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Old 05-27-2009, 06:51 PM   #1
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Install geothermal myself?


Wow, great forum here. I have a dilema and seek your advice. Just bought a 1500 square foot rancher. House has electric baseboards and water heater. No air conditioning. Electric heat is way too expensive and I'm not keen on using window units. I would like to install a central air/heat system...preferably geothermal. I had a guy come out and quote me 29K for a horizontal loop system. This seems way high for such a small home with an easy install (one floor, unfinished basement). I'm now thinking about doing it myself to save on labor costs. So, I'm wondering if this is possible or should I keep shopping around. I called another contractor and he told me around 24K over the phone..which still seems high...the cost of the furnace and piping cannot be more than 12K. I have the equipment to dig the trench and am familiar with plumbing and electric work....but, I've never installed any type of furnace or ductwork. Any advice?? Thank you.

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Old 05-27-2009, 07:31 PM   #2
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Where are you located?

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Old 05-27-2009, 07:58 PM   #3
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Install geothermal myself?


Hoi!

That's one that won't draw too many replies.
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Old 05-27-2009, 08:42 PM   #4
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http://www.wbdg.org/ccb/DOE/TECH/geo.pdf
Since this is a large, risky investment that can't easily be modified once installed, figure out your breakeven points for all methods; elec., window units, air to air, geothermal, other.
Here are some considerations for calculating payback for any system
http://www.ongrid.net/papers/PaybackOnSolarSERG.pdf

To do all this you need to know HDD, cooling degree days, and have some idea of your insulation effectiveness, etc.

Even if it totally works on paper it still may not work in the real world, but it has to work on paper first.

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Old 05-27-2009, 08:46 PM   #5
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Install geothermal myself?


Best get someone familar with your soil.
Heat transfer is not the same for all soils.
Many people have found out the hard way.

As in, they pay as much for their heat, as if they had an air to air heat pump.
Because they didn't install enough ground loop. Or installed it to shallow.


Remember, those contractors have to make a living off the price they install for.
Plus pay their people.
Plus, include a labor warranty.
Plus pay uncle Sam.


Since your not paying yourself.

If you decide to do this on your own.
Keep track of all of the hours.
Then muliplty that by what you normally get paid an hour, and see if you still think its high.
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Old 05-27-2009, 09:22 PM   #6
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Install geothermal myself?


Check and see if there are any government incentives/rebates for Geo. They are pushing it a lot here and offering some great incentives. Not a fan of it myself but some people like it. $20-25,000 not uncommon here.
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Old 05-28-2009, 05:51 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Scuba_Dave View Post
Where are you located?
Parkton, MD
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Old 05-28-2009, 05:54 AM   #8
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Check and see if there are any government incentives/rebates for Geo. They are pushing it a lot here and offering some great incentives. Not a fan of it myself but some people like it. $20-25,000 not uncommon here.
We get a 30% tax rebate on the system which is good, but I think that contractors are just jacking up the price a few thousand because of it.
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Old 05-28-2009, 06:07 AM   #9
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Install geothermal myself?


In this area. Thats the normal price range without the tax credit.
With larger systems going in for a whole lot more.

If you decide to do this yourself.
Do NOT short your self on ground loop.
BIGGEST mistake made on Geos. Is not having deep enough wells, or ground loops.
Then you end up running on strip heat most of the winter anyway.

Exerienced Geo installation companies. have software that tells them the ground type for their areas, and adjusts the loop size accordingly for each area.

You may wan to contact geologist that is familar with your area. To find out how deep your trenches must be.

When you look at the rating for a Geo.
You will see different heating and cooling ratings by water temp. Don't assume that your water temp will be the high temp that they list.
In some areas. Depending on how long the trench is or isn't. The trench/trenches may need to be 12' deep, and 20' wide.

Research your areas requirements before you act(geology wise).
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Old 05-28-2009, 12:18 PM   #10
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Here's some soil conductivity info
http://www.geo4va.vt.edu/A1/A1.htm
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Old 05-28-2009, 05:50 PM   #11
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Thanks for the info. The guy I got the quote from said I needed a five foot deep trench 300 feet long. If I have to dig more than that I'll probably just do an air to air.
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Old 05-28-2009, 06:20 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by ToddDaniels View Post
Thanks for the info. The guy I got the quote from said I needed a five foot deep trench 300 feet long. If I have to dig more than that I'll probably just do an air to air.

A man that knows what he wants.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:15 PM   #13
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Install geothermal myself?


Todd,

Get estimates for both geo and air/air. Both can have tax credits if you get the right equipment. Pretty sure the air to air credit maxes out at $1500 but the geo tax credit has no top limit so the 29k cost will get you nearly 9k back on taxes. The air to air unit will still need all the ductwork so you may be surprised when you get the quotes.

Remember they are not just swapping in a replacement unit. They are also sizing the unit, sizing, designing and installing the ductwork, and on the geo unit sizing/designing/installing the loops, pumps etc. Don't underestimate the time it takes to design/size these right. And avoid contractors who just use quick rules of thumb to design your install.

As far as DIY, I'm a firm believer that if a person is willing to spend enough time and effort studying and learning he can DIY most things - but a geo system will really be up there when it comes to studying. They are very complicated systems. Every thing is intertwined and seems to affect everything else. As Beenthere alluded too you don't just do a heat load analysis and then pick say a 2 1/2 to unit because the unit performance depends on your ground temps, loop setup etc.

If you hire a good pro, you should get a good install of a good system that will save you a lot of money and the government will basically pay you the cost difference between doing it yourself and hiring the pro.

If you do it yourself you're going to have to figure out how to calculate your heating/cooling loads, how to select the right size unit, how to deal with the difference in the heating/cooling loads to avoid poor dehumidification in the summer or excess use of backup heat in the winter, how to design your ductwork so that it matches your heat pump and you get the right airflow and btus to each room, how to design your ground loop, selecting the right pump, selecting the right antifreeze for the loops etc etc. Then if you've done that all right you will have a good system that will save you money, but there is definitely more risk and no one to call if something isn't working right.

I think you can still get the tax credit if you DIY but consult with a tax pro to make sure. The credit will be smaller of course since your costs are less and it may be more difficult to get the credit applied to all your expenses associated with the install. If you hire it done you end up with one receipt from a pro that says Energystar model xxxx geo install - $29K and if the model number is on the approved list then an auditor has little to question. If you DIY then you have a pile of receipts for things like ductwork etc. and an auditor might try to limit your credit to the geo heat pump unit only. I haven't found any clear regulation that describes what components of an HVAC system are included in the geo tax credit. So make sure you check with a tax pro about the impact of DIY on the tax credit.

Since you have the trencher, maybe the pro will let you do that part of the work to save some money. I'm not sure I understand why 300ft is your limit on willingness to trench though. That doesn't seem like much trench for a geo system. I was thinking 500 ft per ton wasn't unusual but that's a fuzzy memory.

Whatever you do air/air or geo, DIY or pro, if you are counting on the tax credit make very sure the unit actually qualifies for the credit.
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:24 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by jogr View Post

Since you have the trencher, maybe the pro will let you do that part of the work to save some money. I'm not sure I understand why 300ft is your limit on willingness to trench though. That doesn't seem like much trench for a geo system. I was thinking 500 ft per ton wasn't unusual but that's a fuzzy memory.
That is great advice. The trench work is a large part of the job. If you go with a pro, try to work with them on the trenching portion of the project.

As far as the length of trench, I believe that at 600ft tube run can be placed in a 65' of trench utilizing a "Slinky Loop" configuration.

Here is great video on the process.
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Old 05-29-2009, 03:09 PM   #15
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Install geothermal myself?


Wouldn't a deep well loop be more desirable and cost effective than digging a shallow trench?

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