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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It sounds like your system was not sized properly for your home and climate. Based on the info in your commetn, it appears to have been sized for your summer AC load. I would expect in Illinois the winter heating load to be significantly larger than the summer AC load. I live in MA, had my system sized to the witer heat load for a 70 deg F temperature rise over the outside ambient temperature, and only used the supplemental heat for a few hours on the coldest nights. It seems that you will need to increase the size/capacity of your heat pump. A reputable contractor that understands how to design a system to meet your region's heating and cooling loads is just incredibly important.
Wow. My experience could not be more different. Sorry to hear about your troubles. I know it's no consolation, but my system has been trouble free...I also have a Tranquility 27 system.
We are looking at vertical loop system. We been quoted close to $50k we do need two heat pumps due to the design of the house. Can you tell me how much you paid for your system. Thanks.
I have a ClimateMaster that was installed a bit over a decade ago. I figured a unit, entirely indoors, should last much longer and be more maintenance free than a unit half inside, half outside, like a traditional AC unit. This assumes the engineering is as good or better. It has been a very expensive mistake.
Quote: 'The free domestic hot water claim comes from the de-superheater which makes hot water as a by product in both heating and cooling modes.' Not true: 1) In the heating mode you pay for the hot water - if the system temperature is set adequately high to make hot water then the overall efficiency will be low. 2) Cooling mode - here you can have free hot water as long as the pump is operating. I have yet to start the AC side this summer so it would not be free. If you want better costs on hot water see the dedicated air to water heat pumps for making hot water. Energy Star ahs a listing for them to see brand names. If a GSHP system will not keep a house warm then go after the sales group and or installer with a shot gun - the system will not be any better than the guy that installed it. The ground loop has to be of adequate size or the well depth has to be adequate to support the system. For a 5 ton unit this may require 3 wells. The extra efficiency provided by a GSHP will never overcome the additional cpst if you live in an area where an ASHP will function efficiently.
Here is a comment that was sent to my email address: "Geothermal HVAC systems work great when sized properly no matter where you live. In the example of the lady from NY it is very likely that her system is simply undersized, meaning the loop is too small or to shallow or both. Her unit itself may be undersized as well. If the installing contractor told her the system is designed to operate (function properly) at temps as low as 15 degrees when the temp is 15 or below in the winter then there is your answer. The system is undersized for the climate, the demand side for heat is not calculated properly. Problems arise from installation companies cutting corners in order to be the low bidder, typically they save money but under-sizing the loop field to be more competitive in price, which undermines the performance of the system. In a properly sized geothermal system, there is no problem achieving 68 degrees in NY or anywhere else. In the summer months, the system incorporates a desuperheater. In simple terms, heat from inside the home is transferred to the water heater before it is sent on its journey through the loop field. This set up will provide most of your hot water requirements in the summer months only. However you can also dedicate a heat pump just for hot water as well, I won't get into all that...but it all works fine when sized properly. People who are considering geothermal HVAC for their homes should take a hard look at DX (direct exchange) systems. Unlike water based systems which require a large loop field and a pump to circulate the working fluid which goes through an additional heat exchange process with the refrigerant, DX is more efficient, no pump, half the loop field requirement and no additional heat exchange process, It is much more efficient. "
I'm happy to see the email you received Chris as I was going to make a similar comment. I have done a lot of research about geothermal heat pumps and it seems to be that one of the main complaints is that the heat pump is not providing enough heat. The email you received is absolutely right, when a GHP is not functioning efficiently it is most likely due to an inappropriately sized system. There are not currently national standards for GHP installers therefore there are a number of contractors who claim to be expert installers but they lack any real experience. GHPs can be a great investment and do function efficiently in every part of the United States. You have to put in the effort to research your installer, ask for references, and definitely contact local utilities and government sites to find out about all the rebates you are eligible for. If you are looking for more information, this is a good site that covers all of the ins and outs of geothermal heat pumps: Thanks for sharing the email you received!
We need to find a chart of ground temperatures/depths for the world. I'm wondering if the DOE has something like this? I have also heard of systems that dig a well straight down when they are limited on the amount of land. I wonder what the difference in efficiency is depending on digging straight down vs. horizontal like in the picture above. You'd have to weigh temperature difference, depth, pump performance, etc. What else?
Depressingly, the calculator shows only $1k annual savings for a geothermal system in my area. So it would take longer to pay off the ayatem than the life of my mortage (not to mention my own lifetime). George


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