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The wife and I will be starting to build a new house next summer and we have been advised to look into installing a "geo-thermal ground watersource heating system". The above groung house surface area is around 3500 sq. ft. (2 floor cottage) I've heard that these systems are the "creme de la creme", (that means really good) Since this type of heating equipment isn't cheap, any advise would be helpful.
 

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My friend owns a geothermal company. I know from him they are very economical. I sell real estate and we do not have any in the houses I've been in. Only in the super high end stuff. I know they are very expensive. He quoted me about 12000 for my house. Your saving is quite supstantial over time. If you plan on being there for a long while I'd say its worth the intial investment.
 

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It is an extremely efficient way to both heat and cool your home. As said above, super expensive initial cost, but it pays off over time.
 

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If you can operate a trackhoe, you can save much of the initial cost.

Do you have a pond or lake?

I have been looking into geo-thermal for the last couple months. I have a pond to use as my exchanger which is considered to be the most efficient. I luckily also have a trackhoe readily accessible and have many years experience on one. :(

If you do not have a large building lot or a pond, then your only route for an exchanger is down. This can be very expensive. Our local elementary school decided to go the geo route and had to drill vertically for their exchange. At 450' deep they hit a natural gas storage well. That ended up costing the City about $1M to get it capped, pay for the lost gas, and clean up the mess it caused. The City was stuck with the bills as no-one would accept responsibility for the problem. It's now in the attorney's hands.

I see you are in Montreal. You would have to be deeper with all of your exchange than most. I think the norm in Southern Indiana is 6' to 7'. I would guess around 10 feet deep for your area and given your square footage you would need around 1000 linear feet of ditch to construct your exchange. Thats over 3000 cu/yard of dirt to remove and put back. That's a major project and mess. But it's new construction, so it can be done without too much problem. Just a lot of work, time, and money. Get some quotes. I'd be interested in hearing some numbers.

So what are your options? Pond, vertical drilling, or horizontal ditch?
 

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Matty: I have had them all.....oil furnace, forced air gas, air source heat pump, horizontal ground source heat pump and now an infloor radiant system. Radiant is my favorite by far. You get rock solid (non creaking floors) that are as warm as you like (big plus for Montreal). Since there is no forced air heating system, winter dust is almost a non issue. Also, imagine for a moment putting on prewarmed shoes/boots...before heading out the door to my favorite Montreal restaurant - Gibby's in old Montreal... ooops this is your thread!) The only downside to radiant is the construction/ install cost. Typically the floor joists are stiffer (in my case 2/12) and in addition to the radiant system you will need a completely separate cooling system for those hot summer months. The cooling system will be forced air but with the cooling ducts entering near the top of your walls.

I should point out that in my last house my ground source sprung a major leak in the winter (it was around 12 years old and just starting to pay for itself). After a week of searching no fewer than 3 ground source heating contractors were unable to pinpoint the leak .... to keep the house warm I had to temporarily wire a forced air electric furnace! In the end I capped the ground source system and installed a forced air gas furnace - I sold the house a year later.
 

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If you are installing a septic system you may be able to use the same trenches. The house we are building now will have an infloor system. I plan to use evacuated solar waterheating panels, an insulated storage tank, and a demand waterheater as back-up. The design is passive solar. I would suggest you look into this as the cost isn't significantly higher than a normal stick built house, but energy savings can range from 30 to 50 %. Scott
 

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I was in the heating and air conditioning business for 25 years, and even though I've been out of it (in more ways than one) for 15 years or so, I'm a big fan of geothermal heat pumps. Common thermal mass schemes involve deep trenches, multiple wells, ponds, etc. The contractor you choose should make a recommendation based on your soil types, hydrology, local climate and equipment capability. Get several references from each guy and check them out. This is going to be a sizable investment for you and you need the system to work right. If it does work right, you'll start seeing payback immediately. In the northeast, the system will add about $1300 per year to your mortgage, but the utility savings will be more than that right away. Choose wisely and don't get seduced by the guy with the lowest price.
 

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Allthough the property is located on the Ottawa River, I don't think we are permitted by regulation to use that water as a heat source, which means drilling an artesian well. We'll need one anyway since we are also too far from the city water services. I'm not sure if we can get away with using the same well for the Geo-therm??? 5-6 year payback would be ok, but I'm not too sure if I care for much longer than that.
Certainly we'll go with radiant heating in at least the bathrooms. It really feels elegant, *and I was also thinking about the possibility of a radiant heated floor in the garage.??? (3 car garage with a lift - of course) All other suggestions and comments are most welcome.
 

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Couple the geothermal system with 2x6 walls filled with wet-blown cellulose walls (dry blown cellulose ceiling) and you will save even more on heating & cooling costs. My parents and brother have these setups, and their bills are way lower than anyone else's with the same size house. My parents had a 5000+ sq. ft. house they could heat and cool for what it cost me to heat/cool a 1800 sq ft house with gas forced air and fiberglass wall/ceiling insulation.
 

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You might also want to check out SIPs (structural insulated panels) I think you will like the efficiency ;) Scott
 

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Search the net for geothermal equipment manufacturers. We have found that the equipment costs are not much more than conventional hvac systems. They are just being overly marked up by the installers. They are much eisier to install than a conventional system. No line set to braise or freon to deal with. They are precharged from the factory and you never cut into the freon line. The only major endeavor is running the ground lines. Either Find a local well driller willing to do the holes for you. (One 50' deep hole per ton.) or go with the trench method and rent a trencher. Either way you'll save big bucks on the install.

Brad
 

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Matty,
We have three geothermal systems in our house. We have been here for almost 6 years and love them. They are super efficient....so much so.....that they will COMPLETELY pay for themselves in energy savings in 5 years. We have a 6,300 sq. ft. house and our electric bills are rarely over $200. You will have to drill two wells. One to pull from for the heat pumps and your drinking water, and one to dispense the water back into the ground....unless you live close enough to the river/stream that you could dispense to a man-made pond which then flowed to the stream.....that would be cool!

My advice: If you plan on staying in your new house more than 5 years, go geo-thermal. If not go with gas heat.
 

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The state of California is just beginning to build a massive system like this to heat and cool all the state buildings in Sacramento. Over hte last couple of years, they have installed all the piping under the streets and are about to begin the plant itself.

Of course, this one might be a little bigger than what you need - the budget is $125,000,000.

All the best,
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