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Geothermal Heating and Cooling


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Eugene's Forum Posts: 13

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By Eugene in Quincy, CA on 2/9/2005


We are building in northern California and will be installing a closed-loop geothermal system. Has anyone had any experience with this system?
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By Don in Agoura, CA on 2/10/2005


Hey-

If you get any information about manufaturers, subs etc. Could you pass it on?

Thanks.

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By Carolyn in Newport News, VA on 2/24/2005


I am also interested in geothermal systems. Does anyone have any feedback in approx. how much savings on monthly bills you reap from the evidently 'high' up front costs of purchase/installation? I just received a reply from a vendor today in answer to my question regarding a general question on cost difference to heat/cool a 3,000 sf house with 8 ft as opposed to 9 ft, as opposed to 10 ft ceilings. The response was that it really only  makes approx. 3 btu difference per sq ft, and not enough diff. to worry about. But, he did comment that geothermal would not recoup the initial cost back, and referred to tens of thousands of dollars to drill a well and have the equipment installed! I knew it was expensive, but did not know it was this expensive! I was thinking about $10,000 total with well/equip., etc.
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By John in Erie, CO on 2/24/2005


Anyone who is quoting BTU's over the Net without running the numbers is blowing smoke. How much insulation? What type of construction? What climate? How many windows? There are lots of variables.

I really wanted to do geothermal, but my ground was too rocky for my budget.

The time for payback will depend on how much energy your house uses, which will depend on comfort levels, solar, design, climate, etc...

If you have a super efficient, highly insulated envelope, it's going to take longer to recover your investment, since you don't use as much energy.

Now, for some numbers:

To heat and cool 6,000 sf in Colorado, plus heat the garage (all radiant heating) the heat pump unit that did forced air heating and cooling, and hot water heating for the radiant, was between $6,500 and $11,500 depending on manufacturer, dealer, etc. Some dealers think this stuff is space shuttle parts and price it accordingly.

Now, you need a loop field or some other input for your heat transfer fluid from the ground. These are usually:

1) Open well, where water is pulled out of the ground, heat is extracted, and then the water is disposed of either in an acceptable location, or in a return well. this is considered an open-loop geothermal system. I didn't research one much because I knew they wouldn't fly out where I'm at.

2) Closed-loop systems. These are a length of tubing that is placed in the ground, either in grouted vertical wells, in a big slinky in trenches in the ground, or as big loops in long trenches (made with a trencher) in the ground). The cheapest is the long trenches, the most expensive is the vertical grouted wells.

Vertical grouted wells usually run $1,000-$1,200 per ton of capacity, but it will depend on how your soil transfers heat, etc. For my system, I needed a 6-ton unit. They would have also had to drill rock, which would have added to my cost.

All said, it was going to take 12 years to recover my investment in the system if energy prices stayed the same (which they won't, so the payback would be shorter).


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By John in Erie, CO on 2/24/2005


Oh, that 6,000 sf is:

3,000 sf radiant heated basement

3,000 sf radiant heated main level

1,045 sf heated garage. 


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By Scott in Germantown, MD on 2/10/2007


I installed my own ground loop in about three weeks of digging (loop only) w/a mid-sized excavator. Four tubes, 750' each 3/4", with no experience. Which is a lot of trench, and I was digging as quickly as the machine would go.

I went down about six feet + or - about two ft. here and there. I think some will boast much faster, but they don't go down 6 ft.

I bought the system over the Internet from a vendor (Arit) who is out of business now.

Watch out... I kinked one loop. Uncoiling your loop is definitely a pain and very difficult if you're not extremely careful (I think this cannot be done by one person). They make spools for this, but they're expensive. I built a shoddy one, but would have had much better results if I had known I was going to need one and did a bit in advance.

The key to a "cheap" HVAC system is not needing one! Insulate  the devil out of your house. Your heat/cool TONNAGE shrinks. The size of conditioned space does matter, too; do you need all that space?

Also geothermal radiant will be more than air, because w/your air system you'll have hot and cold air. Radiant is usually just hot water.

I have some pics of my project and system at "my construction website" also a bunch of links for resources - HVAC calcs, etc.!

Good luck!

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