Ontario Electrical Usage for Waterfurnace Premier Seems Way Too High

Discussion in 'Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by Andrew Kulin, Mar 6, 2016.

  1. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    The methanol Ethanol Mix theory is out of my area, but I can investigate later. I only use methanol.

    I would think the bottom of the lake would be deep and remain close to 50 degrees in the winter. So why your loop is not transferring heat makes no sense unless the loop is at a higher elevation in the lake closer to the surface, which means it has floated up from the bottom to where temperatures are closer to 32 degrees.

    In the summer you can check the depth, unless the lake freezes to allow walking on it safely. Then you could take a look at where the loops are to see if they are close to the surface. All it would take would be to lose a weight or two and up it would float.

    Looks like the Unit has the right specs just no place to pick up heat from, plus the theorized potential for the loop flow to drop due to slush forming in the loop.

    My Carrier is set up to shut down at 20 degrees in the loop outlet water, when antifreeze is used.
  2. Andrew Kulin

    Andrew Kulin Member

    I don't have any useful information about the loop. All I know is original installer, from memory, told us he thought the loop went out 300-400 feet into the lake. I have seen the lines going out, but cannot ascertain how far because I was looking from surface so as lake gets deeper it gets impossible to see. Last august while floating around on a pool noodle I floated over some near shore piping (cat't remember if it was looped, or matted - that's my crappy memory's fault) but recall touching it once with my feet. so top of the pipe probably 4-feet below surface, water depth there could have been on order of 8 feet depth or so (was about 20-30 feet out from shore +/-). We may have some notes up at the cottage and I am heading up there now.

    My electric usage yesterday, with set point of 13.5C and no one up there, was 172 kW. For context, our worst usage last winter was on Feb 13 (203 kW) when we were up using the place and temperatures were cold (I think coldest day we had last winter, which was relatively mild overall). Attached chart shows some elctric usage data and temps. Notable statistic compares yesterday to January 5, 2016 (1 year earlier). Temperatures and house usage about as close as you could hope for to do a comparison, and our 2017 usage is almost double.

    I am heading up now (~2.5 hours), to take some manual temperature measurements while the system is running, probably for a couple of hours. I suppose you would want to see EWT and LWT both, or would one suffice? Anything else I should do?

    At this point I am thinking of shutting the cottage down for the winter. Last 2 days electric usage is trending towards a $1200 Hydro Bill. I cannot believe that this is good value for a geothermal system.

    Attached Files:

  3. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    No, Every pond or larger body of water is 39F degree at the bottom in the winter in heat dominated climate. The heaviest water collects on the bottom, and the heaviest water is 39 F.
    Here I suspect that the loop runs out into the lake but does not get to the deeper parts, thus is surrounded by colder water.
    Also Methanol does not form slush like glycol, it goes from liquid to solid pretty quickly.
  4. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Your system will run efficiently if the loop supports it correctly and your pumping power gets reduced. You need to confirm what the temps are for the loop. Entering and leaving if possible. You might be running on electric backup again.
    Look into the WELSERVER for data logging.
    If the loop turns out to be the issue, it certainly can be addressed.
  5. Andrew Kulin

    Andrew Kulin Member

    I arrived to find that the geo unit was showing fault (low flow) so could not really measure anything. Pressure in the loop was 26 psi, that was about only useful information. I have been in touch with Phil Malone at EL server and will see if there is any way he can get one shipped to me for this week so I can take it up next weekend to install. I have set furnace to run in Aux mode only, hoping that is loop is frozen or whatnot it will defrost over the rest of the week and I can then set this thing up on the weekend, let it run and see what happens. I can say we never had any fault messages on the geo system last year though.

    I trust that methanol-ethanol mix in the loop cannot be the cause of any of this right? I would not think it could be but I don't do this for a living.
  6. Andrew Kulin

    Andrew Kulin Member

    Forgot to add that I powered off furnace to reset the fault and it made 3 attempts to run in geo and then went back into fault (low flow fault). Basically all I could hear was blower on low setting. Grundfos pumps did not power up at all on any of the units attempts. loop pressure at rest was 26 psi (prior to all this excitement in the past week or so, at rest loop pressure was around 32 psi or so +/-)
  7. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    I've found no info yet on the affects of mixing Ethanol and Methanol for use in a geothermal loop or in a lab. All information focuses on each antifreeze being used alone in a Geothermal Loop.

    As you said the comparison of data from 1 year ago to yesterday indicates a problem with your unit.

    Having a loop floating near the surface of the lake would put the loop in the freezing water, which would make the loop water colder making the Geothermal Compressor work harder. If the slush formed as suggested by the Technician then the pumps wouldn't be able to pump the mixture which would cause the loss of flow and lockout of your unit.
    In the summer a boater could potentially snag your loop with an anchor or cut it with a propeller, assuming that is the issue here.

    If there were a way to put the pipe under ground below the frost line you could use an open loop drawing warmer water off of t he bottom of the lake then returning the water just off shore. I recall that you have granite rock along the shore line. Trenching granite could be expensive. A well below the surface would allow drawing in water then return the water to the lake. Keeping the well close to the house would allow you to heat trace the pipe to prevent freezing.
  8. Andrew Kulin

    Andrew Kulin Member

    Mr. XTech:

    There is no way at this time of year to do anything. Frost line up here is at least 5 - 6 feet deep, and bedrock is shallow everywhere on my property. And while the area is indeed granite based bedrock, the lake bottom itself will have 10-20,000 years worth of organic muck overlying the rock. That is the way of most if not all lakes up here in the shield that I have ever swam in. Occasionally there will be areas with sandy bottoms, where there are sand beaches present (none at my lake). And then there all the issues with bacteria, muck, fish potentially clogging the system, not to mention water freezes at 32F and it is well below that up here, not to mention that rock is shallow (my existing loop field is exposed for short stretches at ground surface (with insulation) at 2 spots between the lake and the house.

    My options are at this point:

    1. Run on Auxilliary (last two days worth trending towards $1600/month electric bills just to keep cottage at 55F)
    2. Shut the place down for the winter which is real unfortunate because the place is beautiful in the winter. Plus being a year round place we were not expecting to have to do that so lots of things to be done (and remembered to be done or else!) before we could shut down all hear and let the place go to freezing.
    3. Getting propane furnace I don't think is an option until spring though I will inquire. I don't have propane currently so there is the matter of getting a tank installed and laying out the buried supply line to the house
  9. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    You are in a jam for now. I would turn down the heat as you plan to do and prep the Cottage for freezing conditions.

    If I bought your Cottage today, I would install a propane furnace in the basement next to the geothermal and have it tied into the air duct. I would want a high efficiency unit since they exhaust using PVC pipe due to the fact all of the heat produced is turned into warm air leaving very little heat to be exhausted with the burn products.

    The Cottage is approximately 3500 sq feet with the basement, so I would size the furnace to heat the basement and main floor. I would do some research, a few hours to find the best furnace on the market then have it installed rather than allowing a HVAC company to install what they want to install.

    I would write a contract describing the furnace I wanted installed and know the price and include it in the contract. You will need the Installer to come back after the propane is installed to light off the furnace and make sure it operates properly. Including this in the contract will prevent a potential gouge when the Installer comes back for the furnace set up.

    At the same time I would order 2) 500 gallon propane tanks to be installed at the first possible opportunity that the Propane folks can do an install. If the supply line needs to be installed on the ground for now it could be protected by a trough made of wood run over the line to the house. In the spring the gas can be isolated and a trench can be dug by whatever means to the depth available, to protect the line (18 inches would be more than enough protection for the line).

    I have 2) 500 gallon tanks which allows me to use one tank with the 2nd tank isolated. When the first tank gets low around 5 to 10% (never run a tank to empty since it could fill with air and need to be purged by the Filling Company) I can un-isolate the "reserve" tank and isolate the low tank and order more propane. This keeps you from running a 1000 gallon tank too low before ordering propane when the winter weather could prevent a refill. You could use a 1,000 gallon tank if you could ensure you won't run out of propane or have a reliable Geothermal backup in case you ran out.

    Due to the price of electricity where you are located, the propane would become my primary source for heating the house, but I would put the Geothermal in working condition and use it sparingly.

    If you buy the Tanks you'll be able to shop for the best priced propane. If you rent they will charge you a fee, plus gouge each refill which can be as much as $1 a gallon above your local price. This is a double dip. I own one tank and rented the 2nd tank so I know the game that is played.

    If you convert KWs of electricity to BTUs and Gallons of propane to BTUs you can compare the price per BTU and you'll get an idea of how much you will save using Propane. I'll take a look for the above conversion factors later and run some numbers on heating a 3500 ft house.

    Your electric costs are HORRIBLE, so you could add a gas range properly vented of course and save on electricity use for cooking meals. I don't recommend using a gas dryer, due to the lint build up which becomes a fire hazard. I switched a rental home I lived in from a gas dryer to a 220vac dryer due to fear of using a flame near potential lint fire hazards.

    Anything you spend today will be payed back over the months of not using electricity to heat your home, at least not as a primary source of heat.

    If your loop is tied down and sunk to the bottom of the lake, you may find that it becomes very efficient. The lake should be the ultimate heat sink for a Geothermal Unit.
  10. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I don't know anyone here who puts in combined ethanol-methanol mixes in here for a living....
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  11. Andrew Kulin

    Andrew Kulin Member

    yes. but is there a downside if it was done in the past by previous owner/servicing company? Guy looking at the syytem suspects that for some reason, but in my ignorance I don't see what possible negative effect there could be that could cause the problems I am experiencing.

    I ordererd the WEL Server and it should be in my hands by Wednesday.
  12. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    First of all methanol mixtures do not form slush, I think I mentioned that.

    Second, you do not know if the loop is floating near the surface. All the symptoms here are explainable with the loops not being at the deeper portion of the lake, where the water is warmer.

    Third, you continue to give people really bad advise which, if they would follow it, would be detrimental for them.
    Besides getting biological matter into the heat exchanger (algae, mussels and small fish come to mind) the is a reason why open lake loops do not exist in heat dominated climate where the lake surface freezes: The incoming water of 39F max is too cold to not freeze inside the heat exchanger! There is no antifreeze you can use!

    You continue to lack an understanding of geo systems and how they function. I really do not understand what drives you to continue to comment here in such a misleading manner.
  13. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Get the WEL installed to provide more data in order to get to the bottom of this. The WEL will also able to send you alerts so you know when the aux heat is on, or the compressor is off.
    No reason to abandon geo, but certainly a reason to be frustrated.
  14. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    What is a WEL Server?

    When it was warmer outside you had water flowing in your loop, now you find a Low Flow Lockout with the colder weather. How does the cold cause a reduction in flow? Assuming the loop is still protected on shore, the loop in the lake is floating near the surface where the water is colder.

    Someone probably keeps track of the lake water temperatures at various depths, and I'm betting the temperature at the bottom is very close to 55 degrees.

    When your loop is on the bottom of the lake, your system will work fine as it does in the summer.

    You still have the problem of your electricity supplier gouging your income even with the finest Geothermal Unit known to man.

    I would turn the Geothermal into a backup source in the winter and use it to cool the house in the summer.

    I have some Graphs that came with my Heat Pump I bought in the 90s that can be used to determine when another source of heating is cheaper than electricity. The Graph was used to determine what outside temperature should be used to transfer from the Heat Pump (electric source) to the Furnace (propane source).
  15. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    What Curt said in the other post!
    ChrisJ likes this.
  16. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    You give incorrect, misleading and bad advise to people here. Stop doing this!
  17. mrrxtech

    mrrxtech Member

    Anyone who gets offensive I forever block their comments. So goes Curt's posts.
  18. Andrew Kulin

    Andrew Kulin Member

    It is a monitoring system that can be used for geothermal systems. I will be connecting it up at the cottage this weekend to monitor temperatures in my loop for a start.
  19. Andrew Kulin

    Andrew Kulin Member

    Also, we are seriously considering getting a propane furnace installed up at the cottage with temporary tanks and line for the winter followed up by a permanent install with a torpedo tank inthe spring/summer. I would have the contractor set it up so that it is used in conjunction with the geo, either for aux heat mode, or run it in primary mode and use geo as aux and in summer for A/C. I still would like to get the geo running properly and so depending what the upcoming monitoring may tell us, perhaps look at the loop in detail over the summer and get that fixed up (e.g., why 55-56 feet head loss? is loop length too short, etc.). And deal with the pumps at the same time (my contractor suggests looking at a Grunfos Alpha pump instead of the 26-99's if I want to reduce electrical further - I realize more expensive but our electricty is $0.25/kWh, and my feeling having read through a number of other topics on this forum where others state their electrical rates, I think our Ontario rates are way over the top compared to any other I remember reading.

    If we go propane, any recommended brands/models to look at? So far my Goggle attempts at propane furnace reviews, etc. have not yielded much information on propane, but rather seems to quickly morph into gas furnaces.

    I have a manual J calculation that I have attached. Ignore the equipment listed as the person who did this assumed this was a new build so they added some suggestions for furnace, AC, HRV. And there are ducting drawings too which can be ignored for same reason.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
  20. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    It would be a shame, but I understand your frustration. There is no reason why a geo system should not be humming away with a 61 KBTU/h max heat load in your climate.
    We are a couple hundred miles south of you, and have some customers with lakeside cabins who are snowbirds and spend the winter in Florida, thus keeping their cabins at 53F in the winter. Example of a 2400 sqf 50 year old lakeside house attached. It is possible, it just depends on design and equipment.
    You want to get to the bottom of this before you invest into a propane infrastructure, only to realize that there could have been some simple modifications resolving most of the issues.
    We have about 20 WELs going who taught us how to design those systems more efficient. With the energy monitoring, you are right on the track.
    Let me know if you need help with the WEL. You can PM me.

    Attached Files:

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