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toni 08-07-2007 03:10 PM

bad comments/ geothermal
I have been doing some research on geothermal heating/cooling and was wondering if anybody who has had this system installed has anything bad to say about it other than the initial installation cost. and if so what? thanks much.

bigMikeB 08-07-2007 06:08 PM

If it will be an open loop have the water chemically tested, the only problems I have had were corrosives suspended in the water and had to change out the coax coils out to cupronickel.

walt1122 08-16-2007 10:48 AM

Hi Toni, I don't have anything bad to say. Just be very careful. Learn as much as you can. Talk to as many installers, contractors as possible take some classes. There is a lot of misundersanding and poor quality installations giving the product a bad name.
To take advantage of the rebates offered by our electic company a few years ago I took some classes to get certified as an installer. I put in a closed-loop of over a mile of 3/4 plastic pipe in 5 seperate lines 1,100 feet each (longer than is recommended, usually 700 feet or less is normal I was restriced by the size of the field I could build so I compensated by oversizing the pump). Each trench was roughly 100+ feet long and 4 feet wide x 5 -6 feet deep( big boulders and a rock ledge limited how deep I could go) and they are about 150 feet from the house and contains a mix of water and methanol. MOST IMPORTANT POINT THEY MUST BE EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE OVERALL THEY MUST HAVE THE SAME RESISTANCE TO FLOW!! I used a hybrid slinly design ( long distance to and from the slinky loop of 700+ feet. System works fine. I rely amost exclusively on this system. I have the electric back up turned off and only use it on the coldest of winter days. I get about 105F or better out of the registers without the electric so yes it can feel cold if it blows on you but it has plenty of BTU's to heat the house just fine. Be careful here!! don't over build for winter heat and destroy your ability to dehumidify in summer. Max of 25% OVERSIZE for summer cooling. System has to run for a while to enable it to take the water out of the air otherwise you have cold damp air that feels clamy. Pay attention to the installer of the duct work too. You want bigger than normal cause you don't get the high volume of high heat you want and need lots of air movement since it's not as hot as a regular fossil fuel system would be. Hope this helps. Oh and yes even with the rebates it was a lot of up front expense but i look at my electic bills that are less now in this house (2,600 sq ft) than they were in our old house (1,800 sq ft) with a air-to-air heat pump. I think I did the right thing.

good luck


bigMikeB 08-16-2007 05:51 PM

What areas do you both live in?

walt1122 08-16-2007 06:11 PM

Hi bigMikeB, I'm in central New Jersey. Near the PA border. Zip is 08827


bigMikeB 08-16-2007 06:35 PM

I was just curious, I have seen geo work really well in someplaces. One company I worked for installed several new commercial systems out on Sandy Hook (Ft. Hancock)
and they were nothing but problems. In what I have seen, they work well from NJ south.

walt1122 08-16-2007 07:44 PM

Yeah bigMikeB, seen some good installations and heard some horror stories. It seems to be all in the design and install. That is one of the reasons I got involved. I had one guy come to give me an estimate. He looked at my property and said all I needed was to dig up an area about 24 X 24 - 4 feet deep and put in a couple rolls of piping and that was it!! Heard the same thing from others. A whole develoment not far from here was built around the geo thermal advantage but the fields were so undersized tha many of the homeowners gave up on them and went to oil fired units while others had to did up their back yards and add new lines. Too many people don't know what they are doing and unfortunately the industry and the consumer has to pay for bad jobs. Just cause a guy can do HVAC and that isn't an easy thing either. (I took some classes to better understand how heat pumps work and it is a lot to understand) but it still doesn't mean he can do geo thermal. From what I've seen it takes a lot skill and knowledge.


toni 08-18-2007 07:24 AM

Thanks for the helpful info.
I live in southeastern OH. I have talked to a couple of installers and have been given approximate over the the phone quotes of $18,000. Like I said this was over the phone and everyone seemed to be leaning tword the drilling of wells. I have approx. 1 and 1/4 acres and my house is a 4,000 sq. ft. tri level ranch built in 1966. Believe it or not the one installer actually tried to talk me out of going geothermal. Telling me that since our electric company no longer offers the all electric discount that I was probably better off just replacing my propane furnance with another one.

bigMikeB 08-19-2007 03:07 PM

I would talk to someone at the power company and see if they will tell you why they changed their stance.

walt1122 08-19-2007 07:26 PM

In our case it was because of "lack-of-interest" Not enough people were willing to try what is perceived as a experimental (exotic) system. Too much bad press and misunderstanding over what it is really all about. Does anyone think their refrigerator, air conditioner, or freezer is exotic? remember how people felt about air-to-air heat pumps! They don't work except in Florida!! HA!! it is just perceptions and it's to bad geothermal has the stigma that it is no good. There is heat everywhere even down until absolute O kelvin and you can gather it together and have heat. I remeber seeing something like that ther is more than 90 percent of the heat still available at 32 F as there is at 100 F. Geo thermal heat pumps are economical and are so much "greener" than anthing else currently available. Non polluting at the home and government regulations keep the electric producers incheck. How many tons of pollution are produced by all the homes poorerly burning fossil fuels.

maybe some day geothermal will finally get the recognation it deserves.


dmaceld 08-21-2007 11:29 PM


Originally Posted by toni (Post 58295)
I have talked to a couple of installers and have been given approximate over the the phone quotes of $18,000. Like I said this was over the phone and everyone seemed to be leaning tword the drilling of wells. I have approx. 1 and 1/4 acres and my house is a 4,000 sq. ft. tri level ranch built in 1966.

Just as note of clarification, geothermal more properly refers to heat from the earth in the form of natural hot water. What you are asking about is more properly labeled geosource. Not a real big deal in my mind, but some in the business will make a point of it.

Anyway, I can't write from experience, but can pass on what I've learned in coming up with a heating system for my, hopefully soon, new house. What you are looking at are water source heat pumps, and there are two basic variations, open loop and closed loop. With open loop you draw water from a well, or pond or river, or wherever, suck some heat out of it and dump it back. If you do wells you probably will need two wells, one for source and one for return. The single greatest issue, besides cost of drilling, is water quality. You have to have potable quality water or you will have fouling problems in the equipment. This has already been mentioned. Your supply well will have to provide a good quantity of water also. The other, closed loop, requires something on the order of 200 to 500 feet of loop per ton of heat pump capacity. Those loops can be vertical or horizontal. You avoid water quality issues with a closed loop system. Drilling and trenching costs vary quite a bit around the country so you will need to determine those costs for yourself in your area.

To get a good cost estimate you need a good heating/cooling load calculation for your house to determine what size heat pump you need which will determine how much well or trench cost you will have. Don't just assume your present heating system size will give you that number.

Another system to look at is direct exchange heat pump. In this system the freon loop from the pump is installed directly into the ground, either vertically or horizontally. Two companies make them, ECR Technology and Earth Source Energy. I plan to use an ECR Tech heat pump. They generally use a loop 100' long, top to bottom, per ton of capacity. I'm looking at a cost around $6000 to drill 4 vertical holes for the loops for 4 tons of capacity plus about $9,000 for the heat pump system. This includes heating for domestic hot water also.

If you have the confidence to use it, buy the two month version of HVAC Calc heating/cooling calculation program and do a heating/cooling load calculation on your house. It cost only $49 to use the program for two months and in my experience compares favorably with what the HVAC contractors use.

Whatever direction you think you might go, the first thing to do is make sure your house is up to snuff with insulation, tight windows, air leaks plugged, etc. A house built in 1966 surely can stand a lot of energy efficiency improvements! It'll save you money on monthly energy bills as well as the cost of the new heat/cool system.

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