily allow you to pull permits (see the review the geothermal license, certifications, and permitting) it does provide you with the knowledge and confidence to sell a job and then perform the design and installation. In addition, many states are requiring IGSHPA certification to to apply for incentives. Connecticut requires it, and Minnesota will provide higher rebates for IGSHPA Certified installers. Read below for the full description of the IGSHPA certification, and if you have any questions about it, feel free to ask us on our HeatSpring’s facebook page.

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