Wanna install your own geo?
Last Post 01 May 2012 12:23 AM by joe.ami. 38 Replies.
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joe.amiUser is Offline
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14 Mar 2012 02:03 PM
Someone wishing to do their own geothermal installation should understand all the steps and hire out those they don't feel comfortable doing themselves. Thousands may still be saved without installing your self onto an Island.

Here are the larger tasks for a typical geothermal install:

Design: not only load calculations, but duct sizing, loop sizing flow center sizing, heat pump sizing. Good design and calculations ensure the best result. Are you the best designer? This work is relatively inexpensive when compared to the pitfalls you might avoid. A good designer will know your area, it's soils, utility companies etc. or come to your home to understand them.

Equipment selection: Bigger is not always better and while we have all preached that brand doesn't matter- installer does; once you become the installer you want to select equipment that is easiest for you to install and service.

Loop design/selection: Here size matters more than anywhere else. By far the hardest thing to fix once installed is underground loops.
Vertical loops: almost always require a licensed well driller and are generally the most expensive (unless you are lucky enough to reside near waterpirate).
Horizontal loops: are the easiest closed loop for the DIY to install.
Open loop: Probably the easiest loop system for a homeowner to install if you have a well and a place to dump the water.

Duct size and installation: Whether transitions or a whole house duct system, competant sheet metal fabricators and installers may save you time, money and improve performance.

Electrical system sizing and installation: A geo system may require electrical support equivelant to what you already have in your home. Heavy draws on mis-sized wiring can create potential hazards.

Excavation: Experienced diggers can greatly speed your project and reduce impact to your lawn. By the time you subtract equipment rental and your time as well as possible damage to your property, a hired excavator may save you money.

Flushing and fusion: Though covered in part by loop design, you have indoor piping flow center selection and assembly to consider. Fusionless fittings are available though not inexpensive. PEX and other materials may be employed but you have to isolate individual loops or employ a flush cart. Some folks may prefer to hire out all or part of this task.

Where to find help:
Here.
Many of the advertisers and contributors here have assissted DIY projects. Reputable companies will rarely assist folks out of a driveable radius as design is very geographically specific.
Can't find someone in your area? The international ground source heat pump list of certified loop installers identifies the company many of the installers works for. If it is a well driller or excavator they may be less likely to feel as though they are taking work from themselves by assisting you.

Where not to find help: Success rate is much lower with those who buy a crated kit on-line sized soley by the square feet of their house. Those who don't find it necessary to be familiar with your home, duct work and it's location are literally rolling the dice for your satisfaction.
A customer I met recently had a 2 ton duct system and load. He was recommended a 4 ton heat pump (by XYZ water and wind)! If you want noisey operation and poor performance they had it nailed.

While these are the high points, your success depends on how much you educate yourself or how experienced those you employ to help are.

Don't forget permits are required in many areas not only by law but for tax credits, utility company rebates and homeowner insurance compliance.

Finally some tax credits and utility company rebates require a contractor involved in the installation. Make sure you don't lose $700 in rebates to save $1,000 on help.

I'd like to here some legally installed DIY stories. Note: if your idea of saving money was ignoring laws, violating codes etc. that's not the money saving strategy we are interested in promoting.

Good Luck.
joe
Joe Hardin www.amicontracting.com We Dig Comfort! www.doityourselfgeothermal.com Dig Your Own Comfort!
Dana1User is Offline
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14 Mar 2012 06:37 PM
Reads like good arguments for hiring a pro, eh?

(Or doing a DIY mini-split instead. ;-) )
arkieoscarUser is Offline
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14 Mar 2012 09:59 PM
This thread gives me a good reason to post and ask for some help selecting equipment.
I installed a system in 1995 that I built myself from a 2.5 ton carrier air to air condensor and air handlier. It's working fine but I'm getting old and waiting for a knee replacement and thinking about replacing my system with a package unit. It would be a simple job for me. I added 160 sq. ft. to the house since then and want to increase to 3 tons. I have 4x600 ft. loops at 8ft. and have never gone below 38 degrees or above 78 in 17 yrs. I don't care about 2 stage, zoning or DHW as I have solar that handles that. Ductwork is good for 1500 cfm. What (package unit) would the group suggest? Just want something as reliable as what I put together but my wife could call a local company to service if I croak. I have found some deals on FHP and others for a 3 ton horizontal for around $3K plus strips and thermostat.
engineerUser is Offline
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14 Mar 2012 10:10 PM
That's a smokin' price!

As long as you stick with one of the major brands, differences range from minor to immaterial. WF, CM, FHP, Hydron, all have their fans here.

Since you want your wife to be able to call a local company, consider reaching out to a reputable one now, pre-croak, and see what they suggest. Engage them on a consulting basis with the understanding that they'll inherit its care and feeding, post-croak. A good, flexible company will work with you on that basis.

Stick a preaddressed post card with a USPS "forever" stamp to them in with your will, to be mailed upon croak, so that they get a heads up to start up the maintenance contract work.

Proper Planning Prevents Pee-Poor Project Performance.

Curt Kinder

The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is - Winston Churchill

www.greenersolutionsair.com
joe.amiUser is Offline
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16 Mar 2012 01:25 AM
Posted By Dana1 on 14 Mar 2012 06:37 PM
Reads like good arguments for hiring a pro, eh?

(Or doing a DIY mini-split instead. ;-) )

Really is that what you take away from this?

Sooo....if I have a 2 story with 3,000sf and a duct system I wish to retro fit, your advice is a (1) minisplit?

I think my advice is probably better.

Frankly it's probably easier to DIY geo than a mini split without refrigeration experience.

I'm not sure we butt heads that often Dana but your implication that this was designed to argue folks away from DIY is rather unkind. Your suggestion of a DIY minisplit for all occasions is simply ignorant.
Joe Hardin www.amicontracting.com We Dig Comfort! www.doityourselfgeothermal.com Dig Your Own Comfort!
HockeymanUser is Offline
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20 Mar 2012 03:42 AM
DIY is a great thing,as long as you are competent at all aspects of the project! I am a jack of all trades, will try anything atleast once and usually more if $$ aren't prohibitive. I built an 888 sq ft shop hydronic heat, geo pump, hd spray foam top to bottom.
1st mistake i sized my ground loops using faulty info from a well meaning engineering student. 10 ft deep slinky loops in NE WY winters doesn't give enough btu's! Asthe ouutrside temp neared 0 deg the system froze up, even with anti freeze!
Almost 2nd mistake- hire driller to punch (3) 200 ft vertical holes for new ground loops. Solid limestone starting at 15 ft deep made that option cost prohibitive. He was driling me a domestic water well anyway.
1st saving grace- Cut my losses, installed a modulating boiler and panel which heats the shop to 55deg rather efficiently. Since I had a loaner back hoe to lay the 1st geo tube losses were sorta small, guess it could have been worse. I did save lots of $$ by making my own manifolds and fill system. No codes here but alll work is done with safety and all the profesionalism i could use on the project.
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20 Mar 2012 09:01 AM
10 ft deep slinky loops in NE WY winters doesn't give enough btu's!


They will - if they are long enough. You might also consider open loop (since you have a well).

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20 Mar 2012 09:26 AM
I went down the install your own geo route. But at the end of the day, I am not risking something as technical and costly as a geo system. Also the rebates and credits I will get back had to be with a licensed installer. After the rebates, I would be saving roughly $1-2k on DIY...not even close to worth it. $10k, maybe start to think about it. I received 2 quotes from 2 great geo installers. They were $600 difference! $20k put in a 2 ton WF unit, with desuper, vertical wells, ducting, and HRV. Take of rebates and credits and it nets around $10,500. This is for new ICF construction, btw. 2 hyper heat Mitsubishi mini splits will run half that plus install. Then I need to add in the HRV and ducting for that, as well as ugly electric baseboards for backup heat. Adds up to be close to a wash.
joe.amiUser is Offline
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20 Mar 2012 09:42 AM
I'm with Jon on this one. the depth was more than adequate (we bury ours 6' in MI) you needed more feet. There might even be freeware out there now for loop design.
What's more with proper antifreeze mix geo should shut off on pressure switch before icing. If not it's likely only the coax is frozen.

My most recent DIY customer had to be persuaded to up his loop size, but he'll be glad he did (or at least not be sorry he didn't).
Hopefully you won't be afraid to try again since you already have the equipment.
Joe Hardin www.amicontracting.com We Dig Comfort! www.doityourselfgeothermal.com Dig Your Own Comfort!
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21 Mar 2012 01:17 AM
Posted By Hockeyman on 20 Mar 2012 03:42 AM
DIY is a great thing,as long as you are competent at all aspects of the project! I am a jack of all trades, will try anything atleast once and usually more if $$ aren't prohibitive. I built an 888 sq ft shop hydronic heat, geo pump, hd spray foam top to bottom.
1st mistake i sized my ground loops using faulty info from a well meaning engineering student. 10 ft deep slinky loops in NE WY winters doesn't give enough btu's! Asthe ouutrside temp neared 0 deg the system froze up, even with anti freeze!
Almost 2nd mistake- hire driller to punch (3) 200 ft vertical holes for new ground loops. Solid limestone starting at 15 ft deep made that option cost prohibitive. He was driling me a domestic water well anyway.
1st saving grace- Cut my losses, installed a modulating boiler and panel which heats the shop to 55deg rather efficiently. Since I had a loaner back hoe to lay the 1st geo tube losses were sorta small, guess it could have been worse. I did save lots of $$ by making my own manifolds and fill system. No codes here but alll work is done with safety and all the profesionalism i could use on the project.


As pointed out before, slinky loops work very well in heat dominated climate in the US. We use them 90% of the time.
http://www.buffalogeothermalheating.com/sample_diagram.html
You are welcome to check our life monitoring site to see horizontal loopfield performance in the Northeast.
Don't misinform people here. Second, we drill all the time in the Limestone of the Niagara escarpment. It is the cheapest and quickest drilling, since we do not have to cast, the rock does not collapse and keeps the borehole open.
sorry your DYI project did not turn out, but your story helps explain to others here why that is the case.
www.buffalogeothermalheating.com
HockeymanUser is Offline
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24 Mar 2012 01:10 AM
Docjenser, i never misinformed anyone! I explainied what worked and didn't work here at MY place. I am sure that the limestone in your area is more solid than what we were trying to bore through here in NE Wyoming. The driller had to case the bore hole to prevent it collapsing on the drill tool. I only related my experiences, both positive and negative your mileage may differ.
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25 Mar 2012 02:36 AM
Posted By Hockeyman on 24 Mar 2012 01:10 AM
Docjenser, i never misinformed anyone! I explainied what worked and didn't work here at MY place. I am sure that the limestone in your area is more solid than what we were trying to bore through here in NE Wyoming. The driller had to case the bore hole to prevent it collapsing on the drill tool. I only related my experiences, both positive and negative your mileage may differ.

10 ft deep slinky loops in NE WY winters doesn't give enough btu's! Asthe ouutrside temp neared 0 deg the system froze up, even with anti freeze!
Solid limestone starting at 15 ft deep made that option cost prohibitive.


You made two misinformed and misleading statements. First, 10ft deep slinkies will work very well in NE WY if you design them correctly. Second, solid limestone as you described it is great for drilling and is not cost prohibitive. The fact that your mileage differs is likely more related to you lacking a bit know how and your drill being not in solid limestone.
There are many people here seeking information, who would be mislead by your statements.
www.buffalogeothermalheating.com
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25 Mar 2012 03:00 AM
i fully admitted i made lots of mistakes in the planning, installation and operation of my system. I believe thats what the DIY part of this is about! I never said that my shortcoming were the only way to go about a geothtermal heat project. I believe that this discussion was started asking what experiences were had buy others in DIY geo heating! If stating my poorly planned experience mislead others then they probably shouldn't be a diy'er! I still consider $30+foot to run vertical loops cost prohibitive, just my humble opinion. In stead of slamming me maybe your expertice would be better served explaining things better than the bad choices i made! Have a nice day.
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25 Mar 2012 03:08 PM
Posted By Hockeyman on 25 Mar 2012 03:00 AM
i fully admitted i made lots of mistakes in the planning, installation and operation of my system. I believe thats what the DIY part of this is about! I never said that my shortcoming were the only way to go about a geothtermal heat project. I believe that this discussion was started asking what experiences were had buy others in DIY geo heating! If stating my poorly planned experience mislead others then they probably shouldn't be a diy'er! I still consider $30+foot to run vertical loops cost prohibitive, just my humble opinion. In stead of slamming me maybe your expertice would be better served explaining things better than the bad choices i made! Have a nice day.


It is not your "poorly planned experience" which might mislead others, but the statements you have made. Especially for DIY. Your slinky at 10ft did not fail because it is WY climate, it probably failed because it was not long enough, not spaced correctly or did not have the right antifreeze concentration. Your vertical option was not economically thesisable because of driling in solid limestone, but because your driller charged you $30+ per foot or you run into bad drilling conditions. At that price vertical wells would not be thesisable for me as well.
I am trying to help people here every day. That is why I objected to your statements. The reason why it did not work for you is because you did not execute it well, and not because what you were trying to do does not work in general. That is important to understand, especially for DIYers in this forum.
www.buffalogeothermalheating.com
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25 Mar 2012 08:03 PM
We too are also in Western, NY and have installed a combination of Vertical, Horizontal Slinky & Horizontal multi-pass (race-track) with no such issues in our climate. It all comes down to the proper design of the system. We also have many systems monitored online as my good friend DOC does, all with acceptable and above average EWT's. 


www.ACES-Energy.com
joe.amiUser is Offline
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26 Mar 2012 10:01 AM
I appreciated you sharing your experience hockeyman.....hopefully you will find a use for that heat pump!
Joe Hardin www.amicontracting.com We Dig Comfort! www.doityourselfgeothermal.com Dig Your Own Comfort!
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17 Apr 2012 11:52 PM
DIY-er here, kinda..... here's my story.

I have an open loop system that I installed three years ago. I suppose you could say that I acted as my own "general" contractor for the project, and hired subs for the parts of the project that were beyond my capabilities. Two very high flow rate drilled wells already existed on the property, making open loop feasible. I don't think I would have been adventurous enough to try a closed-loop project if my well guy had told me that the wells were not going to do the job.

I used pros to do these tasks:
- heat-loss calcs/equipment sizing
- supply and injection well evaluation
- trench excavation for discharge line from house to injection well
- HVAC contractor for duct work and removing old furnaces and fuel lines
- electrical contractor (incl permits/inspection)

And I found it within my comfort zone to do these tasks myself:
- research (plenty of hours here + other geo-related forum + other online material)
- added blown-in attic insulation from big-box hardware store to R60 to reduce required tonnage
- purchased heat pumps online after a lot of careful investigation - picked a well-known brand with two-stage compressor, ECM fan, and R410a
- purchased new submersible well pump, well pressure tank, programmable thermostats, electrostatic air-filters (tank was local, other items online)
- purchased needed plumbing bits and pieces (many trips back and forth to the local big-box hardware stores and plumbing supply houses)
- rented concrete hammer-drill and bit, and made a nice, neat round hole through my basement foundation about 7' below grade
- installed interior and exterior plumbing (installed new well pump, well tank, supply line from well tank to heat pumps, discharge line from heat pumps through basement foundation to injection well)
- installed thermostats and pulled new LV wires from t-stats to heat pumps
- installed water control valves, dole flow control valves, and LV control wiring
- removed compressor shipping brackets
- system commissioning and testing (with plenty of assistance both here on this forum and from my HVAC and electrical pros)
- light landscaping...spreading/raking fill and grass seed over the path of the discharge line the next year

Yep, it was a lot of work and a good steep learning curve. Perhaps not a task that most homeowners would want to do. But if you already have, say, DIY plumbing and electrical skills and can find help for the rest, it is doable.

Lucky breaks:
- found really good local contractors to work with based on recommendations from family and friends
- great help from the pros on this forum
- somehow managed to not get ripped-off from online purchases
- equipment mostly worked as planned

Hiccups along the way:
- took a lot longer than I thought it would...mostly from the schedules of the different people involved
- had one bad thermostat on system startup (no signal on Y2 terminal) - switched t-stats to diagnose
- intended to use 6gpm for 1st stage, plus 3gpm more for 2nd stage...initial testing showed had to switch to 4gpm dole valves for 2nd stage to keep LWT reasonable when water pressure low and nearing pump cut-in setting
- had to pull well pump after a bit over a year of operation - one wire got stuck between well casing and torque arrestor and disintegrated. Fortunately it was an easy DIY fix.


End result...my house is nice and toasty warm without me hauling firewood all the time, i didn't break the bank for a geo install, and I can afford my heating bills. Yay!
joe.amiUser is Offline
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18 Apr 2012 07:38 AM
JML, how much would you estimate you spent?
Joe Hardin www.amicontracting.com We Dig Comfort! www.doityourselfgeothermal.com Dig Your Own Comfort!
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19 Apr 2012 10:33 AM
Perhaps a better question is how much did you save over turnkey bids?
Joe Hardin www.amicontracting.com We Dig Comfort! www.doityourselfgeothermal.com Dig Your Own Comfort!
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20 Apr 2012 01:15 AM
Unfortunately there were no local geo installers in my neck of the woods who could give me a turnkey bid. I did get some estimates from a couple of companies willing to fly someone in to do the install, but those quotes were in the "breaking the bank" category ... more than double what I ended up spending. I can't really fault the companies that quoted...I imagine there's just so many costs and potential unknowns in quoting site-unseen on a remote job many hundreds of miles away.
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