New geothermal install gone bad
I just had an existing forced air HVAC replaced with geothermal. The old unit was electric A/C with gas heat - both forced air. I chose my contractor because he made some promises about re-zoning that sounded like they'd solve some problems we were having and save some energy costs while doing that (only heating/cooling the area of the house we were using during the day/night).
Unfortunately, the install hasn't gone so well. It's taken almost 4 months now and it's very hard to get the installer to come out and finish the job. We're also experiencing electricity bills that are higher than they've been over the past year even though the last month hasn't been extremely hot. Needless to say, we're concerned but we're not sure what to do. This unit is a new ClimateMaster Tranquility 30 two stage Digital. There have been many other mis-steps including being without A/C for 8 days because the installer wasn't familiar enough with the unit to know that the expansion tank wasn't turned on.
At some point in the process, our installer was convinced that we needed to convert all of our ducts on the main floor to supplies and add one new large central return. During this process, they stressed that return was the most important between supply/return. This was also to replace our original 3-ton unit with a 4-ton. I was concerned that we'd basically lose a big portion of one of our closets and they said we could do a 3-ton unit and not have to go with the huge return. Because of some funky duct work in the basement, they ended up switching our dining room from a supply and return to two supplies. This basically leaves us with 7 supplies and 3 returns on the main floor. This seems to go against the installer's previous statements about return being a major factor. One of the returns is in the middle of the house in a hallway, another is on the East side of the house in the living room and the other is also on the East side in a bedroom. The West side now has 3 supplies and it always seems a few degrees colder over there now. Is this normal? I know it's hard to just read this and immediately say whether or not it was a mistake and should be corrected.. Is there any way for me to figure out whether it's correct on my own?
In addition to that question, I'm wondering if there's any reason to try to call around and hire another contractor to come in and check the work. If so, any general ideas as to how much something like that would cost assuming there's no major duct work to fix, maybe just some settings on the geo unit?
Thanks for your help, I'm really frustrated at this point and I'm not sure what to do.
Going from a 3 ton to a 4 ton takes a lot of duct alterations, and adding ducts. Sounds like your now short on return and supply.
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it sounds like this was a small company that had his feet in too many fires.
supply and return are EQUAL in importance. they both have to be large enough to flow correctly and condition your home, they also have to be sealed properly to prevent pressure differential in the home, and not waste energy.
I HIGHLY recommend you getting another contractor to come evaluate the installation. also an energy audit to see how the home is wasting energy.
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ChrisW where are you located? I would certainly be calling a new installer at this point, these issues should not be occuring with a geothermal system these issues are bad installer. I don't know why they would want to size UP your unit if the old one worked fine.
Any information on the ground loop, is it horizontal or vertical, how many feet of pipe, how many circuits, what type of configuration, these all come into play with the geothermal. If you have a 3 ton climatemaster with a 1.5 to 2 ton loop its never going to work.
Geo is expensive on front end, ground work and pipe, but pretty efficient and operating cost should certainly not be higher then what you had before. Unless you have added several hundred sqft to your home, since original system was installed, upsizing should not have been nessisary. With info provided I would highly recommend you stop where you are, find a reputable contractor, and have everything evaluated. I recommend finding the local factory authorized contractor for the equipment to start. If the install is wrong the best equipment in the world is junk. Good luck.
The install was a horizontal bore. Some of it's 30 feet deep and the shallowest parts are around 4 feet deep where they connected the ends. They basically ran two bores and pulled back 3 pipes in each. Then they used one pipe to install grout. Each bore was probably around 100 feet so I'd estimate maybe we've got 400 feet of total pipe in the ground but I'm not sure what the configuration is in terms of how the pipes were connected at the ends and run to the unit.
Load calculations and a marked up survey haven't been given to me yet. The installer refuses to give them to me until we "close out" and I pay him the remaining funds (only about 10% of the job that remains).
I'd also like to clarify - we ended up not going with the 4 ton and instead installed a 3 ton unit which matches what was taken out.
I should also mention that the return and supply trunks in the basement were reversed (the old return is now the supply) but there was some significant duct work to get supply to rooms that needed it that only had one supply and no return before.
I'm in the Washington, DC/Northern Virginia area.
I need more details on the horizontal boring but that sounds VERY short looped. Only two bore holes that are 100' long? There should be two pipes going in with a U-Bend attached at the bottom and then the third pipe should pull out as it grouts the holes, typically in a horizontal bore its a 50% or higher mixture of grout/slurry.
The last three ton system we did was 8 bore holes of 100' each because the system size was close to the heating load. On two recent horizontal bore systems that I quoted we specified 125' bores with 6 holes. So on my systems I design for about 500-550' of piping per ton not the 133 feet per ton that your contractor specified, that will never work unless you are missing some details.
What kind of EWT(entering water temperatures) are you seeing on the ground loop and what PSI is the loop operating at(contractor should have left this for you when starting up the system, however we often comission the system 2 weeks after install was started)
Here is how a horizontal bore should be done and how many pipes there should be in most areas
Here is the live energy logging of that system so you can see how much energy it uses in real time
WaterFurnace 3 ton horizontal bore live energy logging
This system cost $13.98 to operate last month and has cost $1.49 up til 9:30AM PST 9/18/2012 to operate and it got into the high 80's possibly 90 yesterday but that is a bit hotter than normal for this time of the year. I think the highest cost we have seen was $40 the month of the install, we are monitoring the flow center, all electronics inside the unit, the electric heat and the compressor is all taken into account.
Wow. Thanks for all of the information. I just looked at a recent survey of my house and I'd re-estimate that the bores were probably 150' long each. Still significantly shorter than your 500' per ton number, though. Like I said, if I decide to go with another contractor to verify/fix what's already been done, I won't be getting any of the other information. I can maybe get the EWT information from the ClimateMaster rep. I've been trying to get one to stop by and take a look at the unit.
At this point, I need to decide whether to quit working with this guy and have another contractor come take a look or delay final payment to him. Do any of you have any recommendations as to how to proceed?
I owe him about 10% of the total cost. Not much but enough for him to try legal action against me if he wanted to.
If I delay, he may try to sue me anyway.
If another contractor actually does have to do a significant amount of work to fix what he's done, I could potentially sue the original contractor for the difference so I'm not as concerned about that.
Has anyone here been in a situation like this before?
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Post pics of your supply and return ducts.
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