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Old 04-07-2009, 09:42 AM   #1
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


My husband and I recently purchased a home, and after purchase, discovered that the entire heating system needs replaced. The system being replaced is a 2.5 ton heat pump, a 15 kw electric heat strip furnace, the refrigerant lines, and the connections to the ductwork. We received a quote from the HVAC company that had performed the original diagnostic, and they said they could give us all the equipment, including installation and labor, etc. for $4400. I was wondering if anybody here could tell me if this is a good price?

Also, my husband is very interested in installing a ground loop geothermal heat system. Anybody here with any knowledge on geothermal and the pros and cons versus electric heat? We were thinking that with us having the spend several thousand to replace the electric system, it may be worthwhile to just pay a little more and go for the geothermal. Any advice or opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

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Old 04-07-2009, 09:46 AM   #2
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


A little more for geothermal? Your basic geo starts at $20-25,000 and takes a long time to pay off with the energy savings. Prices vary from region to region so we cannot give good advice on that part without knowing where you live and the exact model #s of the equipment. I would talk to your electric utility as most of them have cost comparison info for the different types of heating systems. Why does the whole system need replacing, burnt out compressor? You should get a 2nd opinion in case the 1st guy is BSing you.

Good Luck


Last edited by yuri; 04-07-2009 at 09:54 AM.
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Old 04-07-2009, 09:53 AM   #3
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


Yeah, I'd say 20-25,000 is a big difference. MY husband did some research online, apparently the info he found was incomplete or inaccurate. Thanks for clearing that up!
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Old 04-07-2009, 09:56 AM   #4
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


I edited my post, was asking why the whole system needs replacing rather than repair.
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Old 04-07-2009, 10:03 AM   #5
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


Geo systems are cheap to operate.

But REAL expensive to put in.

The money you save by staying with an air to air system like you have. Will pay your heating and cooling bill for the next 20 years or more.
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Old 04-07-2009, 10:05 AM   #6
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


The system needs replaced because the furnace is orginal to the house (1978), and hadn't ever even been cleaned, by the looks of it. 2 out of the three coils in the furnace don't work, and the heat pump won't even turn on, and the compressor appears to be bad. I went with a company which I received several positive referrals for, so I was hoping that they wouldn't pull anything like that... but I know it can happen regardless of referral.
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Old 04-07-2009, 10:17 AM   #7
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


At that age the units are probably obsolete anyway. I would get 3 or more quotes from reputable companies. In real life you get what you pay for; Cheap is not Good and Good is Not Cheap. Yo pay more for Lennox, Trane vs a lot of the no name brands but you usually get better quality with the bigger guys. Proper installation AND startup is incredibly important. Make sure they do a heat load/loss calculation to get the proper size of units. Blower units with variable speed ECM motors are more energy efficient and increase the SEER/efficiency of the whole system. Ask more questions if you need more info.

Good Luck
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Old 04-07-2009, 10:31 AM   #8
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


Quote:
Originally Posted by mss119 View Post
I was wondering if anybody here could tell me if this is a good price?
Get 5 bids and plot them.

If you get
..x.....xxx..........x
$0.....|.....|.....|.....|

you can see the true cost of doing the job in your zip code, today.

If you get
..x...x...x...x....x
$0.....|.....|.....|.....|
you need to get several more bids so you can see a cluster forming at the true cost.

Reliability of HVAC stuff is a State Secret, but if the unit's electronic circuit boards have surge suppression devices at crucial points this is a good sign, at least as far as protecting the equipment from power quality (external) problems. If you live in Florida you really need these things.
The tech should be able to show you these devices on the controller board.

If the company has a policy of designing in unreliability, a Web search may tell you this.
With Google's advance search option, you could type merchantability along with the manuf. name and phrases like
"class action", or
"v. manuf. name" to bring up lawsuits.

In general, more efficiency = more parts = more complexity = less reliability. If a furnace with six components of equal reliability lasts 10 years, a furnace with 9 parts would last 7 years.

You can also use the Web to price out critical parts before you buy the system so you're not surprised when it's repair time.
This link
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furnace
names the critical parts.

It also turns out that undersized ducts may shorten the life of your furnace, so they should check that also.
http://www.google.com/search?client=...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Last edited by Yoyizit; 04-07-2009 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 04-07-2009, 11:10 AM   #9
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


"Reliability of HVAC stuff is a State Secret, but if the unit's electronic circuit boards have surge suppression devices at crucial points this is a good sign, at least as far as protecting the equipment from power quality (external) problems. If you live in Florida you really need these things.
The tech should be able to show you these devices on the controller board.

In general, more efficiency = more parts = more complexity = less reliability. If a furnace with six components of equal reliability lasts 10 years, a furnace with 9 parts would last 7 years.
"

Hate to be negative but there are NO techs that have electronics degrees and can show you the "surge protection" aspects of a board which may not exist. They don't build them into boards due to the cost factor. A more efficient unit is more efficient because of the larger condensor coil and not necessarily because it has more parts. 2 stage furnaces are more complicated but are more efficient and comfortable.

Last edited by yuri; 04-07-2009 at 11:13 AM.
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Old 04-07-2009, 12:04 PM   #10
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


Quote:
Originally Posted by yuri View Post
"but if the unit's electronic circuit boards have surge suppression devices at crucial points this is a good sign, at least as far as protecting the equipment from power quality (external) problems. If you live in Florida you really need these things.
The tech should be able to show you these devices on the controller board.
"

Hate to be negative but there are NO techs that have electronics degrees and can show you the "surge protection" aspects of a board which may not exist. They don't build them into boards due to the cost factor.
From an HVAC forum: this OP apparently disagrees.

"I know several devices have them installed internally from the factory but there are many others that do not (some with documentation saying to add them, others that do not say to add them at all)."

Power quality problems can be reasonably foreseen by any HVAC manuf.
When the furnace fails, the companies that didn't install these things might be able to rightfully say, "you have power quality problems" but that isn't the whole story.
If a $2 Transorb can reasonably protect an $800 circuit board, a company that doesn't install it is probably not showing Due Diligence (but who's to know)?

Last edited by Yoyizit; 04-07-2009 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 04-07-2009, 12:27 PM   #11
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


Its all about economies of scale, lowballing by cheaper manufacturers and what the consumer is willing to pay. If a HVAC co builds 100,000 of a unit a month and saves $2.00/board that adds up quickly. One seminar I went too a major player apparently is counting the # of sheet metal screws they use in each furnace. LOTS of consumers only buy the lowest price unit but expect top notch quality/doesn't happen. The massive new home builders and piece work pricing of installs have driven down the quality of the entry level units. Lennox keeps their units top quality and sells Armstrong as tier 2 and AireFlo as tier 3. Those other units are okay but you get what you pay for in the real world.
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Old 04-07-2009, 12:44 PM   #12
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


I have lost commercial exhaust fan change outs.
because another contractor was 5 dollars less.
This was a 4000 and some dollar change out.
Including 80 ton crane service(dang roof was high).
Highway and road blocking permits.

That 2 dollar suppressor, is what can determine who gets a 1,000,000 board contract, and who doesn't.

Carrier, owned by UTC. Doesn't even use the highest quality UTC boards.
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Old 04-07-2009, 12:54 PM   #13
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


I would like to respectfully disagree with the cost of Geo at 20-25K. Yes, it can easily cost that much when bid as a turnkey project. But, there are alternatives, and with the 30% (no cap) tax credit, the price can be much less, but it takes some initiative on the part of the homeowner, as they would need to act as their own general contractor and hire separate disciplines

I only put this out there, as this is a DIY forum. We all know that there are some tasks that a homeowner should not DIY, but DIY can, and in most cases should include professional help.

A complete 2.5 ton geothermal ground source heat pump with 12 KW backup, pump station, manifolds, and all piping,can be purchased for around $6,500.

3 horizontal loops can be dug for (avg) $5,000

The system can be installed (after the homeowner has had the trenching done, the geo pipe slinky looped in place and covered) and piping is ran inside and manifolds are complete for (avg) $3,500

$6,500 equipment
$5,000 Dirt Work
$3,500 Indoor installation
.............
$15,000 Total
$ 4,500 Tax Credit
.............
$10,500 Final Cost


Ok, I want to go back to the part where I respectfully disagree. I truly do respect all of the pros here. Their knowledge base is huge on the technical level. I do not offer this in disagreement with the original thought that $4,400 is not a great deal. It is, and on an older home without sufficient insulation, I think that the added expense of Geo would be hard to recoup in a reasonable time. I just wanted to show an option.

In the end, I would consider a dual fuel heat pump/gas furnace system to maximize the efficiency to cost input.

Good Luck
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Old 04-07-2009, 01:17 PM   #14
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Electric heat prices vs. geothermal


Do you know of any good websites that describe the different types of geo systems, piping and how they are laid out and installed and sized etc.

Thanks
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Old 04-07-2009, 01:49 PM   #15
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Quote:
In the end, I would consider a dual fuel heat pump/gas furnace system to maximize the efficiency to cost input.
This is not an option. The area we bought the home in is apparently the one area of the county where gas service is not even an option. It's electric or perhaps fuel oil. For ease if nothing else, electric would be the way to go for us.

Ultimately we are most likely to go with an air-to-air system for the heatpump with resistance heat as a backup (we live in Northeast ohio, which is energy star zone 4). The resistance heat will probably see a fair ammount of use in the dead of winter.

A note about our heatpump: The furnace is as old as the house and I have no qualms with replacing it. However the heatpump itself is only 10 years old. I'm no expert, but it seems to me this thing should have about half its useful life left. Is that incorrect? Seems kind of suspect to declare the heatpump is dead.

Geothermal is something I was interested in and I recall having seen that I could expect geothermal to cost ~3k-4k more per ton. Seems you guys are saying this is incorrect?

Could you guys let me know exactly what I should be looking for? Key for me are efficiency for environmental impact, and I am happy to pay extra if it will pay itself off the line in heating bills. Being an all electric home, the more I can shave off our one big utillity bill, the happier I will be.

Thanks guys for all the help so far!

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