Anthony: We have built our log home over the last year. I decided to go with geothermal since we did not have natural gas available. I might have done so even if I had had natural gas due to the uncertainty of gas prices. We had to dig a water well any how so I went with what is called a pump and dump system. It pumps the water from the well, goes through the system and then mine dumps into our 1 acre pond. The systems are super efficient but do cost more for the inital instalation. The are supposed to pay back the extra cost in 3 to 6 years depending upon your electric rates. We live in Kentucky and have some of the cheapest electric rates in the country, but I still feel it will pay itself back in a few years. Our house is 2,000 sq feet upstairs and 2,000 sq feet down stairs. My bill this month (July - August) is $179. Of course it is impossible to say how much of that is for the cooling/heating system vs other uses.
If you have to put in a water well anyhow, I highly recommend you consider the geothermal system. If not you have to weigh the upfront cost vs your other options. I can say for sure that our system has kept our house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
I have been looking into it some and sure would like to go with it when I build if possible. From what I have read its the most environmental system you can install with little matenience and no outside unit. Quiet ,kind of like a refridgerator except for a blower if you go that route. I have enough ground to be able to put in a closed loop field system. They bury the tubing about 6' deep for this area. If you put it in with your house loan, buildling a new house, it supposedly will save you more in heating and A/C savings per month than the extra cost of the monthly payments added in the loan for it. We have 2 local companies selling the Water Furnace which looks like a good one.
I had a heating and air company do the installation. One thing I didn't mention, if you have a basement consider getting a split system so that you can control the upstairs with a different thermostate than the one in the basement.
I have geothermal in the first log home I built. It is an open loop system and I have a 6x8 "D" log and it is extremely efficient. Probably my biggest regret on my second log home is that I didn't have enough money to do it again. It costs substantially more than a conventional forced air system but in my mind and experience, it is worth every penny.
Maybe Kevin or Joy can answer this but I believe that geothermal is not a fast recovery system. So if you turn the heat down when not there it may take some time before it heats the home up. Of course if you have a fireplace that would help. There are very efficient furnaces out now with quick recovery. I don't know your location as to how cold it gets where you wish to build. May be a good idea to talk to an expert on HVAC to see which would be a best option.
Not sure yet on the quick recovery on the heat. We had a mild winter lasst year. I can say it kept us warm though. I did put in a vent free propane gas log fire place. I plan to use it if the power goes out.
I have been told that there are some very efficient electric furnaces out now. The main reason I went with the geothermal is due to how efficient they are and due to the fact I was having to dig a water well any how.
I have 2 questions for people knowledgeable in this area.
One: Can you install the coils of piping in the excavation area surrounding the basement versus digging a separate trench for this method?
Two: For those using the cooler water in the floor pipes to cool down the house in summer, do you get any "sweating" on the floor surface. I have seen this happen here in Florida when the hot air hits chilled marble floors.
If anyone is dealing with a supplier please ask and get back to me for storage in my log home dream file.
Interesting about the recovery time- I had not heard that yet. We are building in upsate NY so it does get quite chilly in the winter. We will certainly have a fire place insert and perhaps a pellet stove as well.
We have only looked at the websites of system manufacturers we need to get to fine point discussions with a HVAC expert that know these systems.
We installed a horizontal closed loop system. We heat and cool 3,400 feet between 3 levels. Only a couple times a year when the temps dip down below 0, does my system have trouble providing enough heat. Cooling has never been less than expected. On the really cold days, I fire up the wood stove in the basement, and that keeps us in the low to mid 70's.
Our system is a 5 ton unit and we have 3,600 feet of coil buried in 2- 8' deep trenches 300 feet long. Our system only requires 3,000 feet, but the installer said it is senseless not to add another loop in the space available to increase effeciency.
I am satisfied with our system. It comes on and blows warm air much like the gas unit from our former home. I notice very little difference if any at all. It has electric strips for instant heat on high demand, but they really make the meter spin, so I keep those 240v breakers turned off. Ocaisionally I will turn them on to make sure they are operational. Total HVAC installation was about 14K. It is a Carrier system. The cost included installing the coils in the ground.
No not below freezing, I was referring to days when it was below zero! Single didgits even did ok, but below 0 seems to be the threshhold. What I mean by that is, your geothermal system should have a back-up heat source. I think many HVAC professionals will recomend such.