It had been more than 35 years since Junior Kool and wife Beverly opened their first Vermeer Midwest location in Eureka, Ill., so expanding the dealership’s original facility – built by Kool in 1976 – was imminent. Kool was among the first to join Vermeer Manufacturing Co. more than a half century ago, first as a weld grinder on the factory floor before moving into a customer service role. Later, with encouragement from founder Gary Vermeer, Kool then left his position with the Pella, Iowa-based manufacturing company, and started what now ranks as one of the largest distributors of Vermeer equipment in North America. Under his leadership, the network of Vermeer Midwest locations has grown to nine, extending to five states and employing hundreds of people.
After a series of expansions and facelifts over the years, growth in business at the original dealership finally had necessitated a facilities change. Today, Kool’s son, Steve, has assumed the majority of managerial role responsibilities. He shares rationale for the company’s recent expansion. “The simple fact is that we had outgrown our Eureka facility,” Kool says. “It reached a point where we had people on top of people, and the limited space was challenging to manage. We’re excited to be moving into a new building just down the road from Eureka to Goodfield, Ill. The new facility will increase our shop size considerably, along with the parts storage area and office space. With more than 31,000 square feet, our new location is almost double the size of the original facility.”
Geothermal PartnersIn planning the design and specifics of the building, Kool enlisted the professionals of Hinrichsen Heating and Air Conditioning, headquartered in Goodfield, to design a geothermal system to heat and cool the new facility. According to Kool, the decision to go geothermal was a no-brainer. “First and foremost, geothermal is good for the environment,” he explains. “It is a sustainable, cost-effective and efficient heating and cooling source. The long-term payback also was a major factor. We calculated about a 10-year payback timeframe, and over the long haul, we project saving a lot of money on energy costs by installing a geothermal system. Vermeer also is committed to supporting geothermal, having developed equipment specifically applicable for these types of installations, so it also was an opportunity to utilize our equipment.”
Founded in 1987, Hinrichsen Heating and Air Conditioning is one of the leading geothermal HVAC contractors in the nation. The company installed its first geothermal system in 1998, and has since installed more than 1,500 units. Company president Bruce Hinrichsen shares a few of the specification highlights about the system installed for the new Vermeer Midwest building.
“We specified six, 6-ton units for the new Vermeer Midwest facility,” Hinrichsen says. “We’re projecting operational costs for the system at approximately $2,100 annually, compared to $11,000 per year, had we installed a high-efficiency natural gas HVAC system, so the savings will be tremendous. The comfort level within the areas of the building affected also will be maximized, thanks to the two, two-speed DC motor compressors.”
Land Services Inc. (LSI) of Port Byron, Ill., was hired as the loop field installation contractor. LSI was founded by brothers Tom and Mike Bussert in 1995, both having worked for a pipeline contractor for several years before venturing out on their own. The company’s primary focus is horizontal directional drilling (HDD) work, mostly within a five-state Midwestern geography. The company has completed a variety of different types of jobs, ranging from fiber to larger-diameter pipeline bores. “We got started installing geothermal loop systems sort of by accident,” Tom explains. “About 10 years ago, we started getting calls from geothermal system installers that were way ahead of the curve, asking if we could install these horizontal lines that were close to each other, approximately 15 feet deep. We didn’t even know what it was that we were installing at the time, but as it became more popular and feasible to do, we jumped in the market because we had the equipment.”
While installing geothermal systems would not be considered the core of LSI’s business, the 20-plus installations completed by the company annually have been a nice addition. “We consider geothermal a very lucrative, emerging market for us,” notes Bussert. “As acceptance of geothermal increases and more people become aware of the immediate cost savings in monthly utility expenses and long-range payback, the sky’s the limit. Right now, I think much of the initial reluctance is related to up-front costs and not the long-range benefit, including the environmental advantages.”
The InstallationThe geothermal system for the new Vermeer Midwest dealership facility is composed of 48 vertical closed loops – each extending approximately 150 feet deep – that transfer heat to and from the ground. LSI’s licensed and IGSHPA-accredited (International Ground Source Heat Pump Association) crew used the D20x22FX Series II Navigator flex-angle drill, manufactured by Vermeer, to install the loop field.
According to Bussert, the flex-angle drill allowed his crew to complete three separate bores from the same drill site location, simply by adjusting the angle of the entry points by approximately 20 degrees. The process began by digging a mud-reclaiming pit, approximately 10 feet long by 4 feet deep, and positioning the drill within close proximity. The flex-angle drill then completed the first three bores, was repositioned to the opposite of the mud pit for completing three additional bores - six total within a very narrow footprint. Bussert selected a 4 3⁄4-inch-diameter PBC bit to navigate the heavy clay soils intermixed with narrow layers of coarse sand. The drill also was used to complete the installation of the individual closed loops within each bore.
“One of the nice features about the flex-angle drill is that it also functions as a push tool for installing the loops,” Bussert says. “After each drill hole was completed and cleaned, we would trip out, then swap out the drill bit with the push tool, hook directly onto the loops, and push back down into the bore. After reaching the bottom, the loop then was unlocked from the push tool and grouted securely into place. It is a really nice feature of the drill.”
Bussert further explains that the mud-recycling pits also served a dual purpose once drilling was complete: “The pits we used for recycling the mud were vacuumed out and cleaned up and used as header pits for consolidating the series of loops. From there, everything was brought together, tied into the return line, and taken from there to the building. It worked great.”
LSI’s drill team was able to complete between four loops and five loops a day, finishing the installation of all loops within a two-week period. After making some minor adjustments in response to the varying clay/sand soil conditions that required experimenting with varying bentonite/polymer mixtures, Bussert was pleased that the installation phase of the loop field went pretty much according to plan. He was especially pleased with the performance and flexibility of the flex-angle drill.
“Most installers of vertical loop systems also are well drilling contractors that have truck-mounted drills,” he explains. “Nobody wants those big pieces of equipment in their yards. It is great for us to be able to tell prospective clients that the installation equipment we use is small, yet effective. We have the ability to drill slant angles within confined areas, and use the same machine to thread the loops down the bore at let’s say a 45-degree angle. The flexibility opens up all kinds of options.”