Diversification Keeps Spafford & Sons Stabilized - Part 1
June 1, 2009
Jeff Williams is something of a maverick. He rarely takes “No” for an answer and enjoys a good challenge. He also is very resourceful and deliberate. In his 29 years of drilling, Williams’ deep commitment to work and his sense of ethics have borne fruit. He is vice president of Spafford & Sons Inc., based in Jericho, Vt., with offices also in Sudbury, Montpelier and Franklin, Vt. The company has been in business for 62 years, and has a solid reputation for all facets of drilling and water service, including water well and geothermal drilling, hydrofracturing, excavation, water hauling, geothermal line insertion and fusion, and thermally enhanced grouting. Spafford’s slogan: “We do the whole job.”
Tom Williams, Jeff’s father, began his work for John and Norm Spafford in 1964. Jeff joined the company in 1980. In 1982, Jeff’s uncle, John Williams, joined them, and the next year, Jeff’s brother, Tim, followed suit.
Tools of the TradeIn 1984, Tom bought the company from the Spaffords; the Spafford name enjoyed regional equity, so it stayed. Today, Tim is vice president of operations. Tom, now 67, continues to drill wells every day. Jeff says proudly, “He runs a 2007 Atlas Copco T4W for geothermal and water drilling with a 1,250/350 air package on it.”
The company recently bought a rig made by ChemGrout. “It’s a new, high-pressure geothermal grouter mounted on a trailer,” Jeff explains. Because of the widely varying geography and applications, the company also operates a Schramm T555 1,050/350 and a T450W Schramm with 900/350 air. The T4W allows for drilling deeper in geothermal applications – in some cases, more than 2,000 feet. “We’ll buy a new piece of equipment if we know that it can pay for itself in five years, meaning full depreciation,” says Jeff. “I once went six years on a drilling rig and really regretted it; I won’t do that again. It uses resources borrowed from other parts of the company. Our average turnover on a drilling rig is seven to eight years. Typically, that means 6,000 to 7,000 hours of run time. After that, we sell ’em or trade ’em in on new equipment. It’s tougher now; the current economy challenges that, but we’ll see how the concept holds up.”
Constant Pressure“If there’s a customer need tied to a well water or geothermal application, there’s got to be a solution,” Jeff proclaims. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our offerings. New technology – we’re looking at it. Manufacturer training – we’re there. And just as importantly, we’re the place where all of the ideas and insights lead to, so it’s our responsibility to clients not only to be attuned to new techniques and technology, we’ve got to apply the knowledge skillfully. That’s how we assure our future in the business and stay in the lead.”
One of the technologies Spafford has embraced is constant-pressure well water pumping, a solution Jeff applies for a wide variety of well water and geothermal applications, whether for on- or off-grid use. “Jeff’s always thinking outside the box,” says Dan Fletcher, eastern regional sales manager for Grundfos Pumps. “He began to apply pumps in a different fashion years ago, working on a theory that he had a better solution for homes and businesses with needs for out-of-the-ground domestic water, and for geothermal HVAC. His formula evolved over time, and by now it’s played-out over dozens of successful applications.”
William’s best recipe for on-site domestic water and geothermal applications involves the use of, typically, a 1-HP to 5-HP, three-phase VFD submersible pump in the domestic water well. The water drawn from the well is used for both the domestic water and – with heat that’s exchanged from it – thermal energy for the geothermal HVAC system.
Though similar to a “pump and dump” geothermal well arrangement where water is harmlessly drawn from one source for the thermal energy it holds and then rejected back into another source, Jeff adds a new dimension to the water’s use. “The water is clean and unaltered,” he explains. “So why not use it for all domestic water needs while it’s in the system? This is something that Carl Orio (operator of Water & Energy Distributors in Hampstead, N.H., a geothermal sales and design firm that supplies ClimateMaster heat pumps) has been doing for years in New England. We work very closely with them and have integrated their designs into the work we do.”
Jeff has settled on a recipe for larger systems that includes these two key components – a Grundfos S-Series constant-pressure submersible pump system (typically a 3- or 5-HP pump with a CU321 controller) to handle the main task of pulling water from the well, and a Grundfos BMQE EZ-Boost pump.
The S-Series submersible pump is married to its variable-speed control center, which is set for any pressure between 40 psi and 100 psi. In an application where both geothermal water circulation and a home’s domestic water needs are met, Jeff may apply a 3-HP submersible S-Series pump, set at just 40 psi to meet the geothermal system’s call for a circulation rate of 50 gallons a minute. The EZ-Boost pump’s task is to throttle the pressure up to 50 psi or 60 psi for water use within the home.