Have Geo Bids - Plotting Next Move

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by Blake, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. Blake

    Blake New Member

    Sorry for the long first post, but I am quickly becoming passionate about Geo. (Also am an engineer, in another discipline, and geeking about this Geo stuff is just too cool)

    I live in Colorado SE of Denver (@ alt=6000ft) and have a 4000sqft home (2K ranch with a 2K basement with minimal walkout exposure). Built in 1993, with AC originally, good attic insulation, 6-inch exterior walls, and very good double pane windows (by 1993 standards). Current heat is nat. gas @ 125Kbtu and a 2.5 ton AC unit.

    I want away from my gouging Nat Gas provider in the worst way possible. (charging up to 4X price for Nat gas). One neighbor switched to propane and is saving a bundle!! Go figure.

    House is on 5 acres, but ground is too dry and sandy here to do horizontal at any reasonable depth/length. Load calcs put me between 5 and 6 ton for heat. Cooling is less than 1/2 the heating need (Colorado does have an up side).

    I used a contractor finder service to get 4 companies for estimates on a Geo system, but only got three. The 3 estimates are as follows:

    Contractor-1 $72,000
    Was basically a bait & switch. He tried to sell me on a lower cost yet very expensive replacement gas furnace instead of Geo. He's out.

    Contractor-2 $26,000
    Inside: 6-Ton Climate Master HTV60A1 with 10KW backup strip and minimal return air modification to existing ducts; Includes hot water system. (System design for 0-deg heat day and 95-deg cool, standard for the area)
    Outside: 5 - 200' bores @ 3/4" with bentonite grouting (TC .88), 20% methanol solution. (split bid between 2 contractors, inside & outside)
    References: Contractor has reference in same area with a slightly smaller home but more above ground running a 6-ton/5-bore and has had no problems in 2 years. Other references offered.

    Contractor-3 $40,000
    Inside: 5-ton Century (he claims it is made by climate master), 10KW heat strip, and complete duct system rebuild; Includes hot water system. (System also designed for 0-deg heat day and 95-deg cool, standard for the area)
    Outside: The same 5 -200' bores from contractor-2 (uses same driller) bentonite grout, 20% methanol solution.
    References: None offered (haven't asked)

    I'm leaning towards working with Contractor-2, as they were the most open about their design process and don't seem to be trying to sell me something I don't seem to need. (Down side is they provided a split bid between the driller/loop guy and the HVAC guy)


    Do these bids seem normal or are they out of line?

    It seems like it is better to go just bigger with the HE instead of just smaller. Are there any problems with this theory when the calcs are close?

    Short loop seems to be the number one problem discussed on this board. Does it make sense to ask for one more 200' bore to go along with that 6-ton unit?

    Is it common to have a split bid, or should I insist on the "one throat to choke" model in case there are problems?

    What kind of performance guarantees are truly reasonable to ask for without having a reputable contractor walk away?

    I am hearing that efficiency rules and design is everything, so should I be steering my contractors towards any particular HE manufacturer or be setting a minimum set of COP and EER numbers for their design? Again, what is reasonable here?

    Is there a set number of places that I should be asking for as far as monitoring ports installed, even if I am not running a monitor to start with?
  2. Palace GeoThermal

    Palace GeoThermal Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Hi Blake, welcome

    I would go with contractor #2 as well. I have never heard of Century Heat pumps.

    Putting an extra bore hole would make your system a little more efficient, but you will probably never see the pay back.

    I would ask to have written loop design reports. Post them here and we can tell you if they look undersized.

    Some areas have performance guarantees, some don't. You would just have to see what is done in your area.

    Climate Master is a good brand, no worries there.

    As for ports, make sure you get P/T ports. They will know where to put them.
  3. Bill Denham

    Bill Denham New Member

    Climatemaster makes equipment for

  4. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader


    I agree with Dewayne 100% on contractor number two with the exception of the loop field. It is good that they have a system simmilar to yours running on 5x200 loops but that is one loop short of the national rule of thumb.
    I would inquire about the cost of one more bore just to hedge my bet before I dissmissed the idea based on payback. Talk to the drilling contractor and feel him out for what he feels is adequate, and what would he do if it were his house.
    You may be pleasantly surprised at the low cost of one more bore.
  5. Bill Denham

    Bill Denham New Member

    Don't give anyone money unless they have a copy of all the engineering including loops

    these systems are heat pumps needing extra air flow so does the ductwork need to be replaced?

    maybe, maybe not

    Both prices are right for the work being done

    will the cheaper guy put in his contract that the duct is OK or he will fix iy if there is a problem?
  6. Waukman

    Waukman Member

    My 2-cents is a question. Does contractor 2 really include the cost of the loop? At a cost of only $26,000 it makes me think not. Make sure and get it in writing. There has to be a reason that the two real bids are so far apart. When I got my two bids they were within $2000 of each other.
  7. Blake

    Blake New Member

    Thanks to all for the advice


    The main difference in the quotes seems to be the cost of a total rebuild of the ductwork versus the cost to make a few return air modifications. The markup on the parts and contract labor was a bit higher in the the higher priced quote as well. When I did a rough calculation of the difference in markup, I came up with roughly the $2000 difference for everything but the ductwork rebuild. That makes the ductwork rebuild more than $10K. After reading about successes in Geo retrofits on homes similar to mine, I'm not sure that the $10K is worth spending versus maybe a couple thousand in an additional bore.

    I knew from the start that the guy with the higher cost was going to want to redo the duct system. That is what his company does as a core business.

    To Everyone:

    Here is something that would make me much more comfortable with the entire project. I'd like for a certified PE to do a detailed design and engineering of my home's needs and certify that the design will work within a given set of performance parameters including bores, temps, energy usage, duct flow required, etc. I would gladly PAY to have this engineering in hand so that I could go make a deal with one or more contractors to get the systems installed.

    In nearly every thread I have read on this and other forums, problems are either the result of bad engineering; or the operational solution to a problem is hard to find because there are no engineering parameters to use as a basis when testing. Independent certified engineering plans would take a lot of guess work out of this whole process.

    Checking/certifying the engineering now seems to be left to the consumer by way of agreeing to an installation contract, which for most consumers is totally blind and a very risky deal.

    Do any of you out there do this sort of independent engineering or know of someone that does?
  8. Bill Denham

    Bill Denham New Member

    As a contractor we would still double check it

    We get calls everyday to do jobs someone started with no engineering done

    and yes others that the contractor said they had done geothermal before and hadn't
  9. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Good Job Bill

    I would put you VS a PE in a heartbeat.

    I will not challenge the winner.

    Defined education is not the ultimate, ask Mr. Honda.
  10. Looby

    Looby Member Forum Leader

    Actually, a PE certificate ain't a degree -- it's passing the test.

    "Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous
    creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I
    come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great
    thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than
    you have. But they have one thing you haven't got: a diploma."

    - The Great and Powerful Oz

  11. sunnyflies

    sunnyflies Member Forum Leader

    You are doing better than I am so far

    At least you are getting bids for complete systems. Everyone I talk to gives me ball park numbers on the HP itself, then tells me it doesn't include the electric or wells. Geesh.

    I am going to push them all for complete bids, and call manufacturers tomorrow as some are contractors recommended by them. This is ridiculous. I can not seem to get solid answers. :mad:
  12. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    I forgot about the wizard.
  13. Blake

    Blake New Member

    Hang in there


    I went through a good bit of that incomplete quote and rough esitmate routine myself. Believe it or not I found the contractors with the most complete quotes using Servicemaster.com. It's kind of like Lending Tree where you put in a rough description of your project and they match you up with contractors. I tried the Servicemaster site out of frustration in not getting anyone even remotely qualified to look at my job. I was actually very surprised by the responses I got using that kind of site.

    I did use a different site once before using Servicemaster, that was supposed to be geothermal specific, and got zero replies back. I can't remember the name of that site, but I think I linked to it from one of the Geothermal Standards Org sites.

    You might try one of the "finder" sites. They are free to use and you don't have to commit to anything if they produce a bunch of contractors that can't do teh job to your satisfaction.

  14. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    I hope you do not mean Servicemagic.
  15. gabby

    gabby Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    All PE's are not equal.

    The best PEs for construction are mechanical/civil engineers whose background in thermodynamics are a plus. Those who specialize in geothermal construction are those with the most intense education concerning geology, the basics for soil thermal conductivity. The chemical engineer with a PE license, or the electrical engineer with a PE license may be able to do the math, or run the software that spits out the answers based on fundamental inputs.

    Most HVAC engineers can answer the questions regarding ducts, but so can the competent HVAC installer who do a "hands on living" of this equipment.

    If it were me, I would go to the local supply houses and ask who they thought was the most compentent HVAC duct installer in the area....you may be surprised at the answers, as well as how narrow the field becomes.
    In most cases, the one ordering and buying the most parts is the one who is in demand because through word of mouth he has been recommended by past customers and neighbors and stays the busiest.:)
  16. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    Gives good advice, but one must know what and where are supply houses.

    When we where in CT last winter, Bell Pump was the best house for us. I never thought a "Pump Place" would have 410A.
  17. sunnyflies

    sunnyflies Member Forum Leader

    Actually, I do know where my local HVAC guys get their supplies, even though I am just a housewife, not a builder or tech. I have done my homework in that department and narrowed down the local field. Several of my discards are listed by my local utility as recommended for geo installs. I have had each over here and now understand why common knowledge deems them lower than the rest. They don't seem to be the brightest bulbs, about fossil fuel installs or geo. I don't know why they get so much business.

    I think I am closing in on at least two I might trust for a geo system. Both have experience installing them. There is a possible third, a WaterFurnace master dealer. I have to check his references to see if he is as good as he says, or blowing hot air.

    (15 minutes later) Whoops, he did not check out. Oh, well. :rolleyes:
  18. Mike Everett

    Mike Everett New Member

    Geothermal Design


    We have a geothermal design and engineering firm that specializes in geothermal heating and cooling systems. We are located in Centennial Colorado. We have a PE on staff that can stamp and stand behind you system. Here is a link to our web site www.geoenergyservices.com

    We also have a geothermal drilling and looping company, our company has over 500 completed projects in Colorado alone. www.rockymountaingeothermal.com

    Your $ 26,000 dollar quite is not bad, however the loop field is undersized for the 6 ton unit quoted. If you noticed the unit had 10k of back up heat. Thats because you loop field is undersized and they are compensating for that fact with back up heat. You do not need back up heat if you system is designed and installed properly.

    I also live in Parker, If you need any assistance you can call me directly.

    Mike Everett
    President: Rocky Mountain Geothermal, Inc.
  19. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    Dropped out.

    It happens here.
  20. hoozdis

    hoozdis New Member

    Have you looked into DX geothermal?

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