Problems & Stuff

Mistakes, Problems, and Other Stuff

The Trench: The trench is place where the Loops came out of the house before going to the pond.   My neighbor Dave, has a backhoe.  I dropped a hint to him earlier in the year that I might need some help digging this hole in my backyard.  He thought I was nuts; but, very graciously agreed to help.  As he was doing some work on his new home and I was putting the Loops together in the yard, he told me that he had enough time during the next weekend (Memorial Day) to dig the trench.  I was two weeks away from being ready for him.  This made me make some big compromises on the amount of infield fusing that I wanted to do along with the pipe configuration that I wanted.  I had to double the amount of fusing that I wanted and increase the length of pipe by 350’ per Loop.  BUT!  When free backhoe services are being offered, take them! 

I helped Dave that Saturday with his new gutters and he comes over and starts digging.  As he digs, I realize that the pile of dirt is massive!  I had no clue about the amount of dirt that needed to come up… or go back in.  The hole is dug on Saturday evening.  It is depressingly large.  We have church and a few family events on Sunday.  I needed to chill with my family and re-connect on some issues, so I put off trench work…knowing full well that rain is on the forecast for later Sunday afternoon.  Late in the afternoon, I drag my youngest out to begin cutting up a 500’ spool of Loop and laying it in the trench at the 5’-6’ level.  Within 30 minutes, it starts raining.  Within 15 more minutes it is pouring.  The youngest is told NOT to go near certain portions of the trench.  My neighbor dug a really nice very large “escape route” to get into the trench with no fear of wall collapse.  I have to get into the “escape route” to work the pipe.  We are both covered in mud and it is still pouring.  Small portions of the wall are collapsing and it is definitely not safe.  As much as we could, we lay the pipe in from the top, separate the pipes using 2x4’s, throw some mud piles on the pipe so it doesn’t move and head back in doors.  It then rains on and off for 3 days. 




A little help filling in the trench.  Nichole, on the right, helped take the youth group to the Dream Center in L.A.  This was the $300 of “fill the trench” money.  Emily was smiling; but, wishing she were not burning up in the heat. 



Once the trench in the yard was finished, I started the trench under the deck.  The 4 Loops to the right are double banded.  These Loops went to the lake.  The sole blue Loop to the left, went into the house.  The other 3 are nearby.


Between raining spells, I look at the trench.  Portions of it are completely collapsed.  This is bad.  I have a LOT of shovel work ahead and this is going to take a long time.  Fearing the worst, I go out the next weekend to closely inspect the work and start cleaning it up. 

Things actually worked out very nicely.  There was only about 8’ of the trench that needed to be dug out by hand for the next layer of pipe.  The rest of the collapsed portions, put a nice 18” of dirt on the bottom layer of pipe.  In fact, the bottom layer of pipe was essentially bathed in mud… which is really what you want.

Math Mistakes: I made a mistake on calculating the amount of pipe I needed for each Loop.  I bought spools of 600’.  I planned on putting 350’ of Loop in a “constructed coil” in the pond with 150’ going to/from the water to the bank of the pond.  Effectively, I’d have 500’ in the water.  The rest of the 100’ was going from the bank of the pond to the house.  I realized that this was actually a 150’ run not 100’.  Bummer.   Now, I’m 50’ short…


This is what the pond looked like for a few months.  It scared away the birds.  There are 4 Loops in there somewhere. 

As you can see the Loops are coming from the trench into the pond.  They seem to be pointing to the surface of the pond which seems to have created a problem.  Although I pushed them down into the mud, I’m getting too much variance in Loop temperature… meaning, the Loops follow the outside temperature a bit too much.  I need to push them further into the mud.   The pond is pretty healthy… The dragon fly is easy to see… do you see the fish?

I remember when I made that mistake.  I was a little stressed because I was getting certified for Socket Fusion Welding, ordering the pipe (and a bunch of parts) and this place was busy.  I flipped by the numbers too quickly, missed something and ordered it.  When the pipe got here, I quickly realized my mistake and bummed out because I was going to have to do fusion welding outside of the house to compensate for the missing 50’.  So, I ordered more pipe (500’), just to be on the safe side.  I had planned on doing on fusion welding in the field.

It got worse when Dave (me neighbor) was ready to trench and I was definitely not ready to organize the pipes.  To be ready quickly, I essentially had to throw the entire 600’ spool for each Loop in the lake.  I then had to cut up the 500’ spool in 8 sections, and run those from the house and to the bank of the lake.  This was not working out very clean and I was actually kind of mad at myself for letting this get out of hand.  Stuff happens…


More color coding on the Loops.


Bad Conversations: As I was getting close to start thinking about other aspects of the project, like ordering the GSHP, I started surfing eBay to see what was out there.  Some “business” was stating that you could “install your own GSHP”.  Wow, I did not think this could be done.  This will save a lot of money for installation.  I called the business on that Monday just to talk about it.  If it were true, I was going to order from him.  Specifically, Monday June 30th, 2008, I called.

I call and introduce myself and tell the gentleman the nature of my call. 

Him: When are your Loops are going in? 

Me: I think… “Huh?”

        My Loops are already in.

Him: Who put them in? 

Me: I think… “Huh?”. 

        I did, they are a pond install. 

Him: “What idiot told you to do that”? 

Me: I think… “Huh?”.  I’ve spoken with many vendors about this, none of them had a caution about this.   Pause…and then he starts in again…

Him: “A fool and his money are soon parted”! 

Me: I think… This guy just called me a fool and an idiot. 

        The company that I spoke to was “ABC” company (highly reputable and very big).

Him: I know those guys.   

         He had nothing bad to say about them.

He was actually a pretty angry fellow and gave me this condescending lecture about how pond installs fail and that he has been in the business 25 years and has seen all of the failures… etc, etc, etc…  He really couldn’t say enough bad things quick enough.

Finally, I politely pushed back a little and tried to get him to understand my install, he couldn’t handle that and told me he didn’t want my business and hung up. 

Wow!  That seemed to be a disaster of a call.


I’ve learned over the years to try to keep my anger under control in order to try to learn things.  Even if the person delivering the message has personal issues, sometimes you can still learn things…  Which I did.   I actually felt bad for the guy.  Can you imagine going through life so angry all of the time? 

Here are the things I learned…

First, I learned that you can actually install your own GSHP units.  If you want to.

Second, I learned that there is a wait time on the units of 6-8 weeks.

Third, (this is the gold), I learned that pond installs fail overtime because of sediment build up.  The Loops in the pond need free water flowing around them.  Once sediment builds up, you have to “refloat” your pond Loops to get good heat transfer again.  A big bummer.  So… to the dude, I say thanks, I’ve never heard that; but, it makes sense.

As I reflected on this and the “mess” I had in my pond, I realized that by and large I was OK.    When I “under” purchased the Loops and with Dave trenching earlier than I wanted, it forced me to put the entire 600’ in the pond.  600’ is a normal ground install.  Overtime, most of my Loops will be in the mud (nice thermal conductivity) and it will take a LONG time to reach the mid section of the Loops.  Before I sank them, I’ll suspended them about a foot off of the bottom to buy more time. 

So!  It all worked out pretty well (I think).  Even if I get significant silt build up over time, I should be OK since I have enough Loop in the pond for a ground install anyway.  Besides that, I can easily re-float the Loops.  The longer Loops will increase pumping costs; but, it fixes other issues. 



When I purchased the Loops, I had to let them sit for a few weeks all nice and wrapped up.  As time when on, I unwrapped each bundle and placed them in an area that I planned on working with them.  If you let them sit too long, ants (or other things) will begin to make their nests in them.

One of the Loops had a nest of smaller ants that I brushed off quickly.  This was one of the first Loops I was dealt with.  The last Loop was near the woods.  As I began to unspool it, I realized that I had African Killer Ants 5 times the size of my cute little grass ants. 

These big old things were biting and stinging and I was running as fast as I could trying to despool this thing while my forearms started growing all of these nice welts.  The whole thing looked pretty crazy.  So… word of caution, after you order your Loops, watch out where you place them.


Over Sizing The GSHP

One thing I wanted to do was try to stay pretty close to my understanding of how things need to be sized.  The Pump were right sized.  The Heat Pump was overboard (or so I thought) …and I knew it when I bought it.  I was looking for a 3.5 ton system and I got a 4.8 ton system.  So… why did I buy it?  In purchasing and building this system, I tried to be very creative in being cost conscious.  In this case, I found a dealer that had a floor model that had been sitting for 18 months.  He was willing to make a very good deal and I was willing to oversize.

Since the unit has two speed ECM blower and a two stage compressor, I felt that I could deal with the ventilation issue (short cycling / humidity) by forcing the unit to stay on longer at a lower control setting.  This worked out just fine.  Humidity can make the house “feel” bad and potentially lead to mold issues.  Over sizing the GSHP is not a great idea since it can burn out due to short cycling. In my case, I have a humidity control that will lower the humidity to an acceptable level before turning off.  This may cause the temperature to go below a set level; but, it will control humidity and keep the system running longer curtailing some short cycling.   After running it for just a few days in cooling mode, the system cools the upstairs just great AND does not short cycle.  The system runs for about 20 minutes at a time in cooling mode.  Right now, we are in heating mode (without an auxiliary heater) and the system runs great. 

I am concerned about really cold days.  I’m noticing that the incoming water temperature dropped from 52 degrees to 44 degrees over 2 months.  This is somewhat expected and normal for a pond; but, I’m afraid that the temperature of the pond water will continue to drop due to some of the Loops being too close to the surface of the pond.  The system is picking up some colder ground temperature.  To offset this, I increased the speed of the pumps in order to blow more water through the system… This gave me a water temperature increase.  I knew this could be an issue over the summer when I was putting the Loops in the pond and it looks like I get to fix it next year.  No biggie.

We’ve been in the teens overnight and the system runs fine. 


Things Just Slow Down

I started actual work in May of 2008 and made good progress.  June also had good progress.  Half way through July, things just kinda stopped.  May, June, and part of July were related to the Loop work.  The Loop work is mentally pretty easy; but, physically challenging (lots of digging).  So, you can make progress quickly; because, you can easily control the pace of work.

July was also a time where I was not running at full capacity.  (I wasn’t feeling well.) Sometimes, things at work need extra attention and I needed to put in a lot of hours in a very short period of time.  As one gets older, it gets tougher to bounce back from these types of events and it took me a few weeks to get it into high gear again.  The thing that slowed the Loops down was finding the Socket Fusion tool from local Geo or Rental companies.  I was able to get the tool once locally.  Every time after that, I was never available to obtain it.  It seems like there are only 4 in my area and I was always the 5th person out.  I finally had to start renting from out of state companies and pay shipping costs etc…

As things started requiring lots more thought and\or help from contractors, the project slowed down a lot.  For instance, when I trenched into the house, I got space constrained on where the Loops could actually come in.  The holes I drilled for the Loops were not separated correctly to bring right into the manifold.  Since the manifolds were very close to the where the pipes came in, I had to use 90 degree pipes to line them up the way I wanted to.  This caused more fusing than I wanted.

The trench into the house was fine; but, I should not have drilled holes in the concrete.  I like the holes because they are not too disruptive.  I should have sawed up a square hole in the concrete (basement floor) to bring the Loops in…  Why?  Well, I had to create a small pocket of space under the foundation with the drilled holes.  Now, I have to find a good way to pack all of that in.  This means I have to get into the trench and hand fill it.   (Bummer)  With a bigger hole in the basement, I could have filled it in from the basement and cemented over it.

When Your Loops Have Leaks

This is not a big deal, unless the Loops are covered and the GSHP is already in place and winter is coming soon.  After going live, I noticed that I was losing about 1psi every 12 hours.  Initially, I thought the system was “adjusting” itself until on the 3rd day I had to face reality and deal with the fact that I had a very slow leak.  I took the advice of an installer who felt the Loops were fine and began filling in the trench.

I started making plans to find a way to continually fill the Loops.  That was messy but doable.  I did not want to Fuse or get the Flush Cart back...the inference there was that I would be digging.  I figured out a way to fill the pipes with out having to do very much; but, I was not happy.  It dawned on me that the Loops that I had were really long for a pond install already.  So… all of the over engineering may just pay off after all.  I turned off the first set of Loops and the pressure immediately stabilized!  Whew!  I got lucky because I was able to keep the pressure in range before having to test the other Loops.

My thought process was that a 4 ton system required 400’ of Loop in the lake per Loop.  Thus, I needed 1,600 of Loops in order to get the required heat transfer.  Each Loop that I had in the lake was 600’.  Thus, if I only had three Loops active, I still had 1,800’ of Loops in the lake.  The thermo-conductivity margin should be OK.  I didn’t like the margin; but, I thought this might just work.  Also, each Loop was ¾”, so I had to worry about making sure that ¾” times 3 in pipe diameter would exceed a 1” pipe that I fed the GSHP with.  In other words, I had enough Loop for proper heat transfer; but, did I have enough volume to feed the GSHP?  I think I did. 

I believe ¾” SD-11 pipe will flow 4.3gpm minute giving me a flowrate of 17gpm with 4 Loops and 13gpm with 3 Loops.  12 GPM is the high end of what the GSHP unit needs.  As I think about it, this is stuff I read on the net.  It would seem to me that flow rate is really based on pipe diameter and pump speed…  but, it’s an area that I do not understand.  ¾” should flow a lot more than 4.3 GPM, if you have a huge pump forcing the issue.

As of this writing, it is mid December 2008 and this project has gone on long enough and the system is working fine.  I think sometime next spring or summer, I can get back out and dig the “Red” Loop up to see where the leak is.   The “Red” Loop.  I used color coded tape at the ends of each Loop and the joints where I had to fuse the Loops.  I also used colored rope when I created each Loop for the lake.  I can also “get at” each Loop if I need to refloat it.  I know exactly where each Loop is and if I have to dig, I can easily identify what Loop is defective.  The Loops are Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow.

 Also, I coded the Loops with different amounts of tape denoting the inbound and outbound portions of the Loop.   There is a reason for that.  The inbound pipe is buried deeper than the outbound pipe.  I didn’t want the fluid coming into the house to be affected by being nearer to the surface of the ground or else it would loose some thermal capabilities. So… in order to not get confused or mixed up, I coded the inbound and outbound pipe.  

The Desuperheater Problem

While I was replacing my old propane hot water heater, I was trying to plan for the installation of the desuperheater and trying to make that install really easy…saving time and money.  So… I put a series of values in place ahead of time to use the current system or the desuperheater by simply turning valves on and off.  Unfortunately, I screwed up. 

I routed the cold water feed of HWH to the input of the desuperheater.  This was fine.   I took the desuperheater output and put it into the cold water feed into HWH…  This was a mistake.  The desuperheater is supposed to go into the (get this) the drain value at the bottom of the HWH.  Hmmm….  I didn’t understand it.   This is the way it is working out…our hot water can get funky hot, then get cool, then warm back up…  Showers can get entertaining.  There seems to be a strange interaction between the desuperheater and the hot water heater and I fix that in the spring.  

The is the contraption I dreamt up for the HWH.  These pipe(s) are only for the Cold Water feed into the HWH.  The valves pointing downward control the flow of water to/from the desuperheater.  The other value controls the flow of water directly into the HWH.  So…  Either the two valves are off and the other is on or vice-versa; but, no other combo is allowed.  The top pipe going to the left goes into the desuperheater and the bottom pipe coming in from the left is from the desuperheater.  This was reworked to make it nicer; but, I still need to reroute that bottom pipe to the bottom of the HWH.  Also, you can see the remnants of the old furnace/HWH flue. 


Listening and Asking Lots of Questions

There are tons of things to learn about this stuff.  There are some REALLY great people out there who know those answers.

If you decide to start going down this road, I hope this site helped you in some way.  Even though my setup was not perfect, I probably saved $15,000 - $20,000 doing this myself and did it close to the budget that I had.  Although a few pieces of it have to be reworked, I am very pleased with how this thing is running after two months.

I encourage you to listen carefully and try to make note of the concepts that are being tossed about.  If you don’t understand something ask or get on the Internet and search.