ClimateMaster Geothermal Heat Pump

I was surprised to see the ClimateMaster full page ad in my Time Magazine back in February.  While I've written a blog on Residential Geothermal Heat Pumps (that makes me an expert right?) I never thought the market was big enough for a full page ad in a national magazine.  But I'm glad to be proven wrong when it comes to clean energy!

In my earlier post on residential Geothermal Heat Pumps (or Ground Source Heat Pumps) I wrote:

"If the ground where the geothermal wells are drilled is 50° F year round , then the geothermal heat pump is going to pump water into the ground (which brings the water temperature close to the ground temperature), then use the water in a heat exchanger to pass the heat it has gained in the ground to your home.

In most parts of the U.S. this works in the winter (when the outside air temperature is usually colder than the ground temperature) to heat your home.  But this also works in the summer, when the ground temperature is cooler than the outside air temperature and the water that is pumped into the ground is used to cool your home.  It heats/cools your home year round!  And it is more efficient than using electricity/gas/oil to heat/cool your home because it is only moving heat from one source to another (the ground <–> your home) not having to create the heat.

With all that being said, the burning question I have is how well geothermal heat pumps work in different parts of the country and for different home types.  While there are multiple websites extolling the virtues of geothermal heat pumps, there are few sites that really highlight where they work and more importantly, where they dont.  I wouldnt want to spend $30 – $40 k on geothermal heat pump system then realize it really doesn’t satisfy my heating/cooling needs."

Luckily the ClimateMaster website has a pretty nice geothermal savings calculator to help you determine the the geothermal heat pump will perform in your area.  Whenever using a calculator like this, take the information with a grain of salt!  For instance, when I put in that I live in the U.S.A. and in Georgia, it assumes my natural gas rate $1.67 per therm in the winter and $2.45 per therm in summer.  These rates are much higher than what I pay!  I am locked in at 1 year for $.86 per therm! So obviously this will affect the results that the ClimateMaster calculator produces.  What they need to do is enable you to type in your own utility rates so the results are more accurate.

In their animation showing the heat pump working, they show that, "In all seasons, nearly free hot water is provided whenever the system is in use."   However I'm having trouble finding more detailed information about how the system heats your water.  If the ground temperature is only 50-60° F I don't know how it can get up to the 120-130°F that most people have their hot water temperature set at?

In their advertisements they say, "Cut your heating and cooling costs up to 80%".  However, there are some areas of the country where the temperatures are either too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter and the geothermal heat pump just can't produce the required cooling/heating to keep you and your family comfortable.  In these regions, you will need backup systems to make up that difference, and this will really impact the monetary savings of a geothermal heat pump.  This fact is highlighted on my earlier post on residential Geothermal heat pumps.  Annette from New York said:

I live in Northern NY and purchased a home with a 3 year old Geo-thermal system. We cannot maintain a comfortable (68 degrees) in the winter. I called the original installer and was informed that the system is only designed to function effectively, with temperatures down to approx. 15 degrees F. As I live in an area where the temperature drops below 15 most of the winter months, the system is not very effective. It seems the prior owners chose not to add the optional supplemental gas system. So, I have to use the old baseboard electric. With the cost of this, I am not seeing any savings by having the Geo-thermal (actually it is costing more). We will be replacing or supplementing the system in the Spring.

Another drawback to geothermal systems is that they do require you to have a lot of land that has to be dug up so the ground source lines can be put in place.  For many people this just isn't doable.

But the good news is that geothermal heat pumps are applicable to the Federal tax credit and your local state or utility may provide more incentives to install a geothermal system.

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet determining if a geothermal heat pump will work for you because each region has drastically different climates.   Your best bet is to speak with 2 or 3 installers in your area, find one you trust, and ask their advice.  Do some research, find a few installers you trust and make sure to get all the facts!  If you have a geothermal heat pump installed or are looking at installing one, please comment below and let us know your thoughts!

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You must read this before you purchase a Climate Master Tranquility geothermal system. I purchased a Climate Master Tranquility 27 unit in December 2007. I am still waiting for the unit to 'work the bugs out'. I hope I don't go bankrupt before I get all the kinks worked out. First, geothermal is wonderful. I love it. We had oil heat before and we always used the gas logs in the fire place. Since we had geothermal installed, we very rarely use our gas logs. Love it!!!! Either the Climate Master Tranquility 27 product is a piece of you know what or just my particular unit is a lemon. I am giving Climate Master the opportunity to show me it's just my particular unit. In less than four years: The auxiliary heat control board burned up. It was a visibly charred, burnt up circuit board. During the summer, when there is no aux heat being used, it fails. But, the design is so poor it fails in the "on" position. So all summer, our a/c system is cranking out electrical resistance heat (you know how expensive that is) that we are then having to cool with the geothermal a/c system. 6 visits to fix. Really??? The local company that installed it (ClimateMakers, see the problem, I am so &^$#%) couldn't fix the problem in less than 6 separate trips to my house. The compressor wouldn't run (fully??) What do I know? I called the installer because it wasn't cooling the house. Two more trips to replace the part that was "shorting out". Another electrical issue. Freon leak. Geothermal systems are like your refrigerator. They are not like your old a/c system. There is no inside unit and out side unit that's connected by copper tubing. It's all one unit make by the manufacturer, Climate Master. One of their copper joints was leaking. Their copper union, their joint, their labor, their problem. Wrong!!! Climate Master's assistance stopped at providing another $1.25 copper fitting that could have been purchased at Home Depot. Distributor? Nope, Virginia Air wouldn't help either. The local installer, ClimateMakers, were happy to help. $740.00 their help to fix the manufacturing defect cost me. 3 more days off from work to find and fix the problem. TXV Valve? Didn't know I had one. But, you will when it goes bad. It's a component inside the refrigerator sized unit. Again, no one's responsibility but the manufacturers. They will pay for the part. Did I want to pay $100 to have the part shipped in sooner? Fortunately, my service warranty, for an additional fee, covers the labor. But, there is the small issue of me having to pay another $281 for the freon in the system. Another 3 trips to fix. Can you say ka-ching? Evaporator leak!!!! You got to be kidding me. You know the routine. The part is covered. But, to get the part shipped sooner it will cost me $200. I am just so thankful to the local installer, ClimateMasters, that they found the evaporator leak before they installed the TXV valve. If they had not found the second freon leak before installing the TXV valve it would have cost me more days off from work and another $281 worth of freon. Yippy!! Can you tell that I am less than happy right now? In less than four years two electrical components failed, a mechanical valve failed, and there were two separate leaks on the sealed freon system. This is just a poorly manufactured unit. I am looking for manufacture (ClimateMaker, are they owned by Carrier!!), distributor (Virginia Air), and/or the installer (ClimateMakers) to step up and do the right thing. The unit I have is a lemon. They need to step up and replace the unit. The $27,989 that I spent to have my HVAC system modernized is at risk because neither the manufacture / distributor / installer has stepped up and spent the $2-3,000 it would cost to install a new unit. I will keep you posted!!
I live in Illinois and when we built our house about 5 years ago we went with a geothermal system thinking it would be SO Great! Yah right! I'm so disappointed. Our summer bills are great but the winter bills are close to and over $300! The auxiliary is always running. There are only 2 of us in the house, I'm very good at turning out lights, etc. We keep our thermostat on 67-68 in the evening when we are both home from work and 65 at night. We have a loop system which goes from our house to a small rise on the east side of our house. What's wrong with our system??? I'm sick of paying the high bills in the winter! And to top it all off, the company that installed our system,doesn't sell them or install the systems anymore. Our local electric coop laid the piping system. I'm ready to have it all torn out and go back to the old style furnace and a/c unit outside.
We had a home built in the Concord, NH area where winters have a bit of a chill and especially this one (so far). We had a 4 ton Climate Master Tranquility 27 put in for 2400 sq ft of conditioned space which includes the basement. The house was built to Energy Star specs we used a local utility program providing a $2100 rebate and gave me the added peace of mind of one additional inspector to review the plans and later to visit the site and confirm proper install of insulation and then do a blower door test of the functioning of the house prior to our closing on it. The builder hit us for an extra $900 in insulation costs so we netted $1200 and knew we had a good setting established for the geo unit. The well is 400 ft deep with a great flow of 30 gpm and provides our domestic water as well. So far... so good. We keep the house at between 67 and 70 for most days and 65 in the night. With all electric usage (wife is working from home during the day and we are bad at leaving lights on) we averaged $135 in the summer and fall and then climbed to $175 and $225 for Nov and December I await my Jan use bill soon and expect it will be close to $300 since we got to -12 a few times during the month. I am expecting the annual energy bill to come in at roughly $2,200 or so for the year or $185 monthly on average. Since neighbors have electric bills of $100 plus each month for washing and drying and cooking and lights, well pumps, etc it seems my a/c and heat expense is between $900 - $1,000 per year. I have been told this compares well enough to be able to say we are realizing savings of about $150 per month. My costs were $18,000 for unit, install and ductwork with and additional $4,000 for deeper well and pump upgrade and $3,000 for creating conditioned space in basement (a condition for placement of the unit). When you add in the 900 for insulation i paid an additional $26,000 then if you take out the $7,500 fed rebate, 2,100 from utility and $5,000 saved by not putting in a propane unit my net additional cost is about $11,500 or so. The cost of this is now in my mortgage (as would the cost of the standard propane furnace) and I calculate that I pay an additional $60 monthly and will save at least $150 monthly... so there is no waiting for a payback -- I save $$ each and every month. The fed rebate was a help but if you were to put the $7,500 rebate back in the cost I would still be saving $$ but only $50 monthly and not $90. As mentioned, So far, so good and it has made it through the cold spell without needing to tap the aux heat (breaker is still off) ... I was hopeful at the start of the project and now a proud witness. Credit goes to a knowledgeable installer!!
After comparing the various ways of reducing energy costs, I have concluded that geothermal heat pumps, certainly the ground based, and perhaps the water based as well, are the last thing one should get into. Their perfomance seems to be very hit or miss, the installation costs way too high. My strategy for my home I'm building is first and foremost, insulation and use of passive solar light and right sizing the house. Next step is solar panel array. Solar panels have become dirt cheap - netting between 50 cents and 1 dollar per watt, with about 70 cents for inversion, and installation so simple that the owner should always do the job, unless installing on roof and acrophobic. With estimated solar generated electric costs over a 20 year period running close to 4 cents per kilowatthour, and over 25 years less than 4 cents, and practically zero maintenance and 30 year warranties, it is a no-brainer. And I can easily diagnose and correct panel output problems by simply looking at the computer panel monitoring program (no need for voltage meters, going out to the panels, etc). I can replace a bad panel in seconds. No technicians needed.
Sue, I live in State College PA and have a 5 ton, Tranquility 27, Climate Master unit. My house is 2200 square feet, a shed-roof design, with 20 foot ceilings at the peak. It's post and beam construction and ranges from 2-5 foot off the ground. I have 5, 150-foot deep wells. The geo has kept our house at a comfortable 70 degrees all winter. We've heated with wood for 33 years and now pay $700 for wood for a heating season. The Climate Master engineers who did the analysis on our house estimated it would cost us $700 per heating season to run the geo. Based on this, it looks like I have burned my last stick of wood. I have been keeping a close eye on my electricity use and it appears it may cost me less than they estimated. My electric bill in December and January were $90.00 and $110.00 more, respectively, than they ordinarily would be. Based on what I've experienced, if anyone is cold after having geothermal installed, it may not have been sized properly.
Sue, I also live in Michigan near Brighton. I am currently looking at the Climate Master with a very reputable dealer in Pinckney that I have worked with for years in my remodeling business. He believes in oversizing the unit for my house as well, especially since my spouse is ill and the heat can't drop much during the cold Michigan winters. Right now I am going broke paying for propane out in the country where there is no natural gas available. My dealer recommends a 4 ton unit (4 wells 150 deep, sealed system, 1900 square feet) to maintain 70+ degrees. It will also handle my hot water supply. Effectively, it should not require any boost to supply forced air until it nears "0" F. This dealer relys on Climate Master, and has been installing them for many years with a huge following of happy customers. Good luck on your quest.
I have been looking at several sites to get current information on makers of Geothermal systems. My husband and I installed one in 1992 (ahead of the curve)in MI when very few people were doing this. We need to replace the current system due to age. Here is some information about the learning curve: 1) Geothermal is the only way to go if your only option is high cost oil. If you have a source of natural gas - you will have to compare cost benefits. 2) I agree with the above observations - if it is not heating the home enough, it is probably undersized for the home. Esp if it is an older home with not enough insulation. 3) Find yourelf a very reputable dealer (lots of years in the business). This is key to the installation and support. Something or some part will go wrong. Nothing is perfect in this world, but customer support is half of the equation. The other half is having a repoutable firm that stands behind what it builds with a good warranty. (This is where we are having some difficulty in finding). Our experience has been this: We have a 3200 sq foot home with 1800 sq foot basement. Built with 2x6 construction and extra insulation. Our not so reputable installer undersized the furnance, so on very cold days (less than 15F) the auxillary heat kicks in). When we don't have that, our heating bill is about $150/monthu in the winter. We do have lower bills because we are on a speical time-of-day heating plan with the electric company for geothermal furnances. A/C costs in summer are about $25/mon. But we live on a wooded lot that provides some shade in the summer. And this unit provides our hotwater - 80 gals in 15 min. In a Super insulated tank, we do not run electricity to it (unless the power is out). When the furnace works, we love our geothermal concept. However, the furnace(Hydroheat) has had design flaws from the begining and we have periodicaly needed to replace parts. In the 1990's very hard to find a dealer willing to do that when they did not install the system. Getting easier now that more people are getting these systems. And it has worked better in the last 2 years since we had some trees fall on the roof - got repaired and found out the insulation in the attic was substandard and not what we had paid for on building the house. Once we had that corrected to a R50 rating. I have seen some posts on other site of horror stories on Water Furnance. I will not get a Hydroheat again. Any comments (Pros or Cons)for Climate Master or Econar? Just trying to figure out the least of all the evils out there :)
If I were using the geothermal system you describe then I would turn the auxiliary heat off. We have been using geothermal heating and cooling for around 4 years now. We would use auxiliary heating only if the weather is so cold that our geothermal cannot keep up. The auxiliary heating is usually an electric resistance heater which is several hundred percent less efficient than your geothermal efficiency. You should be able to switch the resistance heater off while leaving the rest of the system still fully operational.
I purchased a Tranquility 27 in the fall of 2009. This unit was installed as part of new construction. I too have had nothing but issues since moving in to my new home. ClimateMaster service has been absolutely HORRIBLE through our whole ordeal. We have had everything from refrigerant leaks to compressor lockouts to unit not keeping up in the winter time even tough temps were in the mid 20's. We have had to run our emergency heat quite ofter (very expensive) Most recently my TXV valve went out. Now I have to pay a different company to come out and replace it at my cost of course ($650). I wish I had done more research before purchasing ClimateMaster. I am so frusterated with this company. If I could afford to do so I would completley rip the system out and replace it with another brand. I hope anyone considering purchasing a ClimateMaster unit does their homework first!
Sue, I installed a Climatemaster system last fall (2010). I have been very happy with the system. I watched it closely last winter (2010-2011) and it delivered the design goal of a 70 degree F temperature rise over the outside ambient temperature (we live in Central MA). So, far it has been very reliable. We achieved ~$3000 reduction in our heating costs last winter. We also reduced our cooling costs last summer (2011). I can't tell precisely how much we saved in the summer because we added a Chevy Volt to our electrical load in May. Nevertheless, even with the added electrical load of the Volt, our electric usage and bills were less than last year! Count me in the camp of "Very Satisfied" owners of a Climatemaster geothermal heatpump. I was very impressed/pleased with the local contractor who installed my system.


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