comparing bids / comparing contractors
We are planning on replacing our 30+ year old oil furnace with a geo system in a 30 year old, 1900 sq ft home that was well built and well insulated. (located near Winnipeg, MB) I have contacted most contractors in our area, and have received 3 quotes. (several contractors did not even respond) All have suggested a horizontal ground loop system, but they range from a 4-ton to a 6-ton unit. (however, the one quoting the 6-ton revisited their calulations and now are quoting a 5-ton).
One contractor provided me with their full heat-loss calculation documentation, another showed it to me when presenting their quote, the 3rd didn't show me any proof of having done one and is also approx 30% higher. Needless to say, I have already disqualified their quote.
My biggest question now is why are they quoting different sized equipment / loop. The one that quoted the 4-ton even suggests that very little auxilary heat will be required as at 4-ton it provided most of our heating requirements whereas contractor #2 says the 5-ton will only provide 78% of the btu's required. I am planning on bringing this up with contractor #1 to have them review their calculations and/or ask them for a copy of their heat-loss calculations to see where the differences lie.
Having read the excellent information on these boards, I understand the imporatance of having system sized correctly and want to be sure that we have the correct equipment for our situation. Part of me thinks I shold err on the side of caution and go with the 5-ton to ensure we aren't undersized.
Both contractors I am considering have offered up references but I have not yet contacted them. I always question the validity of references as I do not feel anyone will be giving me a reference that will give any negative feedback... I have both contractors rated on an even footing from my dealings with them so far... If anyone could provide me with direction on how to qualify them it would be of great help! If I contact their references, what are some questions I should be asking?
On another note, while both are quoting WaterFurnance or rebranded WaterFurnace equipment (GeoStar), one did give me an option of Bard which looked attractive based on price alone. The WF's do seem to have a few more bells & whistles but it seems the Bard may be missing the coated coil that I have read has been a good technological advancement in heat pumps.
Another concern to me is both offer a 10 year warranty but the question of service comes in as I believe only one contractor in our area is a Bard dealer so if something happens to them I could have issues getting warranty honoured or any service at all.
As a WaterFurnace dealer I can tell you no other brand gives you the support that they do. How did each perform their load calcs. What loop length did each propose, what type of pipe. How many feet and stuff like that.
Be careful with unsupported claims... I have been involved with WaterFurnace and Enertech, makers of Hydron Module, GeoComfort and Tetco. The service we get from Enertech is second to none! Can I prove that? No, it's just a feeling about the service.
Originally Posted by SkyHeating
i agree with the water furnace equipment, very good choice. as far as contractor it would not hurt to check references but you can also check with your state heating and air board to see if there have been any issues with either co. as far as how much aux. heating to put in, i feel you should size it as close to actual load as possible because if your compressor wre to go out and it may take a week to get a new one the aux. becomes your primary heat. be sure the loop system is sized properly if not a little over, that is pretty cridical to operation and efficiency.
Thanks for the input!
I did find out that the one that was 30% higher was quoting replacing a good portion of the ductwork throughout the home. They didn't give me an itemized breakdown so I overlooked that. So my proposals range from minimal ductwork, to a few small improvements, to redoing the house. I am thinking that I could save a few dollars by doing the minimum and if airflow noise is an issues I could always get them back later to do the ductwork?
Just to confuse myself more, I had another contractor come to give me a proposal. He is a proponent of well-to-well systems and thinks that would be the best way to go as we have no isues with water availability or quality. He tells me that issues in the past of less effeciency due to increased pumping costs have been resolved by going to a variable speed well pump and new pressure system. Certainly was convincing and now has me rethinking doing the ground loop.
I can't fathom that a 1900 sq ft house that had oil has any where NEAR the duct system need for 4 ton, let along 5 or 6 ton. 1600 CFM will likely sound very loud, 2000+ CFM will sound like living in a wind tunnel.
Also equipment grossly oversized for the cooling load can leave you with a cool, clammy house. Even if 2 stage, it won't run long enough on low to dehumidify.
Manitoba has cheap electricity. (...and humid summers)
I would get a 2.5 or 3 ton unit and let the heat strips carry the balance.
Even 100% electric is cheaper than oil there.
General public's attitude towards our energy predicament: "I reject the reality of finite resource depletion and substitute it with my own; energy is infinite, we just need an alternative storage medium to run the cars on. The economy can grow indefinitely - we just need to "green" everything! Technology is energy! Peak what?"
Interesting thought AMD. However, I plan on staying in our home 30+ years and don't know that MB will always have cheap electricity. One day the government will privatize this valuable asset and bye-bye $0.066 kWh... Even without that happening, as price of energy increases MB Hydro will keep taking up rates.
BaldLoonie - thanks for the input. I doubt it would change things, but our furnace was a wood/oil combo. I am new to all this, but doubt that burning wood would mean bigger ducts are required. Also, thanks for the insight into humidity control - that just helped solidify my decision to go with a dual stage.
mlc1955 - to qualify for provincial and federal incentives, contractors need to be registered with the appropriate geothermal organizations (CGC and MGEA) - I will be sure to contact them for feedback. I also intend to ask for references where there were problems so I can talk to customers that had issues that got resolved and not just super happy customers from the cream-of-the-crop installs. If they can't provide me a reference such as that, that would tell me their after-sales service is not what they are claiming....
Bergy/SkyHeating - thanks for the recommendations on equipment. I think your comments go along way to say 'be sure your contractor has a good relationship with their suppliers'. I think I will add to my list of qualifying questions is how long have you been selling your brand of equipment. Guaranteed those that switch regularly are not going to have the same manufacturer support that a long-time customer will have.
In my research, I have seen many posters recommending a 'manual J' be performed to ensure system gets sized correctly. Is this the same thing as Heat Loss & Cooling Load Analysis? The 2 contactors that did this analysis showed me reports that had been generated on Gaia Geothermal software. If it is different or if I should have an independent company perform the 'manual J', where would I find someone that does that type of work in my area?
Couple more questions - the contractor I spoke to today promoting an open loop design advised that going with a variable speed well pump / constant pressure system would negate the claims that open loops consume more energy for pumping due to the technological advancements in these components - can anyone tell me if that is true? He also advised that I should not consider using a galvanized well casing, but that a PVC well would be much better suited to geothermal equipment. My only concern about this claim was that there is a well-driller 1 mile from me who uses galvanized and I would hate for him to not get the drilling work...
Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to offer their assistance. When I started in on this project I never dreamed it would be so complex! I have learned a great deal from these forums - again, thanks to everyone that contributes!
Last edited by Edapeman; 10-12-2011 at 10:03 PM.
Reason: not sure why their is a frowny face in my post??? tried to delete it, but no luck....
Edapeman; out of curiosity did you try to get a quote from a NextEnergy/ClimateMaster dealer in the area?
The one ClimateMaster dealer I found did not respond to my email or return my call. The latest contractor will be quoting on a Bryant which I understand is a rebranded ClimateMaster Tranquility 27. However, it doesn't sound like the warranty is as good - he says only 1 year on labour whereas the guys selling WF (or rebrands) have been saying labour is covered for the life of the warranty.
There could be other ClimateMaster guys in our area, but to qualify for gov't incentives (approx $6,000 - $8000), contractors need to be registered with both CGC and MGEA. I just checked NextEnergy's website - none of their dealers in my area is on the approved contractor lists. I believe I also had filled out the "find a dealer" form on ClimateMaster's website and requested that a dealer contact me. No one did. If that is their idea of service, I am not interested.
Have you checked the dealer locator on this website for contractors in your area?
The bryant system is a rebranded Climatemaster but the support you get from dealers can really be different from one brand to another. I have a friend that works with Bryant and says they so far have been great to him.
Sorry - didn't realize there was one!
Are you referring to the AOP Contractor Locator Map?
I will check it out from my home computer - for some reason our work filter blocks this link.
The way its done around here, you size the heat pump to the cooling needs and backup to handle the full heating needs. We have a whole neighborhood done 20 years ago, big deal back then, that has homes about that size with 2.5 ton geos and 15kw backup. Most rarely ever needed backup. Have a co-worker with a 20 year old geo in a good sized 2 story house, sized for cooling. He only allows 10kw to come on for backup and has no issues.
Just remember that 2 stage doesn't have a big diff between low & high. Also it will want to run on high in heating. If you don't have the duct work for 4 ton, and I'll bet anything you don't, it will be loud and could chew up compressors. You sure won't get the efficiency without moving plenty of air.