360Chestnut Home Energy and Green Living Blog

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Ask an Expert

Posted on Thu, Jan 24, 2013

Ask an Expert

Beginning this week, we will be posting select submissions to our Ask an Expert page, as well as the responses from our in-house Sustainability Guru, 360Chestnut CEO Harold Simansky. This week's entry was sent to us from Marshall.

We live in a small 1950's Cape style house. Currently, we are heating with oil (there's no natural gas on the street) and are cooling with window units. I am very interested in converting to geothermal heating/cooling, but there really isn't any place to install ductwork. I have seen wall or ceiling mounted "split" air conditioning systems and wondered if this was a feasible option for geothermal as well. Also, can I use heat pumps for my domestic hot water as well?

Marshall, thank you for your email.

You situation is one that is fairly common in Massachusetts.  My gut tells me that a ductless mini-split system (also known as an Air Source Heat Pump) is going to be the best for you.  They are very elegant systems that heat and cool on a per room basis.  Very efficient and you can get an interest free loan to install them.  Geothermal is an option but I have not heard of a ductless geothermal system.  

There are certainly ways to integrate a hotwater tank with an Air Source Heat Pump, though solar is likely to be a better option for your hotwater.  Particularly now that there are some nice solar rebates here in MA.

I would suggest starting on two tracks.  One the technology/solution track, the other on the financing track.  

For the financing track, you have to start with a MassSave Audit. This opens the world of rebates and incentives to you.  Most important to you is likely to be the Heat Loan ($25,000 loan, 0% interest for seven years), various geothermal, air source heat pump and solar rebates.

I would then start talking to a lot of contractors about your different options.  I can recommend a couple, who can give you a call if that is appropriate.  

I think the solution is to clean-up your oil burner, leave it in place for very cold days and then do the majority of your heating and cooling with air source heat pumps.  

Good luck and let me know how it goes,