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Saving money on utility bills
Old 05-27-2007, 01:52 AM   #1
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Saving money on utility bills

Perhaps this does not belong here. Admin please move (or delete as you see fit).

With the price of electricity going up and up, has anyone installed a "ground water" heat pump/air conditioner ? I'm interested in monthly saving and payback time. Also did you have issues installing in a urban/suburban area ?

For those who have never heard of this, it is a "not so new" technology where the constant temperature of the earth (within the first couple hundred feet) is used as a heat sink/source. It is expensive to install, which why I asked about the savings.

If you really think this is BS, watch for re-runs of the cable TV show "Dirty Jobs" where he is working with a water well crew. They are at a building site for a new school in a southern state. They are drilling multiple wells for use in a system I described. The operational cost savings was very substantial !
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Old 05-27-2007, 02:11 AM   #2
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A freind installed one of these in western Canada. So far he says the savings are there. He also learned that the contractor got something wrong. At 40+ below the incoming water froze, no heat. Intake to house must be below frost line and that varies every winter.

INMHO, having watched F, they do work. Cost was 5 figurues with first a 2. His estimate for break-even is 11 years, not bad.
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Old 05-27-2007, 02:34 AM   #3
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A friend installed one of these in western Canada. So far he says the savings are there. He also learned that the contractor got something wrong. At 40+ below the incoming water froze, no heat. Intake to house must be below frost line and that varies every winter.
.
Ouch ! It's hard to believe that at 48" below grade (typical frost line) it could freeze.

Interesting that the first response was from one of our neighbors to the "south of Detroit", Canada (inside joke; the tunnel from Detroit to Windsor Canada actually lies in a southeasterly direction !)

I was expecting these systems to get popular in FL, GA, CA, AZ, TX, etc
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Old 05-27-2007, 11:57 AM   #4
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I had a heat pump in a townhouse. Some people don't like them because the air blowing is not very hot and blowing nearly all the time.

Economics on these systems depend greatly on where you live. Here in Delaware, I think were are in the "northern boundary" where heat pumps are beneficial for heating.

Usually these systems have electric heat backup. If you live further north, you have too many annual occurances where "backup kicks in" and the electric heat is very expensive -offsetting your heat pump benefit.

I don't think the ground loop was used for air conditioning - I think a conventional outdoor ground level condensor was used.
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Old 05-27-2007, 12:10 PM   #5
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Be sure to consider wood heating as an alternative. It's not for everyone, but we heated our house for free this year, and I've already got enough free wood for the next 1.5 years.

Check out: woodheat home
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Old 05-27-2007, 01:19 PM   #6
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I had a heat pump in a townhouse. Some people don't like them because the air blowing is not very hot and blowing nearly all the time.

Economics on these systems depend greatly on where you live. Here in Delaware, I think were are in the "northern boundary" where heat pumps are beneficial for heating.

Usually these systems have electric heat backup. If you live further north, you have too many annual occurances where "backup kicks in" and the electric heat is very expensive -offsetting your heat pump benefit.

I don't think the ground loop was used for air conditioning - I think a conventional outdoor ground level condensor was used.
Dave, I believe you are describing a "typical" heat pump. This is probably my fault, because the system is more commonly called a Geothermal Heat Pump (Follow the link for more detail description.) These system do a very good job of both heating and cooling without the electric heat "backup" and at low operating costs. Your summer electric bills will be much less than a typical air conditioner or typical heat pump.

Installation cost are high and there may be local zoning issues. That is why I am asking if anyone has already paid the price and installed such a system.
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Old 05-27-2007, 01:54 PM   #7
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We installed an air source heat pump 1 1/2 years ago. This in addition to a two-stage gas furnace. We're now using about 30% less gas/electric since the install. Looking like a good decision now.
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Old 05-27-2007, 02:14 PM   #8
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We have a 4 ton geothermal heat system.
In addition to region, soil also has a lot to do with how well it works.
Our payback time is about 5-7 years. Install was 13K.
It handles 80-90% of our heating in the winter, zero gas was used which is our backup (so this year it handles 100% of the heating). Temps got down to a about 5 or 10 below zero.
Sandy soil is the best for geothermal pumps. The pipes are 7 feet down (which is below the frostline in Minnesota). The liquid is a anti-freeze type substance which transports the heat better.
Be aware, you will have a pump running to keep the fluid moving. This will use electricity. However, the amount of work the pump does is about 300-400% efficient when considering the heating/cooling it provides (the real work is done by the earth's heat sink).
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Old 05-27-2007, 02:33 PM   #9
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Our payback time is about 5-7 years. Install was 13K.
WOW !! A few years back, the payback time was 10-12 years !

I'm guessing you have propane for backup ? My in-laws live in the mountains of NC and use propane to a couple of gas fireplaces as backup with their air source heat pump. After testing them 8 years ago when the house was built, I don't think they have ever been used !
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Old 05-27-2007, 02:45 PM   #10
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Be sure to consider wood heating as an alternative. It's not for everyone, but we heated our house for free this year, and I've already got enough free wood for the next 1.5 years.
Wood is a good alternative for heating in some parts of the country. It doesn't help much with cooling in the south (at least I have never seen a wood fired A/C system )

My Dad retired to northern MI and heated his house almost exclusively with wood (when it got down to 20 below, the wood stove would not heat the back bedroom, so they let the furnace run). He had a deal with a local pulp mill wood cutter (no one says lumberjack anymore). He would drop a 40' trailer load stacked about 8-10' high of green wood still in 100" lengths (thats what the paper mill wanted) for a couple $100.

Dad would let it season for a year, cut the 100" logs to lengths that would fit in a wood stove (he said an electric chain saw worked best; less vibration, noise and smell) and then split it, by hand with wedge and maul !

My Mother died when Dad was about 70. Chopping wood was his therapy. About 18 months later, he had about 12 face cords and he only used about 3-4 each winter ! You want to talk about one tough old man !
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Old 05-27-2007, 02:59 PM   #11
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No, we have a gas furnace backup, and fireplaces.
We also have a very well insulated house which is another key. We don't require that much work from the heat pump to warm up the house and it then stays warm as so little of it leaks out.
The technology continues to advance every year. For buildings on a lot of realestate (commercial sized lots) I expect that it is more economical yet.
Another note, if you have to dig wells straight down for the lines, it does cost a lot more than just digging a 6-8 foot deep trench.
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Old 05-27-2007, 10:03 PM   #12
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There is a pretty good article on these systems in the June 4th edition of Forbes. Takes a sizable investment, but they show a payoff in around eight years even in Chicago, less in warmer areas. Makes even more sense if the alternative is to replace a conventional system.
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Old 05-27-2007, 10:28 PM   #13
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I had one in my previous house. Did not like it, because: (1) noisy, could hear water in pipes all the time, (2) maintenance costs were higher than heat pump (3) return well plugged up; not a pretty picture for repairing inside the house. I finally bought a new, efficient heat pump and did not see much of a difference in operating costs
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Old 05-27-2007, 11:08 PM   #14
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We considered the geothermal heat pump 15 years ago when we built the house. My brother, who had been an HVAC engineer for a long time, was totally for it, and I probably should have followed his advice. But not wanting to be too much of a pioneer at the time, and having hundreds of other things to think about building a new house, I took the easy way out and got a traditional hot-water-to-forced-air system. We had rock in our property which could have been a problem, and if leaks could happen, then we'd have probably had them. Still, the systems seemed and still seem very intriguing.
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Old 05-28-2007, 08:52 PM   #15
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I had one in my previous house. Did not like it, because: (1) noisy, could hear water in pipes all the time, (2) maintenance costs were higher than heat pump (3) return well plugged up; not a pretty picture for repairing inside the house.
OUCH !

As was mentioned earlier, there are "closed loop" system available now that have no return well
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Old 05-28-2007, 09:13 PM   #16
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Yes, anyone getting one definately wants the closed loop. Much more efficient.
The heat exchanger has some noise to it, haven't heard any liquid (it doesn't technically use water) running through the pipes.
Our system heats the in-floor heat, the coil in the furnace and the water in the water heater up to about 90 degrees. This means the water heater doesn't have to heat the water from room temp up to 90, just 90 to 115 (or what-ever it heats it to).
We also got a deal from our energy company to get all of our electricity used to pump the liquid on off-peak charge as well as the water heater electricity.
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Old 05-28-2007, 09:28 PM   #17
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I'd love to try one of these as the 17 year old system in my garage cant have too many more years left in it...unfortunately we're sitting on a thin layer of clay over granite and not that far from earthquake country.

At 100 in the summer and 50 in the winter, finding some way to average that out year round at a reasonable cost would be mighty tasty.
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wood is free!
Old 05-29-2007, 11:08 AM   #18
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wood is free!

I burn wood. It is 100% free. And when it is 10 below outside I don't mind it being 80 inside.

Nothing feels as good as a warm wood stove in the winter.
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Old 05-29-2007, 12:25 PM   #19
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I burn wood. It is 100% free. And when it is 10 below outside I don't mind it being 80 inside.

Nothing feels as good as a warm wood stove in the winter.
My preference is 72 as opposed to 80F.
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Old 05-29-2007, 12:28 PM   #20
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My local electric utility company is offering a 15% discount if you agreed to let your air-conditioner to cycle off during peak-demand hours. Is that a good deal?
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