Pennsylvania Help - $8500 in electric in just 2 years!

Discussion in 'Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by Suzanne, Jun 6, 2016.

  1. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    I don't know how to get a lot of the details that will be needed, but I learn fast. The few things I do know are listed below.

    Geo Excel, closed loop installed Dec 2012 (replaced oil furnace)

    2 vertical wells, 270 ft deep. Originally was to be 3 wells 180 ft deep, but while drilling, said ground not stable, caving in, and needed to put in steel casings for a portion of each well. Since casing drove up cost, they said the system could run just as good using 2 deeper wells and increasing loop diameter to one inch.

    Electric consumption much higher than expected and has continually increased over the 3 years. Before geo, electric usage about 800 kwh/month. After instal, 2500 to 3500 to 4500 per until Feb.

    I repeatedly asked then to come out and check it. Thermostat replaced 3 times, geo 'thoroughly' checked out at least twice by my request (besides twice yearly maintenance.)

    This March (2016) electric bill was for $1100, saying we used 9,000 kWh in February. After talking with electric company at length analyzing our appliances, electronics, etc, they said it had to be the Geo system. This time when I called geo company to come check it, they called the manufacturer and found out the flow settings were wrong. The settings were for an open loop.

    The huge spike in Feb was because aux electric strips were on so much and they got stuck in on position, partially burned out, which he replaced. Since the settings were changed, the kWh usage has decreased a lot, but the change in temp was drastic so I'm not sure I can compare severe winter usage with spring usage. We are using about 1.000 - 1500 avg for Mar Apr and May.

    A few questions.....
    would flow settings cause the increase I saw?
    Would it continue to increase over time (grow more inefficient as time went on)?
    Would the incorrect settings have other repercussions on my system? (Such as shortening life on my pumps)
    Who can evaluate my system to make sure it is now done correctly?

    I feel dependent on the company...I can't change settings, measure flow rates and temps. There were only 3 geo contractors within an hour of me and only 2 responded with quotes for the install. I went with the one that had been in business longer, though they don't do many geo installs.

    Thanks ahead of time for any guidance.
  2. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I am not sure how they could change the "flow settings", short of altering the pumping system. They could change the lock out temperature lowering the use of strip heaters.

    Do we have the size or a model number for the machine?

    One inch pipe may not carry the heat we need moved. Did they grout as well as case the well?

    We need more data to be able to tell what is going on.

  3. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Would flow settings cause the increase I saw?
    It would be the antifreeze setting, which changes the threshold for the unit stopping to operate when it detects (presumed) freezing water temps of what it thinks is a system without antifreeze (open loop).

    Would it continue to increase over time (grow more inefficient as time went on)?
    No, not with drilled holes.

    Would the incorrect settings have other repercussions on my system? (Such as shortening life on my pumps)
    No, it just shuts down to protect itself.

    Who can evaluate my system to make sure it is now done correctly?
    Not sure who is close. Start with model number. Where exactly are you located? Who did your install?
  4. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    Mark, below is what I currently can find out about my unit. I uploaded some pics showing the unit labels, too.

    doc.jenser: If my pumps had to work harder and longer, or more often, wouldn't that shorten their lifespan? For example, if a motor with normal use would last 10 years, wouldn't excessive use shorten it's life to less than that? I'm sure I'm showing my lack of understanding of how this works, sorry!

    Here is the info on my Geo system that I could find just from the labels attached to it and other things from memory:

    2 vertical wells, 270 ft each,
    with steel casing for part of each well. Yes, they grouted the wells.
    I may be wrong in thinking 1 in. pipe, I can't find my quote/installation papers at the moment. I just know they increased the diameter of the pipe to make up for losing the 3rd well.

    There are 2 electric hot water tanks (50 gal) hooked up to it, only one is live, the other is storage.
    This was a retrofit, they put in some new duct work for the main floor but not for the 2nd floor.
    It's a cape cod with about 1100 sq ft on first floor. (not sure how much on 2nd? maybe about 700.)

    I live just south of Erie, PA where it can get very cold - hit zero in February - and we get lots of snow, often 200 in or more.
    I prefer not to mention the name of the company who did the install just yet. I'm expecting a visit from them in the next week or two to discuss their error and what can be done about it. I want to be as prepared as possible when I do talk with them.

    I was naive to what could go wrong for a geo install. I was under the impression that it was a simple, though expensive system and there were basically only 2 major decisions to make - vertical or horizontal loops and correctly sizing the system. I relied upon their expertise for the sizing and although my house is set on 2 1/2 acres, the landscape around the house dictated vertical instead of horizontal. I did hesitate about using electric to heat my water, but they persuaded me - that it would be comparable to my propane water heater cost to operate. Apparently, when the cooling runs in the summer, my water would be heated for free.

    Thanks for your help in trying to understand whats going on with my geo system. I'm mechanically challenged, but I thoroughly studied the proposed savings with installing geo against its enormous cost compared to oil or propane. I had to replace my dying oil furnace and it was costing me $3,000 a winter to heat my home. Natural gas is not available to me here. I surprised most of my friends and family when I chose to install Geo because I'm on a limited budget. But it's my limited budget that prompted me to do this. It was supposed to pay for itself in less than 5 years with the savings it would generate when compared to buying a new oil or propane furnace and the fuel costs associated with those. As I went into my retirement years, my small budget would be grateful for the geo choice.


    Attached Files:

  5. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    I was born in Cleveland, so I get your winter weather.

    The guys in Titusville that make your loop pipe, prints the size on the side of the pipe.

    Your heat pump is a two stage with ECM blower drive. I have yet to find your 035 on their web site, but based on the closest 3 ton unit you get about 35,000 btuh in cooling and 27,000 in heating depending on the loop temps.

    When we know the loop pipe size we can make a guess if the system can heat your home. I will look up the pumps.

    It would be nice to have operating data points.

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016
  6. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    The loop pipe size, at point of entry through the wall into the house, is 1 and 1/4.

    What are operating data points?
  7. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    By operating data points - do you mean the settings we keep? Winter we usually have it at 72/73. In summer, 70/71 (doesn't cool the upstairs very well.)
  8. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Well I did not expect to hear from you this soon as the 3:42 AM post would require a nap for me.

    1 1/4" pipe can carry 16 gpm at a 20 degree delta P, and we only need 9 GPM. 3 per ton.

    Data points like entering water temperature and leaving water temperature. PSI drop across the loop side and the machine side. That data can tell us what the machine is really doing.

    Did any one do a real heat loss on the house?

    The first thing I would do, after a heat loss to determine our real loads, would be an examination of the controls. I would make the system do all that it can before allowing electric heaters come on.

    When is bike week? Way to busy in the Erie area during bike week.

  9. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    The geo system is designed to about 3000 hours per year in your climate, and many circulation pumps can last for decades. So them running longer for a portion of the year is not a big thing when the heat pump was presumably not running. No indication for long term damage.

    a few things:

    1) A 3 ton heat pump, even if running full time 24/7 can only create $300-400 of electricity costs at about $0.12 cents/KWH. So something is fishy and likely related to supplement heat running a lot.
    2) $3000 of oil at 2012 prices translates to about a 3 ton system in your climate zone, which is what you have.
    3) 1.25" pipe coming in as adequately sized pipe coming into the house for your heat pump
    4) 2 x 270feet of pipe sounds more than OK for 3 tons south of Erie. Let us know the pipe diameter in the boreholes.
    5) The only thing which stands out so far is the dual pumps you have, where 1 pump would have been more than adequate. You are paying for the extra pumping power.
    6) Your flow is more than OK with 1" pipe, even with 0.75" in the borehole it would be OK.

    Nothing really stands out except the possibility that the unit shut off to protect itself from freezing due to the false setting, and that the electric heat was running instead.

    Tell us the exact amount of KWH used in the DEC, Jan, Feb and March, and how much much you were paying for each KWH.

  10. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    I was working on this when you posted.

    Run your loop head numbers by me.

    I get:

    If the wells are piped in series the loop head is in the higher 40s. 270x2x2+1080x4.2ft of head per hundred=453.6

    If they piped the holes parallel, then cut that in half.

    Those three speed B&G pumps have a high speed curve of 33 ft of head to 38 gpm on a very flat curve. Since this a push/pull flow center, the pumps are piped in series and we can double the head power available.

  11. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    Mark - I'm a second shifter with a long commute (live in PA, work in OH) and usually never in bed before 4. Noon or so is my morning wake up. As far as bike week - Erie won't be 'invaded' until July. It's the 10th anniversary of Roar on the Shore so watch out if you come this way, I'm sure it will be crazier than usual!

    I don't have the data points you're looking for, nor do I know how to get it. And you guys may as well be speaking Latin at this point because I'm lost on that last post.

    Did any one do a real heat loss on the house? - No, not if you mean a blower test and thermal scans of the walls and stuff like that. My insulation is old and does need upgraded/replaced. That was the next thing on my To Do List as when extra money is available - but I've been Penelec has been sucking every last cent I have (and more!) The contractor looked at my previous utility costs to heat my home over the last few seasons and took a peak at my insulation where he could see it. He did recommend replacing that. I had no air conditioning previous to the Geo.

    Doc - I'm relieved to know its unlikely that wrong settings caused any damage to the system.
    If I'm hearing you right, the design of my system is sound, given what you know about it so far. I don't know why there would be two pumps if only one was needed. (I thought each well needed one...) I do have KWH and cost info. Will post that soon.

    "except the possibility that the unit shut off to protect itself from freezing due to the false setting, and that the electric heat was running instead" - This may be why our bill skyrocketed in February. EACH February. The first winter (Dec 2012 - March 2013), we had a $1,000 shock for a bill for Feb. It was attributed to one of us accidentally selecting emergency heat on the thermostat, which would be all electric heat. I had 3 adult sons (17 - 26) living here at the time and none of us remembered changing any settings except for the temp because we were still getting used to the new system. The technician showed us how it could have happened so it wouldn't happen again. We were vigilant, extremely cautious about changing anything on that thermostat from that day forward.

    It happened again the following Feb (2014) - our March bill was $1000. This time, the technician found the breaker for the pumps was in the off position. It was attributed to someone accidentally turning it off, instead of the heated gutter system which is the breaker below it. (And no, the heated gutter system is not on continually and does not add much to the electric bill, but it helps me manage the ice. Better insulation will be an even bigger help, but not in the budget yet.) None of us thought switching the wrong circuit breaker was what happened but it was off - so end of story. I had just finished paying off the payment plan for the prior year's 'mistake' and we got hit again. Now the 3rd year in a row, Feb jacks up our bill to $1000 again. But this time, wrong system settings is found to be the culprit. It's got me wondering if it was the culprit for the spikes in Feb '13 and Feb '14 as well. It is usually the coldest month around here and if the system shuts itself off to protect itself from freezing - then that would make sense.

    Will be back with some KWH and cost info.

    Thanks again for your help.
  12. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    You have 540ft of pipe per well, 2 wells, 1" pipe
    If they are piped in series they are 1080ft sees 9 gpm.
    PD of 110F water in 1" HDPE pipe is 3.9 ft/hd per 100ft, 4.7 ft/hd when 50F and 5.1 ft/hd when 32F. So 1080 ft of 1" pipe at 32F has 54.7 ft/hd pressure drop. Throw 25% glycol into the equation and you have 78.6 ft/hd.

    If they are piped in parallel (serial piping would make no sense) you cannot simply cut the PD in half because now each borehole sees only half the flow, namely 4.5 gpm. Going in the above assumption from 78.6 ft/hd to 23.4 ft of hd if you have 4.5 gpm at 1080 ft of pipe. Now you cut it in half to 11.7 ft/hd if you have only 540 ft of pipe.
    Now your Reynolds number is a bit shy at 1700, but in my world still ok.

    Add to that another 20ft/hd for the header, header pipe 1.25", interior piping and elbows and heat pump itself, and you would be at 93 ft/hd for the whole system if piped in series, and 26 ft if piped in parallel.

    No 3 ton system should require 2 source pumps in series to overcome the pressure drop. You only need 9 gpm, and having 2 pumps there is simply a waste.
    They either don't need 2 pumps and don't know it. Or they need them, but then they did not design the loop field well.
  13. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I have seen lots of things get built that make no sense, but I'll concede to your assumed parallel piping.

    Please flesh out the leap from 78.6ft/hd to 23.4ft/hd. that is a factor of 3 to 1.
  14. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Simply the difference between 9 gpm flow and 4.5 gpm flow in each circuit. One borehole versus 2 boreholes.

    Cutting down the flow in half reduces the pressure drop down by 2/3 in a 25% glycol mix, same pipe length. Then you account for half the pipe length, which takes the PD down to 11.7 ft/hd.

    So the impact of serial versus parallel piping with 2 boreholes is about 6 fold higher pressure drop if you have serial piping.

    The point is that if serial, both pumps could not do it anyway, whereas with parallel piping 1 pump would have plenty of power for the desired 9 gpm. However you slice it, 2 pumps don't make sense, only cost money, both upfront and to operate.
  15. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    Hi All,

    I apologize for not getting this info on here quicker. I'm out of town for a couple days visiting family and haven't had the chance. The contractor who put the system in 3 years ago wants to have a meeting regarding my complaints and it's set up for Tuesday. I sure would appreciate any guidance you may be able to offer.

    I received this information regarding the system design from the office at my request since I haven't located my original contract (it is the contract portion with the driller):

    "Mobilization/demobilization of equipment/crew
    3- 185' Boreholes including drilling, 3/4" geothermal pipe, u-bends, and grouting with Benseal grout 555' @ $8.25
    Complete hook up including excavating, outside manifolding, 1 1/4" geothermal pipe up to 200' for outside piping, wall penetration, 1 1/4" transition fittings and flush/fill with Ethanol based antifreeze"

    "-----------Drilling to complete piping to transition fittings outside wall, -------- to complete." (vendor names removed)

    *If deep mines or unstable ground is encountered, additional costs will occur. If steel casing is required to stabilize boreholes and cannot be removed, price will be $17.00 per ln ft. Heating contractor is to provide and install pump station with hose kit.

    As far as KWH usage and cost, at least for Dec, Jan, Mar & April - here's what I have:

    FYI - Meter readings alternate monthly between actual and estimate, so its not exact and the KWH cost is 2 parts (Generation & Distribution) and I use propane still for my cooking stove and clothes dryer.

    Mar KWH 1674 @ 0.065160 + 0.054743 Avg Daily Temp 42
    Feb KWH 2,664 @ 0.075540 + 0.054737 (flow settings fixed 2/12) Avg Daily Temp 32
    Jan KWH 7,560 @ cost of 0.075540 + 0.054741 Avg Daily Temp 29
    Dec KWH 1,975 @ 0.075540 + 0.053762 Avg Daily Temp 44
    Nov KWH 2,918 @ 0.075540 + 0.053759 Avg Daily Temp 48
    Oct KWH 2,495
    Sep KWH 2,127 @ 0.073410 + 0.053756 Avg Daily Temp 69
  16. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I would consider your electric usage within range with the exception of January, which you were billed for in February, which might be explained by the fact that the heat pump went into freeze protect, locked out, and you house was heated by the electric emergency heat.
    Another possibility is that your Dec bill was an estimate and way too low, and you Jan consumption includes part of the increased Dec consumption not accounted for in December.

    I assume that 3/4" piping changed to 1" piping, and now you have 2 wells instead of one? Also the fact that you have 1.25" header pipe coming in suggests that your loops are piped individually to the 1.25" header pipe. The only unusual thing is that you have 2 pumps to circulate your water around, instead of 1 pump, which will cost you $60-80 more electricity per year. Everything else seems normal especially if half of the readings are estimates.
  17. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    Yes, Doc, you assumed right....the 3/4" changed to 1" piping.

    I finally found a copy of my geo design proposal and the estimated costs/electric usage.
    The estimated total ANNUAL operating cost for both heating and cooling = $707 (Annual kWh of 6,734 @ $0.105/kw)

    Prior to Geo, I was using an avg of 900 kwh/month or 10,800 kwh/year - using oil furnace and window air unit

    With Geo, I would get a bump of about 560/month avg for a total electric use of about 1500/month or 18,000/yr (and I don't know what the oil furnace and window air conditioner/fans cost to operate, but those costs would be gone, which isn't figured into this estimate.)

    18,000 kWh/year, at my current cost of $0.12/kWh, $180/month, $2160 Annual costs for ALL my electric use.

    Year 1 (Jan - Dec 2013) -
    Ended year with 1990 kWh/month avg and 23,900/yr avg
    Year 2 (Jan - Dec 2014) -
    Ended with 2384 kWh/month avg and 28,600/yr avg
    Year 3 (Jan - Dec 2015) -
    Ended with 2,760 kWh/month avg and 33,100/yr avg
    Year 4 (Jan & Feb 2016) -
    Avg monthly use peaked at 3,100

    Any ideas of what would cause the continuous increase of usage?

    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016
  18. Tamar

    Tamar Member Forum Leader

    Hi Suzanne,

    There could be any number of factors affecting the year-over-year numbers....different outdoor temps, change in number of occupants in the house, new appliances, more frequent entering/leaving the house due to job change or other factors, etc, etc. Don't forget that you are now cooling your whole house instead of a few strategic rooms. In addition, you no longer have the cost of operating your oil furnace, so the tradeoff is that some of that cost is shifted to electric.

    Unfortunately the estimates given by installers are only that: estimates, and tend to be pretty rosy compared to what happens in reality.

    It sounds like the installation error (wrong flow settings) had a significant contribution, at least this past year, and you really need to watch what happens going forward to see how much the numbers improve.

  19. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Correct, it seems that you have been projected to have 17,500 KW/H per year. But then you were at 23.9 MW/H, 28.6 and 33.1.

    Your incorrect setting for the antifreeze might have been contributing over the last 3 years, plus we had extreme temps in 2014 and 2015 (polar vortex).

    So this year you used 3,100 per months in Jan and Feb. Minus 900 KWH as a background, you are looking at 2,200 in the peak of the winter per month, nothing which strikes me as completely out of the ordinary.
  20. Suzanne

    Suzanne New Member

    Tamar - I definitely am keeping a close watch on the meter, hoping for a significant drop.

    The variables that affect the numbers should have went in my favor, lowering costs. There were 5 adults living here and now only 3 and I remodeled my kitchen with new efficient appliances. Jobs are relatively the same. And I do realize that estimates are just estimates, but it was estimated I would be saving some money by installing GEO (and the hope was I would save a lot) - but the fact is my costs increased significantly. I don't think my utility costs were supposed to increase by installing GEO.

    GEO replacing any heat source should result in some savings, whether oil, propane and even natural gas.


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