Pennsylvania Geothermal was great, until it broke...

Discussion in 'Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by JFLame, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. JFLame

    JFLame Member

    I had a 4 ton Waterfurnace water-to-air package system installed 6 years ago. Until now, it's been great. No issues.

    I noticed this past weekend that my electric bill for December was way up, 50% more than normal. So I started looking more closely at run times for December as well as register temperatures. The runtime for December was over 50% more than it was the prior year. My loop temp, which usually by January is around 45 degrees, was still at about 51 degrees. My register temps were only in the mid 80s when they have easily been over 90.

    My installing dealer was Servicemark, which was a division of UGI, which is the same company that owns Amerigas. They did an absolutely stellar job installing everything, and were really great to deal with. When I was researching Geo systems it was clearly stated here that you need to have a good dealer, and Servicemark had a massive custom homes division at the time that was doing things like installing 6 units in one house. They knew their stuff, were supportive, nice, and I was confident I was in good hands.

    I say was, because late last year it turns out Horizon Services bought portions of Servicemark, and although the Servicemark name still exists and is being used, they are now Horizon Services. I called on Sunday to have somebody out to diagnose my system, and when Horizon finally came out on Tuesday the tech did two things:

    1. Confirmed I have a problem - low refrigerant. He surmised there is a leak somewhere (of course) but his sniffing at the coil didn't find anything definitive. Oil residue in the pan at the back corner was the only thing he could find.
    2. Immediately he told me, "Horizon doesn't do Geo, you'll have to call another dealer."

    Of course I wasn't happy with this at all. Like I told the tech, "if you don't service Geo, why are you in my house at all?" There was much more discussion than that, but at the end of it all it comes down to the fact I've been orphaned by Servicemark / Horizon. Not good news for me.

    So far I've called 3 dealers. 1 didn't call me back, the other one has been trying to schedule me for 3 days but keeps saying how "Service contract customers come first," implying I should be happy they are even working with me at all. The third I just called today to see if they can be any more responsive than the other ones, and they informed me that they will accept my Waterfurnace warranty allowance but I get to pay them $100 additional to do so. Great news all around.

    I've been very patient, it's the middle of January and the worst time of the year to have the need for repairs, so I've told all dealers involved that I understand the constraints they are working under. However, what this brings to light for me are two things:

    1. The preaching on here about getting a good dealer is good, but honestly, you need to look beyond that and survey what would actually happen if you needed a Geo repair and your great dealer is suddenly not there any more. How hard is it to get service? Geo is not that common, and it's tough to find somebody who can do repairs, and even more so if it's the prime season. If I still had a gas furnace I'd have 10x as many people out there to call up to find somebody to troubleshoot.

    2. Eroded savings of Geo when a repair is needed. Geo is sold on its operating efficiency and cost savings. However, I can already tell this repair, assuming a new coil will be needed (most likely) is going to cost me many hundreds of dollars. It is well known that Waterfurnace allowances for labor are terrible, and the fact that a dealer wants $100 just to deal with them over warranty costs tells me they're not great to deal with on that front. I can't wait to see the final bill when this is all resolved, I'm betting I'll be out $1000 for a repair on an in-warranty unit. That is not what the typical consumer expects when told they have a warranty. Time will tell, but that's what my gut is telling me.

    So there's my story of woe. The geo system really is great, but if I were shopping for a new furnace now, I would probably skip it and get another gas furnace. Buyer beware.

    One other thing, NEVER use Horizon Services unless you want to pay much more than you should. Two examples:

    1. The tech who was out said my system was probably 1-2 pounds low right now and he felt the leak was there but was probably very small. I asked him if it would be a good idea to put 2 pounds of refrigerant in until I could get a new dealer in. He said Horizon charges $300 for refrigerant.

    2. I have an Aprilaire filter. The 210 series filters are around $40. I get the generic for probably like $20 or so (it's been a while since I purchased them, I buy many at a time). Horizon wants $200 for this air filter.

    I guess this is how they pay for all that advertising. RIP Servicemark, you were great.
  2. nc73

    nc73 Member Forum Leader

    Well crap if you had gas why would you go geo? Geo is no simple thing. I would take a gas furnace any day over geo if I had the option. Propane is a different story...that's why I went geo.
  3. JFLame

    JFLame Member

    I had propane. What this is really about is the difficulty and cost of servicing. When it's January and your heat is broke and you can't find somebody to fix it you'll see my point. When it's working Geo is better, hands down.
  4. nc73

    nc73 Member Forum Leader

    I feel your pain. If I could get a woodstove to heat the home evenly and I don't need to reload every few hours...I wouldn't need Geo. I have enough wood to last a lifetime. Outdoor wood boiler is high dollar and you need to go outside to load it. Not many options.
  5. JFLame

    JFLame Member

    I heated primarily with wood for years. Once I put the Geo in I've barely touched it. The last few days of heating with wood again has reminded me of how much of a PITA it really is. It's great backup heat, but I've learned to love "set it and forget it."
  6. nc73

    nc73 Member Forum Leader

    Unfortunately I will keep on burning it on the colder days. I have to use up the split wood, and probably split some more come spring for next year. Wood is a PITA.
  7. JFLame

    JFLame Member

    Closing the loop on this.

    So after purchasing a service contract with a new dealer, and having them come out to diagnose, the coil was confirmed to be leaking. What comes next I honestly can't believe...

    They covered the entire coil repair, parts and labor, for free. Yes, free. The bill at the end said $2600, but they covered the entire thing. At this point I don't know if WF upped their reimbursements, or if these guys are just completely awesome folks, but the final repair didn't cost me a cent. The diagnosis and travel costs did run me $250 because I had them put in a pound of R410 to get it back up and running until the repair.

    So perhaps I'm too much of a skeptic, but this certainly went my way.

    One other thing, they did install the new aluminum coil that Waterfurnace has switched to. I'm hoping this one lasts longer than the last one.
    waterpirate and calvin young like this.
  8. JFLame

    JFLame Member

    So not quite a closed loop.

    The repair was done two weeks ago and I just got around to posting this, but on coincidence the servicing dealer called me today to check up and also let me know they did make a warranty mistake. The full repair should not have been covered and there should have been a differential payment to do the job, as I originally suspected.

    However, in a show of true customer service they refused to bill the difference even though I offered. A class act.

    So I guess in the end I was right, though I don't know how much it would have cost me. I'm probably better not knowing.
    waterpirate likes this.
  9. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I love a happy ending to a frustrating issue! All the pros on here are also homeowners, and contrary to popular belief " we can not fix everything". So when we call a service person we are in your boat as much as you. Do not even get me started on my ice maker in the fridge.......
    ChrisJ likes this.
  10. calvin young

    calvin young New Member

    JF Lame, I really would like to know the dealer that you used. I live in Northern Virginia. The largest geothermal dealer did something similar for me. Refunded a nearly $600 check. However, there were issues with the service. Put in nearly six pounds of freon in an evap unit that had formulary corrosion. That plus dye to discover the leak. Both are real no no for a lot of the best pros in the business. Took three weeks for the new unit to arrive so we had to breath the freon for all that time Of course, it all leaked out again.

    Eric, Best way I know to fix an icemaker is to buy a frig without one Not sure if anyone has one that is without issues. That is the word of the guys who service them.
    waterpirate likes this.

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