We hope that this post may save others the time, emotional energy, and money that our experience with Confort Geothermique has cost us.
In October 2009 we decided look into replacing our mid-efficiency natural gas furnace with a geothermal one. We wanted to reduce both our carbon footprint and our annual heating costs. We contacted Confort Geothermique and on October 26th we visited their offices at 368 Main Street in Gatineau, Quebec to receive an estimate. Their salesman Andre Levasseur proposed a 4-ton WaterFurnace Envision geothermal ground source heat pump. We told him the price was higher than we were able to pay and that should have been the end of that. However after a short deliberation M. Levasseur proposed a 3-ton unit which he claimed would be sufficient to heat and cool our home and would cost considerably less than the 4-ton furnace, and he assured us that it would still be eligible for the $8,750 in government grants offered for conversion to geothermal heating. The price was now closer to our budgeted amount so we signed a contract with Confort Geothermique for the installation of a 3-ton WaterFurnace. Total cost: $34,400.
Within a short time we noticed that “AUX HEAT” (the electrical backup unit of the furnace) was showing on the thermostat every time we checked it. Knowing that geothermal was supposed to supply at least 70% of the heating we notified Confort Géothermique of this seemingly excessive use of the auxiliary heat. After a cursory inspection of the furnace (two weeks later) the company’s owner Yvon Lamarche, told us that the furnace was functioning properly. Our mid-February hydro bill told another story. It was $535 times higher than the previous winter!
We turned to the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC - www.geo-exchange.ca ) for help. They sent their engineer and a heat-loss expert to Ottawa to inspect our system. They found that indeed the 3-ton unit was not supplying anything like the 70% of geothermal heat required. The unit was grossly undersized.
We completed the CGC on-line Complaint Mechanism on July 7th. By the first week of September Confort had still had not responded, although they were required to do so by the regulations set out in the complaint form within ten days of receipt.
We received a letter from Denis Tanguay, President of the CGC, denying us certification. This meant we would not receive the government grants that we had been promised by Confort. The reason given: our unit was “significantly undersized and does not comply with Canadian Standard Association C448.”.
We requested that Confort remove the geothermal system they installed and refund the money we paid for the furnace and its installation. We were ready to absorb the cost of the drilling ($9,000) and the additional ductwork ($4,400) which we felt was a generous compromise under the circumstances as both these items were part of their contract. Confort Géothermique agreed through mediation efforts on the part of the CGC on October 6th, 2010. However, when it came time to schedule removal and payment Confort did not return our calls. We also contacted Marc Belanger, Geothermal Products Director of the Group Master in Montreal (the distributor of our WaterFurnace) and incidentally Vice President of the CGC Board of Directors, in hopes of receiving some compensation from the distributer. We were refused.
Although we have not heard from either M. Levasseur or M. Lamarche, we did receive a “letter of demand” from Confort Géothermique’s lawyer, dated Nov 4, 2010. The letter stated that we were “formally put on notice to cease all defamatory remarks or comments against our clients” and that if we failed to do this they would institute all necessary proceedings against us. We responded, denying all the allegations in their letter. And we wondered, since when was telling the truth considered ‘defamation?’
We had no choice but to replace our ineffective geothermal heating so in early December 2010, we hired the Ottawa based company Rick Menard Heating and Cooling to remove our WaterFurnace and replace it with a high-efficiency natural gas furnace. Our bill for the decommissioning of the geothermal, its removal, a high-efficiency gas furnace and the necessary ductwork to re-adapt to gas was $11,326. Our total loss is in the vicinity of $32,000
Would we have spent $35,000 on a system that we knew was undersized and wouldn’t qualify for the grants? No. Did we put our trust in the company's 'experts'? Yes. Were we naive? Definitely. Our advice to anyone contemplating a geothermal installation: get a number of estimates and do NOT fall into the trap of choosing the least expensive but rather make sure you match the heat loss of your house to the size of the unit being quoted on. There are some good and ethical companies out there - chose one of them and avoid our bad experience!