Frequently Asked Questions
Geothermal technology is proven, reliable and safe. It significantly reduces energy usage and utility bills for homes and businesses. Geothermal heating and cooling is right for the times – and right for the future. These technologies work with the environment instead of against it, which has led to it’s rapid growth as the most efficient technology amid concerns over pollution, energy costs and conservation.
Here are some of our frequently asked questions.
If your question isn’t answered here please call us at
1.613.659.4775 or email Larry@CanadianGeothermal.com
How does a geothermal heating and cooling system work?
Outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons but underground temperatures do not. Four to six feet below the earth’s surface, temperatures remain relatively constant year-round. A geothermal system, which typically consists of an indoor unit and a buried earth loop, capitalizes on these constant temperatures to provide “free” energy. In winter, fluid circulating through the system’s earth loop absorbs stored heat and carries it indoors. The indoor unit compresses the heat to a higher temperature and distributes it throughout the building. In summer, the system reverses, pulling heat from the building, carrying it through the earth loop and depositing it in the cooler earth.
What makes a geothermal system different from ordinary systems?
Unlike ordinary systems, geothermal systems do not burn fossil fuel to generate heat; they simply transfer heat to and from the earth to provide a more efficient, affordable and environmentally friendly method of heating and cooling. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the unit’s fan, compressor and pump.
What are the components of a geothermal system?
The three main parts consist of the heat-pump unit, the liquid heat-exchange medium (open or closed loop), and the air-delivery system (ductwork).
How efficient is a geothermal system?
A geothermal system is three to five times more efficient than the most efficient traditional heating system. Because geothermal systems do not burn fossil fuels to make heat, they provide three to four units of energy for every one unit used to power the system.
Is the efficiency rating actual or just a manufacturer’s average?
All heating and cooling systems have a rated efficiency from a US governmental agency. Fossil fuel furnaces have a percentage efficiency rating. Natural gas, propane and fuel oil furnaces have efficiency ratings based on laboratory conditions. To get an accurate installed efficiency rating, factors such as flue gas heat losses and cycling losses caused by oversizing, blower fan electrical usage, etc., must be included.
Geothermal heat pumps, as well as all other types of heat pumps, have efficiencies rated according to the coefficient of performance or COP. It’s a scientific way of determining how much energy the system produces versus how much it uses. Most geothermal heat pump systems have COPs of 3-4.5 (WaterFurnace’s Envision Series is rated up to 5.) That means for every one unit of energy used to power the system, 3-5 units are supplied as heat. Where a fossil fuel furnace may be 78-90 per cent efficient, a geothermal heat pump is about 400 per cent efficient. Some geothermal heat pump manufacturers and electric utilities use computers to accurately determine the operating efficiency of a system for your home or building.
Do geothermal systems require much maintenance?
No. A geothermal system installed by a qualified WaterFurnace dealer is practically maintenance free. When installed properly, the buried loop will last for generations.The actual WaterFurnace is stored indoors protecting it from harsh weather conditions.
What does geothermal mean for the environment?
Geothermal systems work with nature, not against it. They emit no greenhouse gases, which have been linked to global warming, acid rain and other environment hazards. WaterFurnace provides an earth-loop antifreeze which will not harm the environment in the unlikely event of a leak. The WaterFurnace product line uses R-410A, a performance-enhancing refrigerant that will not harm the earth’s ozone layer.
What is Radiant Floor Heat?
Radiant floor heat is a system that pumps heated water from a boiler through tubing. The tubing can be installed by stapling up under an existing floor, laid on top of an existing floor an covered with wood or tile or installed in a thin layer of concrete. The mass of the floor is heated and then radiates up into the room.
At Indoor Air Technologies, we specialize in hydronic (water) systems. They are the most popular and cost effective. The temperature in each room is controlled by regulating the flow of hot water through each tubing loop. This is done by a system of zoning valves or pumps and thermostats. Smaller areas can be supplied with a hot water heater. Most often in a “dry” installation it involves suspending the tubing underneath the subfloor between the joists. Reflective insulation must also be installed under the tubes to direct the heat upward. Ceramic tile is the most common and effective floor covering for radiant, as it conducts heat well from the floor and adds thermal storage because of its high heat capacity.
Benefits of Radiant Floor Heat
- No more cold tile or hardwood floors
- Can isolate a single room or area
- Lower part of room warmer vs. rising hot air systems
- Capability of heating patios, driveways, sidewalks
- Low maintenance
- Children & pets love heated floors
Radiant floor heat offers total comfort for your family.
Call us at 1.613.6594775 to determine if radiant floor heat would work for your home.
What about my thermostat operation?
Your unit is controlled by one or more thermostats. Thermostats sense the temperature in the room in which they are located and determine the mode of the unit (heating or cooling) and control the duration of the cycle.
What do I do in case of a power failure?
Don’t worry. Today’s electronic thermostats employ the latest developments in solid-state technology. Most electronic thermostats do not require a battery in order to maintain your selected set points in the event of a power loss. The thermostat memory is unaffected by power failures of any duration. When power is restored, the thermostat will continue operating as if the power had never been interrupted. However, there will be no heating or cooling during the outage.
What if my unit stops working?
Your unit has been equipped with a variety of self-protection devices and controls. Should you suspect that heating or cooling operation has ceased, look at the thermostat to see if the unit lockout indicator light is illuminated. If the lockout indicator light is illuminated, reset the unit.
What about regular service?
Your system requires little regular maintenance. However, once or twice a year, have the unit inspected to make sure the unit is heating and cooling at its peak performance level. If your system is using a well as its water supply, your unit may need periodic cleaning to remove mineral deposits.
What kind of safety controls does my unit have?
Your WaterFurnace unit is equipped with safety controls which are designed to protect the unit in case of improper airflow, water flow or refrigerant charge. These safety controls should not be bypassed. Doing so may void the warranty.
What are the lights for?
Some models are equipped with STATUS lights. These lights are mounted in plain view on the front of your unit. They will help you properly identify any problems and determine what might be required to correct the situation.
These lights will:
- Help determine whether your system is operating correctly.
- Help identify any problems.
- Help determine if you can fix the problem yourself and avoid a service call.
- Save you time and expense when you need to identify the problem before a service call.
When this light comes on, it indicates that the condensate drain pan within the unit has reached the overflow level. This may be caused by foreign matter blocking the drain pan opening, or a clog in the drain line.
A sensor protects your unit against internal freeze up caused by a water flow loss in the heating mode. When the WATER FLOW light is on, this signals that internal freezing conditions have occurred. This may be caused by a pump failure, low antifreeze level or air pockets in the loop piping.
When this light is on, it indicates high refrigerant pressure. This may be caused by a loss of water flow in the cooling mode or low airflow in the heating mode caused by a dirty filter.
When this light is on, it indicates a loss in refrigerant pressure in the system. This may be caused by a refrigerant leak or a dirty filter in the cooling mode.
What do the status lights indicate?
In general, red LEDs continuously illuminated indicate the unit is attempting to self-correct a fault. Flashing red LEDs indicate the unit has locked out in a fault mode. In this case, Emergency Heat will be activated. Call us anytime after reviewing the specific fault information below:
When this light is on, it indicates either a dirty filter or an airflow problem. Clean/replace air filter. Contact us if problem persists.
A blinking green STATUS light indicates that the microprocessor control, which is the “brain” of the unit, is operating properly. If the light doesn’t flash but remains continuously on or off, the control is inoperative. Turn off all power to the unit, including auxiliary heat, and then turn it back on. If the light remains continuously on or off, call us to fix the problem.
A sensor monitors the temperature of the water leaving the unit. The light will come on if the temperature is above 130°F (54°C). At this time your unit’s hot water pump will be de-energized to prevent excessive temperatures. Don’t worry; hot water operation will resume when the tank cools off. This is not a fault condition, and the unit does not require resetting.
DHW Pump Switch
When this switch is off, your unit’s hot water pump is manually disabled, and DHW OFF status light will be lit. This switch may be used when the water heater is being serviced or replaced. This switch must be turned off when water flow from the water heater to the unit is turned off or disconnected. Damage to the pump may otherwise occur.
If my unit shuts off, how do I reset it?
To reset the unit, repeatedly push the SYSTEM button on the thermostat until the display reads OFF. The unit lockout indicator light will remain on for up to 15 seconds after turning the system off. After the unit lockout indicator light goes out, turn the system back on to the desired MODE. Unit operation should resume within five minutes if heating or cooling is required. The appropriate status light on the unit will continue indicating the fault until power is interrupted to the unit. This serves as a diagnostic aid for your service call. If the unit shuts down again, call us as soon as possible. Do not repeatedly reset your unit.
What if my unit does not operate properly?
Before you call us for service, check these service hints:
- Check air filters. Depending upon filter type, clean or replace if necessary.
- Make sure the thermostat is set properly.
- Check to make sure the electrical disconnect switches are in the ON position. Both the unit and auxiliary heat (if present) must be powered for proper operation.
- Check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse in your home or building’s main power box. Reset breaker or replace fuse.
- If either the disconnect switch or the circuit breaker continues to trip after you reset it, call us immediately to prevent damage to your unit.
- Check the thermostat indicator lights to ensure proper operation of the system.
- Check the unit status lights on the front of the unit to ensure the unit is operating properly.
If you can’t determine the problem, call us at 1.613.659.4775 for the answer.
What is a “lock out”?
A lock out occurs when the unit has faulted and cannot correct itself. This mode protects the unit from further damage. During lock out mode, Emergency Heat will be activated to provide heating if necessary.
What about air filters?
One of the most important things you can do to ensure long system life, high performance and clean indoor air is to keep the air filter clean. For filters with disposable media, discard the filter when it is dirty and replace it with a new clean filter. Never attempt to re-use a disposable filter by cleaning it or placing it in backwards. Electronic filters have a replaceable media. Electrostatic filters are “permanent” and can be easily washed. Never run the unit without a filter.
The frequency in which you should clean or replace your filter is dependent upon several variables including the type of filter media, your outdoor environment and your indoor environment. Families with lots of activities, pets or with people sensitive to allergies should clean/replace filters more often.
If you have opted for a permanent electrostatic filter, wash it with a garden hose and a mild household cleaner at least every 60 days. When placing the filter back in the slot, be sure that the filter is dry and that the arrow on the filter frame points toward the unit.
If you have an electronic air cleaner installed, check with us or refer to the air cleaner’s owner’s manual for cleaning instructions.
How do I unclog the drain pan?
In the cooling mode, moisture removed from the air forms as condensation on the air coil and the resulting water runs down to the condensate drain pan. The drain can pick up lint and dirt, especially with dirty air filters. If overflow occurs, the DRAIN light will come on (in units equipped with status lights) and the system will shut down. If the water does not run freely, clean the drain pipe. Dilute a capful of chlorine bleach in a quart of water and pour the solution in the drain pan once a year. This helps to prevent algae.
To gain access to the drain pan for inspection or cleaning:
Turn off all power to unit and auxiliary heat. Remove the screws holding the fan compartment door closed. Lift the door up and pull out at the bottom. Note: The drain pan is the black plastic or metal rectangular pan with the drain hole in the middle, under the air coil.
If my system includes an Auxiliary Heater, what does it do and why was it used?
Your system may include an Auxiliary Heater (mounted either internally or externally depending on the model) which is used for two purposes:
- To supply back-up heat during cold outdoor temperatures
- To provide emergency heat if the unit’s compressor fails
When conditions exist that require more capacity than the geothermal unit is sized to deliver, the auxiliary heater engages to assist the geothermal unit (which continues to work). If the unit were to be sized to provide 100% of the heat on the coldest day, the unit would be “oversized” every day that isn’t the coldest day of the year. Plus, the initial cost of installation could have been significantly more for a larger unit and additional loop. We will help you determine the right combination/size of equipment that makes economic sense in terms of installation cost and operating cost.
The other reason for the Auxiliary Heater is to provide heating in the event of a compressor failure. Switching to Emergency Heat mode on your thermostat will provide the home with a source of heat until the compressor is replaced.
Does my unit heat water?
Some units are equipped with a “hot water assist” component. This component preheats water by raising the temperature 5 degrees to 10 degrees farienhieght and then delivers it to your water heater using a small pump. The “hot water assist” is not designed to heat water like your water heater. However, a unit equipped with a “hot water assist” heats water much more efficiently than your water heater to provide energy savings whenever the unit is heating or cooling. The amount of hot water generated by the “hot water assist” is a function of how long the unit is running and in what mode it is in. With the “hot water assist”, more water is heated in the cooling mode than in the heating mode.
What if I run out of hot water?
Units equipped with hot water generators provide only supplemental water heating. Your water heater will operate if the unit is not heating the water enough. This will ensure that you have an adequate supply of hot water. If you run out of hot water, it is most likely a problem with the water heater and not the geothermal unit.
How do I know where my earth loop is located?
Earth loops can be installed in several configurations depending on the space available. We will provide you with a layout of the loop field, with measurements & locations of each circuit length based on fixed locations. Keep this document, and refer to it before doing any digging or excavating in the area of the loop.
Is maintenance required for the earth loop?
No regular maintenance is required. However, if you notice air noise within the piping or if your loop is ever dam- aged by excavation, contact us immediately.
Should I use the Continuous Fan mode?
In Continuous Fan mode, your blower operates constantly, even when the unit is not heating or cooling. The Continuous Fan mode (selected on your thermostat) can reduce hot spots or cold spots throughout the home by constantly mixing the air. Indoor air quality is also improved due to continuous filtration. Using Continuous Fan mode in units equipped with ECM blowers is very inexpensive. However, using Continuous Fan mode in units equipped with PSC blowers is considerably more expensive and will noticeably increase operating costs.
What about units using well water?
An adequate water supply to the unit is very important. Do not let anyone disrupt the water supply by rerouting the supply line or tapping into it without first checking with us. If the well pumping system requires service or is inoperable, your unit should be turned off or placed into emergency heat until an adequate water supply is restored.
Depending on the water quality, some maintenance is usually required with a well water system. Because of minerals and other particles in the water, without a routine of preventive maintenance, this material may eventually begin to clog the heat exchanger in the unit. When this happens, the efficiency and capacity of the unit is decreased, eventually to the point where failure may occur.
To minimize the potential of this happening, a heat exchanger cleaning schedule should be established. The frequency will depend on the specific quality of your well water. Some homeowners find that they can go a few years between cleanings; others may need to have the heat exchanger cleaned yearly. Preventive maintenance is less expensive than replacing major components.
The cleaning procedure requires special equipment and chemicals. Therefore, do not attempt to clean the heat exchanger yourself.
Why does the unit run more/longer than a gas furnace?
The amount or percentage of time that your unit is actually heating or cooling is called Run Time. To achieve maximum comfort during heating, geothermal systems will typically have a longer run time than a natural gas or propane furnace. That’s because geothermal systems will deliver a more moderate air temperature instead of the hot blast of air from a gas furnace.
Fossil fuel forced air heating systems will typically have short run times—a lot of high temperature air for a few minutes, followed by a cooling off period, then another blast of hot air, and on and on. This type of operation results in ever-changing indoor temperatures and hot/cold spots within the home. This frequent cycling causes wear and tear on a gas furnace.
Your geothermal system will most likely run for longer periods of time than a gas furnace. It’s designed to do just that. You’ll get improved comfort and minimize hot/cold spots. And these longer run hours actually help to increase efficiency and reduce wear and tear associated with frequent starting and stopping. It’s like driving your car in the city vs. the highway. The frequent starting and stopping of city driving causes more wear and tear than highway driving. And you achieve more miles per gallon (better efficiency) on the highway with fewer stops and starts. The same principle holds true with your geothermal system.
How is the unit sized for my home?
Your system has been designed to meet the heating and cooling requirements of your home based on your local weather. Each home is different, so calculations are performed to ensure that the unit size is the optimum selection. These calculations are based on square footage, insulation, windows, doors, infiltration, outdoor weather extremes, and many other factors. If the unit were undersized and unable to meet the heating requirements on a very cold day, you would notice a drop in indoor temperature. In addition, the unit would consume more energy than is necessary. If the unit were undersized and unable to meet the cooling requirements on a very hot day, you would notice that the indoor temperature may not ever reach the setpoint on the thermostat. Conversely, units that are oversized with too much capacity may result in short cycle times which may adversely affect comfort in both heating and cooling. Oversized units would result in poor dehumidification during cooling.
Heating systems are measured by BTU capacity per hour. Cooling systems are measured by “Tons” (which is also BTU capacity). One BTU is the amount of energy required to raise 1 lb. of water 1 degree Farenhieght – it’s roughly equivalent to the amount of heat given off by a wooden kitchen match burned end to end. In air conditioning terms, a “ton” is 12,000 BTUs/hr.
Should I close off a register in an unused room?
Some homeowners have unused rooms that may not require heating or cooling like the rest of the home. While there is often a tendency to close registers in an unused room, the effects may actually reduce comfort without saving any money in operating costs. The home’s duct system has been designed to deliver the right amount of air into the various spaces. Closing off one or more registers disrupts the air flow pattern, creates an unbalanced system and may in fact, be detrimental to the comfort levels experienced in the other rooms. In addition, the desired energy savings may not be achieved.
If you have larger areas or multiple rooms that do not require continuous heating and cooling, you may want to consider a Zone Control System. These systems use several thermostats throughout the home, and have motorized dampers electronically controlled to deliver properly balanced air flow and provide desired temperatures and comfort throughout the various zones.
What about remodeling & room additions?
Because your system has been selected, designed and installed based on the existing heating and cooling requirements of your home, a significant change or addition to the home may result in the system being inadequately sized. If you are planning any remodeling that might affect the heating/cooling requirements, including adding more rooms, windows, or exterior doors, consult with us to determine if the existing system is adequate. Depending on the extent of your changes, your existing unit may be adequate or you may have to install a larger unit or install an additional unit. Installing a larger unit or an additional unit will require more duct work and may also result in the need to add more loop in the ground.
What about adjusting the thermostat when entertaining many people?
The temperature in your home can be affected significantly by the number of people inside. Our bodies generate heat through metabolism—in fact, your body gives off about 00 – 400 BTUs per hour. This number can double or even triple at high activity levels (dancing, sports, etc.) Many homeowners find that when entertaining large numbers of people in the home, the temperature may rise noticeably due to the number of people “generating” heat and the heat given off by using many lights and other appliances (TVs, stereos, cooking devices, etc.)
As a result, you may find a need to air condition even though it may be cold outside. If your thermostat has an automatic changeover feature, ensure that the cooling setpoint will be a comfortable setting for your guests. If you have a manual changeover thermostat or if your thermostat is set for heating only, you should be prepared to change it over to cooling when you have many people inside the home, even when it’s cold outside. Another suggestion is to set the fan for continuous “on” so that the air is fully circulated throughout the various rooms to minimize hot spots or cold spots. When the guests leave, and occupancy levels return to “normal”, be sure to switch back to heating mode if it’s cold outside. In the summer, you could benefit by setting the cooling setpoint a little lower than normal prior to many guests arriving so that the system can adequately maintain the temperature inside with the additional people and high outdoor temperatures.
Depending on a combination of factors (unit capacity, number of people, activity levels, and outdoor temperature) you may experience some fluctuation in indoor temperature; this is normal and only temporary.
And don’t worry about energy costs when doing some “extra” cooling. If your unit is equipped with a desuperheater, the heat removed from the house during cooling is going into your water heater.
What about humidity control?
Geothermal units do an excellent job of removing humidity during cooling. This results in better comfort. However, during heating (depending on your home and outdoor air temperatures) you may experience the effects of having too little humidity indoors. This is not the fault of the unit—it does not remove any humidity during heating (unlike a gas furnace). In the event that your home does not maintain optimum indoor humidity levels of 40-50% relative humidity during the heating season, you may benefit from using a whole house humidifier integrated into your system. Contact us for more information.
Should the duct work be cleaned?
Ducted HVAC systems can be a collection point for a variety of contaminants (mold, fungi, bacteria and dust) that have the potential to adversely affect your health. In addition to improved indoor air quality and the possible health benefits of duct cleaning, HVAC systems run more efficiently when these contaminants are removed from the system. Older homes, or homes with smokers, pets, and people sensitive to allergies could benefit from duct cleaning. Many HVAC contractors can perform an inspection and duct cleaning using specialized equipment. Contact your dealer for more information.
Can the air in the home be “sanitized” in any way?
Indoor air quality can be improved using special ultra-violet (UVC) lights placed in the air distribution system. Although these lights do not remove any contaminants (you’ll still need a filter) they will kill (or render sterile) airborne or surface microorganisms including bacteria, germs, mold spores, and pollens. In addition to the health benefits of this technology, equipment efficiency can be improved by the fact that the air coil is kept cleaner. Contact us for more information.