New to geothermal, considering large system install - Advice?

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by Sarah Parkin, Sep 25, 2018.

  1. Sarah Parkin

    Sarah Parkin New Member

    Hi all! I'm glad I was able to find this forum and have gathered a lot of useful information reading through other posts. We are considering converting our home to geothermal heating/cooling, and I wanted to get some opinions on if it's right for us. Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about HVAC equipment. I'm doing my best to name/label things correctly.

    We recently purchased a single-family home in Clarksville, MD. It's about 4,600 square feet, built in 1992. Very high quality construction and insulation. The house is very long and primarily on one floor. There is a small second-story with only 2 bedrooms, the rest of the house is on the main floor with a crawlspace underneath. The crawlspace is VERY dry/clean/and sealed. There is a small, unfinished basement area (outside access only) underneath the master bedroom where most of the utilities are stored for our well, and one furnace.

    Because of the shape of our home, we have 4 HVAC's, all of various ages. 2 of the condensers are very old. Also, propane is very expensive to heat, so we're considering a change. 3 of them are propane furnaces with electric AC condensers, and 1 is an all-electric heat pump (the upstairs, which we don't use). The 3 propane propane furnaces heat the main level, with one heating each end of the house, and one in the middle. In all, we have:

    1 Carrier condenser 2-ton unit (first floor, center, replaced AC condenser June 2017; new propane furnace September 2006/new fan on furnace February 2018)
    1 Lennox condenser 2.5-ton unit (first floor, left wing/master, condenser from 1992; new propane furnace November 2004/new furnace air handler October 2017)
    1 Lennox condenser 3.5-ton unit (first floor, right wing/kitchen, condenser from 1992; new propane furnace November 2011)
    1 Carrier heat pump 2-ton unit (second floor, replaced entire unit/heat pump in July 2017)

    We also have one 80-gallon electric water heater (our primary one) replaced in 2013, and another 80-gallon propane water heater for the upstairs bedrooms/kitchen replaced in 2015.

    I don't have any information at the moment on the capacities of the furnaces.

    We received all of the historical utilities information from the previous owners. We have a 1,500 underground propane storage tank, and they typically filled it 2-3 times a year with an average annual cost of around $3,700 over the past 4 years. Obviously, the propane costs go sky high in the winter for heating, and the electric does the same thing in the summer for cooling. The average summer electric bill was around $650/month, with the winter bill around $350/month. The average monthly cost for electric throughout the entire year has been around $500/month. I've essentially calculated the cost of electric plus propane extrapolated out over the entire year averages out to about $830/month.

    I've had one contractor come out so far and they are working on writing us a proposal. He wanted to replace EVERYTHING. He wanted to use three Water Furnace 5-series split unit heat pumps (with propane for emergency backup heat) and replace all of the air handlers with their cheap, name-brand units. The upstairs all-electric unit would be replaced with an all-in-one Water Furnace 5-series with built-in electric backup. He said they could do a feasibility study to see if it would make sense to put in one bigger unit to replace two of the smaller main floor units. He said we would leave the propane hot water heater as-is (it works fine and we hardly use it). For the electric water heater, he mentioned just piping the hot water directly from the 5-series into the hot water heater, and it would reduce the cost to heat the water.

    I've sent out several requests for additional estimates, but this is pretty much all of the information I have so far. Here are my main concerns:

    - Is geothermal a good choice for us now in order to reduce our current utility bills (electric AND propane) year round?
    - Does it make sense for us to switch to geothermal now, when some of our equipment has been replaced it recent years? I would resell the newer equipment, and not switching means we continue to pay for propane.
    - Is the size/style of our house a good candidate for geothermal? Will there be a good ROI? I'm estimating about a 10-year ROI based on the reduction in utilities I THINK I'd have (40%?). Kind of guessing on how much the system will cost at this point.
    - Is it better to have propane or electric backup? We will always have propane because we prefer to cook with it (natural gas isn't an option). I'd also like to get a backup generator for the house that can use the propane. I don't mind filling up the propane tank every now and then, I just don't want to do it multiple times a year.
    - Is it worth it to replace one/both hot water heaters with the GeoTank (or any other hot water heater options Water Furnace has available)? I'm not a fan of having an electric hot water heater as our main source of hot water due to utility costs.

    I appreciate any feedback, advice, comments. Thanks so much everyone!

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