Virginia full retro install cost seems high?

Discussion in 'Quotes and Proposals' started by wildwolf, Apr 11, 2020.

  1. wildwolf

    wildwolf New Member

    I have more info on current setup than the actual quote contains. Talks are on hold during virus. My choice - I'm high risk.

    House was built in 1998. 2300 sq. ft. upstairs, about the same finished in basement as well. Currently on propane heat via 500 gallon tank (owned) and we've spent just over $3,000 since 11/10/2019 @ $2.12/gallon delivered. I know there are some insulation/envelope issues. Those have been contracted & $ put down to address when this virus crap is over. I'm getting attic fully cleaned out, can lights covered, some gaps closed up, and everything closed cell sealed, plus R-60 cellulose sprayed everywhere in attic. Plus, they're removing the ceiling tiles along basement perimeter and closed cell spray sealing the floor/ceiling joists/perimeter in basement as well.

    I was hoping for a $30K quote for geothermal to replace 2 old systems. Basement furnace is a 92% efficiency propane furnace, with 2 ton AC outside (both systems manufactured in 1998). Main floor heated by attic 80% propane furnace, 3.5 ton AC unit outside (both systems manufactured in 2008). The AC unit has a small leak around one line outside per geothermal quote guy as it's "wet" looking and he said should be dry (other unit was dry).

    I have a great area for a couple vertical wells and it is just off the outside basement entrance to house - so getting the lines into house will be easier. Here is the "rough" estimate, more detailed provided should I wish to move forward and before I move forward (looking for rough draft first).

    Basement GEO System:

    1 Two Ton, Two stage Water Furnace Model #LDV024-104L0AA Package Heat Pump with 5kw back up heater kit (Water Furnace Warranty: 5 year parts, 5 year labor).
    1 Healthy Climate Model #HCC20-28 MERV 11 20x25x5 (was quoted initially a MERV 16, so this info is incorrect)
    1 Air Scrubber X153639N Air Purifier
    1 WiFi Water Furnace Thermostat

    Main Floor System:

    1 Four Ton, Two Stage Water Furnace Split GEO Heat Pump System
    1 Four Ton Fan, Coil, Air Handler Installed in Attic with 15kw Back Ip Heater Kit Model #SAH048151 Unit (Water Furnace Warranty: 10 year parts, 5 year labor).
    1 Healthy Climate Model #HCC20-28 MERV 11 20x25x5 (was quoted initially a MERV 16, so this info is incorrect)
    1 Air Scrubber X153639N Air Purifier
    1 WiFi Water Furnace Thermostat
    • Main trunk line will be fabricated from 26 gauge metal wrapped in 3’ R-8 duct wrap
    • We will do low voltage control wiring BUT NO power wiring in this bid
    • Copper refrigerant lines with insultube on the suction line
    • PVC drain from the indoor unit to take care of condensation
    • Drain Pan with emergency float switch
    • Wood platforms in Attic for unit and walking area
    I was also told they would install a "pre heat tank" to feed into our propane tankless water heater and add a 'loop back' to the farthest point to provide always ready hot water nearly everywhere in the house. This is a bonus to us, as right now, it literally takes about 100-120 seconds to get a hot shower at either main floor bathrooms or hot water at the kitchen sink (opposite side of house). Water heater currently in basement/middle of house, closest to kitchen.

    Total estimate is:
    $58,500 with 25 months financing at 0%, or
    $62,884 with 60 months financing at 0% (essentially, they front load 7.5%)

    It's my understanding, the tax credit doesn't apply to all the work. :(

    I was also told I'd need to replace wiring, currently 200A service would need upgraded to 400A service, and that would cost about another $4400. Does tax credit apply for this as well?

    This seems REAL steep to me. Company has some good ratings on google/elsewhere. They also came in considerably cheaper for instead installing 2 new Carrier heat pump full installations with propane as backup source than the competition I had provide quote as well. Other company wanted $36K for 2 Carrier Infinity 18 systems where as the geothermal company quoted $24-26K for the same 2 systems.

    Both companies were high rated/reviewed on Google/other sites at 4.7-5.0 ratings (80-160 ratings each available).

    I don't know why I was hoping this order would have come in at $30K. If it had, I would have already signed the contract. at $59-63K, it's considerably MORE to consider. I don't have $59K and am not quote comfortable with $2360/mo at 25 months, so it'd need to be $63K @ $1050/mo for 60 months.

    I didn't see the geothermal company name in any searches, so not sure if they've been discussed here or if naming companies is just frowned upon, so won't name them unless that's permitted. Would love to find out they are top-notch from those here that are "in the know."
  2. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Member

    It doesn't seem that out of line to me, especially if this is a well known, respected contractor. Single units systems are in the $30k range but you have two systems. You probably have $15k to $20k in WF heat pump equipment, with 6 tons of unit you probably need like 1000ft of vertical well drilling which I would guestimate at ~$25k, they have to do trenching to bring pipes into house maybe $5k (is fixing landscape included? probably another $5k), and then they still have to install all of this in your house and commission it ($10k). Not sure if there is even profit left for the company installing. If your house is all electric, then the 200A to 400A conversion is likely needed to meet NEC requirements. NEC has a calculation method (that is very conservative) but its the building code. If you were to ever have both heat pumps with elect backup on, an oven, range, well pump, etc. then you could get close or maybe just over 200A. Would you ever actually run the house this way - probably not but good luck getting building department to sign off on adding like 150A (both heat pumps+20kW in elec heat) to an existing 200A system.

    I did all of this in the past year - 3300 sq ft with two zone system switched from propane furnaces and a/c over to all geo system. WF7 series for both zones, 1200ft of vert well, desuperheaters with heat pump hot water heater and buffer tank. My WF equipment was probably 2x cost of yours. Its a hell of a nut. But, my propane bill was $7k for 2018-2019 winter. My geo elec bill was $450 total for winter 2019-2020 - its almost a roundoff error to the propane bills. I was also helped by the fact that my propane and a/c equipment was 30 years old and needed to be replaced, so I was buying something regardless. I had the benefit of a 30% credit in 2019 but 26% isn't all that much different. I am totally and completed satisfied, I probably break even around 7 to 8 years and then its all gravy, but it isn't for everyone.

    Water source heat pumps are more expensive than air source equipment which is more expensive than traditional furnaces and a/c. But the big ticket item though for a full upgrades is the outdoor trenching/drilling work. Lots of people use multiple shallow loops in trenches if you have enough yard to do this. Rock is 4' below grade at my house so this was a non-starter. But I bet you could potentially save $10k to 15k doing that (although the yard will be a mess).
  3. wildwolf

    wildwolf New Member

    Thank you! That is about the best reply I could have expected. Similar situation, etc. I forget why the company recommended for me the Series 3 and Series 5, and not any of them Series 7, but I do recall they seemed like logical reasons. I guess when this (virus) is all settled, and the wife & I have people back in the house, we'll be pressing forward.
  4. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Member

    sometimes they recommend equipment they know and install all the time. I suspect they were trying to get the cost down too as most end users shop on cost. Cost is not a good metric for a good outcome in geo - just search the forum and you will read about horror stories where corners are cut to get cost down. 3 and 5 series are dual stage, 7 series has 12 stages (not quite infinitely variable output but pretty close). 3 and 5 series are dual stage equipment that are far better than single stage equipment that will cycle on/off all the time. 2 stage still does this to some extent. 7 series is pretty much always on running in the first several stages.

    Hopefully someone else chimes in on cost. I'm guessing somewhat but they are probably good estimates (+/-$5k). they are certainly correct order of magnitude wise.
  5. wildwolf

    wildwolf New Member

    Thanks. Now I have to wonder if your massive savings is due to series 7 vs the 3 or 5 I'd be getting. However, I do recall looking up the efficiencies of the 3 & 5 unis and they both seem to be very efficient systems, even if only 2 stage units. The heat pumps I was looking at comparing with were 5 state systems. I like the idea of geothermal. Installer salesman has had his geothermal system for 30 years now, been with his company for 40+ years. I have enough space for horizontal installation if I want to try on that side of the house, but vertical will definitely be easier. It's also more likely to have some water there as its next to a run off/wetter area of the yard after storms for a day or two. He stated that would make the system even more efficient, and I tend to agree with that analysis. $450 heating for winter would be wonderful. I have fears mine would be near as yours if this were a cold winter. This winter was relatively mild. May 5-8 days in the teens. Most days above 30, so maybe 20 more days in the 20s. How does the summer cooling (cost) compare? This is our 1st year in the house, so haven't had summertime AC costs to see yet. Windows need replaced, they are not currently low-e windows, so sunlight heats it up greatly - good in winter, not so good in summer.

    With the bad insulation we have, the main floor unit runs furnace frequently, which costs electric. I am not expecting much increase in electricity once the systems are installed. After we get it all installed, and mostly paid off, we have a great yard for some solar panels as well. I just can't get myself to install them on the new roof (just replaced May last year, per sellers). Will get geothermal installation done, and when it's complete, the Dr. Energy company will come in and clean out/seal everything up, and I very much hope our heating/cooling cost extremes are a thing of the past, plus we get benefit of "free" hot water, and a better air filter/purification system than the current systems have now.
  6. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Member

    if you search the forum, there is a user "docjenser" who professionally installs these systems in upstate NY near Buffalo. He reported doing some studies between two stage equipment and 7 series equipment in the same house (they were replacements) going back maybe 5 years. I don't remember the exact savings but it wasn't insignificant-something like the 7 series saves 40% over the 5 series. That being said, a two stage geo will get you a significant efficiency over a traditional furnace; a 7 series is icing on the cake. Waterfurance installers should have a program from water furnace at their disposal to provide studies for this. Alternatively, you could try to pick out a system/house that is similar to yours on 'welserver' (lookup website) to get a glimpse into how a system might perform/elec use in your region.

    Guessing here but there is probably a $4k premium for the 7 series over the 5 series, and maybe another $4k premium for the 5 over the 3. I don't believe there are any split systems with the 7 series though and I think your first post indicated one of your systems is split (there are 5 series in split). I can't tell you what the difference is between the 3 or 5 (they both seem to be dual stage with ecm fan) so its not clear to me that one will save more energy over the other.

    If you do horizontal trenching for the loops, then yes, wet ground is far more preferable to dry ground. I haven't had my system installed for a summer yet so I can't comment on the a/c usage but I would expect minimal cost a/c - cost to run ecm fan and loop pumps (mine are variable speed grundfos) which is probably on the order of 50 to 100W+minimal compressor usage (maybe 300W sporadically?). Think of it like leaving some light bulbs on around the house. Ground is colder than the air so the refrigerant cycle does little work to move heat from a high temperature source (your house's air) to a low temperature source (ground) in a/c mode. Its winter time heating that uses the compressor/refrigeration cycle extensively to extract heat from a lower temp source (ground) and move it to a higher temp repository (your house's air). So winter is when the electricity usage goes way up. For me, I doubled my electric usage from pre-geo (30 year old 65% eff propane furnaces with single speed psc fans) to post geo during the winter without any change to the building's envelope.

    I should point out though that since you are in Virginia, its entirely possible that an air source heat pump may be more cost effective depending on your winter time temps. It really depends on how cold it gets and for how long as 40 degrees (maybe 30 for supposed cold temp air source equipment) seems to be the limit where air source heat pump equipment really begins to suck. There is no one right solution for everyone (other than eliminating propane :)). Elec based systems seem to be the future to eliminating combustion and tie it to solar. Solar field in the yard (also not on the roof) is what is next on my list too.
    wildwolf likes this.
  7. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Let me know what specific questions I might be able to answer.

    it seems like that you currently;y have a 50,000 BTU/H heating load, given your consumption, before you dress your envelope weakness.

    Certainly I am a fan of the variable speed technology, due to its added comfort and efficiency.

    Why would you not use a single 5-ton 7 series, get a duct to the basement from upstairs, and zone the upstairs/downstairs. Not sure why you would need 400A service?

    10 KW emergency heat should be sufficient for the house.
  8. wildwolf

    wildwolf New Member

    Bear with me, as I don't know my terminology. I was told the 7 series doesn't come in a split format. I have 2 living spaces: "mainfloor" (or upstairs), and basement. The mainfloor unit would be housed in the where duct work currently is for heatpump/AC for same floor. They would run the water lines from well to the basement, with the 3 series to heat/cool basement. Then the split system for mainfloor, with part of it in basement, and the other part in the attack.

    I think I'm currently using most of the 200A service. It's currently feeding a 100A sub-panel to a detached garage, and a couple of other items. They should have wired house originally with 400A service. Given what it has and timeline built (1998), that's about the only thing they skimped on, IMHO. I think the installer said since both systems are now propane, switching them to both electric emergency would be too much load, thus the need for 400A service?

    And, talked to the installer again, they have decided to forego the charge for 400A service upgrade. Installer said his company & Water Furnace would cover that expense together. I guess with the virus, they're looking for additional work/customers? If things calm down over this virus, we'll be able to start in a couple months (I am budgeting something else at the moment). If things don't calm down, we'll have to decide if we want the workers in/around the house several hours a day putting us potentially at risk of infection.

    I don't know how the emergency heat works with the geothermal - does it still kick in when temps are below certain values like with a heat pump? That seems counter-productive. I also don't know what emergency backups I ever had at the previous place (natural gas in basement & 1st floor, electric heatpump 2nd floor with emergency backup), but electric usage was 'normal' and natural gas costs were ~$720/year max.
  9. gsmith22

    gsmith22 Member

    7 doesn't come in split. He is suggesting to forget the split, use one heat pump to heat/cool whole house and run new ductwork from basement to whatever rooms used to be heated and cooled by split unit in attic. Fine on paper and certainly would consolidate equipment but not always doable in reality if lots of finishes have to get destroyed or there simply is no room for new ductwork or unit in basement. Waterfurnace has a zoning system that by all accounts works well and could potentially give you a similar heating/cooling distribution of multiple units on separate thermostats. I have no experience with it so can't comment. But I have lived in a house with one unit trying to heat/cool the whole house and a separate house that has two units (one for first floor and one for second floor). I'll take the two unit house 7 days a week.

    Geo should be sized so that it can heat and cool the entire house using the heat pump with at least a 2 stage unit. If you have elec heat strips installed they should be for emergency use only (should the compressor or some other element fail). Sizing to use the heat strips with the geo unit in normal operation doesn't make much economical sense other than if you were trying to lower the upfront cost of heat pump and drilling work. But its shortsighted in my opinion. either pay now once or pay high elec bills forever. You probably never had emergency backup heat if you had a gas furnace but they are simpler machines than a geo system. strip heating is cheap to include - its the electric connection that tends to be more expensive because you need big circuits, your panel needs room, and your service entry has to have enough capacity. the 10kW electrip strip heat mentioned above requires 42A all by itself (21% of 200A service).

    Virginia is on the 2014 NEC. if you wanted to do the electrical load calculation per NEC there is a free spreadsheet that can be downloaded from mikeholt dot com (admins don't allow links till after they have reviewed the message and made sure its not spam and it takes forever. pm me if you want the direct link). But generally speaking, if you have a relatively large (3000sf or greater) all electric house in area with well water (well pump, oven, range, hot water heater, dryer, air conditioning) you are probably very close to 200A in the load calc already. If you add 2 geo units with backup electric heat with all of that other all electric stuff already present, I can guarantee you will be over 200A in the load calc. Throw in a pool or hot tub and forget it, 200A will never work for that situation. That being said, the load calc would probably never get close to 400A but it really doesn't matter because most power companies have services for residential that are graduated such that there is no 250A or 270A or 300A service. Its 200A and then 400A. I should also point out that it really isn't 400A service - its 320A continuous with 400A instantaneous. 200A is actually the same way - its really 160A continuous and 200A instantaneous. For some reason the naming "200A" and "400A" stuck for what is really 160C/200I and 320C/400I. Commercial service is much different and you can have a 400A continous there but they don't have meters they have CTs measuring what you pull.

    Would your actual use ever match the NEC load calc? I would bet money it won't even come close and you may find that if you measured draw using a CT on your incoming service it probably would get to at most near 200A (think party in your house, cooking, doing laundry, pool pump going, well pump, hottest/coldest part of year, etc.). But try telling a building department electrical sub code official and inspector that that NEC doesn't apply to your situation. I can tell you how that turns out. Sounds like it is a moot point if they are going to give it to you for "free"
  10. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Waterfurnace has introduced a 7 series split, but it has not launched on the market yet.
    The strategy has changed for sizing over the years. When we only had single stage units, it used to be that it was recommended to size it for cooling, and supplement the rest to match the heating needs with supplement electric heat.
    That has changed with dual stage units, which were sized to cover 95%+ of the load, and now the variable speed (capacity) have changed things again, especially in the new world of electrification to replace fossil fuels, the last thing we want is all the heating systems going all into electric resistance heat at the same hour on the coldest night of the year.
    Supplement heat is turned on by the thermostat, when the unit cannot turn on, it turns on the electric heat in addition.
    Yes, I would simply put in a single 5 ton variable speed unit, and run some ductwork trunk to the attic, and zone it with the basement. Alternatively, you could have a 4 ton unit put in the attic, and only run the water supply and return pipe to the attic. Now, take all this with a grain of salt, I do not know your house.
    In terms of the electrical service, you already have 5.5 tons of A/C units outside, which you are replacing with 6 tons of geo, which will use less power than the the conventional A/C during summer peak time.
    Yes you are adding likely 10KW supplement heat at least for the 4 ton (or 5 ton if you are going with a single unit), but we always put the emergency supplement heat on a senate breaker, so they can be disabled for normal use, not coming on unless the unit is not running. Again, variable speed units have changed the design solutions, and issues of having not enough power can be mitigated. Keep in mind that other things help too, like LED lights and more efficient appliances.

    I have a 5,200 sqf house, 3 electric cars...and of course a geo system. Totally fine and doable with 200 A service.

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