Sticking it to the oil man
June 28, 2008 10:22 AM   Subscribe

We are thinking about switching from oil heat to a geothermal system to heat and cool our 1200 sf cape in western massachusetts. If you have a geothermal system are you happy with it? Have you had any problems? How much did the conversion cost? What are the monthly costs associated with it? Do you know of a reputable installer in our area?
posted by a22lamia to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The other day I just happened to ask, somewhat idly, a Brattleboro Vermont oil dealer about this. They're getting into solar, but thought the payback on geothermal was still too slow hereabouts. But that's not really based on anything solid, and it looks to me like it is starting to have a reasonable payback, even for a retrofit.

I assume what you mean is going to a ground source heat pump system, just using the natural earth temperature; not that you have got a hot spring under your house.

With Vermont's relatively cheap electricity, right now straight out electric resistance heating is more or less competitive with the current cost of oil, as detailed here.

Now, if that's the case, a geothermal heat pump system would run at a fraction of the operating cost of an oil system -- it depends on your local electricity cost, but it would probably save you 50-75% of your oil heat costs. For a typical house, that might be on the order of $1500-3000 per year going forward.

Here's a blog post by a guy up our way who seems to have installed one of these systems. His installed cost was something under $20,000. I would think about that if my savings were $3000 a year.

Here's one installer nearby who will work anywhere in New England.
posted by beagle at 1:12 PM on June 28, 2008

One other data point, from the case study figures here, using our electric rate of around $.15/KWH and about 10% more degree days, my 2400 SF house should cost around $1100 a year to heat with a GSHP, versus an estimated $3500 with oil at the pre-buy rate they just offered. So savings would be $2400 or 68% of current cost. An installation at $20,000 would have an 8 year payback; quicker if oil goes up even more.
posted by beagle at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2008

Actually, this handy calculator confirms the $1100 annual cost of GSHP operation in my case. Probably around half that, in your case, in your house is reasonably tight.
posted by beagle at 1:45 PM on June 28, 2008

We just moved into a new house with one. The heat came on-line in January and kept the house nice and warm even though it wasn't fully buttoned up. Hard to say what the monthly costs are just yet since we only just moved in and haven't lived here during a winter. All signs point to it saving us money on our monthly bills. So far the A/C has been nice to have.

Advanced Energy Concepts in Fitchburg did the indoor part of it and their work was top-notch. Mike Sullivan Well Drillers did our vertical ground loop and we were also happy.

You want an HVAC installer that has worked with geothermal before. Most guys will want to throw in flex-duct which really lowers the efficiency.

Initial cost is high, though it can be cheaper if you do an open loop or a horizontal ground loop. If you're converting, you should first spend money tightening up your house, getting good windows and insulation. In the NE Geothermal only really makes sense in a tight house.

There is one "consultant" in the area that I DO NOT recommend. Email me if you want specifics. I'll be happy to tell you anything else you want to know.
posted by bondcliff at 2:53 PM on June 28, 2008

bondcliff, can you share ballpark cost, broken out indoor and outdoor? And was it a retrofit or new construction?
posted by beagle at 3:12 PM on June 28, 2008

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