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Vertical Geothermal loop


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By Michael in Columbia, MO on 4/10/2006


I am at the beginning of the planning phase and am interested in hearing if any one has had experience with geothermal heat pump. I have an air exchange heat pump so I have some idea about them. I have been online, attended local workshops (little help) and talked to the local Rural Electric Cooperative (much more help) and would like to hear from others who have had good or bad experiences.


The local cooperative had a bad problem with the kind that goes in a pond. I can find nothing bad except the original cost. Most stuff on the Web talks about a 7 to 10 year payback but some report 5 to 7 years. Some of the examples report that rolling the cost into the mortgage nets a decrease in the monthly cost. For example one in Kansas reports adding $31/month to the mortgage but saving $62/month for a gain of $31/month.


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 4/10/2006


Geothermal heat pumps are very location-specific for design requirements.

Dumping the heat exchanger into a pond works best in areas that don't freeze. And with climate change occurring, who is to say how your pond will act as a great thermal heat sink into the future.

Soil is more predictable for designing a system. And your local utility is probably your best source of data, unless you have several years of your own site data.

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By Eldon in Newaygo, MI on 12/12/2006


Dale,

Paybacks can be as little as four years in the case of a typical double-wide in Michigan.

In newer more efficient houses, the payback will be longer.

For TOTAL CONCRETE HOMES the payback is longer yet, but your savings can be as high as 88% over wood frame.

I've attached a side by side energy audit.

Eldon


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By Eldon in Newaygo, MI on 12/12/2006


That last report didn't have a side by side comparison. I'll attach it to this post.

Eldon


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By James in Waynesboro, VA on 12/29/2006


I expect to have a well dug to a depth of approx. 500 or so feet. Another house nearby, closer to the bottom of the mountain, went down to 320 feet before hitting water and getting 22 gpm. I am thinking of going geothermal. Can the company that drills the well also drill a vertical shaft for a geothermal loop at the same time they are drilling the water well? My lot is very rocky and sloped, and will likely not accommodate a horizontal loop. I thought I could kill two birds with one drilling expense and have a water well and vertical loop for geothermal at the same time. Is this even possible?


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By Bill in Seattle, WA on 12/30/2006


Sure it is. But they would have to be two separate wells, as the geothermal must be filled in and compacted. If you've got bedrock, it will be quite a bit more expensive.

In a volcanic area, by chance?
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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 12/30/2006


There are two ways to do a vertical loop, open or closed. Either way you take advantage of the soil at  depth (which involves filling the hole with bentonite grout but you need a whole lot pipe down the holes either way). It is doubtful you can get by with only one hole, its a function of heat transfer rate of soil, piping and demand load.

I would think if you had an aquifer you could use the water, but not sure how that could be made to work cheaply.

Some utility companies offer rebates, financing and/or incentives. There may be federal and state tax breaks as well.

Installing a geothermal heat pump may also help qualify for an energy-efficient mortgage.

For further reading:

geoheat.oit.edu

econar.com/howitworks.htm

groundloop.com/geothermal.htm

eere.energy.gov/consumer
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By James in Waynesboro, VA on 12/31/2006


Bill, 

Fortunately (or not) I live in Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley area. We have two months of really hot weather and two or three months of really cold. I expect to pay around $10K to sink a well and was hoping I could somehow get a vertical GHP shaft dug at the same time. Thanks for the info.
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By Neil in New Albany, OH on 1/27/2009


We have a geothermal heat pump. It cut our heat bills in half compared to gas, and that was three heating seasons ago.

Check with your department of natural resources about vertical drilling. Ohio, for example, licenses well drillers and has certain rules that they must follow. One of them is to report on the strata of every well they dig. That saved us, because we were considering vertical loops. There are too many sand and gravel layers here, and they said that they would have trouble with them. 

We used horizontal directional boring. Nowhere near as cheap a digging trenches with a backhoe, but it can go under trees, bushes, slab foundation buildings, etc. without disturbing them. We have a lot of "stuff" on our lot and the only needed a single pit in the yard to tie all the lines together and a small excavation at the foundation wall of the house to bring the lines into the basement.

Check up on both the firm doing the install and the firm that makes the furnace. When I asked an installer (he was advising me since he was located too far away to want the job) about a certain kind of system he just grinned and said, "We take out a lot of them." My installer refused to install certain other systems because he did not want the headaches down the road. We wound up with a Water Furnace and it just works.


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