Posted: 29th November 2012 by logan | Leave a comment

he house is a system. You save money and improve performance when you take cost-effective measures that reduce building loads, and then install systems and appliances that are the right size to meet the reduced loads. In general, over-sizing worsens performance and increases costs.

The most effective strategy for improving household energy efficiency is to first target your home’s envelope—walls, attic, windows, and doors. Then improve the energy efficiency of systems, such as heating, cooling, lighting, and appliances. Finally, consider clean energy generation (solar, geothermal, and so on).

1

Make sure your walls and attic are well insulated.

Effective insulation slows the rate that heat flows out of the house in winter or into the house in summer, so less energy is required to heat or cool the house. If your house has no wall insulation, and it has more-or-less continuous wall cavities (such as conventional stud walls), blown-in insulation can greatly improve your comfort and save enough energy to be very cost-effective. (It rarely pays to blow additional insulation into already insulated walls.) If your attic is unfinished, it often pays to upgrade its insulation.

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Your contractor’s expertise is more important than the insulation material you choose. Properly installed fiberglass, cellulose, and most foam insulation materials can all reduce the heat conduction of the completed wall system. The key is “properly installed.” Ideally, the contractor will use an infrared camera during or after installation to look for voids.

2

Upgrade or replace windows.

If your windows are old and leaky, it may be time to replace them with energy-efficient models or boost their efficiency with weatherstripping and storm windows. It is almost never cost-effective to replace windows just to save energy. According to EnergyStar.gov, replacing windows will save 7 to 24 percent of your heating and air-conditioning bills, but the larger savings would be associated with replacing single-glazed windows. However, if you are replacing windows for other reasons anyway, in many areas the additional cost of Energy Star–rated replacement windows is very modest, perhaps $15 per window. This upgrade would be cost-effective—and increase your comfort to boot.

3

Plant shade trees and shrubs around your house.

If your house is older, with relatively poor insulation and windows, good landscaping (particularly deciduous trees) can save energy, especially if planted on the house’s west side. In summer, the foliage blocks infrared radiation that would warm the house, while in winter the bare branches let this radiation come through. Of course, if your house has very good insulation and Energy Star or better windows, the effect is much, much smaller because the building shell itself is already blocking almost all the heat gain.

4

Replace an older furnace with a high-efficiency system.

If your furnace was built before 1992 and has a standing pilot, it probably wastes 35 percent of the fuel it uses, and it is probably near the end of its service life. In this case, in all but the warmest climates, ACEEE recommends early replacement with a condensing furnace with annual efficiency of at least 90 percent. This type of furnace wastes no more than 10 percent of the natural gas you buy, and may save you as much as 27 percent on your heating bill.

If your furnace was installed after 1991, it probably has an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 80 percent, so the savings from replacement is smaller, but would be at least 11 percent if the unit is working perfectly. Your heating service technician or energy auditor may be able to help you determine the AFUE of your present system.

For houses with boilers and hot-water heat distribution (radiators, baseboard), the savings from a modern condensing boiler with outdoor reset or equivalent feedback controls can be substantially larger, since the condensing boilers allow reducing the circulating loop temperature almost all the time.

5

Improve the efficiency of your hot water system.

First, turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). Second, insulate your hot water lines so they don’t cool off as quickly between uses. Third, use low-flow fixtures for showers and baths. While storage water heater standards were raised in 2001, it was probably not enough to justify throwing out an existing water heater that is working well.

Advanced contractors are now installing “on demand” hot water circulating loops that use a small pump to accelerate delivery of hot water to remote fixtures, which works great with low-flow fixtures. These are activated when users turn on a bathroom or kitchen tap, and turn off when hot water reaches the fixture. In ACEEE’s opinion, a continuous recirculating “hotel” loop wastes enormous amounts of water-heating energy, not to mention the electricity used for pumping.

6

Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

CFLs can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescents. Most people don’t think about the fact that the electricity to run a lightbulb costs much more than the bulb itself. One of the new CFLs costs about two or three dollars, but it lasts 10,000 hours and uses only about 27 watts to generate as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb. During its life, it uses about $22 in electricity, so the total cost is about $25. A 100-watt incandescent bulb costs 50 cents, but lasts 1,000 hours so you need 10 of them ($5 to buy) to last 10,000 hours. In those 10,000 hours you will use 1,000 kilowatts of electricity, which will cost more than $80 at a national average price. So the lighting cost of the CFL is less than one-third of the cost for the incandescent. The best targets for replacement are 60- to 100-watt bulbs used several hours a day, because usage affects how long it takes to recover the investment.

7

If you buy a new refrigerator, don’t leave the old one plugged in.

Avoid the temptation to use the old fridge as a backup for party supplies and liquid refreshment. The extra storage space will cost you: figure an extra $50–150 per year in electricity to keep that older fridge running. In contrast, the new fridge, particularly if Energy Star rated, may cost only $30–60 per year to run because refrigerator efficiency has improved so much in the past three decades. Under these circumstances, think about how much refrigeration you really need. The best rule is to have only one refrigerator, and to size it to meet your real needs. That allows the luxury of ice-makers and similar conveniences with a clear conscience.

Also consider configuration. A similarly sized refrigerator with a top-mount freezer will use 20 to 25 percent less energy than a side-by-side model and often offers more usable refrigerator and freezer space.

8

Take advantage of new tax incentives to improve your home.

Federal tax incentives are available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Energy efficiency incentives for upgrades to existing homes have been extended, and are now available for 2009 and 2010. These incentives now cover up to $1,500 (from $500), based on 30 percent of the cost of the improvement. Improvements can include building-envelope improvements (windows, insulation) and heating/air-conditioning upgrades. There are also 30-percent credits, without a cap, for on-site renewables (solar photovoltaic and solar hot-water systems, small wind systems, and geothermal heat pumps).

9

Schedule an energy audit for more expert advice on your home as a whole.

Energy auditors and raters use specialized tools and skills to evaluate your home and recommend the most cost-effective measures to improve its comfort and efficiency, as well as the best sequence for doing them to take advantage of interactions. The rater can also provide independent verification of contractors’ work quality. Look for raters who are RESNET Accredited. In some regions, there are Home Performance with Energy Star programs, too. Most of these programs include low-cost home assessment and strong quality assurance practices and/or inspections.

 

Originial Article Found: Here

Posted: 29th October 2012 by logan | Leave a comment

The best heating system a house can have is the one you don’t realize is there. No radiators clanking in the night. No vents whooshing like a jet preparing for takeoff. No dust-spewing ductwork to run up your allergists’ bills. Just an even blanket of heat, right where you want it.

That’s the appeal of radiant floor heating, says This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, who has long been a fan. “It’s truly invisible,” he says. But a radiant floor system has more than just aesthetics going for it. It’s also a highly efficient way to heat a house, increasing comfort as it reduces energy costs.

In a radiant setup, the warmth is supplied by hot-water tubes or electric wires buried underneath the floor. As the invisible waves of thermal radiation rise from below, they warm up any objects they strike, which radiate that captured heat in turn. Though the air temperature remains relatively constant, you stay comfortable because the surrounding surfaces aren’t stealing warmth from your body.

Contrast that with what happens in a conventional forced-air heating system, the kind found in most American homes. Air blows out of the registers at a well-baked 120 degrees, rises to the top of the room where it quickly sheds heat, then drops back down as it cools. The air in the room becomes uncomfortably stratified: Your head can be bathed in warmth while your toes lie in the frozen zone. Then there’s the problem of cycling. “You turn on the furnace, it quickly takes you to 68 or 70, and then shuts off,” says Richard. The result is a phenomenon he calls “the cold 70,” which is what you feel right after the hot air stops pumping from the registers. Those jarring ups and downs are absent with radiant floors, which may reach 85 degrees, tops, on a frigid day. The warm air still rises, but it does so evenly over the entire floor, so the coolest air stays up at the ceiling. “You’re heating where the people are,” Richard says.

There are two basic ways to supply this gentle, even warmth: hot water or electricity. Electric radiant, which uses zigzagging loops of resistance wire, is ­generally retrofitted to a single room, such as a bathroom or kitchen. (See “The Floor Electric,” above.) Hot-water “hydronic” systems—the most popular and cost effective way to heat an entire house—circulate water from a boiler or water heater through loops of 1/2-inch polyethylene tubing. The flexible tubes can be installed in a variety of ways: on top of the subfloor in grooved panels or snap-in grids; clipped ­into aluminum strips on the underside of the floor; or embedded in poured concrete. Once the system is in place, you can cover it with most types of finish flooring, including hardwood and tile. Carpet, however, can be tricky, especially if it has thick padding underneath. “If the floor is too well insulated, radiant heating really ­doesn’t make sense,” Richard says. “It’s like putting a sweater over a radiator.”

Hot-water radiant costs more to install than other types of heating systems—from $6 to $15 per square foot depending on the method, whether you’re starting from scratch or retrofitting, and where you live. (New builds where the tubes are buried in concrete slab tend to be the least expensive). And you’ll still need a separate air-conditioning system for cooling. But if the price tag puts you off, consider this: Once it’s up and running, a radiant system can be up to 30 percent more efficient than forced-air heating, depending on how well insulated a house is. And there’s no comparison when it comes to comfort. In that category, radiant always wins, feet down.

 

Read more at the This Old House Website: Here

Posted: 15th October 2012 by logan | Leave a comment

High School Science Teacher Talks Geothermal

 

Today, we have yet another great testimonial from a homeowner with a geothermal heat pump system. A must read for anyone looking to replace their current heating and cooling setup. Enjoy.

Four years ago my wife and I started looking into solar panels for our house as a long term, environmentally responsible investment. We were discouraged by the cost, pay-off time, and all the trees we would have to cut down. About that time, our furnace and air conditioner (AC) were starting to require frequent, costly repairs. It looked like we’d have to settle for a more energy efficient furnace instead. That’s when we learned about heating and cooling our home by pulling heat from the ground in the winter and dumping heat there the summer.

As a high school science teacher, I was immediately fascinated and could see the advantages of geothermal heat. The cost was also compelling. I could replace my furnace and AC and dramatically reduce my energy costs. While geothermal would cost more, the savings, along with federal and state grants, made it a wise investment.

Homeowners don’t seem to talk much about geothermal after the first year. I think this is because they monitor their savings for a year, are pleased, and then just forget about the system. The house is comfortable, the bills lower, and because it’s not burning any hydrocarbons there’s little maintenance. I called the installer a while ago and asked if I needed to schedule an annual checkup. He asked if it was still working and when I said “yes” he said not to worry. Unlike furnaces which burn gas or oil, heat pumps are cleaner and unlikely to have problems.

 

science-teacher-geothermal
 

People usually have a lot of questions about geothermal and I admit the idea seemed strange to me initially.

➢ We continue to save about 35-40% on heating and about 75-80% on AC. As gas and electricity costs continue to rise these percentages become even more important.
➢ I’m still impressed by the air conditioning. There’s almost no difference for us in electricity usage with the AC on or off.
➢ The house is just as comfortable as it was with a furnace. We really don’t notice any difference, nor do guests.
➢ Some people say that the heat pump runs more than their furnace did. I don’t see this and suspect it may be related to how their house is insulated.
➢ I’m enjoying not paying for periodic checkups on the furnace. I also don’t need my carbon monoxide detector any more.
➢ The well drilling (our system has two 300 foot wells) is disruptive, but the grass grows back quickly and everything is underground. No one can even tell you have geothermal after a few months.

Looking back, it did cost more initially to go with geothermal, something that we had to consider carefully. In retrospect, it turned out to be a better investment than the stock market. Much better. Coupling that with the benefits for the environment, geothermal is one of the best choices available. In fact, the high school where I teach is installing a geothermal heating and cooling system to keep our 2000+ students comfortable and ready to learn.

Wayne Breslyn is a science teacher in Montgomery Country, Maryland. The story of the installation of his geothermal heating and cooling system can be found at www.TheGeoexchange.org.

Posted: 30th September 2012 by logan | Leave a comment

We’ll be frank; the world economy has certainly seen better days. In times of recession, it’s vital that you plan and make your investments wisely. The negative effects of any step in the wrong direction are twofold, and consequently twice as hard to recoup from or rectify. All things considered, those of us who prefer to live free of external stress and internal hardship must err on the side of caution and certainty. Risk can be opportunity; this is true. But it’s often unwarranted. In times of economic tribulation, when a big risk is the last thing you’re prepared to take with your finances, there are, in fact, safe investments. We believe that geothermal heating and cooling is one of these investments. We believe that it’s worth the . . . well, worth the consideration. It’s not for all of you. It is, though, for some of you.

geothermal incentive educationFrom FHP Manufacturing – www.FHP-MFG.com

Here, at GeothermalGenius.org, we’ve accumulated a nice set of resources that evidence the various incentives for homeowners looking to install a geothermal heat pump system. When coupled with our geothermal savings calculator, these resources should give you a basic understanding of your ballpark financial commitments and payback figures. The following is a list of these resources (accessible from our home page), each with a brief description:

 

Federal Geothermal Tax Credit – A 30% federal tax credit for the installation of a ground source heat pump (geothermal system) with no cap went into effect in 2009. It is available through the end of 2016.

US State Geothermal Incentives – Financial incentives by US state. Click on your state to see state-based geothermal installation incentives.

Canadian Province Geothermal Incentives – Financial incentives by Canadian province. Use the text links at the bottom of the page to see geothermal incentives for your province.

Financing Your Geothermal Installation – Recommendations for geothermal system financing, from cash to loan-based payments.

These should get you started! If you have anything that you’d like to add, whether it’s a state-specific incentive or tips for financing, please do share. We love to hear feedback from our readers! Again, we’d like to stress the importance of educating yourself before ruling out a geothermal installation based on the up-front costs. We’re confident that most of you will be pleasantly surprised by the immediacy of your would-be geothermal system’s payback. For many, geothermal is an investment worth making – one that will put money back in your pockets for years to come.

Posted: 15th September 2012 by logan | 1 Comment

Pricing a Geothermal System

 

If you’re thinking about installing a geothermal system, the initial cost is certainly one of the factors that plays a role in the decision-making process. Although geothermal heating and cooling will probably save you money in the long run, it is more expensive than conventional systems. The equipment isn’t much more expensive, its the underground portion known as the loop-field which adds to upfront cost.  Consumers should first become acquainted with the geothermal installation process to understand how the cost is derived.

What goes into pricing a geothermal system?

geothermal system cost

The short answer to how cost is calculated is as follows:

Indoor Portion + Underground Loop Field = Total System Cost

The inside portion is composed of the price of the geothermal heat pump, its installation, and possible duct work modification. This is done by an HVAC contractor properly trained in geo.

The Underground Loop Field involves drilling (or sometimes escavating) and materials. This is usually done by a well driller. The loop field is approximately 50% of the total cost, although many factors effect this generalization.

For your particular situation the following variables are considered:

1.  Size of the home/building

The first factor that we’ll take a look at is the size of the home or other building for which you’d like to install geothermal.  Look at it like this – a 2000 sq. ft. home isn’t going to require the same amount of heating and cooling as a 6000 sq. ft. church.  The larger the area covered, the more heating and cooling it’s going to demand.  That said, a major variable of pricing is the insulation factor, which has a direct effect on how much heating and cooling is needed. Do you live in a cardboard box, or a tupperware box?

2.  Size of the heat pump

Based on the size of the home, insulation, and climate the amount of heating and cooling needed is calculated, which in turn enables a contractor to calculate the size of the heat pump for the job.  Needless to say, a larger heat pump is going to be a little pricier than one that’s smaller in comparison.

3.  Size of the loop field

Next, the size of the loop field that’s to be installed in the ground comes into play.  The size of the system (3-ton, 4-ton, etc.) along with the climate in which your located will dictate the amount of pipe that needs to be inserted into the earth. A loop field contractor will usually charge a price per foot; therefore, the larger the system, the more pipe that needs to go into the ground, the more expensive the loop field becomes. The loop field cost can vary by region because of the availability of contractors, the ground conditions, and also the price of fuel.

4.  Usability of Current Ductwork

In most cases, this shouldn’t be too large of a factor, as most existing ductwork requires little to no adjustment to be suitable for geothermal heating and cooling.  That said, if you don’t have existing ductwork then you’ll have the full expense of installing it.  However, it’s important to consider that this is a cost for which you are going to be responsible regardless of what type of heating and cooling you install.  Ductwork is simply a necessity of almost all HVAC systems – not an exclusive monetary addition to your geothermal system pricing.

These are some of the main players as far as the cost of your geothermal heating and cooling system goes.  There are more minute components of pricing, of course, but we feel that these four (and all that they encompass) are the most important for consumers to grasp. Bottom line – Size of Home, Climate, & Labor dictate total system price.

Remember, all geothermal is NOT created equal.

A quality contractor, with the right training and experience, is the key to a happy geothermal system customer. For this reason, it’s important to never choose your contractor based solely on price. An inexperienced contractor can undersize your system, producing a lower quote. However, the system will not produce the efficiencies you desire. If you need help identifying the best geothermal contractor in your area, contact us. We can help you ask the right questions.

So how much will it cost ??????????????

Hopefully by now you understand that “it depends”. To get a ballpark idea of what a geothermal system might cost & save you try the geothermal savings calculator. This is not a quote, its a ballpark figure which we think will be pretty close. To get an actual quote contact a geothermal contractor near you.

From Geothermal Genius