Help with contractors/ quotes

Discussion in 'Quotes and Proposals' started by lgeldred, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. lgeldred

    lgeldred New Member


    We’re seriously considering geothermal, and we’d love some feedback on our particular situation and these potential contractors.

    Our house is a 1941 brick cape cod with approximately 1400 finished square feet above. We have a basement, half finished, of about 850 square feet (so 425 finished). We’re currently using about 1200 gallons of heating oil per year (about $4000 at today’s prices), plus about $440 in electricity for our window units. We believe, based on these numbers, that the house has basically no insulation. We have no ducts at this point.

    We’re looking into the Keystone Help Whole House Geothermal Loan program, which would require us to get a HERS energy audit and make other envelope improving fixes like air sealing and insulation.

    Here is what our potential geothermal contractors have recommended:

    1) Says they do about 120 installations/ year.
    a. Recommends 3 ton climatemaster Tranquility 2 stage system, with desuperheater and extra 52 gallon electric water heater, HONEYWELL FAN POWERED HUMIDIFIER
    b. Cost of 17308 PLUS drilling costs of approx 5850, so a total of 23158.
    2) Says they do about 80 installations/ year
    a. Recommends 2 ton Tranquility 27 2 stage system, 10 kw aux heat, Bradford White 50 Gallon Electric Water Heater.
    b. Proposal is not specific about well depth etc
    c. TOTAL cost including drilling, 17880.
    3) Says they do about 75/ year
    a. 25 years experience with geothermal
    b. Recommends 2 ton WaterFurnace Envision series 2 speed, desuperheater with 50gallon pre-heat tank, 8kw auxility heater
    i. 2 ton loop, 300’ drilling with 600’ of 1.25” pipe in the ground
    c. Total cost of $19741
    4) Says they do over 50/ year and have over 25/ yrs experience
    a. Says that a load calculation on the house revealed it needed a 6 ton unit, and he didn’t recommend proceeding unless we get increased insulation. He dropped some numbers that don’t make sense to me, but may to you: 24 degree balance point, 2nd floor needs 12000 CFM.
    5) Says they do about 100/ year.
    a. He did geothermal for a friend, and they are very happy with their system.
    b. Presented me with load calculation documents showing that I probably currently would need a 5 ton unit. It shows a need of 72895 BTU heating and 41349 cooling, which apparently corresponds well with what we’re currently spending.
    c. He recommended only doing geothermal if we can use the audit/ insulation to get down to a 3 ton unit with more like 53806 BTU/heating and 26186/ cooling.
    d. He recommended a 3 ton Waterfurnace #NDV038, 2 stage, with desuperheater and 15kw aux heat; Two 50 gallon water heaters, one as preheat buffer tank
    e. Cost of 10492 plus 3.4 ton of ground source heat exchanger (2- 260) using 1” high density piping; he also provided me with a loop details report, though I’m not sure which if any of those numbers might be useful to you guys
    f. Total cost of $27000
    g. Recommends zoning second floor because it will be tricky to get vents up there and will probably not heat/ cool the same as the 1st floor (extra $1600)

    Obviously there’s a great variance in recommendations and costs here, from 17k for a 2 ton to 28k for a 3 ton. The last contractor gave me the most information and generally impressed me with his knowledge and expertise. If costs were equal, I’d certainly go with him. I’m inclined to discount the 2 ton folks because, based on conversations with contractor 5, I wonder if they really listened when I told them we were going through 1200 gallons of oil per year. Apparently, if our load really was 2 tons, we should need a lot less than that.

    Ideally, we’d get our energy audit and figure out what our new load will be before deciding to do geothermal or not. Unfortunately, that’s not the way this loan works; we need to decide and commit BEFORE the audit, because we have to get a fancier (HERS) audit if we’re doing geothermal. We plan to, at the very least, go ahead and get air sealing and insulation.

    The reason I want to do this is that we’re spending ridiculous money on oil, and we’re planning to stay in the house long term—probably 20+ years. At our current spending level, we’ll spend 44200 over 10 years. I would rather invest that in geothermal and then pay substantially less in 10 years.

    I am concerned, however, because if we go with the last contractor and get our additional air sealing/insulation improvements, we may be looking at $35k. At the loan rate of 3.875, this will cost us $350 per month, or 4200/ year. Contractor 5 estimated our new energy costs at $1023/ year, making our total of loan + electricity about $5200. He said this would be quite reliable since his numbers for our current expenses were so dead on, and our friends who had them do their geothermal system are spending about that per year. We could then deduct tax rebates (which I calculate we’ll only be able to take 7500 of, since our tax liability isn’t very substantial) and various energy rebates/ incentives to hopefully make the cost comparable to what we’re spending now.

    I’m mainly concerned because it looks like we can do this, but the numbers need to be reliable. If electricity for geothermal ends up costing us $2000/ year, so that we’re spending $6200/ year for the loan and the energy costs, we’ll be in trouble. Our margin for error here is small, so while I really want to get away from oil, I’m worried.

    How likely do you think it is that oil prices will continue to go up, at least pacing with inflation? That makes this a better investment.
    How reliable are post- geothermal cost calculations if they do a good load calc?
    Should I discount the contractors who recommended 2 ton units?
    And any general recommendations you have.

    In advance, thanks so much for your expertise.
  2. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    One gets what one pays for,

    so look at what you typed. You need to know what you are buying or what they are selling.

    So learn what you need for the heat loss/gain. Spend $50 and get the on line issue software.

    Know your yard. What will it do and how do you get that for the best value.

    Tagging a unit to duct work is easy, making sure it will do what you expect is not easy.

    I have 30 years of experiance and may do four or five a year, who is better? The honest professional.

    Sealing the envelope is always a cheap fix and a great ROI.

    I like to zone homes. Duct work can go anywhere and water takes less of a foot print.

    I do know one thing Oil will never go down in price in the long run again. We blew the easy oil and now we are going to make tar into fuel. Not cheap.


    You have sensor overload. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of your goals. Make a short list of 3 or 5 main goals, then reread your post. My guess is half will go away.

    I think your thinking is correct and the folks here can and will help. We mostly do this for a living and long posts can get skipped over like I did.

    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  3. lgeldred

    lgeldred New Member

    I'm sorry if I included too much information. I just wanted to be sure to cover questions people would probably have, in advance.

    Certainly, I would prefer the "honest professional." However, it's not always easy for the consumer to figure out who that is. I've received recommendations from 2 to 6 tons; it seems like there should be some people I could weed out here.

    I don't necessarily want the cheapest bid; I want the person who'll do the best job, but I also don't want to choose the most expensive option because I assume that more money always equates with best quality.

  4. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    We still want to see what the others had for load calcs.
  5. engineer

    engineer Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Go for the negaWatts.

    In other words, invest in sealing / insulating the house rather than sizing a geo to meet present load of a 1941 house.

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