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U.S. Homebuilding is Way Down, but WFI Industries’ Geothermal Heat Pump Sales Are Way Up – & Still Climbing

“People are telling us they want to do the right thing. They want to be green,” says Bruce Ritchey, president of WFI Industries Ltd., as he explains why, despite the borderline depression that the U.S. housing market is in, sales of WFI’s geothermal heat pumps for homes and other buildings is way up – and likely to go higher.

Loves Heating & Air
Online Article
Sunday, November 18th, 2007

The geothermal heat pump is a green technology which, unlike solar and wind power, doesn’t get a lot of attention. Geothermal heat pumps utilize the Earth’s constant temperature to heat and cool water that is pumped underground through a closed loop pipe that runs up into a house or other building. Geothermal heat pumps are an environmentally-friendly source of heating, cooling and hot water

Fort Wayne IN-based WFI Industries, which trades on the Toronto stock exchange, has been in the geothermal heat pump business for decades. But after long being only an “insignificant niche” in the home heating and cooling market, geothermal heat pumps have started going mainstream, Ritchey said.

To be sure, geothermal heat pumps have long been mainstream in other countries such as Switzerland and Finland. While geothermal heat pumps still account for less than 1% of the U.S. heating and cooling market, Ritchey said his company was starting to take away business from natural gas in suburban areas of America. He added that the company was doing more work with existing housing, replacing oil burners and the like with the kind of green system more consumers now want.

“We’re at a tipping point,” Ritchey said, explaining that high fuel prices and the impact of Al Gore’s global warming campaign on the public conscience have helped push up WFI Industries’ sales and profits.

WFI Industries most recently reported third quarter net income of approximately $3.36 million or 28 cents a share, compared with $3 million or 25 cents a share in the prior-year period. Sales were up more than 17% to approximately $28.4 million compared with $26.1 million. The company also just raised its quarterly dividend to 17 cents a share, payable Dec. 3 to holders of record Nov. 16.

As good as all that sounds, Ritchey indicated during an interview that even better times should lie ahead. “We’re poised to grow,” he said, noting that there could soon be new federal and more state legislation in the U.S. that incentivizes people to put in geothermal heat pump systems. (WFI also does significant business in the Toronto area.)

Ritchey said he does not give guidance but that, if he did, “It would be a gas.” He quickly added that the growth his company is seeing likely is being seen by many other green building materials companies. “Everyone is doing well even though the (housing) market is in a tank,” he said.

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