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Old 12-16-14, 10:49 PM   #1
mechanic
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Default Inefficient home or inefficient GSHP?

So I have a relatively new home (unfortunately built before I knew much of anything about building it for efficiency) and the electrical bills had always seemed high to me, about $325 a month on a farm rate of $.106 but it was cheaper than my old house so I didn't pay much attention... I started looking into it about a couple years ago then really looking into once a friend of mine claimed his farm cost him $200 a month average year round (natural gas heat, a/c, gas water heater) which bugged me since I had installed geothermal (installer claimed 13 year payback if I believe), had a new house, and a well insulated basement. I have made leaps and bounds in electrical usage since then but now that it's getting colder my heat still seems to run a lot and it's really not cold yet (ran around half the night last night at -7c and our winters are often -20c to -40c) so first i'll list the place's specs and the improvements I've made and then what I'm seeing now.

-home is 4 years old, 1800sq foot 2x6 RTM bungalow with vaulted ceiling in the center, spray foam insulated/sealed from basement top plate to house floor
-basement is an ICF walkout with 8" concrete walls and wooden floor
-Hvac is a climate master tranquility 27 heat pump with hot water and there is a 2 ton console geo unit in a 600sq foot workshop that gets used for heating only and only kept at around 12 deg c. My ground loop was at -3c at the very end of last winter which the installer said was better that many. There is separate loops for the home and garage units.
-after the geothermal preheat water tank there is a dual element electric water heater, 3000 watts per element

So I was previously averaging 3000 kWh a month, changes I made were:
-changed commonly used light bulbs to LEDs and others to CFLs (total wattage previously if I had all lights on would be 4250 watts, new lights would be 660 watts)
-shut off yard light (approximately 470 kWh a month!!)
-turned hot water heater down a bit
-built a hot water heat exchanger on our main shower
-insulated the hot water lines that I could access(probably 85%?) and put a switch on the circulating pump
-crawled into attic and added insulation where the builders were skimpy
-make an effort to shut unused appliances and lights off. Monitored appliances with a kill-a-watt and unplugged one old fridge that was usually close to empty
-installed an Ecobee thermostat. Really like this unit, gives detailed reports on usage and easy to setup and control. My heating is 2 stage plus aux electric resistance heat, I believe I saved a lot here as the standard thermostat would turn on the grid heater after a certain amount of runtime whereas now I turned it way back. Heat pump runs longer but back up stays off.

After these changes in May I was averaging 1000-1200 kWh a month till The last few cold months, now it's at 2000 kWh. So it's made a very large difference! But the heat really seems to be using a lot and it's going to get much colder. At my current usage after the cold winter I'll probably be around even with my friends cost and he has made no effort whatsoever. According to my ecobee my house isn't very efficient, I'll include a few screenshots in a second, but a poorly running heat pump system would also fool the thermostat in thinking so I would think? What do you guys think?

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Old 12-16-14, 10:51 PM   #2
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Old 12-16-14, 10:52 PM   #3
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Will only let me post one at a time...
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Old 12-16-14, 10:53 PM   #4
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Old 12-16-14, 11:34 PM   #5
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How large are your ground loops.??(length of tubes installed) what size are the heat pumps Ton??

Our climate here in Ontario is nothing compared to Saskatchewan. We are running two 3 ton units one for the in=floor water to water the other for water to air and it sees very little use in the winter more for summer air-conditioning.

The ground loop supply temp. I've never seen lower than 4 C Deg. at the end of the season.

For the house alone albeit twice the square footage we were paying about $1200.00 /year for heating @ 0.15/kwh all in. (delivery,dept recovery,taxes etc.)

It sounds like every other detail you've nailed down.

Your costs do seem to be a little high. I'm surprised with the return water temp -3 C. Here in this part of the world they install 600 ft / ton @ 6 ft. Hopefully they didn't short you on that??

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Old 12-17-14, 01:46 AM   #6
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You say you added insulation...

My attic (above the ceiling) is at R-50...
My basement's (under the floor) R-30...
Current Eco-Green Standards are available:
https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm...sulation_table

Light bulbs means LED's all the way, enough said.
My electric bill consistently falls below 1,000 kwh but it's a small 1,200 sq.ft one-story rancher.
I'm used to paying... I think the cheapest this year was $56, and the highest was $120.

Replacing my refrigerator cost me $600'ish and made a HUGE difference.
This mostly depends how old your unit is, turns out mine was either a late 70's or late 80's model, we're talking $10 - $15 a month difference but even if your refrigerator is only 10-20 years old I may suggest checking the daily or annual use against a newer unit.
As a rule I would replace it IF the savings would pay for the unit within 5-6 years or less and under no circumstances would I replace it if it would not pay for itself within 7-8 years.

I have found lately, dressing appropriately in winter (as in, wearing long john's inside the house) helps me keep my thermostat down... Mine stays at 59 nowadays although I keep a small space heater in whichever room I may be in... Because it's cheaper to heat one room than the whole house.

I also like to turn the heat completely off while I'm gone but you REALLY have to watch it coming back make SURE you have a way to keep the EM heat from kicking on as it has a nasty tendency to do that and it will drive your electric bill sky high in no time.

The other problem I did find, is lower winter temperatures means less heat tolerance in summer... Where I used to keep my summer thermostat set to 78-80 I now find myself turning it down to 76 however I found using a window unit A/C in the bedroom I can keep it cool while leaving the rest of the house warmer.
Turns out the human body gets used to being either cold or warm, whichever one...
When the seasons turn the body doesn't catch up right away and there's a limit in terms of temperature extremes that we comfortably tolerate as well.

The trick thus became, to warm / cool the room I happen to be in.

Oh...
I hang my clothes up to dry, I have it but I don't use the electric clothes dryer.

Hope that helps.

Last edited by 8307c4; 12-17-14 at 01:53 AM..
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Old 12-17-14, 04:02 AM   #7
SDMCF
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mechanic View Post
-insulated the hot water lines that I could access(probably 85%?) and put a switch on the circulating pump
I find that most of the time it is OK if the water is warm, and if I really do want hot water I am prepared to wait for it. So I also put a thermostat on the return line, so the pump would run until the circulation was replenished and then turn off until it had cooled down some. This cut things down significantly - but I still keep the pump switched off most of the time.
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Old 12-17-14, 07:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randen View Post
How large are your ground loops.??(length of tubes installed) what size are the heat pumps Ton??
Randen
There is a 300' header trench leading to four 300' trenches all at 8-9' ( I dug it myself, they installed) the house used a 1.5 inch line, the garage used a 3/4" line
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Old 12-17-14, 08:08 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 8307c4 View Post
You say you added insulation...
My attic (above the ceiling) is at R-50...
My basement's (under the floor) R-30...
Current Eco-Green Standards are available:
https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm...sulation_table
I just checked they're work, added in where I found any gaps/low spots, etc. the ceiling in the living room/ kitchen is vaulted so it just has bats, can only get to about half of it, the rest is blow in. The house is 2x6 construction.

[/QUOTE]
Light bulbs means LED's all the way, enough said.
My electric bill consistently falls below 1,000 kwh but it's a small 1,200 sq.ft one-story rancher.
I'm used to paying... I think the cheapest this year was $56, and the highest was $120.
[/QUOTE]

I used mostly LEDs, I only used CFLs in places like closets where they get flicked on for a very short time

[/QUOTE]
Replacing my refrigerator cost me $600'ish and made a HUGE difference.
This mostly depends how old your unit is, turns out mine was either a late 70's or late 80's model, we're talking $10 - $15 a month difference but even if your refrigerator is only 10-20 years old I may suggest checking the daily or annual use against a newer unit.
As a rule I would replace it IF the savings would pay for the unit within 5-6 years or less and under no circumstances would I replace it if it would not pay for itself within 7-8 years.
[/QUOTE]

All our appliances are 4 years old and pretty decent units. The one I unplugged was a spare from the 80's we kept in the basement

[/QUOTE]
I have found lately, dressing appropriately in winter (as in, wearing long john's inside the house) helps me keep my thermostat down... Mine stays at 59 nowadays although I keep a small space heater in whichever room I may be in... Because it's cheaper to heat one room than the whole house.
[/QUOTE]

We keep the house at 20.5 - 22 deg C in the winter and 23 in the summer

[/QUOTE]
I also like to turn the heat completely off while I'm gone but you REALLY have to watch it coming back make SURE you have a way to keep the EM heat from kicking on as it has a nasty tendency to do that and it will drive your electric bill sky high in no time.[/QUOTE]

Can't really do that as it gets down to -40c here

[/QUOTE]
The other problem I did find, is lower winter temperatures means less heat tolerance in summer... Where I used to keep my summer thermostat set to 78-80 I now find myself turning it down to 76 however I found using a window unit A/C in the bedroom I can keep it cool while leaving the rest of the house warmer.
Turns out the human body gets used to being either cold or warm, whichever one...
When the seasons turn the body doesn't catch up right away and there's a limit in terms of temperature extremes that we comfortably tolerate as well.

The trick thus became, to warm / cool the room I happen to be in.

Oh...
I hang my clothes up to dry, I have it but I don't use the electric clothes dryer.[/QUOTE]

We do plan on installing a clothes line, in the meantime I built a filtered drier vent to vent the heat back to the basement during the winter.

[/QUOTE]
Hope that helps.[/QUOTE]

You bet, thanks

Last edited by mechanic; 12-17-14 at 08:20 AM..
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Old 12-17-14, 08:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDMCF View Post
I find that most of the time it is OK if the water is warm, and if I really do want hot water I am prepared to wait for it. So I also put a thermostat on the return line, so the pump would run until the circulation was replenished and then turn off until it had cooled down some. This cut things down significantly - but I still keep the pump switched off most of the time.
The house originally had the hot water on a timer set to run morning and evening. There was 60' of un-insulated line from the hot water heater to our bathroom so the hot water heater would be heating 120' of line just heating our basement. I now have the lines insulated and on a switch so we just hit it 30 seconds before we use the shower and it's nice and warm then cuts out on our own. Had to run water for a very long time before which is wasteful but it also fills the septic tank faster... Also putting a heat exchanger from the showers drain to the incoming cold line lets us turn it down a bit too.

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