Tag Archives: Alternate Energys
Just talked to another guy today about hot water baseboard heat and geothermal. Does it work? KINDA works. It will ‘probably’ work as long as it doesn’t get colder than 25 degrees out. Reason being is that baseboard radiant heat is designed around 160 / 180 degrees. Geothermal maxes out at 120 / 140 degrees. It’s the chink in its armor.
Now, to be fair… If you install twice or three times the fin tube required (off the cuff) to heat a house with 160 / 180 degree water you may be able to handle the homes heating load.
Not to say Geo may not be the way to go. Other options still exist. Can you install or do you have duct work? If so, install a forced air Geo system or a combination unit. In-floor radiant works great in conjuction with Geo. No matter the situation, if you are burning LP or Fuel oil, you will have a very respectable return, even IF you have to spend additional dollars to get the right system.
There are many conventional HVAC contractors, builders, even home owners out there that will tell you all the reasons why geothermal DOESN’T work. You must get the facts. Talk to people who install it, understand it and most importantly, live it. You can easily design and/or install the top of the line geothermal ‘box’ in a bad situation and it will NOT perform. Likewise, you can install a piece (lower end, low COP, low Performance) Geothermal box in a great situation and it will perform above specifications. It’s not the ‘box’s’ fault. It’s the installation. It’s almost ALWAYS the installation.
You will know the contractors who ‘live it’ versus the ‘pretenders’ when you talk to them. When looking for factual information, spend more time with the guy that understands COP’s, Cost per Million BTU’s, Local cost per KWH, Equipment Balance Points, Cost Comparisons – If they know what they are talking about and being honest, you’ll FEEL it. It’s human nature.
If you’re looking for info, a good place to start is at IGSHPA (International ground source heat pump association)
Don’t let someone talk you out of saving some serious $$$$
Alternate Energys, Inc continues to receive phone calls from unhappy ‘Geo’ customers wanting us to explain, fix or re-design there installed system and in worst case scenarios replace the Geo unit with a conventional gas system.
- High electric bills
- System is noisy
- Multiple failures
- Poor comfort levels
- Installing contractor is unable to service due to lack of knowledge or support
- Installing contractor will not return phone calls
- Unable to maintain temperatures in the home
- Home owners don’t know how to operate their system
- System installed was not what the home owner was expecting
These are all situations caused by a lack of knowledge and installation error NOT caused by the box itself, no matter the brand. This is why Alternate Energys prides itself on training, training, and training. We have 5 staff members with the IGSHPA (International ground source heat pump association) certification. We also have countless weeks of brand specific training on service and proper installation techniques and we include our outside sales & design staff. I would challenge you to find ANY other Geothermal contractor in the State of Wisconsin with the same. As I have said before, ‘It is our Passion’.
Like in any facet of business, there is a learning process. We’ve been through that process with over 160 units installed and all operating properly, saving our customers a great deal of $$$ and to back it up, we have a lengthy referral list which we are happy to provide to anyone. We stand behind our work with a 100% guarantee and a TRUE, lifetime warranty on all workmanship provided. With that being said, I am very proud to say we have NEVER had one of our systems removed. (Not to say we haven’t been through the learning process, WE HAVE!) Point is…we’ve been through the learning process!!! MOST IMPORTANTLY, while ‘learning’ we have never charged more than the quoted amount, many times to the dismay of my lovely bride.
In closing, how do you find the right Geothermal contractor?
You just did!
Follow these simple guidelines:
- 50 installed systems or more (That’s what it takes if you have the passion)
- Offering a referral list (and call them)
- Sales, design, installer and helper are all IGSHPA certified personnel (training, training and training)
- Do they believe or is it just a ‘job’? (Geo really does work)
- Do they install their own loop fields (the loop field is the heart beat of the system)
- Do they track energy consumption (how do you know if it’s performing to spec)
- Do they perform Load Calculations (and believe them?)(Homes are tighter now, lowering the normalized ACH. It’s no longer .3 or .5 ACH)
- Do they ‘over-size’ (CYA) (Bigger is NOT better in the Geo world)
- Do they design a system based on the needs and wants of the customer (Not just what Geo system ‘they’ are familiar with)
- Do they offer a 10 year, parts and labor warranty (these are 30 year systems)
- Are they all inclusive (excavation, electrical, light weight over pour, spray-foam insulation, duct sealing, dual fuel systems, radiant systems, describing pro & cons)
- Do they offer ‘legitimate’ cost comparisons and explain them (I can make a mountain of manure look like a flower garden)
- Do they offer dual stage equipment (this should ‘almost’ always be mandatory)
- Are they familiar with utility programs (this is important in system design regarding savings)
Please feel free to contact us if you have a POOR GEOTHERMAL INSTALLATION, or you would like a price from a company that truly understands and has a passion for Geothermal systems.
My cost comparison program is not responding tonight but, I can do it long hand based on the loads I have compiled.
The building will consume approximately 181 million btu’s annually (heating)
(NOTE: This Commercial Building is approximately 6500 square feet)
1 million btu’s generated using a $1.00 per therm natural gas cost and a 95% AFUE boiler will = $10.53 x 181=$1906.00
1 million btu’s generated using a $1.20 per therm natural gas cost and a 95% AFUE boiler will = $12.63 x 181=$2286.00
1 million btu’s generated using a GEO system w/ an average 4 COP and an electric rate of .12 cents (WE Energies / WPS) per KWH = $8.79 x 181=$1591.00
1 million btu’s generated using a GEO system w/ an average 4 COP and an electric rate of .07 cents (Kaukauna electric) per KWH = $5.13 x 181=$928.00
So….. depending on the cost of gas and/or electric you could save as little as $315.00 per heating season OR as much as $1358.00 per heating season.
Cooling savings will be approximately $300.00 annually. Based on commercial cooling loads and efficiency differences. A conventional A/C system would have to be a 28 SEER to be comparable.
DOMESTIC HOT WATER SAVINGS
The domestic hot water saved will be about 60% – However, in a typical commercial setting the annual cost to produce hot water may only be $400.00 depending on the fuel source.
COMPARISONS TO FOLLOW:
GEO SYSTEM COST $49,400.00
CREDITS COMPLETE $(19,000.00)
CONVENTIONAL COST $21,000.00
CREDITS COMPLETE $(1,500.00)
DIFFERENCE OF COST: $10,900.00
BEST CASE SENARIO:
ANNUAL HEATING SAVINGS $1358.00
ANNUAL COOLING SAVINGS $300.00
ANNUAL HOT WATER SAVINGS $200.00
TOTAL $1858.00 (OR 5.8 YEAR PAY BACK)
WORST CASE SENARIO:
ANNUAL HEATING SAVINGS $315.00
ANNUAL COOLING SAVINGS $300.00
ANNUAL HOT WATER SAVINGS $200.00
TOTAL $815.00 (OR 13.4 YEAR PAY BACK)
The first step in properly sizing a Geothermal system (or any system for that matter) is to generate a BTU heat loss load calculation for the structure based on the heating degree days of the area the building is being constructed.
With our Geothermal installations I am not concerned with the ‘cooling’ degree days due to the dominant heating load in Wisconsin. (unless unusual circumstances exist – One example would be a commercial building that has an abnormal amount of internal heat gains or solar gain.) There are many acceptable programs to accomplish this.
I have generated a block load for both the viewing area, apartments above and the home. The only ‘unknown’ entry while generating loads is the normalized ACH (air change per hour). Also referred to as infiltration. The tighter the structure the lower the ACH. I have assumed a .3 ACH (or 1/3rd of an air change per hour). This is quite high for today’s construction practices but, never the less, a practical number if we decide to utilize the quoted air to air heat exchangers for controlled ventilation. Once the load calculations are complete I input that number into our geothermal sizing calculator. The sizing calculator will then let me know what my balance points are and if auxiliary heating will be required.
All systems quoted (viewing area, apartments and home) are sized to handle 100% of the heating and cooling loads. Meaning they will heat the appropriate areas to a minimum of 72 degrees when it is -10 degrees outside with NO required auxiliary. Not to confuse the issue, but, both systems are technically ‘oversized’ based on my load calculations. It is a common industry practice set by IGSHPA (International ground source heat pump association) to size a geothermal system to handle 95% to 98% of the heating degree days. In Walworth that is approximately 5 degree outdoor temperature. Because geothermal systems are manufactured by nominal tons only (1/4 & 1/3 ton not available) I choose to move up a size versus dropping a size and requiring auxiliary for certain times of the year. I would definitely not recommend any systems larger than the ones designed. Some of the reasons are as follows:
(1) – An over-sized geothermal system will actually run LESS efficiently due to starting & stopping losses from motor startup surges and refrigerant equalization. Much like city driving with a vehicle. The longer a geo unit runs a cycle the more efficient it operates, running at higher COP’s causing the unit to operate at the advertized COP’s means you get more heat for your money.
(2) – Over-sized units will ‘short-cycle’. (Even the 2 stage units) Causing comfort issues, noise issues and unneeded wear and tear on parts. Essentially, short cycling itself to death.
(3) – Over-sized units make for poor dehumidification during summer as well as reduced efficiencies due to the short run times as it takes approximately 10 minutes of operation before the system will start removing moisture from the structure. So in search of dryer air you may find yourself lowering thermostat settings. Over-sized cooling systems have (2) set points – hot and muggy or cold and clammy, much like a basement.
So, rather than allowing any of these things to happen (and there are more), it is imperative to match the installed system to the structures heating / cooling loads derived from some acceptable load calculation program (NOT square footage or another guess) so your geothermal system will live up to the low energy bills, high comfort and long life they are noted for.