Geothermal $6K per ton?

cs6000March 13, 2009

In my ongoing quest into the geothermal world, this is the figure I have run into dealing with the two most experienced local companies.

I also talked with the WaterFurnace territory manager today. When I gave him the figure, his reaction was along the lines of "that sounds pretty high to me".

One installer says I need a 4 ton, the other thought maybe even a 5 ton - this for a 2100 SF home. The WaterFurnace territory manager has a 3 ton in his 3600 SF home.

It seems to me that since the Feds have lifted the cap on the 30% tax credit, the GT companies are trying to cash in some.

These price per ton figures where rough estimates on their part, not the way they bid projects. They are going over the plans to get more accurate. Just wondered if anyone else had run into the type estimates.

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Cs, there are just so many variables that no one can answer your question without much more information.

It's not just the square footage, but the number and location of windows, the quality of contruction, the amount of insulation, the nature of your soil, even your living habits and expectations.

We have a three ton Tranquility 27 in a 1200 sq. ft. stucco that is nearly 100 years old. We're in Montana and we often experience sub-zero F conditions and can also have 105 degree spells in the summer. But my daughter in Berkeley has only a little space heater for 1600 square feet (also 100 years old and barely insulated).

I suppose what we paid three years ago was about $4000/ton, but we did so much of the work ourselves, and had enough "other" stuff that wrapped into the project, that it's difficult to compare. (We did a wiring upgrade and drilled a well at the same time, and I did the excavating and a little bit of the wiring and plumbing.)

Of course, in today's economic conditions I would expect contractors to be as competitive as they can afford to be.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 4:49PM
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I was quoted $4830.00/ton for DX Geothermal with a 20x50 pit 6' deep or $6300.00/ton for vertical wells. Both systems 3 ton.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 7:09PM
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Is there something necessarily wrong with $6K/ton? Are you willing to pay for a detailed, properly researched & prepared proposal? Are they not entitled to make a living; or are you such a nice guy that they should be honored do it at a price that leads down a path to insolvency?

If you think a really good installer is expensive, try a really Âcheap one.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 10:09AM
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I made it clear why I was asking the question, and it was not to start a feud.
Here are a few facts.
The Waterfurnace Territory Manager told me the estimates I received were too high.
The Climatemaster estimate I received was $4500 higher than the sample estimate the same installer was using for a slightly larger home in 2008.
I'm just curious why this is happening now.
And here's a quote from James Bose, executive director of IGSHPA. (from a 2007 Forbes article)

"I know they're being overpriced because everybody thinks they're magic, and they're selling it as magic," says James Bose, a professor at Oklahoma State University and executive director of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association.

It would be naive not to admit the possibility of installers inflating prices to cash in on the new tax credits that will lure people toward geothermal now, who would have never considered it before. Congress gave this credit to the homeowner, not the contractor.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 11:07PM
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Here's an update:
Got the detailed bid on the Climatemaster system. Just over $24,000. His breakdown lists the drilling cost and $6000, geothermal unit and equipment, $7000. That leaves him $11,000 for ductwork and installation. Is this deal going to lead him to insolvency?
For comparison, another company will install a Rheem 14 SEER heatpump with ductwork for $7500.

The Climatemater guy's cost analysis showed the annual fuel cost for the geothermal at $426, and a 15 SEER air to air heatpump at $826. Still would prefer geothermal, but the overhead will have to come way down before it can get a foothold.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 9:43AM
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markmnt is correct that there are alot of variables . You cannot just base the
required tonnage on just square footage . Your climate , your floor coverings ,
insulation , windows and other heat sources have to be taken into account .
My home is in Illinois , is 6000 sf , has 3 fireplaces , no carpeting and has
r39 insulation in the attic . I have a 6 ton radiant geothermal system . As for
the bids - I got some 3 yrs ago and they varied wildly and were all much higher
than the ones you are receiving . I ended up diy'ing mine and it was 22k
complete (with radiant tubing and manifolds) .

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 7:14PM
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Let's back up...the BTU cooling requirements are the same no matter what kind of system you have. 4 tons of cooling is 4 tons of cooling. Once you have established that sizing based on a contractors Manual J calc, you can get into straight cool, air source heat pump, water source heat pump, compare costs. Remember that heat from a heat pump isn't as hot as a gas or electric furnace, some people don't get used to that gradual heating. I used to work with the previous owners of ClimateMaster, they are pretty cool (NPI).

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 7:38PM
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I am currently installing Geothermal in my new construction. My price is ridiculously high and I'll never recoup my costs, but it's the right thing to do.
My quote is from waterfurnace and includes the following:
-10 ton unit
-Five 300 foot vertical loops
-Water heater
-radiant heat for a 2000 sq. foot basement
-all sheet metal work
all for the staggering price of $97,000!
At least I'll recoup 30% with the tax rebate.
FYI--I have a relatively small lot to work with and a four story house including the basement.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 12:15AM
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There's no max on the rebate?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 6:55AM
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Re sherhouse:

YouÂve said the magic words, "I'll never recoup my costs, but it's the right thing to do."

Unless I hear words to that effect or ÂSomething GreenÂ, I know thereÂs no chance of doing a geothermal installation because thereÂs always a reason (usually financial) why not to. Wanting to do something for the environment has always been the way to bridge the gap.

You think youÂll never recoup your costs? I beg to differ. First of all your first costs are the lowest costs; something had to be installed in any case. You will be heating water to heat your basement at about 1/4 the cost of any other method as well as heating and cooling the rest of your home and DHW at a savings of at least 40% over any other active method. Maintenance and lifecycle replacement costs over conventional equipment will also save money, probably into the tens of thousands of dollars. Last, when you cash out, you will be selling a home that will be one of the most energy efficient in the country. That premium, paid by someone else, will likely return all the rest of your initial investment.

$9,700/ton installed  including ductwork, plumbing, ground loops, flow centers, design, electrical  and radiant in-floor heating, will in time look more and more like a very shrewd choice indeed.

BTW: How are they proposing to connect these 5-groundloops, series or parallel, how many HPs?


    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 10:38AM
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fsq4cw, here you go again, pushing your agenda because thatÂs the business youÂre in.

$9,700.00 a ton will look like a shrewd choice like Rosie OÂDonnell will ever look thin and beautiful. No matter how you try to dress it up and look at it with beer goggles, the truth is youÂre still looking at a pig.

Yeah, geothermal works but itÂs expensive as hell. I donÂt know about you, but to earn those additional dollars, people still need to drive their cars, go to work, use electricity at work, generate trash because of work, pay their taxes and expend a ton of energy to earn that extra money. Nobody mentions this when they talk about geothermal.

If a person is spending an additional $40,000.00 just for geothermal how long did they have to work and save for that additional money? Some people might be able to save that in a year or two, most people would take far longer. You probably need to make $60,000.00 just to pay the taxes and have enough left over for that extra $40,000.00 geothermal option.

DonÂt even get me started if someone is financing geothermal because they will never have a savings as long as they pay that mortgage. Also, donÂt forget to mention that a geothermal system does not bring back the money if you sell the home. If you are spending an extra $40,000.00 on geothermal above a conventional system, you would be lucky to get a fourth of that back if any.

I can show you a financial analysis where these extra costs for geothermal may never be a good financial decision. After many years of searching, nobody can show me an analysis that geothermal is a good financial decision. If geothermal was such a great choice and there were all these financial windfalls out there to do it, geothermal would have captured far more than 1% of the market after decades of its use.

ItÂs the right thing to do???? So is not using your heat until itÂs really necessary or not turning on the AC until its 85 or 90 degrees outside. Too many in this country are swayed by unfounded politically correct, Al Gore opinions as to whatÂs the right thing to do. I use far less energy with my electric/propane systems then most geothermal systems by using the heat and A/C only when itÂs necessary. This doesnÂt take any extra money to do the right thing either.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 12:48PM
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Re mepop:

IÂm glad to see youÂre still around and in as good form as ever. As usual, we have different perspectives. For me itÂs not just Âan agenda or my businessÂ; itÂs a core belief. As I said, unless I hear from a prospective client the magic words relating to wanting to do Âsomething green or Âfor the environmentÂ, I know there is NO chance of a project getting off the ground or should I say into the ground in our case.

Yes geothermal IS THE MO$T EXPEN$IVE active system you can install  big bucks and deep pockets are ALWAYS a prerequisite! Clients that didnÂt know this before hand certainly do after they have studied the proposals, not to mention when they are writing cheques.

That said, I have never sold a system to anyone who was a fool, unsuccessful in life or uneducated. In fact a disproportional percentage of my clients are themselves involved in the sciences and are Ph.D.s  certainly as able to crunch numbers as you, I, or most anyone else.

So why do they come to a different conclusion from your analysis? Perhaps only G-d knows, but I give thanks everyday that they do. IÂm grateful we live in a capitalist democracy where one size does not fit all, where we can all choose how we are going to spend our earned money and where we have the right to be wrong.

In the next week I will likely be visiting a geothermal installation that is a retrofit  850-tons of capacity space conditioning over 250,000sq ft of facility  boreholes from 1,460ft deep to 1,800ft deep. Can you imagine the cost of this project? Why on Earth would anyone undertake such an enterprise - unless it pays!

Perhaps we can just agree to disagree, respectfully of course.

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." ~ Mark Twain

Who can argue with Ole Sam?


    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 9:36PM
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When I first started getting bids for geothermal I was completely shocked at
the huge bids bids , too . I questioned the contractor's about why it was so
high and got the some of the same answers as fsq gave and as mepop says - it made no financial sense to do it . My home is quite large and I plan to stay in my home for many years so I had a better chance than most at getting some what of a return on my investment . However - I still could not rationalize spending 80k with geothermal verses 35k for a traditional
system . I am quite fortunate that I had the time to do extensive research and planning to diy my own system . Having done that - I know what the costs SHOULD be . The contractor's are way over bidding these jobs and making huge profits . They are able to because there are so few companies
out there doing it and have very little competition . I am hoping that in the
future it will be more common and the costs will come down . If the contractor's truly cared about energy efficiency and "going green " they
would not make it cost prohibitive for the middle class . As far as the
Phd's - I have met quite a few with a lot of book smarts and NO common
sense . Obviously the larger the facility - the quicker the return on your
investment , so it makes more sense for commercial purposes than it does
for smaller residential projects .
mepop - I read a similar post from you quite awhile back and your
argument was what made me decide to see if I could diy my project in
order to get costs down . I really appreciate your posts - if I had spent 80k
I would have spent the next 10 years feeling like a sucker .

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 2:56AM
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Building a new house. I will have a split 6 ton unit. 3 for the basement finished and 1st floor, approx 4000 sq ft. the second 3 ton unit is for the 1700 second floor. I live in KY. Insulation will be a combo of open/closed cell foam and cellulose. Total cost for 6 tons in 24,500, with 3 seperate zones. I had 6 bids that ranged from 23k to 55k and tons from 5 to 9 for my house. The Waterfurnace territory rep did a manual j to come up with the tonnage that I needed.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2009 at 10:17PM
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I have been getting equally wide swings in tonnage and in prices, even from installers with experience. It's quite daunting. As a result, I have been holding off. If everyone agreed on tonnage, it would be easier to begin to compare what's included, but they don't. Yet they all claim to have run manual Js...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 1:19PM
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Well IÂm glad to see that some people are still going ahead and installing geothermal despite all the negativity of the naysayers. Properly sized and installed, IÂm sure youÂll be delighted with your choice.

Regarding the large variation of size - even with a Manual J, keep in mind that the person performing the test may have to make a lot of assumptions. Manual J is not magic, different assumptions and input will yield quite different results as will familiarity or lack there of with the program if a computerized version of Manual J, such as Wrightsoft is used.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 10:52PM
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fsq4cw -

I installed geothermal so I am not a naysayer . I am just stating that the prices are ridiculously high and their is no excuse for it . It also does not make any financial sense to do it if you are going to pay upwards of 40k
plus . I noticed you have no argument that justifies the bids people are receiving . I also noticed that you are telling people that their homes will be worth more because of the geothermal . I don't know where you live but that is absolutely not true in my area (near Chicago) . You get no extra value for geothermal and people aren't willing to pay "extra" for something they are unfamiliar with .

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 3:03AM
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fsq4cw -

I installed geothermal so I am not a naysayer . I am just stating that the prices are ridiculously high and their is no excuse for it . It also does not make any financial sense to do it if you are going to pay upwards of 40k
plus . I noticed you have no argument that justifies the bids people are receiving . I also noticed that you are telling people that their homes will be worth more because of the geothermal . I don't know where you live but that is absolutely not true in my area (near Chicago) . You get no extra value for geothermal and people aren't willing to pay "extra" for something they are unfamiliar with .

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 3:06AM
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Re: fayemarie

Am I missing something here? You state that you believe prices are ridiculously high, it may not make financial sense, that there is no added resale value accompanying this home improvement  but you did it anyway! That probably makes you either a true believer, or something else IÂm curious, why did you go geo?

I have in fact stated elsewhere on this forum as to why the prices for geothermal are so high and why they are not likely to come down, however, believe what you like.

Frankly, IÂm growing weary of these on-line discussions as to whether geothermal pays or doesnÂt pay, or is system ÂAÂ better than system ÂBÂ.

Perhaps I will limit my input on this forum to specific technical problems geothermal owners are experiencing, that I donÂt mind answering, and leave the finances, pros & cons and theory to others.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 12:07AM
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For what itÂs worth Steve, yes, you are missing something. Being involved in thousands of construction projects since the early 1980Âs, I see most property owners having the same attitude towards the environmental movement as I see here on this forum. If a property owners had to work hard for their money, you better come up with a better reason than "itÂs the right thing to do" before they will part with that money.

Most people just want the entire truth about energy issues without the political correctness of "doing the right thing" influencing their dollars. People have been tolerant of political correctness but when it costs them those hard earned dollars, tolerance becomes contempt very quickly.

I donÂt see your reasons for "doing the right thing" commonly believed by the majority of people. Most people want to do the right thing when it comes to energy but it has to make sense all the way around to be the right thing. Many distrust this "do the right thing" mentality because we see so much greed and political power grabbing behind these agendas.

When Al Gore makes hundreds of millions off his carbon credits while living in energy wasting mansions and flying private jets all over the world, contempt grows. When we see politicians and celebrities preach environmental conservation while their lives are as wasteful as none of us can imagine, contempt grows.

Environmentalists prevented all refineries and nuclear power plants from being constructed in the last thirty years. Environmentalists have prevented any serious natural resource exploration on and off the shores of this country and these issues have driven up energy prices. When we see environmentalists push for very expensive energy options now after they have been a major factor in affecting high energy prices, contempt grows.

When people see others push a "do the right thing" energy agenda while making outrageous profits in the process, contempt grows to sever hatred. Wasting big money to save easily reproduced energy is illogical to most and will tend to piss people off every time.

If this is the right thing to do for so many people, where are all the non-profits assisting property owners with these options? There are tens of thousands of non-profits out there to assist people with worthy causes for just about every reason you can think of. Why isnÂt there a single non-profit that I can find to assist people with reasonably priced alternative energy options? IÂll tell you why, because doing the right thing is a politically correct disguise for making money.

This rant isnÂt directly at you and I've enjoyed our debate over the last year or so. I just thought you should know why you get some of the reactions that you do.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2009 at 10:12AM
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As for me, I do think going Geo is the right thing to do, so I have been looking into it seriously. I just get very annoyed and frustrated by the ridiculously high prices of the estimates in my area, versus estimates for the same thing that others are getting in theirs. A five ton Envision Water Furnace unit - no wells, manifolds or electric - ought to cost the same anywhere. If it costs roughly $7,600 in other parts of the country, I don't appreciate being told that the least I can get it for in mine is $22,000. And, please don't anyone give me that stale argument about shipping cost, it can not triple the price. If it did, I'd go pick a unit up myself - which on thinking about it is not a bad idea.

Then, that brings me to well diggers. They're a fun bunch, but perhaps I am being a bit hard on them because I just had to go without water in our house for 30 hours because I had to have my well clorinated for the coliform bacteria introduced into it by the guy who replaced our well pump a while ago. He neglected to treat it at the time. Oh, well, what's a bit of bacteria between friends. But, it sure is nice to have running water again! Anyway, I have been getting estimates for a closed loop well system for a geo install. So far they range from $18,000 to $58,000 for exactly the same specs. Then, they ask if I wanted manifolds to be included also... that will be extra.

Bottom line, I'd love to be able to get geo for as low as $6K a ton, but that's not going to happen in my neck of the woods. Yet, I see people posting in other areas of the country who are able to get exactly what I need for between $18 and 28K, soup to nuts - top of the line 5 ton unit, three 300' closed loops, piping and manifolds, electric, new ducting for the same sized house as mine, thermostats, etc. I can not help thinking that something's wrong with the picture around here. I think if there was more competition, the local picture would improve.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 3:57PM
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There are so many things that go into the cost of a geo system. Sales for my company average Differences include wether system is vertical, horizontal or open looped, wether system is retrofit or new construction (adding duct work and such to the mix) and contractors cost of doing business (a guy around the corner from me in MI is collecting MA unemployment cause he worked there for a few weeks....that's gotta cost a MA contractor lots in unemployment insurance).
Our installation costs offer a It's to bad that geo is not accessible to all that want it, but for those of you who think it's too high in your area due to whatever reason may have a business opportunity available in a rapid growth market.
Good Luck-

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 9:34AM
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Interesting how I came across this thread the night before the GT guy is suppose to come out for a quote. My situation is different as I'm on forced oil, with a really old furance which kicked it.

My options were to trench the gas line to the street or trench GT. Although I found knowledgeable and experienced installer, they are basically the only game in town. When we initially talked over the phone, the ballpark quote was $16k for a 3-ton closed loop horizontal, up to $20k for a 4-5 ton system; an extra $1k per ton for vertical.

Although the 30% is making it affordable (barely), the house is old and only has insulation in attic and plaster walls. A lot of the windows need replaced too. And although I can handle insulating the garage and basement, I'm weary of drilling through the cement siding or plaster to do whole house insulation. On top of that, I received a $26k quote to replace 26 windows....again, just to seal up the house. With all the prerequisites I need to do before the geo will go in, I'm starting to have second thoughts.

I'll find out the damage tomorrow.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 10:15PM
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This is funny. I started this thread just over a year ago, and here it is again.

If anyone re-reads this, here is the end of my story. I bargained the Climatemaster guy down by $2k, explaining the troubles I had over the cost.

Everything has gone just fine with the process, drilled 4 wells for the loop. We are just now finishing the house. The GT system and desuperheater where fired up this week, and it seems to work great. The air was cold and water hot anyway.
I got $9 grand back on my fed taxes, most of it due to the GT system, so I figure it only cost my about $5-8k more to go with the GT over conventional. I should get it back some day. So far, so good, hope I'll be happy with it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 8:13AM
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I, too, just ran across this old thread. I'm glad I did, because after posting my doubts here, I did a lot more research, especially on the forums where I found an enormous amount of help, and decided to go ahead with a geothermal system. I am so glad I did.

I have a six ton Waterfurnace Envision unit with a desuperheater and four closed vertical loops - and for the first time ever, our house stayed warm and cosy all winter long, no matter what temperature or weather outside. Better yet, we saved $4000 over what we would have had to spend on oil to keep our house warm! The system was certainly more than an oil or gas system would have cost us, but it looks as if, by using the tax credit, and accounting for our huge savings over oil, we will break even in about six years. I'm thrilled.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 12:11PM
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Crazy! Its now been 2 years since I posted this thread, just came back here for the first time in many months, and its back.

I actually was just providing some info on another thread about our ongoing happiness with the system. Combined with a woodstove and some south-facing windows, we came thru the winter in great, warm shape. Our highest bill was around $120 for this 2100 sf house. Big chunk of that was probably for hot water.
In summer, around $100, with the thermostat around 76-78 or so, and ceiling fans. So, I'm one of the happy GT believers. The tax credit is the deal maker or breaker for most people, I think. From what I read, it is here til at least 2016. If Congress were to axe this due to the deficit problems I'm afraid it could stop some buyers. Hopefully that won't happen.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 7:23PM
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I realize this is a very old post but CARDS89.... I am also in ky. Who did your geothermal and have you been pleased? We are building the same size house and they are recommending the same size system. Thanks

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 9:13PM
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Looking back over this thread with the benefit of time, I think it covers the thoughts and emotions that go into choosing geothermal pretty well.
I don't regret going with geothermal, but would not recommend it for everyone. Our electric bills have been very reasonable, but we are conservative energy users by nature. If you are primarily motivated by environmental issues/energy conservation, its an easy choice. Go ahead.

If you are determined to use it as a financially sound investment, as I was, its not as easy. Sit down and figure out how much you will get back in tax credits, electric company rebates, etc. I was fortunate to be paying cash for the whole home building project, because extra financing charges could also play into the equation.

The system is very comfortable year round. We use a wood stove in winter, so we don't use a lot of geo heat, but it is much less harsh than our old natural gas heater.
In the 28 months our system has been operational we've had an ECM motor module go out, run capacitor failure, and now have found a leak in the evaporator coil. It will be replaced soon.

All but the capacitor have been covered by warranty, but I have just mailed off a letter to the president of ClimateMaster suggesting some sort of owner survey be implemented to help identify these issues. If you talk with a ClimateMaster rep, you might mention it, too.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:59AM
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In looking at cost of a geothermal unit what I see is missing is what are your ultimate goals. Do you want to eventually have backup power to your heating system or do you eventually want a net zero home.

Many low cost units make it almost impossible to backup needing as much as a 100 kw generator. By spending a little more on new variable speed higher efficiency designs it is easy to back them up with a small home generator or hybrid renewable system.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2014 at 3:13PM
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