Going geothermal – The installation

As I mentioned in previous entries of “Going Geothermal” (see Part 1: The decision and Part 2: Picking a contractor), we were on a tight timeline for the geothermal system, and on the third day that we owned the farm installation began.

Geothermal excavation

Waterloo Energy Products crew laying the geothermal loop.

Coincidentally, the day before installation began the oil tank also ran dry. We topped it up with diesel, and then our geo contractors spent more than an hour getting the old furnace running. They never did get the hot water tank working again.

This timing just confirmed for us that we made the right decision in going for the geo right away.

Here’s the schedule of how our installation played out.

Day 1:

Remove old pool room furnace. Move new heat pump and hot water tanks into the basement. Prep work.

Day 2:

Directional drilling. The geo system is made up of two main components: the loop field where the pipes are laid and the heat pump in the house. Somehow, the two systems have to be connected.

Option 1 for doing this is digging a trench between the loop field and the house and popping the pipes horizontally through the foundation wall, hopefully right into the utility room. In this scenario, the pipes will be about mid-way between the floor and ceiling, so if you can’t get access directly into the utility room, the pipes will have to run along the wall until they can get into the utility space. Outside you need clean access to the foundation, which means no patios or other obstructions between the loop field and the spot that you want to go through the foundation.

Option 2 is directional drilling (also known as horizontal boring) where a special drill rig tunnels in from the field under the foundation (and in our case under a patio and under a sun room) and pops up through the floor of the utility room. It’s a very clean installation, but you pay extra for the convenience of not having a big trench running up to your foundation.

Geothermal pipes

The geothermal lines entering and exiting the utility room.

Also on day 2 our contractors removed the (non-functioning) hot water tank and the house furnace.

Day 3:

The Dig. This was the part I was most excited about. For our 6 tonne loop system, our contractor dug three trenches 300 feet long, 5 feet deep and 5 feet wide. It was a huge excavation. Fortunately, we have a lot of property and our contractor had a big excavator.

For some context picture me driving up to the farm at 7:45 in the morning (we weren’t living there yet) and seeing a giant machine toddling through the field behind the barn. It actually looked like it was picking its way delicately along. Of course, that illusion did not last as 15 minutes later the shovel was in the ground and digging had begun. One scoop of his shovel was a full 5 feet across.

Geothermal excavation

The progress after just 15 minutes of digging.

He started digging at 8 a.m. and by 3 p.m. the loop was fully installed, the trenches were back-filled and the machine was on its trailer heading away down the driveway.

Geothermal excavation

Two-thirds of the loop down, one-third to go. The mounds of earth you see in the centre and at the left of the picture are the two completed trenches which run for 300′ long. The third trench is coming around behind the run-in shelter. If you look closely, you might be able to see the green pipes ready to be laid in the open trench.

While the Waterloo Energy Products crew was working out in the loop field, another contractor finished all of the duct work inside, including tying the new system in to the pool room. Our system also includes a 10kw electrical back-up unit (in case anything goes wrong with the heat pump) and by the end of day 3 it was chugging away and we had heat and hot water in the house again.

Day 4:

Inside installation, including connecting the heat pump into the loop. By the end of the day, I had my favourite email from my WEP crew: “You are running on geo as of now!” Throughout the installation the crew was great at keeping me updated on their progress, letting me know what time they were coming the next day and what was next on the schedule.

Climate master heat pump

Look how shiny! Our 5 tonne heat pump by ClimateMaster. (Ignore the old, decidedly not shiny water softener in the corner.)

Day 5:

Finishing touches and tweaks. Final hook-ups of hot water tanks (we have a desuperheater unit that captures excess heat from the heat pump and uses it to supplement hot water generated by our main electric hot water heater, hence the two tanks).

Hot water tanks

Day 5 also saw removal of our old air conditioner. One nice thing about the geothermal system is that there is no equipment outside. The loop is buried in the ground and the heat pump and hot water tanks are tucked away in the utility room.

And for a utility room, it looks pretty good. Everything is neat and tidy and very well placed. Every tour of the house now includes a stop to admire the geothermal system.

Coming up next in “Going Geothermal,” the question everyone most wants to know: the cost.

For previous posts in the Going Geothermal series, click on one of the links below:

2 thoughts on “Going geothermal – The installation

  1. I’m so out of order – glad I found these, I was wondering if you’d written any posts on the rest of the geothermal installation. What a big job! The crew sounds like they were totally experienced and professional. Don’t you love that?

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