Friday, August 31, 2012

Step 3 - The blower unit and duct work

The majority of my duct work was re-used, but additional junction boxes and a "Zone" control were installed in the attic with the blower unit, as well as an auxiliary heat coil.

Here is the blower unit, you can see the return ducts in the back of the unit:


And here is the delivery duct work:


So, is that it?  No, there's more.  I'll post the finishing touches at a later time.  It's 12:08AM and time for bed...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Step 2 - Heat transfer installation

After the ground loop is installed, pressure tested and inspected by the town, the installer can start installing gear.

I decided to have the compressor portion installed in the garage, close to the water heater.  I purchased the desuperheater option to heat the hot water with the excess geothermal heat.

Here is a picture of the ground loop connection and the circulation pumps that push the water through the ground loop:


The next part is to connect the compressor unit to the loop, and run the new refrigerant lines up to the attic for the blower unit:


Then you go into the attic, and turn off the AC until the rest is completed!

Step one - Ground Loop

The ground loop is basically a really long plastic pipe that is stuck in the ground and filled with water.  The ground temperature is more consistent than the air temperature so it's more efficient at heat transfer than air is.

So, how do they put the pipe in the ground?  The AC contractor hires someone with a truck like this:

And then they drill a hole (or a few holes) in the ground.  My system has 3 holes that are 330' each.  When they're done, they put the piping in, and grout the hole:

Then they connect the three wells together:

Then they run those lines to the installation site of the heat exchanger.

To geothermal or not to geothermal?

We need to replace 2 really inefficient AC units with something.  Start the research!  Seer ratings, EER ratings, cost, system life, warranty, installer, repayment period, tax incentives.  Wow, that's a lot to think about.

We started with our current AC company to see what the cost of traditional AC unit's and variable speed blower/furnace systems would be.  Our house is pretty big, and we have a 2 ton AC downstairs, and a 2.5 ton system up stairs.  The upstairs system is under sized, it really struggles in the summer time, so we know we need at least 3 ton up stairs.

What's the cost for a 2 Ton and 3 Ton system, with new furnace and installation?  $14K - 15K for both, combined.  Hum, that's a lot!

Ok, what if we did geothermal with multi-zone control, two stage compressor and variable speed blower?  Well, I'm not going to give you the answer, because every house will be different, but let's put it this way.  With federal and state tax credits, it's about $18K.  So, why would anyone want to go with geothermal instead of normal AC.

10 Year warranty on "the guts", 5 years on all other parts and labor, plus 50 years on the ground loop.  If you haven't looked up what a ground loop is, you should do that somewhere else, because it's too much information for my little blog.

Ok, so, 3K more for a better warranty?  No, there's more.  Efficiency ratings for geothermal are off the charts compared to air to air AC.  Your electric bill (and gas for furnace) should go down dramatically.  Also, geothermal systems are "high tech" and are smart enough to run at a lower speed for a longer time to remove more humidity from your house.  It's only been installed for 1 day at my house, and we've moved the thermostat from 72 on the old system to 75 on the new system, and it feels cooler at 75 than it did at 72 before.

So, we've decided on the geothermal and we have a quote in hand from our AC dude.  What now?  Well, we call another AC dude, and ask for another quote.  Then we ask a lot of questions, for 2, or 3, well, maybe it was 4 weeks, of both installers.

When your satisfied that you have the right installer, you right a large check (deposit) and they start working.

So, who was our installer?  Bryan Edwards and his team of HIGHLY dedicated employees at Ideal Services in Holly Springs, NC.  More about them as we go through the installation process.

Before Geothermal

Let's start off with the old AC units.  I didn't take any pictures in the attic, but here is the outside part:


These were installed back in 2004, they've been costing us a lot of money to keep up with repairs so we decided it was time for a replacement.