Finding a new Geothermal contractor

Discussion in 'Quotes and Proposals' started by draginol, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. draginol

    draginol New Member

    Hi all,

    Some months ago I built a house that uses geothermal heating and cooling.

    Here is some of the data:

    House size: ~20,000 square foot

    Location: Canton, MI

    Type: Closed Loop

    Configuration: Approximately 30 wells that feed 5 GeoMax 2 heat pumps (apparently Edison wouldn't let us use more commercial grade pumps). Radiant heat throughout the house along with 5 forced air units.

    The system does heating fine -- now. It was designed by Ferguson and I'm reasonably happy with the design -- though I have very little information on the design.

    The problem is the service and bugginess of the implementation has finally reached a point where I want to find a new contractor despite the fact I have to waive my service warranty to do it. Four Streams is the contractor the implemented it and it's been nothing but a cluster for us. At first, heating didn't work. Then heating did work but it was using the gas boiler backup for all the radiant heat. Then when that got fixed the forced air units didn't do heat.

    And now, surprise surprise, air conditioning doesn't work. I got word finally today that I have to switch the Geomax pumps from heating to cooling and to do that I have to physically open the 5 panels and move a wire connection. While I'm an EE by training, there's no way that's an acceptable configuration.

    In addition, whether anything is running or not, the main loop pumps run 24/7 (4KW) which kind of undoes a considerable amount of the point of having the system.

    There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the system. I just want to get a contractor who will work with me to implement some common sense features into the system (like say, at the very least, a simple switch to go from heating to cooling as well as have the loop pumps hooked to the PLC so that there's some intelligence in how they're running rather than simply being hooked up to an on/off switch).

    Plus, in general, ways of enhancing the system over time and maintaining it. I'm not as sensitive on price as I am to responsiveness.

    Is there anyone in the Canton MI area anyone would like to recommend?

  2. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Calling Joe, and Mark:)

    Hi and welcome,
    There is an extensive network of refferalls and information here. Joe is in MI and Mark is the resident radiant guru. We here stories like this all the time. Be patient and the buggs will get worked out.
  3. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Hey Joe?

    Eric, I am still going to sit down with you and bend elbows.

    @ draginol,

    Controlling the system you describe is the hardest part of such a design/build. I spend hours and hours controlling what I think up. I would be happy to take a look.

    I like radiant and geo so let me know what you want the system to do and I will tell you how to do it.

  4. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I just re-watched

    the U-tube vid. With the Tekmar system you should be able to run the house from your phone.

    It can happen for less money than changing out the geo heat pumps. What to do is, change the control strategy and wiring to meet your needs. The system is viable as I see it, you do not like the user interface.

    The change over from heating to cooling can be done without opening panels and moving wires twice a year. I would make a system that stays zoned, as that allows for the best possible energy savings whether in heating or cooling. I might include a hot loop cool loop scenario that allows the heat pumps to do their job while taking heat from one area and applying cooling to another.

    I think you need better control over what you bought.

  5. draginol

    draginol New Member

    Thanks. I'm reasonably technical but I don't want to have to be messing with wires and such.

    What I'm going to need I think is another controller (Tekmar) that can be set up to switch the system from heating to cooling or ideally be able to turn off the loop pumps when nothing is required in the house at all.
  6. draginol

    draginol New Member

    Do you guys know anyone in the Michigan area I could contract to come make the kinds of changes you're suggesting?
  7. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    is a suburb of Cleveland I thought, LOL.

    I'll come design the change and we can get Joe Hardin to install the fix.

  8. draginol

    draginol New Member

    Cool. What sort of cost do you think it would be to implement this kind of thing (just a rough ballpark?)
  9. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    cost is relevant

    only if I make what you bought work the way "they" said it would work. I am all about comfort first. Then low operating cost. Then Green.

    Maybe not. I am Green first.

    You have a PM from me.

    We are finishing a major job in Valley City, OH with geo-radiant. My customer wanted to live in the home before we finalized the control system. I will provide his contacts if you wish.

    I can be in your front yard for lunch, Saturday, and have the fix planned in time to go to mass, Sunday.

    You buy the gas both ways, and I charge a daily rate for the two of us.

    It will be less than the Tekmar to your phone control. My phone is on my hip and you have my number in your email here.

    @Phil: I get excited about these systems, sorry if I was overly commercial.
  10. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Thanks for the nod Eric.
    Spoke with Mark today and suggested tomorrow isn't my favorite (playing a benefit show at the legion).....
    Mark definately is the radiant Guru, but I'm in a great location for continued maintenance.
    Was within minutes of this home most of the day (bouncing between Salem and Ypsi).
    See you soon Draginol.
  11. zach

    zach Member Forum Leader



    I highly recommend Mark Custis. He assisted me with my pond loop install. PM me if you'd like more.

  12. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    It appears that this will have a happy outcome afterall!
  13. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader


    Recognizing the supply house, I guessed immediately who the designer was for this project. After speaking with him he is trying to arrange to meet Mark and I to get this system dialed in to Dragl's expectations.
    (Sure will be nice to have someone bring me a load calc instead of doing my own on 20k sq ft)
    Mark's the radiant guy, but I want to compare actuall usage to estimated costs. It would be easy with a system this large to overspend a thousand a year or more with out knowing (if we don't eyeball actual performance).
  14. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    West bound

    and down. See everyone Thursday. I concur lets make this nice install do all it can.

    Been doing my home work on the controls. I see open dry contacts in the heat pumps and more than likely in the air handlers that can be used to control heat/cool switch over and control the loop pumps.

    Joe: Let's trim all that we can out of this system, since our customer would like to go off grid. I am sure we can do what we intend to do.

    Mark & Stephanie.
    Last edited: May 3, 2011
  15. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Neat looking job, but controls not thought out well. Mark and I pulled a few hairs out but have a plan.
  16. zach

    zach Member Forum Leader

    Joe, Mark, and Steph

    Very cool you could take a link made from this board( I mean between you three) and help a client having an issue (draginol)..........the power of networking via the Internet. And, kudos to Phil and those at Geoexchange for this forum!

    Please share more when you have it, to include pictures if Draginol is OK with it.

    Going to paste a reply from Mark here on this thread to a reply from last night on another thread. Really appreciate all of you sharing knowledge here. With so many lurkers, the education and networking is what the industry needs going forward. Really good stuff.

    [​IMG] 11 hours later:
    It took Joe and me the better part of two days to get a feel for what the installer of the control system was trying to do. The system has 9 Tekmar t-stats that control the radiant floor system, these are tagged to a Tekmar 268 boiler control boiler control with outdoor reset. The five air-handlers are controlled by heat pump t-stats using the transformers in the geo units. The issue became two fold. First is the issue of mixing and matching the transformers second is that running cooling to specific heat pumps feeding 300 plus gallons of buffering tank will take way to long to do. Dropping from 85* to 40* means moving a big bunch of BTUH.

    Our short term goal is to make the heat pumps in cooling mode responsive to the storage tanks, not to the area looking for cooling. Long term is to take the entire HVAC system to a Control4.
    We move BTUH
  17. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    We are home in oHIo, the land of jeeps, we got lost in the MI wilderness because I wanted to stay off the 70MPH roads with my old loose steering motor home. Well we drove off the map and ran some back roads using the on board magnetic compass to go from Joe's house to ours. We did not use the G3 GPS as that would take the fun out of the drive. Short story, the roads we drove beat us to pain. The monster home is a 1980 Chevy one ton truck, there is no soft ride about it. I would have rather run the gravel roads common in Joe's AOO. In 1980 when Detroit made trucks, "ride" was not an issue nor was gas millage. The Monster Home is what she is, and provides many hours of enjoyment for Stephanie and me. We love running the back roads and seeing the USA in our Chevrolet.

    BRB. Running down to M/H for stuff for Steph's snuffles.
    Last edited: May 8, 2011
  18. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    I got the monster home very cheap and have a few bucks into her. She has a 400 CID, SBC with a turbo 400, that will run on Ford ATF and 57 limestone. She is a Chevy tough truck with a house in the back. We have potty, black and grey water systems, A/C, furnace, kitchen and bath sinks, refer, (the bromide absorption unit sprang a leak and sits in the shop, and we run a Home Desperate dorm fridge with environmentally friendly 134A) and the grand kids bunks have been turned into tool bunks. Life was good until Libya and the futures market doubled the price of gas.

    We are looking at towing one of small trucks with us, I guess towing a truck can not reduce the 7 to 8 MPG I get now.

    Well I do "DO" big multi-redundant equipment systems, so this home was just a matter of finding out what was promised, what was installed, what was the control system is supposed to do. I got that done, me and a great fellow contractor, and we hvac types, met a very nice family in a very super home with a super system that needs to be controlled.

    We will do that.

    Last edited: May 8, 2011
  19. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    We have a plan

    Joe and I just got off the phone and will be on site Tuesday. We will let you all know what we did and how.
  20. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    We have cooling with a single switch, as contracted. Joe is one of the best controls guys I have met in a long time. More stuff and details later. We will be in MI for a day or two more.
    Last edited: May 11, 2011

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