I received an email from one of my readers, Ronald, who asked the following question in regards to my geothermal post. I did not want to bury his question in that post, and am giving him a separate forum on the site.
“It is my understanding that geothermal heat can only be used with a forced air system. Am I correct (we have hot water heat and no a/c)?”
“I would also like to understand if our oil furnace can be our backup and does this make sense?”
Ronald, you have brought up some good questions. My house is heated and cooled by a geothermal system. In addition, my radiant heat and hot water are all heated by the system. My first instinct is to tell you that the geothermal system could heat the water for the hot water baseboards, but I am going to leave this answer up to the experts. I don’t know if the geothermal boiler system can heat the water to the correct temperature for your baseboard heating.
My initial concern is the cost of the system with the excavation costs for heat only. Heating your house with geothermal energy will result in savings; however, I questioned would the payback be longer with only using the geothermal for heating? The largest energy savings is when you use your air conditioning. I am not sure if you intend to install air conditioning in your home. Bear in mind, adding ducts would be an added expense.
Do you have a pond on your site so that you could have an open loop? Experts, correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding an open loop in a pond is a lot cheaper than either a vertical or horizontal loop.
For some people, the environmental concerns outweigh the costs, and others, it is the exact opposite. To geo or not is a personal decision. In response to
For some people, the environmental concerns outweigh the costs, and others, it is the exact opposite.
To geo or not is a personal decision.
In response tothe oil furnace back-up question, Gary of Virstar Geothermal, explained to me via emails regarding my prior post that my system does not need a back-up system as indicated by my installer. Unfortunately, my geothermal installer passed away 6 months after my units were installed in a car accident. I was told by a few geothermal installers that when the temperature is below 20 degrees, the geothermal system can easily revert to its electric back-up system since the system will be unable to handle the colder weather. It is very expensive when the system is in the electric back-up mode. According to Gary, who has been designing and installing geothermal systems since 1978, the old pumps were air to air pumps, and they would freeze up when the weather would get that cold. He further explained that they new pumps do not need the back-up anymore.
Given what Gary has told me I don’t think you need your furance, but just in case you want to keep it as back-up if the electricity goes out, w
Given what Gary has told me I don’t think you need your furance, but just in case you want to keep it as back-up if the electricity goes out, what shape is the oil furnace in? Is the storage tank above or below ground? Has the tank been checked for leaking? I suggest having these two questions answered by reputable contractors who specialize in these areas before making the decision if you wish to keep the furnance. Any further thoughts, Readers, whether or not Ronald should keep or get rid of the oil furnace?
Green Talk community, let’s help out Ronald with his questions.