If you are thinking and researching geo-thermal heating/cooling for your house, think again. Save yourself a lot of trouble, money, hassles, and ridiculous contractors who think they possess your person once they install their rocket science maze of “who-knows-what” in your house. The system offers energy savings, and it probably does save gas/electricity to some degree, but the savings won’t recover the sky-high initial costs of the installation in your lifetime. And the equipment will keep on failing every year – it does for us. There are so many elements in it that the failure chance for geothermal is way higher than the traditional heating/cooling systems have. If you happen to disagree with the contractor you hired in the first place because along the way you discover he is a jerk, a chance of finding someone else in your region, who will reliably understand and repair your system, is very slim. We are stuck with the same contractor for the last 3 years despite living in a major metropolitan area. He’s designed, installed, and maintains the system from the very beginning. There are leaks he just won’t fix. “They have calcified so better not to touch them,” he says. What a great explanation and instant solution, especially that the leaks are actively ongoing. We have growing stalactites and stalagmites on the heating/cooling pipes in our basement – no need to visit caverns.
We’ve tried finding another contractor, and we have for even higher fees, but he does not know the system enough to really address the problems our heating/cooling system is riddled with. So we are back with our original contractor – a nightmare guy, who thinks that because his theoretical knowledge on geothermal systems has been publishes somewhere at some point, there can possibly be nothing wrong with his work. Well, theory and practice are two very different things, we have found. He denies seeing the continuing leaks with a straight face. It’s simply unbelievable that someone has guts to lie in your face right over the issue that you are pointing to them with your very finger. I end up wondering, should I poke my own eyes out or his eyes out with that very finger; is it even reality or just a bad dream. If it is a dream, it drains a lot of money from the bank account for sure.
Just to clarify the costs, depending on the size of your house, you can probably very easily end up paying in the range of $100,000 for initial installation. The bigger the house, the more money it will cost of course. Even if your initial estimates are around for instance $70,000, you will pay more for services and hook ups that won’t be covered under the contract (somehow). Again, it’s a complex maze of things and so you won’t really know what’s covered and what’s not under the contract. Then, if you are extremely lucky, the systems will actually start up and run. Ours did not. It took several repairs and “tweaking” for it to start running in all zones (the house will be separated into so-called zones). The initial repairs and “tweaking” were covered by 1-year labor and material warranty. After that, you will pay for any labor even if the repairs are for warranty-covered items (the main machines have 10-year warranty that covers some parts, and labor allowance). Let me give you an example how this works, the last repair we did was a warranty repaid under the 10-year warranty. Some pump unit was leaking to a point of pooling water in the basement. Two contractors came; it took them 2 ½ hours to replace the failed part. We were charged about $50 for parts and $500 for labor. Warranty labor allowance was $90, so our warranty repair bill was around $450. The same happened in the previous year on some other failed element.
Now the maintenance is also important – the pressure needs to be adjusted in the loops a couple of times a year. We’ve signed up for an annual maintenance plan to save money and keep this misery working. The plan covers semiannual tune-up for the system and costs approx. $550. This cost of ongoing maintenance and the constant repairs end up costing in access of $1,000 a year. This probably is what we save on energy bills because the system is geothermal.
If I could take time back, I would never ever consider installing geo-thermal heating and cooling system in my house again. It’s a beautiful theory only. The running costs of the system would buy us a new traditional furnace/AC every 10 years, which is a completely unnecessary, so it simply means big savings over the life of your house on repairs and maintenance alone. Traditional systems might require more gas or electricity as you use them, but regular maintenance is way more affordable than geothermal systems, and you can readily find a good selection of contractors who know, understand, and are professionally capable of keeping your system running without major issues. The programmable thermostats available nowadays also make it very convenient to use only as much energy as you absolutely need to for your personal comfort.
So, if you still think geothermal, take my advice, install traditional gas/electric system and instead spend your money on a nice vacation somewhere. Let idiots like me be the experimental Guinea pigs.
If I only could take time back..
Here is an updated and FULL review of the geothermal heating and cooling installation provided by Air-Ease. The report includes a set of pictures and original emails between the Air-Ease company from Tinley Park, the Builder, and the Owners. Those who are still considering a geoexchange solution for their home or business should carefully examine this report and possibly consider other, cheaper and less-stressful options.