Older houses + Geothermal = works well, my story

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by sunnyflies, Apr 24, 2010.

  1. sunnyflies

    sunnyflies Member Forum Leader

    Take heart, it can be done successfully in spite of what you may have been told. My antique house is a case in point. I am now heating it with a new WaterFurnace Envision system with closed loops, and it's wonderful!

    The key is finding the right installer. One who will take the time to design the proper system for your older house - each house has different challenges - and who has years of experience working with geothermal along with the references to back it up. Use the Geothermal Shoppers List posted at the top of the General Forum as your guide.

    My new geothermal system has been such an improvement over my old oil hot air heating system. The house is warm and cosy for the first time since we bought it over thirty years ago, and stays a lovely constant 70º. It doesn't heat up rapidly then cool down between blower runs as it did with the old fossil fuel system.

    The unit blows lower temperature warm air for longer periods which seems to keep it evenly dispersed all over the house. It's also much quieter than the old system. So much so, that when it was first put in, I couldn't tell when it was running. I had to look at the thermostat to be certain. I sure knew with the oil system. First the furnace would clank as it fired up, then the ducts would rattle and shudder when the blower started and again as it shut off. I am using the same ducts, yet it's quiet. They no longer rattle. I love it!

    Probably a dozen reputable HVAC professionals told me geothermal would never be able to adequately heat my antique house, which was so frustrating. I now realize that none of them were truly experienced with geothermal even though they sold and installed geo systems along with the mainstays of their businesses, fossil fuel systems. They said that because my house was not built to modern standards it's envelope was not sealed properly and heated or cooled air would leak air out of countless places. I was advised that I would have to switch all of its old windows for new thermo-paned ones, caulk every window and door tightly, add insulation in the attic and the walls, insulate the basement ceiling and, even then, have to have some sort of fossil fuel back up system for very cold days.

    Luckily for me, a homeowner who had a geothermal system retrofitted to his 1960's cape advised me to come to this forum to learn as much as I could about geothermal. He said he'd spent two years learning about it on here before taking the plunge. He loves his FHP system.

    While I certainly understood the merits of tightening up and improving the insulation of my house, changing the antique windows to modern ones is out of the question. The originals are beautifully made and still sound, plus they are far better quality than any of the new ones I looked at, at any price point, because they are made out of very dense, old growth wood which none of the new ones are. Besides, changing them would hurt the historic integrity of the house and lower its resale value - though I am not planning on selling.

    After spending months learning as much as I could on this forum, I ended up asking for proposals from three companies. One installer had stood out from the start, but I felt I should have several proposals; especially as my husband was not sold on geothermal due to its higher cost. I ended up choosing the standout. His proposal was not the lowest, but after calling references and speaking to satisfied past customers of his company, I knew I had found the right firm.

    My husband is feeling very differently about geothermal now. Not only is he enjoying the warmer house, especially on cold mornings, but he loves the $4000 savings we have enjoyed this winter by not heating with oil. After we tighten up the house by re-caulking and add extra insulation to the attic, we should save even more next winter.

    I am hearing about more and more Long Islanders putting in geothermal systems, which is a good thing. Many are using open wells systems because water is so abundant and so near the surface, but quality may be an issue. Look into it before deciding whether to go with open or closed loops.

    I choose a closed loop because in my area we have a lot of iron, manganese and calcium in our water, which is also acidy. It did cost more, but I feel it was worth it because I do not want problems with mineral deposits in the unit and I have heard of several instances of that happening locally. The result being the units need significant repairs after just a few years. That would have been avoided by using closed loops.

    Take your water quality into consideration when planning for a geothermal system. You may want to go with closed loops if your water has a high mineral content or is acidy.
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
  2. johnny1720

    johnny1720 Member

    Can you give us an update on how your system is working?
  3. sunnyflies

    sunnyflies Member Forum Leader

    My system is doing very well! Thanks for asking. And, I'm still thrilled with it.

    The house is comfortable all the time and if I feel like kicking it up a notch in the winter from our usual 72º to 74º to suit my daughter's Pygmy hedgehog when she comes to visit with him, I can with no qualms. We used to barely keep our heat at 68º when we had oil, and on stormy or windy winter nights it couldn't even get close. I had to wear long underwear indoors all winter and we slept under several blankets and a heavy down comforter. Not any more! There's one blanket on our bed and no need for a comforter at all - ever.

    My husband is a believer now. He loves the evener warmth - it's much more cozy - and loves the fact that we can keep the house warmer than we used to. He also loves the oil bills we no longer get. :D

    When our system was first turned on I tentatively put it at 68º because I wasn't sure what it could handle as there was a foot of snow outside and it was very cold at the time. After a few weeks I moved up to 70º. Now that I know how muscular the system is we leave it at 72º all the time. It sails along comfortably in stage 1. It's only gone to stage 2 a few times and those were during serious cold spells. It's never called for electric coil back up.

    I have to confess we have yet to do any house tightening. I'm sure when we do it will be more efficient. I can tell you that all the nay sayers who said geothermal would never work in an antique house were wrong. You absolutely can put a geothermal system into an older house and have it work. You just need the right - that means experienced - installer to size it for you correctly. I had a great one.
  4. Palace GeoThermal

    Palace GeoThermal Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    thanks for the update Sunny. We are happy for you :D:D
  5. johnny1720

    johnny1720 Member

    Do you mind telling us about how much your electric bills increased?
  6. sunnyflies

    sunnyflies Member Forum Leader

    I think it's posted on the testimonial thread, but if I remember correctly, the first winter heating with geothermal only cost us about $1000 - and that's using LIPA electric power which is among the highest in the nation.

    Our heating bill with oil had been running between $4,500 and $5,700 each year depending on severity. Even accounting for a more efficient, new oil system - had we gone with oil again, we would never have been able to come close to saving that much. Nor would we have been so warm and cosy. There is such a difference between the way an oil or gas hot air system blows out its heat in a great burst of hot air ( and noise) and how geothermal gently, quietly and steadily sends it out so that the warmth gets everywhere and remains warm. (Ditto for air conditioning.)

    We put up solar voltaic panels that May so they have offset the cost since then.

    I tell everyone geothermal is the best decision we have made.
  7. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Thanks for the update.

    I am glad I did not have to do your installation, LOL. I do not remember hearing about the PV. Glad that is working. I will stick with solar thermal.

    Warm regards and Huggs,

  8. sunnyflies

    sunnyflies Member Forum Leader

    We now have a 9K solar voltaic system on our barn roof which supplies all our regular electric plus offsets the geothermal electric use. I hope to eventually add batteries so that we will be self sufficient during blackouts which we get around here more than we'd like. Our brilliant local power company failed to notice the building boom and didn't plan ahead for the jump in demand for power. It's racing to catch up, but hasn't.

    I still love my geothermal system. I am so glad I came here for advice and support. Thank you everyone.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
  9. Palace GeoThermal

    Palace GeoThermal Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Thanks for the update. We love success stories

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