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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Hysham, MT
    Posts
    3
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    Is Geothermal worth it?

    I just moved into my new house in Hysham, MT. It already had a geothermal HVAC unit installed but we new already it had a burnt up backup electric heat strip. We also were considering moving the unit since it is placed right in the hallway in the basement. So we had the only 2 guys in this whole part of the state that deals with goethermals, give us quotes. One quote was $13,818.00 and the second was $11,7250.00 after the $523 quote charge. Both contractors gave me different explanations of the efficiency of the unit (one said it was 30 years old). I also got a quote of $7,000 for a brand new high efficiency propane unit which I already have piped into the house. We also have a 35 year old working water heater. Where do we start? the gas furnace, full tank heater to preheat the well water and ranai tankless, the water heater geothermal unit, or something else. I am not sure what to do since all 3 contractors are steering me opposite ways.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Posts
    43
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    Hi first let me say that I am not a pro. I have had geothermal units by Waterfurnace for three years and I love them. If I were you that is where I would stay if your lines are long enough and still in good shape. They are about 40% of the total cost. I would go with a new unit. After 30 years the old ones are not worth the move. A new Waterfurnace will give you 5 cop and 30 see. Your hot water will be almost free. You should get an 80 gal. storage tank and an instant hot water heater for the times your geo is not used much.That can be electric or gas,I use electric. You will love geothermal.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Virginia Beach VA
    Posts
    46
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    The reason the prices you were given seem so low is probably because the existing ground loop is still in good shape and is planned for re-use.Installing a complete new geo system from scratch could easily be 2x those quotes. So I would verify that the loop has been inspected. About propane - this fuel type is highly susceptible to volatile oil costs and is likely to rise much faster than electric rates so be careful with that. Electric strips, as bad as they are, can be better than propane when propane gets over $2.50/gal, depending on the kWh rate in your area.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Portland OR
    Posts
    2,061
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    First of all, pricing is not allowed in any of the forums per the rules as pricing can vary from state to state and is not a good comparison by any means.

    Second, yes geothermal is worth it over propane. When we compare fuels the best apples to apples way to compare is the cost per 100,000 BTU's of heat.
    For example, if propane is at $2.00 a gallon and there are roughly 91,000 BTU's of heat in a gallon of propane and you are using a 95% efficient furnace it costs $2.31 for 100,000 BTU's of heat.
    91,000 X .95% efficient = 86,450
    100,000 / 86450 = 1.15 X $2.00 per gallon = $2.31
    Now working through the same thing for geothermal, assuming a 4 ton two stage waterfurnace unit(because I have data on these and most other systems will be similar in operating costs)
    Electric rates at $.12 per KWH and a geothermal unit runs at 2.88KW and produces 36,300 BTU's of heat so
    100,000 / 36,300 = (2.75 X 2.88) X $.12 per KWH = $.95 per 100,000 BTU's
    So to recap, would you rather pay $.95 or $2.31 per 100,000 BTU's
    The geothermal unit was rated using the KW hours at a 30 degree entering water temperature at full load/high speed.
    Keep in mind the rates I used for the geothermal were at its least efficient operation and the rates I quoted for propane were the lowest I had seen, so its comparing a worst case scenario geo to best case scenario propane and there is still a HUGE difference.

    Anytime I am dealing with propane my first thought is... how do i get rid of any propane apliance in the house with something more efficient. Stick with a geothermal system you will be very thankful you spend the extra in the long run, and go with a geothermal unit that will preheat the water for you(a desuperheater function) Plus the geothermal units will qualify for a 30% federal tax credit so in all reality even the most expensive of your quotes is not much more than the propane furnace and the geo does cooling and water heating to. I had a customer take out his geo unit and go with propane due to lower upfront costs. In less than a year he already spent more on propane than the upgrade to a geo unit after tax credits and rebates.
    Check out my YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/skyheating1 We have customer testimonials, product reviews and more!
    Like us on FACEBOOK if you like our advice here!

  5. Likes hotgoestocold liked this post.
  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Helena, Montana
    Posts
    2,155
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    Nice comparison Sky! The big kicker is if it's a new system and you have to install the ground loop. My knowledge of geo is limited, but your loop has to be below frost level, right? That's 6' where the OP is. Hopefully is ground loop is still good.
    Don't worry zombies are looking for brains, you're safe...

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Virginia Beach VA
    Posts
    46
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    @SkyHeating

    Great comparison. Just to clarify, I wasn’t considering if geo is the right choice, I think that’s a given whenever there is a free ground loop in place ;-)

    My point about propane was regarding the OPs comments about strip heater and propane, I was comparing propane cost with electric resistance strip heat costs as used in the OPs system, i.e., as a backup heat source. At today's cost for propane, electric is actually a bit more expensive than propane for this type of heating.

    Electric resistance heater (strip) = ~$3.40 per 100kbtu (.12 kWh,100% efficiency)
    And propane, at today’s avg. cost of $2.86/gal = ~$3.30 per 100kbtu

    Very close in cost today, but propane prices are unregulated and tend to follow gas/diesel prices. This means propane prices are rising faster and will probably rise further than electric utility cost.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    SOUTH DAKOTA
    Posts
    94
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    wow .12 kwh thats high guess i can't complain about what it is here .05 to .04 heating rate and .09 everything else propane is about the same, thats why it is so easy to justify geo

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Portland OR
    Posts
    2,061
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCT View Post
    wow .12 kwh thats high guess i can't complain about what it is here .05 to .04 heating rate and .09 everything else propane is about the same, thats why it is so easy to justify geo
    We are actually about $.11 per KWH but I wanted to use worst case scenario for geo to show how good it was, plus I have heard of $.20+ per KWH rates in the new England area?

    PUDs in my area are in the $.055 range, lucky bastards!
    Check out my YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/skyheating1 We have customer testimonials, product reviews and more!
    Like us on FACEBOOK if you like our advice here!

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Hysham, MT
    Posts
    3
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    Thanks everybody for the price comparison on propane vs. geothermal. I had not been informed of that much difference before and didn't realize. If all I need to replace is the actual Geothermal HVAC unit and not any of the water piping, do you guys know about how much longer in the future for a typical re-due, for a typical geothermal field piping lasts. Is it 40 years-60 yrs or more or way less, generally? I am leaning toward replacing the unit with the Geothermal instead of switching over to propane now after adding in the federal and state tax credits, which is barely just slightly more than replacing the whole thing with a furnace which I didn't want to do in the first place. I think I was just hesitant about continuing with the geothermal system since my electric bill is outrageous, but I guess since it is over 30 years old, it isn't very efficient. Thanks everyone for the input!

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Portland OR
    Posts
    2,061
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    In Oregon the natural gas utility uses the same pipe we use for a geothermal loop field and rates the pipe at a 200 year life so it should not need to be replaced for a long time and the unit only needs to be replaced every 25 years or so.

    You will want to make sure any new installer pressure tests the loop to ensure it is running fine because you should have a somewhat low bill even with a 30 year old unit unless your electric heat is running.
    Check out my YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/user/skyheating1 We have customer testimonials, product reviews and more!
    Like us on FACEBOOK if you like our advice here!

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    51
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    I just had a geothermal system put in, in place of the existing propane furnace, within the past couple of months. Only had one electric bill since the system has been in; but its showing about $100 extra per month... and will probably be more next winter during the really cold months. On the other end of things, we used $650 less propane that month. So we'll cautiously call it a $500+ savings per month over the old system. That was with propane at $2.19 a gallon lock-in rate. I know its gone up in this area for people who were not locked in, to around $2.49 a gallon. With the tax credit, the geothermal system cost was only $2k more than a new propane furnace and air-exchange heat pump. We'll make up that price difference in less than a year. Geothermal all the way!

  13. #12
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Missouri
    Posts
    3,728
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    We've been putting in GeoThermal for about 20 years and after all those years have NEVER had a customer want to go back to a conventional forced air system. Every single one decides to replace the old ground source with a new ground source unit. Usually replacement only happens when a major part (heat exchanger, or compressor) fails out of warranty. We always re-use the existing ground loop, but usually go to a non-pressurized loop pump system with built in reservoir (I think the pump system is made by B&D manufacturing). All of our newer GSHP units are now two stage, variable speed blower units. Every customer wants the savings and the wonderful air conditioning these units provide.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Posts
    2
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    I have had a geothermal for the last 4 years. I have reduced my electric bill by 33% and that just replacing one of my two system. The time for the system to pay for itself is 8-10 years and that's before the 30% tax credit was offered, if i had been able to utulize the tax credit it would only take 6-8 years to pay off. I have a 2 stage, 4 ton Florida Heat Pump utilizing 4 wells. It heats and cools the house just fine and I live in Anne Arundel County, MD just south of Annapolis.

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