Select Page

Part of me still has a hard time believing we really have it.

It’s something I had dreamed about for years. From the start, I found the concept and technology fascinating. And oh, the money you can save!

For a confessed energy geek, everything about a geoexchange heat pump seemed really really cool.

So when we learned we would soon be on the receiving end of a financial windfall, I suggested that we use the money to install a Geo-Exchange system. Financial windfalls haven’t been a common for us (yet). One thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to blow it.

There are a hundred things that we could have spent the money on. Each of them needed. We need new siding, the old stuff is rotting right off the house. We need an improved entryway; Lisa’s parents are getting older and won’t be able to safely enter the house if we don’t do something soon. We need to pay off some bills. We need to put in a bathroom, we tore one out when we remodeled and now with two growing girls we are going to have to do something there–soon.

But I wanted to invest the money. Having just navigated through (hopefully) the most difficult financial years of our lives, I am still pretty sensitive to the concept of variable expenses. These are things that can go up or down without your control.

My main goal (and reason for calling this an “investment”), was that afterwards, our monthly expenses would go down. Which means we get to keep (or spend in other ways) more of the money we generate.

In short–money spent on heating and cooling would decrease. Basically what I’m hoping is that we can keep around $2,000 extra dollars a year. Which, to my way of thinking, is actually better than a $2,000 raise because we don’t have to pay taxes on it.

The bottom line is that we use propane to heat this old farmhouse, and there was really no way around that. Natural gas isn’t available out here. We also had a wood furnace. As much as I like the heat and the price of the wood, it’s been years since I’ve had the time to manage a good dry stockpile. It’s just not practical for the life we live.

We’ve done just about everything we reasonably can to tighten up this drafty old place. We’ve added insulation to the attic and just about every outside wall. We installed new high efficiency low-e windows. New doors. Electric socket gaskets. Currently (slowly) we’re ripping off the old siding and replacing it. I wanted to be able to put up another layer of foam insulation under the siding but it doesn’t play nice with fiber cement board. So I have to settle with patching and caulking what I can after the tear off and then putting up Tyvek. That’s got to help some.

Anyway, you name it, and we’ve done it (practically speaking).

Our propane provider offers what they call a “budget” program, where you sign up for so many gallons a year. It used to be that you had to pay for it all at once. Then they broke it into two or three lump payments. The last couple of years they gave us the option of a steady monthly payment plan.

After years of scraping for large payments, $165 a month sounded like a good plan. $165 a month–every month. That’s um . . .$1,980 a year.

Now granted, we didn’t quite use it all up, and at the end of the heating season last year, we still had a credit of about $400. Still we continued to pay $165 every month until about June when it came time to sign up for the next budget cycle.

I looked at the numbers, used a little logic and decided to cut our payments to $100. If we paid too much the year before, I figured we be paying too little this year and (depending on the weather), it would all even out in the end. $65 extra a month. That was nice.

Then the win fall came. We knew it was coming. We just didn’t know when. So I figured the ground would freeze before we would be able to do anything. But then, just like that—the money was in the bank.

So I did some calling around. The first place I called gave me a lot of good information over the phone, he even mailed me a nice packet of information about their products and how great geo–exchange is for saving money but he wanted to charge me $100 to come out to my house do some measuring (square footage, windows, doors etc) so he could then calculate a “heat load index.”

I never had him out.

The next outfit I called sent a sales guy out the very next day. He measured and talked in general terms about what was possible. He admitted that he wasn’t the expert with these systems, but his boss (the owner of the company) was. He knew more than me, which wasn’t bad seeing as how I’d been researching it for the last 7 years. And he took all the measurements so that his boss could load the numbers into his computer program and calculate the heat load index.

But then I just had to wait. His boss was actually on vacation (a cycle trip to Sturgis). The sales guy said Jim would call me when he had the information.

So I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more.

And you’re going to have to wait as well—for the rest of the story that is.

For all those interested in doing it themselves, I want to post every grizzly detail here.

You can easily search for information about how it works and how efficient it is. Here and here are two great places to start.

But there aren’t many blow by blow installation examples written by consumers (that I can find).

We’ve had it for roughly two months now. Warm winter months by Wisconsin standards, but still long enough to get some preliminary savings results.

Anyway—I’ll tell you all about it.

Just stay tuned.