Alternative Heating Options for your Connecticut Home

By
Real Estate Agent with Fab Real Estate

I heat my home with oil - I have a hydro-air forced warm air heating system with three zones.
When I built my home three years ago, has I suspected the price of oil would more than double in three years, I might have considered different heating options. 

Back in 2005 when I built the home, I contracted for oil for about $2.05 per gallon. 
This past year, I've been paying $3.59 per gallon. 
Now, I'm hearing quotes of $4.70 - $5.19 per gallon.  Ouch. 

Just by conservation - and the fact that now all of our kids are in school during the day - we've reduced our oil consumption from 1,500 gallons per year to 1,100 gallons per year. 
Those 1,100 gallons, at $5.19 per gallon, will cost me $5,500.  That's just too much money.

So, we've been researching various options on how to heat our home. 

We looked into installing a new geothermal heating and cooling system.  I've seen these in action, and they work great. Simplistically, geothermal systems use ground water to heat and cool your home.  There's no oil, no gas...just the electricity need to run the geothermal pump.  The cost savings can be amazing. 
But, the installation costs are prohibitive:  To retrofit my home will cost $40,000 - $60,000.  Even with these high oil prices, that's not a great investment. Apparently, these systems are much more cost-effective if installed during the construction of the home.  Something to keep in mind for the future...

Of course, we also took this time to look into installing solar panels.  They may not provide my heat, but they could reduce my huge electricity bill.  But, again, the installation costs are prohibitive. 

We considered replacing our gas (propane) fireplace with one that might actually put out some heat.  But, our chimney would have to be modified to fit a new unit that would probably only heat one or two rooms.  While this would obviously be cheaper than a geothermal system or solar panels, it still wouldn't be enough of a return on our investment to make it worthwhile. 

So we moved on to wood stoves.  I like these.  Radiant heat drifting through my home.  The look and smell of a real fire blazing.  The sound of that fire crackling.  Years and years of free wood available on my own property.  Stove prices are fairly reasonable, with some great new modern design stoves, but installation will double the cost.  And, will I ever really cut and split that wood?  Will I ever carry those dead trees up the hill? 
Unfortunately, we know our lifestyle.  We'll end up buying pre-split cord wood and storing it in the side yard.  There go some savings.  And, realistically, when there is 2 feet of snow outside, am I going to go out to get some wood?  I guess I could send the kids...  I still do like this option, but there is a lot of work involved.  Do I have the time? That is a definite consideration.

Next we looked at pellet stoves.  I wasn't too keen on this idea at first.  So I spent some time (OK, a lot of time) visiting stores and researching online.  Most pellet stoves are not pretty. But, with a little searching, some nice looking units are available, and they seem to have great reliability reviews.  True, I will have to store pellets in my garage, and the price of pellets has gone up lately.  But it is still much more cost-effective than oil, and fairly comparable to buying cord wood instead of cutting my own.  I found a few stoves that should heat my entire main level, and probably keep the upstairs in the low- to mid-60's at the same time.  Not too shabby.  My oil heat can become the supplemental system, and what we may need to use at night. 


There is a great fuel cost comparison calculator that can aid in your decision as to whether your savings will be worthwhile.

I think we're going to go with the pellet stove.  Of course, they are scarce right now and not cheap.  But, I think I may earn my money back in 2-3 years.  If oil prices drop and it takes longer, at least I know that I'm no longer completely dependent on foreign oil.  And, I'll have an additional fireplace in my home. 

I will have two heat sources in my house - I will be able to choose which one is used as the primary heat source at any given time, based on current fuel costs. 

How cool is that?

 

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Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Hi Brian - OK, you have my attention.  Let's hear more.

I went through your website.  It was written in 2006, and mentions a few things you are expecting in 2007.  It's 2008 now.  Have those things happened?  I do see a few articles about 2007.  But nothing appears newer.  That's a bit of a concern to me.

Also, in the November 2007 newsletter, which is on your site, it is stated that for a home, the cost of your system can be $30,000.  Is that correct?

Won't the drilling of the bore holes be a good $20,000 on their own?

Do tell me more.  You have my ears.

Jul 24, 2008 05:48 PM #6
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Brian responded to me via email.  Here's an excerpt:

I don't understand about the update on the website, frankly I haven't looked at in so long, I have been running hard all over the country.

In a nutshell, we have a patented process, a proprietary technology in geothermal ground source heat pumps. (GSHP). And yes conventional GSHP for a home are around 30K. The difference is in the drilling. Average bore hole depth is 300 ft per bore on a home, twice the work and mess on doing a retrofit. They use plastic pipes as you know, and fill them with poly-glycol (antifreeze) and then "pump" that into the home, where it "exchanges" the heat transfer to a refrigerant. We don't go that route, we use the Direct Exchange method. Simply put, we only drill 3in bores on a diagonal, only 55ft deep, we utilze cooper instedd of plastic pipes, our copper lines are only 1/4in OD as opposed to 2in plastic. We don't need antifreeze either, or the "pump". Our copper lines are charged. So we don't need the secondary heat exchanger in your house either. So the name DX which stands for direct exchange. It's the most efficient form of geothermal HVAC on the planet, bar none. In order to bring this technology to the masses, it had to be affordable, so we did that the old fashioned way, we bought it out, and took it over. And we are doing as planned. I'm doing 2000 homes in CO in Sept. huge development. It will be the industry norm from now on.Nuts and bolts, drilling your well field at your house only takes a day. four 2" bore holes at 55ft. Lines sets are brought into the home and attached to our equipment, which is always installed within the conditioned space. It's small and silent. We run a line set to your water heater, and take the excess energy from the refrigerant compressor and send it there, this is known as a desuperheater. In the winter, the home conditioning takes priority of the desuperheater heat, if it is warm enough, then the heat goes to the water heater, in the summer, we are sending the heat from your home into the earth, so the excess energy goes to the water heater and you get free hot water all summer. You should still experience 60% reduction in water heater expenses in the winter though.The homes in CO at 1800 sq ft came in at 16k, financed into the mtg, at 7% came in at 71.00 per month, with a NET saving of 368.00 per month in utility, it's a no brainer. My interest is in marketing, I am opening CT right now, as of yesterday, I already have four HVAC companies looking to get certified, we are the manufacturer keep in mind.  
...
CT is all big on the CCEF and they only do solar, at 13% peak efficiency, we around averaging 500% efficiency. NO comparison. Since we start out with a temperature of 58 degrees from the get go, AC is free. Heating is achieved by compression, I can make it 140 degrees in your house if you want. It's the way of the future. Sorry I'm getting long winded, I'm into this, and have been in renewables for 30 years.
...
Honestly I'm not up on the tax credits and all the hoopla, utility rebates and all that, DX stands on its own merit, but it is there, for you to take advantage of.Best
Brian

 
My comment:  Hmmm...a little more to think about here...

Jul 24, 2008 08:50 PM #7
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Heating with oil. I have been a broker here since 1996 and have never seen it.

Jul 24, 2008 09:02 PM #8
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Hi Amanda - I believe the Northeast has more homes heated with oil than the rest of the country combined.  Natural gas is not available in most towns out here (it is available in some of the larger towns and cities), propane is an option but is not common.  Most people do not want electric heat because historically it has been so expensive.  So, that leaves oil.  Each home has it's own oil tank.

The problem now is that oil heat is just as expensive - if not more expensive - than electric heat.

Jul 24, 2008 09:18 PM #9
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

Thank you! I learned something new today!

Jul 25, 2008 01:10 PM #10
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Amanda - You're very welcome.

Jul 25, 2008 02:25 PM #11
Anonymous
Anonymous
Kelly

We live in northern Minnesota and retrofitted geothermal to replace oil last March. We did not have an option for natural gas, (no lines) and felt that any other fuel would just increase over time. We called 5 installers in our area and received 2 bids (3 wouldn't compete with the installer we eventually chose and declined to bid) We had a free energy audit done through the local power company, and they did the calculation for payoff based on our bids. We felt pretty confident in our decision after talking to the auditor. He very clearly explained how we would pay it off within 5-7 years based on last year's fuel oil price of $3.25. Well, as you can imagine we will actually pay it off sooner. We paid a total price of $16k for a 3 ton horizontal loop system (you have to have a big yard to do horizontal loops) Our house is modest size, 1400 square feet. When the bid came in they estimated that our cost to run would be .19 per hour when running....or total heating and cooling for the year under $500. That estimate has been right on the money. The first month (March to April) ran $40 to heat, it's pretty cold in northern Minnesota in March. We'd have easily spent $200 for that month. So, instead of spending $2500 for heat this winter and having no air conditioning at all, we are enjoying new central air provided by the geothermal, free hot water in summer (and supplemented hot water in winter), and very low cost to heat in the future. It might be worth your time to talk to some of your local installers or electric utility company about these systems. We also got a $600 rebate from the power company.

Jul 29, 2008 02:43 PM #12
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Hi Kelly - I'm a huge fan of geothermal, and I always love to hear from people who have it.  I have never heard a complaint yet.

Unfortunately, the price is still prohibitive for many.  I've been given rough estimates of $16,000 - $20,000 and $40,000 - $60,000.  Unfortunately, both are out of reach right now.  Which is a huge shame, because like you, I would probably break even in only 2-3 years if oil prices stay where they are.

Right now, I'm still leaning towards the pellet stove, with the hopes that in a year or two we can consider geothermal again.  That way, in the worst case scenario, we have an extra fireplace in the house...  I figure that's one way of looking at it without feeling like I'm throwing money away on the pellet stove!

Jul 30, 2008 08:33 AM #13
Anonymous
Anonymous
Kelly

I'd say that's good planning. We have a small pot bellied stove in the basement, just in case there's a power outage. It's a good backup because the geothermal is dependent on electricity. Also you don't need a chimney with the geothermal so we are able to dedicate our old chimney to the woodstove. One other thought for you or others interested, our city had low interest loan funds available for energy efficient home improvements, which included Geothermal. I can see how it would be beneficial to do this while building, no chimney to build, you have to have ductwork and a furnace anyway and you'd easily pay nearly as much for conventional heat and central air on a new build.

Jul 30, 2008 11:57 AM #14
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Hi Kelly - True, there are loans available from some states that will cover all or part of the geothermal system installation.  However, the qualifying requirements for these loans are pretty tough.  Not many people will qualify.  Those who need to get off of oil the most will probably not qualify.

How satisfied are you with the heating and cooling of your geothermal system?  Those that I've seen have been great.

Jul 31, 2008 07:25 AM #15
Anonymous
Anonymous
Kelly

I find the heating and cooling very comfortable. It does take a bit of getting used to, as the air comes out of the ducts more forcefully and it feels almost cool in the heating mode, you walk by a heat vent and think...how can that work? We do not feel the drafts that we used to feel, it's a more consistent heat. Our home has a vaulted ceiling 23' high in the front room. When the oil furnace would kick on you could feel the heat displacing the cold air, thus a very pronounced draft from the cool upstairs if you were sitting in certain parts of the room. We don't feel this at all anymore. The geothermal heat runs in such a way that your house is always about the same temp, up near the ceiling and down to the floors. In fact the floors are nice and warm now, where I used to complain about cold tile in the kitchen and bath. The cooling mode is wonderful. We don't have many days we need it in a typical summer (this year has NOT been typical with many 80+ degree days.) I do a lot of canning during August and would usually suffer in a hot kitchen in the evenings all month long. I'm really liking the cooling. It's also quite easy on the pocketbook, costing about $4-5 in electricity for the month.

Jul 31, 2008 04:04 PM #16
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Kelly - Thanks for sharing your experiences with your geothermal system.  I think it's important for people to hear first-hand how great it is.

I appreciate your input!

Jul 31, 2008 08:51 PM #17
Anonymous
Anonymous
Mary

I love this discussion! 

Have you heard about the Geocolumn? It's a new technology that sounds less complicated than geothermal and less costly.  here's a quote from the Geo-Energy enterprises website: (http://www.geoenergyusa.com/column.htm)

 The Company feels that this new GeoColumn technology, when coupled with the Company's proprietary control features, will revolutionize the geothermal industry and provide for mass market acceptance since it can reduce installation costs, reduce land area requirements, and provide even higher operating efficiencies which result in even greater operating savings to the end user.
     In addition to residential users the GeoColumn Technology will now make geothermal HAVC available to commercial users, such as fast food restaurants, mini marts, strip mall stores and other such stand alone stores or users, whose acceptance of geothermal has been limited due to land area constraints, but whose operating savings by the use of the GeoColumn based system (which has an anticipated pay back in 2- 3 years) can be substantial.

Oct 08, 2008 09:07 AM #18
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Mary - this is a company I never heard of, even though they are located in the area.  Do they have any local installations?  How long have they been installing these systems?  What is the cost?

None of these questions are answered on their website.

Oct 08, 2008 09:31 AM #19
Anonymous
Anonymous
Sue

Hi, it's now April 2009 and we are building a new home in CT.   We would love to do Geothermal and I wish it only costs $40,000!   Our house is approx. 3,300 sf...we upped the insulation everywhere possible and have new low E, gas filled, all the bells and whistle features available windows.    The economy is terrible and for every other aspect of the project we have been pleasantly surprised with the relative low quotes we're getting (people are just hungry for the work).   For geothermal estimates, we simply cannot grasp the prices that we're quoted.    We have rec'd 2 estimates:  one for $78k, the other for $67K. A far cry everything I've read or researched.

We have researched the technologies and we don't need to see the cost benefit analysis, or pay back analysis....they are simply too susceptible to variables (heating oil is now $1.47 gallon, not the $4.30 it was year ago), we keep our house cooler than most in winter, etc.   Yes, I'm well aware of the federal credits...but the credits/rebates are not based on the entire system.....the ductwork is excluded, and I don't need the analysis there either.  We're sold on the technology.   We're just not sold on the price yet.  

From what we figure the system is made up of a few components:  Drilling, ductwork, the mechanical unit (s) itself, and the labor involved in hooking those 3 components together.    I'd love to see a breakdown of the costs like I've been able to get for other aspects of the house, instead, we're routed to what I'm calling "a geothermal contractor", or a "GTC".    We obviously have provided all the required info to these GTCs, but the quote (one total number, usually buried deep inside the rhetoric) is always accompanied by a sit-down presentation, pages of cost-benefit analsis, a long laundry list of what the quote includes (eg. regrading the disturbed property, reseeding the lawn, 'system startup' whatever that means, adddional duct filters, the list goes on).  Since none of the GTC's are well drillers, HVAC installers, equipment manufacturers or even a drench diggers, each line item on the proposal is padded with the GTC's profit.    I don't need all the sales pitches and padding, I can throw down a few handfuls for grass seed myself thanks.

So, does anyone know what it costs:

1) for the units themselves (I need a 4-ton for the 1st floor and 3-ton unit for upstairs)

2) ductwork...it's new construction, so it's a blank slate now.

3) drilling (obviously a regional question) approximately 950 ft total,  with 2-3 wells

4) a contractor who can plug it all together.

Apr 04, 2009 03:30 PM #20
Anonymous
Anonymous
Brian

Hello, I will be in Ct next week and can provide you with a correct bid for your home, turn key driller and HVAC installation with equipment. Send me an email with your contact info and I'll see you next week. Best  bmello@earthsource-energy.com

Apr 04, 2009 04:08 PM #21
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Sue - First off - where are you getting heating oil for $1.47 per gallon?  I'm paying $2.50 right now.

I'm not a geothermal contractor, so I don't know the breakdowns of cost.  However, your quotes seem much higher than I've seen, especially since you are installing the system at the time of construction.  Grading/re-seeding should not be an issue, as that will be done anyway by your building contractor after the home itself is complete.

I don't understand why your quotes for a new-construction home are higher than the rough-estimate quotes I received to retrofit my existing home.

Have you had any of the installers out to your new home to do a site inspection and then give an accurate estimate?  Perhaps the lay of your land is increasing the cost?  I don't know, but I would be interested to know if the estimate changes after they come out.

If you do a Google search for geothermal in Connecticut, you should find several contractors/installers.  Call around and have them out to give you a better quote.  If they go into a sales pitch, just tell them to stop - you don't need the pitch.

Let me know how it goes.

Apr 06, 2009 11:38 AM #22
Anonymous
Anonymous
Mandy

Actually the geothermal systems are very affordable when you consider the federal 30% tax rebate plus the local rebates. That doesn't even take into the account the huge saving in the cost of energy to heat or cool your home (the system does both). Now add up the cost of a geothermal system verses the cost of a wood pellet pot thing and a central AC unit. You are way ahead in the end with a geothermal system!

Aug 12, 2009 11:58 PM #23
Rainmaker
309,926
Don Fabrizio-Garcia
Fab Real Estate - Danbury, CT
Owner/Broker/Trainer - Fab Real Estate

Mandy,

Even with the 30% tax rebates, along with the energy savings, most people still do not have $40,000 - $60,000 to lay out for the geothermal system.

Aug 13, 2009 08:01 AM #24
Anonymous
Anonymous
Joe

An inverter driven ductless heat pump can be installed for a few thousand dollars before rebates and tax credits and will provide very efficient heating (even in colder weather).  It's not quite as efficient as geothermal, but will cost tens of thousands of dollars less, and will by far have the best life cycle cost of any other alternative out there.  

 

 

Dec 21, 2009 08:01 AM #25
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Rainmaker
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Don Fabrizio-Garcia

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