Geothermal Systems Are Not Cheap And Easy
A geo system is simple to deal with on one hand and quite challenging on another. The simple part is that every installation basically has the same types of components… fluid, fluid pumps, HeatPumps, electricity, and ventilation.
There are a lot of components to this and the HeatPumps themselves can be pretty pricey. Add in the cost of installation, additional electricity, expanded ventilation, and pumps, things will add up quickly. There were a few times where I felt that I was in over my head.
The hard part is that every installation is unique. Since this type of system is not totally mainstream and is unique for each install, vendors do not tend to be helpful by providing free information. Also, folks do not want to give a pat answer and have that pat answer figuratively blow up in your face. These systems can be tricky.
The largest variables in the system are how to get fluid to and from the Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP – your Geothermal Unit) and how your ventilation system is setup. Geos have “robust” ventilation needs and upgrades to your ventilation system may be required.
Pumps and GSHP’s can be fairly “stock”. The variables in the GSHP’s themselves is how many bells and whistles (Desuperheater, ECM blowers, Auxiliary Heaters, etc.) you want and their overall efficiency (COP and SEER). Note: A visitor made an interesting observation about these features.... If you put all of the bells and whistles on these systems, you probably pay an extra $1,500 for them. Since you already have the base system covering MOST of your energy savings, the extra $1,500 WILL save you more in energy cost; but, NOT enough to cover the extra $1,500 you just spent. I agree with his thoughts. These extra items have no payback on them. If you put all of the bells and whistles on your system, try to break out the savings for each component. If you need to save some money, this is a good place to look.
Geo contractors tend to be a little shy about giving stock answers. I can understand this because you can spend a ton of money for something that may not work if something was not calculated right. I’ve seen folks on the Internet say that giving a stock answer about anything Geo is poor advice. I’ve seen stock answers on the Internet that seemed to be pretty good and reasonable to me. I can see both sides and feel that following up on everything is a good thing … including everything I say here. A great reference appears to the ACCA Manual J® Residential Design Center and ACCA's Manual J Residential Load Calculation Procedure is where many folks go to for solid researched data. These manuals tend to deal with how to calculate ventilation and AC/Furnace needs of just about any home. http://www.acca.org This can be your basis for figuring out how large your total system needs to be.
I am typically hearing of installations that are running $15,000+. Mine was a bit under $10,000. The winter of 2012 & 2013 will allow me to finally break even on the system. I do not think I would have attempted this system if the payback was more than 5 years.