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HeatSmart Hudson-Stow

Air Source Heat Pumps

Ground Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps


About HeatSmart Hudson-Stow

What is HeatSmart Hudson-Stow and who is organizing it?

HeatSmart Hudson-Stow is a community-based education and group purchasing program for clean heating and cooling technologies. HeatSmart Hudson-Stow seeks to offer residents and businesses the opportunity to reduce their energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions from heating and cooling by adopting clean heating and cooling technologies.

Until the end of 2019, residents and businesses in Hudson and Stow will be able to purchase these selected technologies at a special, limited-time discount from competitively-selected installers. Throughout the duration of this program, HeatSmart Hudson-Stow will offer educational “meet the installer” events and open houses to offer community members opportunities to learn more about the available technologies and what options may be best suited for their residence or business.

HeatSmart Hudson-Stow is the latest community-driven, town-sponsored clean energy initiative. This initiative is led by a team of volunteer residents from the two towns with support from the town representatives. HeatSmart Hudson-Stow is part of HeatSmart Mass, a statewide program supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER).

How does HeatSmart Hudson-Stow work?

 HeatSmart Hudson-Stow offers an easy way to learn about and purchase clean heating and cooling technologies from some of the most qualified installers in the region. All you have to do is sign up for HeatSmart Hudson-Stow, indicate which clean heating and cooling technologies you’re most interested in, and our competitively selected installers, Boucher Energy Systems and Bill Wenzel Heating and AC will take it from there.

How does HeatSmart Hudson-Stow offer a discounted price?

One of the goals of HeatSmart Hudson-Stow is to offer transparent, discounted pricing to residents and local businesses. Due to the high potential volume of leads concentrated in a small geographic area, HeatSmart Hudson-Stow’s selected installers are able to get the best bulk pricing from their manufacturers and distributors and be more efficient with scheduling and coordinating personnel.

In exchange, HeatSmart Hudson-Stow has worked with these installers to ensure that they are passing their savings to HeatSmart customers. Installers evaluated for this program were asked to bid their best pricing, and these bids were benchmarked against regional and statewide average pricing information provided by MassCEC.

How were the HeatSmart Hudson-Stow installers being selected?

Interested installers were invited to submit bids through a competitive, public request for proposals administered by MassCEC to participate in HeatSmart Hudson-Stow (and the three other community campaigns: Belmont, Marshfield, and Arlington-Winchester).

After evaluating these bids for a range of factors—including but not limited to pricing, diversity of product offerings, technical expertise, and track record of customer service—the Hudson-Stow selection committee, with support from technical experts, selected Boucher Energy in partnership with Bill Wenzel to provide both air and ground source heat pump installation services to our residents.

 

Why should I participate now?

HeatSmart Hudson-Stow and the associated discounted pricing offered is available for a limited time only. Only customers who sign contracts with one of the HeatSmart Hudson-Stow installers by October 31 are eligible for our special offer.

Additionally, Hudson Light and Power is doubling their incentive from $500 to $1,000 for the first 100 HeatSmart participants who install qualifying air or ground source heat pumps.

Is participation in this program limited to Hudson and Stow residents and businesses?

Participation in HeatSmart Hudson-Stow is limited to residents and businesses in Hudson-Stow, as well as residents and businesses in surrounding communities that are served by Hudson Light and Power.

While you are welcome to reach out to any of our selected installers, only Hudson and Stow residents and businesses are eligible to receive the HeatSmart Hudson-Stow standard pricing. However, our installers may consider individual requests from neighboring towns on a case by case basis.

If your community is interested in hosting a HeatSmart program in the future, MassCEC will be issuing a new round of HeatSmart Mass later in 2019. Reach out to heatsmartmass@masscec.com for more information.

What is clean heating and cooling and what technologies is HeatSmart Hudson-Stow offering?

In cold climates, like Massachusetts, heating and cooling accounts for nearly 30% of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Reducing emissions from heating and cooling will be necessary for the state to meet its legally-binding target of reducing emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. In 2014, the Commonwealth released a statewide strategy for increasing the adoption of clean heating & cooling (also known as “renewable thermal”) technologies.

Clean heating and cooling (CH&C) describes high-efficiency heating and cooling technologies that can use thermal energy (or be powered by energy) derived from renewable sources--including the sun, air, earth, and sustainably-harvested bioenergy. Because of the importance of meeting  state climate goals, the state and local governments as well as local utilities across the Commonwealth are offering thousands of dollars in incentives to support CH&C technology adoption.

HeatSmart Hudson-Stow is offering two CH&C technologies: air source heat pumps (ASHP) ground source (geothermal) heat pumps (GSHP). Learn more about them here.

 

About Air Source Heat Pumps

What are the benefits of using an air source heat pump?

There are many reasons why an air source heat pump could be a good fit for your home:

  • Energy savings. You could save hundreds of dollars a year on your heating bill by installing an air source heat pump, particularly if you heat with a higher cost fuel like oil, propane, or electric resistance (though gas customers can still save with Hudson Light and Power’s very low electricity rates!)There’s no need to pay thousands of dollars to get a gas connection to your home: a cleaner alternative is already available.
  • High-efficiency cooling, no ductwork required. Air source heat pumps also provide air conditioning or dehumidification and are more efficient and much quieter than window air conditioners because the noisy compressor is outside. Ductless ASHPs can allow you to reclaim your windows and avoid having to install ductwork to stay comfortable in the summer.
  • Improved home comfort and health. In addition to providing cooling, heat pumps filter and dehumidify air, which can improve air quality and the comfort of your home. In particular, the filtration provided by ductless systems can significantly reduce allergens in your home for sensitive individuals. Central ASHP air handlers have room for a variety of optional air quality and comfort improving devices, including electrostatic filters, UV filters, Humidifiers, and Heat recovery ventilators.
  • Flexible options. Heat pumps are a flexible technology that can be installed in homes of all shapes and sizes with different needs—whether you need a whole-home system replacement, have (or don’t have) ductwork, want to add zoning to your home, want to increase the efficiency of heating part of your home, or want to add extra heating/cooling to that part of your home which is never as comfortable as it should be.
  • Lower your carbon footprint. As a clean heating and cooling technology, converting from burning fossil fuels to using an air source heat pump will help reduce your carbon footprint and dependence on imported fossil fuels. Using solar PV or other renewable electricity sources can further offset emissions from the electricity powering your heat pump.
  • Increased resiliency. Efficiently cooling even one room in a home may be a life-saver for people vulnerable to excessively high temperatures during heat waves.
  • Whisper-quiet. Have you been relying on noisy window units for cooling? Are you a light sleeper? Ductless minisplits in particular are extremely quiet—so quiet that you might not hear that they’re on until you’re right next to them!

Don’t air-source heat pumps perform poorly in cold climates?

Conventional ASHPs are known for their poor cold-climate performance: these systems have been primarily used in the southern U.S. for decades and are optimized for a warmer climate where air conditioning is more important than heating.

The ASHPs installed through HeatSmart Hudson-Stow are cutting-edge, cold-climate models that are optimized for New England weather. These cold climate ASHPs are certified based on their performance at 5°F and can continue providing heat even when winter air is well below zero: today’s cold climate air source heat pumps can extract heat from the air all the way down to -13°F.

Concerned about heat pump performance in January? Don't be; Mainers and Vermonters have installed the most cold-climate heat pumps out of any New England state in the past few years—over 50,000 since 2013, and both states are significantly colder than Massachusetts in the winter!

The Massachusetts utilities have also set a target of installing approximately 62,000 heat pumps between 2019 and 2021 as a means to improve statewide energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and bring more benefits to residents and businesses.

Are there drawbacks to air source heat pumps?

While ASHPs are a great fit for many Hudson and Stow homes and businesses, they, like other heating and cooling systems, are not without a few drawbacks:

  • Higher upfront costs. ASHPs cost more upfront than fossil fuel or central AC systems (but typically less than the two combined!). However, their higher efficiency will typically pay back the difference against oil, propane, or electric resistance over the course of several years.
  • Aesthetic considerations (ductless). ASHPs are typically installed indoors as a wall mounted unit (shown below). If you're concerned about aesthetics, discuss other installation options like ground-mounted or ceiling-recessed units with one of our installers.
  • Reduced performance in extreme cold. The heating output and efficiency of ASHPs declines as outdoor air temperature declines below zero, though it the ASHP will continue providing heat as low as -15°F. Consider keeping your existing heating system in place as a backup system to utilize on the coldest days of the year, as heating with a heat pump on those days can be more expensive than using the backup system.
  • Defrosting. Frost can form on the outdoor unit during periods of high humidity and near-freezing temperatures, obstructing airflow. When this occurs, the outdoor unit initiates a defrost cycle, which temporarily uses additional energy and reduces heating output.
  • Lower efficiency than GSHPs. Since the outdoor air is more variable in temperature than the ground, ASHPs are typically less efficient than geothermal heat pumps. However, ASHPs are also cheaper and quicker/less disruptive to install.

Is an air source heat pump right for me?

ASHPs can be installed in most homes.If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions below, a ductless or ducted ASHP could be a great fit for you:

  • Do you heat with oil, propane or electric resistance?
  • Is your existing heating or air conditioning system, including older ASHP, 15+ years old?
  • Do you want central air conditioning but don’t have/don’t want to install ductwork?
  • Do you have persistent hot or cold spots in your home?
  • Do you want more control over the temperature in individual rooms in your home?
  • Are you sensitive to air pollutants and allergens?
  • Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint?

The best way to find out whether an air source heat pump is a good fit for your home is to get started with a no-cost, no-commitment site visit from our installer, Boucher Energy Systems.

How do the maintenance requirements and costs of an air source heat pump compare to other heating systems?

Annual system maintenance, which consists of cleaning air filters and an annual checkup for the indoor and outdoor units, costs roughly the same as annual servicing charges for a boiler or furnace ($100-200/year). You can also clean or replace the filters yourself, which can help to keep your system running well for many years (ask our installer for tips on how best to do this!).

Otherwise, the only other maintenance requirement would be to keep your outdoor unit clear of snow during the winter, just like you would need to keep your furnace or boiler vents clear.

How long do air source heat pumps last?

Heat pumps have an expected lifetime of ~15 years – similar to an average furnace or central AC system life expectancy.

How noisy are air source heat pumps?

A ductless ASHP indoor unit is quieter when running than a refrigerator and much quieter than a typical window AC unit. Ducted ASHPs are no louder than a central air conditioner and much quieter and less odiferous than a roaring oil burner.

Can air source heat pumps provide hot water?

There are water heaters that use heat pump technology (heat pump water heaters or HPWHs), though they are considered different technologies than ASHPs and are not included in the special HeatSmart Hudson-Stow pricing.

How complicated is installing a heat pump and how much time will it take?

A heat pump installation is typically a straightforward process with minimal disruption to your home. A simple, single-zone ductless ASHP mini-split system can be completed in less than a day and only requires a single 3-inch hole to be cut (and later, sealed) in your wall.

If you are installing a “multi-zone” ductless system or a ducted system that requires modifications to your ductwork, your installation may take a few days or more to complete.

How can I maximize energy savings from my heat pump?

While most ASHP systems work right out of the box after installation, there are a few things you may want to consider to get the most out of your system:

  • “Set it and forget it.” While many of us are used to turning off the lights and turning down the heat when you leave the home or go to sleep, heat pumps are most efficient when running continuously at partial output without sudden increases in heating demand from cranking the thermostat up. Think about it like how your car’s mileage improves when you drive at a constant speed instead of constantly stopping and starting. Consider only setting back your heat pump system when you’re gone for several days. If you opt for smart controls, you can adjust your thermostat from your smart phone on your way home and have your house just right when you arrive.
  • Know when to use your backup system. Depending on the weather and the cost of your backup heating fuel, it may be more efficient to use your backup system during the coldest parts of the year when heat pumps are at their least efficient. If you expect the temperature to be in the single digits or lower for the day, consider just turning your heat pump system off and firing up your backup boiler or furnace.
  • Keep your system well-maintained. A well-maintained system will keep performing at high efficiency. Remember to clean your indoor dust filters; keep the outdoor condenser free of snow, ice, and other obstructions; and get regular annual servicing.
  • Improve the efficiency of your home. A heat pump in a well-insulated home will perform better than in a poorly-insulated home. Consider contacting Hudson Light’s Energy Hotline to speak with a representative about options for your home to improve efficiency. If during the call it’s established that your home would benefit from a home energy audit, an appointment can be scheduled during the call. During a home energy audit, a certified energy specialist will evaluate your home and compile a report that includes recommended measures for improved energy efficiency. Comprehensive home energy improvements will improve your home’s comfort and help your system to perform better. If you make these energy-efficient upgrades in conjunction with your heat pump installation, you may be able to install a smaller and less expensive system than initially estimated because of the preventive measures in place to combat air leakage—and you’ll be able to maximize your incentive under the Home MVP Program.

How well do air source heat pumps work in the middle of winter?

Quite well! As mentioned above, HeatSmart Hudson-Stow is only offering cold climate air source heat pumps that are certified for their performance at 5F and can operate at temperatures down to -13F. Air source heat pumps do lose efficiency as it gets colder, so as the temperature drops into the teens and single digits, you may want to consider using your backup fossil fuel heating system.

You will also want to keep your outdoor condenser unit clear of snow and ice to maintain airflow and minimize defrosting necessary (which reduces heating output and efficiency). While our installer will mount it on a ground platform or on the side of your wall, you’ll want to keep the area around the condenser free of snow--just like keeping your furnace/boiler vents clear during snowstorms!

While traditional heat pumps (and electric heating in general) have a bad reputation in New England, look no further than Maine and Vermont, where at least 40,000 homeowners have installed ductless ASHPs in the last five years!

Does it matter whether I have ductwork or not? Is a ducted or ductless air source heat pump solution right for me?

While intuitively you might assume that you should install a ducted ASHP if you already have ductwork, there may be scenarios in which a ductless ASHP might be a better option for your needs. Some examples include:

  • Do you have poorly sized ducts or inadequate heating/cooling in specific areas of your home? Ductless systems could help you address those hot and cold spots in a less invasive/costly manner than making significant ductwork modifications.
  • Do you have/are you planning on building an addition? A ductless system could be a cheaper solution than extending ductwork to the addition.
  • Do you want to add zoning for heating and cooling in your home? Our installer could modify your ductwork and install ductless units to give you more control over zoning in your home.
  • Is modifying ductwork in your home challenging (or are you concerned about the invasiveness of ductwork modification)? Ductless systems could offer you the benefits of switching to a heat pump without necessitating an extensive ductwork retrofit.

Every home is different and the suitability of one option or the other may change once Boucher does a walkthrough and learns more about your needs and interests.

Will I need an electrical service upgrade?

If you have <100Amp electrical service, you may need an upgrade. If you already know what your home's electrical service capacity is, ask Boucher about it when they call you to schedule a free site visit. 

 

Ground Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps

What are the benefits of using geothermal heat pumps?

There are numerous benefits to using geothermal heat pumps:

  • Energy savings. Geothermal heat pumps are the most efficient heating and cooling system available—even more efficient than air source heat pumps. If you heat with oil, propane, or electric resistance heat, you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars a year on your heating bill by installing a geothermal heat pump. No need to pay thousands of dollars just to get a gas connection to your home: a cleaner, more efficient alternative is already available.
  • A clean, whole-home solution. Geothermal can offer a clean whole-home heating and cooling solution without requiring backup heating. Eliminate fossil fuel combustion and associated risks from your home entirely. Geothermal can also heat 40-100% of your home’s hot water at no additional operating cost with a standalone unit or an add-on desuperheater.
  • Greatly reduce your carbon footprint. As the most efficient clean cooling and heating (CH&C) technology available, geothermal heat pumps will greatly reduce your carbon footprint and dependence on imported fossil fuels. Using solar PV or other renewable electricity sources can further offset emissions from the electricity powering your heat pump. If you’re looking for the most environmentally-friendly heating and cooling system available, look no further.
  • Improved home comfort and health. In addition to providing cooling, heat pumps filter and dehumidify air, which can improve the air quality and comfort of your home. The filtration can significantly reduce allergens in your home for sensitive individuals. Geothermal systems can offer a variety of optional air quality improving devices, including electrostatic filters, UV filters, humidifiers, and heat recovery ventilators, as well as the ability to add heating and cooling zones to your home to enable you to control the temperature in different parts of your home.
  • No exposed outdoor components. If you are concerned about the aesthetics of outdoor equipment or its exposure to the elements, all outdoor components of a geothermal system will be buried underground (compared to central air conditioners and air source heat pumps).

Are there drawbacks to geothermal heat pumps?

While GSHPs can be a great fit for many Hudson and Stow homes and businesses, they are not without a few drawbacks:

  • High upfront costs. GSHPs are expensive to install, with most system installs costing around $20,000+ after incentives. While their significant energy savings pay for themselves, they can take several years to pay back the difference compared to traditional fossil fuel or central AC systems.
  • Installation time. As system design, incentive approval, and drilling/excavation is required, the geothermal installation process can take several weeks or more to complete. If you need a heating or cooling system replacement quickly, a GSHP system may not be well-suited for an emergency replacement.
  • Landscaping considerations. GSHP systems do require drilling or excavation in your yard. Vertical loop systems require less disruption to your property than horizontal, though there will still be some disturbance associated with the drilling process and moving drilling equipment around. Ask your installer about your options for minimizing disruptions and restoring landscaping after installation.
  • Ductwork installation or modification may be required. Geothermal systems can offer both heating and cooling, but there can be some limitations to what existing distribution systems a geothermal system will work with. While geothermal heat pumps can work with low-temperature hot water distribution systems (like radiant floor heating and some baseboards), they are not able to provide enough heat for steam or more common high-temperature water heating systems (like radiators). Ductwork may need to be added for your geothermal system to provide cooling, and even if you already have ducts, some modifications may be necessary to adapt your ductwork from being designed for furnaces to being suitable for geothermal.

Is a geothermal heat pump right for me?

Geothermal retrofits can work in most homes. If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions below, a geothermal system may be a good fit for you:

  • Do you heat with oil, propane or electric resistance and want to reduce your heating bill?
  • Do you have an existing heating or AC system that is 15+ years old?
  • Do you have yard space that could accommodate drilling or excavation?
  • Are you expecting to live in your home for at least 5 more years?
  • Is someone in your household sensitive to air pollutants or allergens?
  • Do you want to greatly reduce carbon footprint?
  • Are you concerned about outdoor aesthetics or damage to outdoor equipment?
  • Are you considering a new construction project?

Can geothermal heat pumps provide hot water?

Yes. Some geothermal models are available that produce domestic hot water. Most geothermal systems can also be installed with desuperheaters that can provide you with about half of your home’s annual hot water needs. A geothermal system operating in cooling mode will typically store unwanted heat in the ground. A desuperheater will use that waste heat to pre-heat your hot water before it enters your hot water tank or heat pump water heater, which can be added later.

How do the annual maintenance costs of geothermal heat pumps compare to other heating systems?

Geothermal systems do not have higher maintenance requirements than traditional heating and cooling systems, though annual maintenance is recommended to ensure that it functions well over the course of its lifetime. The ground loop is designed to last for up to 50 years or more, and no other components are exposed to the elements. The indoor geothermal heat pump unit is warrantied for up to 10 years.

How long do geothermal heat pumps last?

The ground loop piping is designed to last for up to 50 years or more. The indoor heat pump unit has a life expectancy of around 20 years, similar to conventional heating and cooling systems. Some pumps, controllers, or other components may require replacement sooner than the indoor unit. Standing column systems, depending on local water chemistry, may require more frequent service and replacement of submersible pumps.

How complicated is installing a geothermal heat pump and how much time will it take?

Unless you indicate interest in only geothermal, Boucher Energy will first do a preliminary site visit to gather information and see if geothermal could be a good fit for your home. If geothermal could be a good fit and you’re interested in moving forward, Boucher will refer you to their geothermal installation partner, Bill Wenzel, to perform a more detailed site assessment.

Bill Wenzel will then present you with a customer proposal within a week of your site visit. A geothermal installation will typically take 2-3 months to complete from when you sign a contract. This includes obtaining rebate preapproval; ordering and delivery of equipment; drilling/excavation, installation, and commissioning of the system; and inspection of the completed installation.

What if I don’t have a lot of yard space?

You only need a lot of space for a horizontal ground loop installation. A vertical closed-loop system will require only a few small boreholes and can take up as little space as two parking spots.

How well do geothermal heat pumps work in the middle of winter?

Very well, as the earth maintains a more consistent temperature throughout the winter than the air. As a result, geothermal heat pumps will perform better than air source heat pumps during the coldest parts of winter. In addition, GSHP are inherently not vulnerable to atmospheric conditions which can cause ASHP to perform noisy, inefficient defrost cycles. Near the end of winter, efficiency may be reduced slightly as the temperature of the ground has dropped (before it warms up again in the summer). While air source heat pumps can perform well in cold climates, if you want a central heating and cooling system with stronger year-round performance, geothermal may be a better fit for you.

Can a GSHP well take advantage of a pond or other body of water that is on or borders my property?

If the body of water is entirely contained within your property line, you may be able to incorporate it into the ground-loop. The pond could potentially be used as your heat transfer medium, depending on the size and depth, which must be at least 8 feet. Any piping installed in a pond or within 100ft or a wetland or pond is subject to approval by the local Conservation Commission and will likely need approval prior to installation even if the pond is completely contained on private property.