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

The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) now has a separate program for drillers, called “Vertical Loop Installer Accreditation.” This accreditation is similar to the traditional IGSHPA Installer Accreditation but specifically focuses on the tasks geothermal drillers must understand.

We have received many questions about the history of the two different accreditations, how they are different, and the benefits of each to a business owner. Here to answer these questions is Peter Tavino. Peter is a HeatSpring instructor, Professional Engineer, Licensed Septic Installer, an IGSHPA Accredited Installer, Certified GeoExchange Designer and Vertical Loop Installer.

1. What’s the difference between the installer certification and the driller certification. Should I take both? Why did they split them?

The certifications are more closely related to each other than they are different. Both certifications provide the successful candidate with the official geothermal credential required to do their work properly.  Both provide IGSHPA membership, a certification diploma and a wallet size identification card. Each allow listing on the IGSHPA website, where clients and others can verify who the installers or vertical installers are in their home state.

Just as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has specialty categories such as Interior Design versus Maintenance & Operation versus Homes, so too does IGSHPA recognize well drillers and related professionals as “geothermal specialists.”

Classroom time is efficiently spent on borehole drilling issues instead of heat pump specifics, which do not pertain to those without an HVAC license.  IGSHPA heard from and understood that drillers want to focus on drilling issues mostly and developed this workshop in response to them.

For accredited installers who wish to gain more knowledge in the outside loop field, they can achieve both credentials. Although a vertical installer would not normally then become an accredited installer unless a new interest develops in interior HVAC work.

Design professionals who strive to become Certified GeoExchange Designers would do well to understand all the aspects of the drillers course in preparation for the CGD.

Lastly, all the conversations that pop up during coffee and meal breaks are drilling related.  No longer need a driller sit by politely as the latest desuperheater hook up techniques are discussed, when they could be hearing how another driller handled an unexpectedly large groundwater discharge on a tight property.  And although a national program, the workshop and classroom chat will be geographically oriented. New England drillers for instance, will focus on the heating benefits of ground source energy, where residential cooling becomes a “gimme.” While those drillers below the Mason-Dixon line focus on the capacity of their earth mass to accept heating BTUs rejected from the air conditioned buildings.

Of course the basics of a heat pump are explained so that a driller can tell a customer how the refrigerant moves heat instead of makes heat. IGSHPA marketing materials are included.  And the instructor can answer questions about what’s happening after the piping has been placed though the concrete wall by the vertical loop installer.

2. 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

Although drilling companies often attempt in-house training for their new people, the results can often follow the telephone game we played as children. The message that starts at one end of the group gets changed radically after many people have interpreted it.  This can lead to unnecessary attention to items that don’t matter and lack of attention to issues that do. Saving time by understanding what is due diligence for a borehole drilling and loop grouting operation is the key. If the course can save just one embarrassing pressure failure problem requiring re-digging and repairing, it pays for itself.

3. What is the story behind the creation of the Vertical Loop Installer accreditation? Why was it created and what does it specialize in teaching?

IGSHPA has recognized that HVAC contractors do not drill geothermal borehole wells. And well drillers do not venture inside to assemble and install heat pump systems, with associated plumbing, electrical, controls and duct work.

IGSHPA therefore established a separate category specifically for well drillers, who can become Accredited Vertical Loop Installers, specializing in their expertise of:

  • Deep soil and rock drilling
  • Installing HDPE U-bend loop piping
  • Bentonite grouting them completely
  • Socket or butt heat fusing the horizontal lines
  • Flushing and purging air and debris from the loops
  • Adding correct amounts of antifreeze

Anyone can go to the IGSHPA website to the Business Directory button and find Accredited Vertical Loop Installers in their state. These are individuals who have completed an approved training course, passed the exam, and are members of IGSHPA.


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