Home Improvement

Geothermal in an old stone house, is it worth it?

By June 5, 2019 6 Comments

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We essentially want to know if Geothermal heat is worth it in our old house because we are getting conflicting opinions. More information below:

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My husband and I bought an old stone house in Pennsylvania with an outdoor woodstove and a propane boiler for heat that uses hot water baseboards. We have had some major issues keeping our house warm in the winter (this is a really long story and involves multiple issues and i’m happy to share them if you think it’s relevant). We really have no problem keeping it cool in the summer, the AC works great (forced air). The original house is about 2500 sq ft, and the addition is about 1k sq feet for a total of about 3500 sq feet.

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Now- looking into the future, since this should be our forever home, we are considering geothermal before the tax breaks go away. We had one quote which requires some additional work to improve our ducts and will be using a vertical loop. We have considered an open loop but we want the least amount of maintenance possible and our well is only 57 feet deep, and the second well which would be the dump is 25 feet deep (the original hand dug stone well is still open on the property, another issue). The first estimate was more than we anticipated but he addressed a plethora of concerns with our current heating system so we are okay with it.

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The second estimator said “you shouldn’t get geothermal, you will not see any cost savings because you will be running your auxiliary heat non-stop.”

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We are kind of leaning towards the fact that any geothermal system will require auxiliary heat in the winter but it should require it less than without geothermal (we have currently been running only auxiliary heat since the woodstove is not connected correctly). However, because our house is old and is a retrofit is there a possibility that we won’t see any cost savings? We really don’t want to drop this exorbitant amount of money if we are not going to see any savings.

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Any thoughts on geothermal in this old house? Everything I find online says geothermal is the way to go, so I was hoping for some real feedback to help guide our decision, or anyone with experience putting geothermal in old stone houses.


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6 Comments

  • upstateduck says:

    not a comment on old stone houses but I assume “geothermal” is a bit of a misnomer. More accurate to say “ground source heat pump”.

    The second guy could be right depending how you use it. Many folks are frustrated by the temp of the air produced by a heat pump, commonly much less hot than combustion hot air. As a result in cold temps a heat pump runs nearly constantly to keep up with heat loss and at a room temp of 70 F ? Air blowing at you at 80 F feels like a draft.

    We wanted ground source but 10 years ago it was all one off systems. The key will likely be getting the right installer though equipment may be more “plug and play” today.

    One factor I have heard but can’t confirm is that the geology of your area is a factor. As I remember hard rock/clay works better than sand/gravel

  • JohnHenryAaron says:

    Assuming you don’t want to live in a refrigerator for the rest of your life, the real question is how much would it cost for you to setup a geothermal system vs how much would it cost to get your house retrofitted with another type of systemand do everything correctly. Its probably pretty expensive either way but if there’s a big difference from one to the other that will guide you on value.

  • luckyhunterdude says:

    Yeah like another comment said, if you have hydronic heat system stay with that. I’ve never heard of anyone being happy that they ripped out hydronic and went to forced air heating. I went from forced air in our last house which was fine, but our current house has a boiler and it’s awesome. You’ve got a boiler issue, not enough radiators in the home, or the home is very leaky.

    Assuming your home is insulated well and not drafty, and that the boiler is in good working order, maybe just a bit undersized or not quite enough radiators, there’s another option that’s way cheaper than a ground source heat pump. convert your cooling only AC system into a air source heat pump system. That would require a new outdoor heat pump/condensing unit, maybe a new indoor coil, and some other modifications, but it would be WAY cheaper than a ground source system.

  • spazturtle says:

    Have you air sealed the house?

    Is there anywhere you can insulate to try and keep more heat in?

    If this is your forever home then I think a ground source heat pump is a good investment, it will also make your cooling cheaper in the summer as it can replace the air source heat pump your AC currently uses.

  • hotinhawaii says:

    My parents in a 3500 sf house in PA had a ground source heat pump for 20 years in a new house. Removed it and put in a propane forced air system. The air coming out always felt cool. It would only ever feel warm when the switched on backup heating. And the pump, filters, water softener took a beating from the constant water pumping. Not worth the headache for them. And especially because it never felt warm in the coldest part of the year.

  • bverow says:

    We priced out geothermal for our Pennsylvania home. The cost savings vs a modern electric heat pump was very minimal. When you factor in the cost of having a crew come to drill for the geothermal system and the cost of installation, the electric was WAY cheaper. I personally wouldn’t, and didn’t, do it.

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