Energy Survey Comments

This post records the free form comment responses to my recent home energy surveys. I’ve read carefully through the comments below and have posted a discussion.

Return to heat pump outline

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

151 replies on “Energy Survey Comments”

  1. I have heard the heat pumps do not work as well here in the Northeast. Cost is a factor for replacement using any new system, ie geothermal or others. They should do away with the Jones Act.

    1. I have forced hot water and a mini split upstairs. It would be easy to convert my radiators to using a heat pump hot water tank for both hot water and room heat but we don’t really do that in the USA. They do it in Canada though. I’m actually going to be updating my heating this winter, and because I can’t find anyone who knows anything about space heating with a heat pump, tank water heater I’m going to have to put in a gas combi boiler. Which is more efficient and should save me gas and money.

      1. I converted my former gas furnace to a combined high efficiency furnace that heats the hot water (so no more separate hot water tank). I looked into mini-splits two years agi, Phoebe, and the gas fitters who did my furnace said the piping was very expensive. My work-around has been to keep my house between 55 and 60 during the day, wear fleece jackets, sweaters, etc. Dry heat gives me nose bleeds plus I burn my internal body’s calories to generate heat and also watch my weight. 🙂

    2. Peter the Jones act is really not connected with energy but speaks to labor more than anything.

      Heat pumps in fact can do very well here in New England- geothermal uses heat pump technology to share or exchange heat ( cooling) loads and that is very efficient but your up front costs is high for equipment. Also it doesn’t help that the cost of electricity is higher in the north east but in part we do not have any new nuclear power plants planned and that means we have to import most of our power. As a region if keep playing “ not in my back yard “ there is a price to pay for that

      1. Not sure which point Peter has in mind, but there are a couple of connections between the Jones act and energy:

        One, when constructing offshore wind farms care must be taken to work around it. My understanding is that for Vineyard Wind the companies involved have a workaround which isn’t too expensive or awkward.

        Two, I read an old Forbes article today while trying to look up how much of our natural gas comes via pipeline vs through an LNG terminal. The writer was heavily biased towards it being desirable for us to increase our pipeline capacity. Typical of people who seem not to have any belief that global warming poses a threat, he described our policies as more or less madness (much like a certain unsuccessful candidate for governor did, someone who’s name I’ve already forgotten, my brain having that kind of practical efficiency). His point was that we end up paying the international LNG price because the Jones act was preventing (readily available U.S.?) shipping directly from Texas to here. I’m guessing that that’s Peter’s point.

        The argument in the Forbes article started out quoting a really high spot price in the middle of winter here. Naturally, it did not tell us the average price across the year, since that would not have as well accomplished the author’s objective. I am eager to see how the Algonquin City Gate winter spot prices change in 2024 or whenever Vineyard Wind comes online.

      2. Heat pumps in New England are efficient to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I know I have heat pumps with back up gas two zone FHA systems.

    3. We just had to replace our heating system in 2020, and went with a Train gas, hot air system. It is very important to us that we do our best to reduce our carbon footprint, but it seems illogical to take out our $12,000 system and spend $50,000 to install a heat pump now. We are in our late 70’s and retired living on a fixed income. Our current system will need replacement in another 20 years or so, and by then it might make good sense if we are still alive.

  2. I invested in solar panels and I’m still in the payoff period. I would like to retire soon but cannot afford to convert from oil. I would need assistance in order to do the conversion.

  3. $50,000? That’s absurd unless you live in a mansion and decide not to take the $10,000 rebate. Mass Save and any other entity giving incentives or rebates should require a tight building envelope before rewarding heat pump installation. Some years ago we asked that Mass Save, when doing energy audits, provide each homeowner with a “pathway to net zero,” listing the steps, in order – insulation, windows, etc. comes first and then the alternatives to oil and gas – and asking them to take gas off as one of the endpoints, as it is now. The total package of costs should be the basis for rebates and incentives.

    1. Mass Save requiring a tight building envelope is not at all practical for owners of many older homes. I installed historically appropriate and energy efficient windows (which cost a fortune), and I put foam between roof rafters, but intentionally left the walls empty — because the latter is essential to proper air circulation that keeps the framing dry, and ensures the house’s longevity.

      Even if I wanted to insulate the walls, I could not use foam without gutting the whole house (unacceptable), and cellulose insulation settles and becomes wet.

      Making an older wood-frame house very tight only works for those who want to be at the mercy of an expensive, complicated, whole-house climate system, and that system has to be on all the time, even when you’re away for a prolonged period.

      This video explains why not every house should have insulted walls.

      (91) Insulating an old house: What to do! – YouTube

  4. I live in a 21 unit luxury condo building that is 100 years old. I installed air conditioning ductwork and a heat pump on the roof as did the owners of about 17 units. I do not use the new system for heat as we have a boiler and radiators heating the building.

  5. As we have discussed, I think this is important but like many seniors, I can’t afford it. I (and many others) am a senior with a Reverse Mortgage and I have to watch what I spend carefully. I have a fairly new furnace and I get a good deal from my oil company.. I can’t afford to change. You had said you thought that the government would have to finance heat pumps for poor neighborhoods as well as for seniors and I have to agree.

    1. Don’t worry I’m sure the mandates will be equally and fairly applied and there won’t be any cut-offs that exclude the middle class and make us poor. That never happens no.

  6. Our house is 100 years old. We hope to upgrade to mini-split units but can’t absorb the cost or disruption just now.

  7. Our gas HVAC furnace was replaced in early 2019 on an emergency basis during a record cold spell when the older furnace stopped working. We did not have the luxury of time to weigh changing the system to electric — our pipes were in danger of freezing and we were spending money to stay in a hotel. So now we have a relatively new gas system and can’t afford to spend more money to replace it until it wears out. Plus there’s an embodied carbon externality in sending a system that still works to landfill. We need to save for more urgent home expenses like new hot water heater, exterior paint, steady tax increases (in Cambridge SF owners are the ones whose taxes increase the most while condo owners see their taxes go down. I note that our house is an attached single so its land use is similar to a 2-unit condo). Ultimately, we will convert to electric heat pump since we have the ducts and would also convert the hot water system to electric.

  8. What a terrible survey. The response options imply .agreement with your premise. Where was the option for I’m happy with what I have. Shame on you. PS – the third response to the third question was a howler – thanks for the laugh.

    1. Will has a huge socio-economic range of constituents that he represents. Belmont homes are going for $1-$2 million, then people wait a few months before they move in to do renovations and updates. I imagine for that demographic, an extra $50K is not that much. That is not my case or Will’s case, but that is that demographic reality for some in his district, so the question seems reasonable to me.

      1. Lmao. Do you “imagine” that for someone in a million dollar house an extra $50 k is not that much? What an imagination!

    2. Thank you, Steve. I take your first point well. I’ve added an explicit “not interested” option. I felt previously that it was implicit in the “cost-effective” choice, but I agree it should be an explicit choice.

      The first 86 respondents did not have that option. We’ll see how often it surfaces among later respondents.

  9. Just left my condo of 17 years. Had a heat pump
    all that time including one just installed in 2017. when temperature went below 20 degrees, the heat pump was unable to convert enough cold air into warm air. The system would switch over to costly auxiliary mode to make up the diffence Resulting in extremely high energy bills and often a cool residence.

    1. I believe that a GEOTHERMAL heat pump would have a better COP (coefficient
      of performance: Ratio of energy delivered to electrical energy input) than an AIR-based one
      because sucking heat from air at or below 20 degrees F. is harder than sucking heat from
      deep in the earth where it typically would be well above 40 degrees– it typically remains about the
      same as the mean annual temperature of the air above. The deeper you go
      the less it fluctuates with the changes of temperature in the air above; and there’s a time lag.
      BUT it would cost a lot more to dig down deep enough to install the heat-exchanging

  10. Thank you so much for these surveys! I own a two family in Belmont. My mom is first floor unit and my husband, children and I live upstairs. We have inquired about heat pumps a few times with Mass Save. And each time, they work very hard to talk us out of even considering it. Our two family is old. It is about 100 years old and I think it is not easy for them to do compared to new single family or new townhouses. We want mini splits and heat pumps, but when we’ve asked, they’ve pretty much turned us away.
    I mentioned solar panels to my in-laws who live in Arlington. I used a website to see what savings we could have if we used solar panels and if they used some. Sadly for our two family, we don’t get enough of the right type of sunlight to make it work. But for their condo, they could get a lot of energy from solar panels. When I mentioned this to them, they said something similar to what we have experienced with heat pumps. Because they live in a two family condo, those side by side ones that pop up all over Arlington, they have been turned away.
    This frustrates me on multiple levels. First off, we are both interested in improving the carbon footprint of our homes, but are being turned away. And secondly, I am a public school teacher. No matter who comes into my classroom, no matter where they came from, I never turn them away. My students always grow and feel loved. I don’t understand how these businesses do it and it is incredibly frustrating.

  11. I have steam heat. To convert to a heat pump system, I would need to put in ducting. I talked to an HVAC person a year or two ago about minisplits. If I remember correctly, he told me minisplits inadequate for heating in our climate. We are talking many tens of thousands of dollars to convert because of ducting issue. Makes no sense to even consider as long as our electricity system still relies heavily on natural gas because any carbon savings will be minimal.

    1. Find a contractor who understands heat pumps. Today’s mini-split systems work down to -5 degrees F.

    2. I f you can convert that steam system to a hot water system you might save some money add in a few mini splits for cooling and heat to about 40 degrees and you might have a winner

  12. Like many elderly living in a single family house with a relatively efficient heating system (gas) the upfront cost and effort does not seem enticing given other priorities for funds. Unless I decide to act on principle the financial issues make little sense.

  13. We installed 8 mini splits and 3 heats pumps just over a year ago.

    We are currently running them with the old steam boiler as back up. I haven’t let them do the whole job on the very cold days…the house temp seems to drop pretty dramatically at night even with pumps running.

  14. We live in an owner-occupied two-family. We have spent much of the past uear in the process of getting an air heat exchange mini duct system installed. It has not gone smoothly. Covid and supply chain delays pushed everything back by months. And and when it was finally installed during the worst of the late summer heat waves the system, while sufficiently large for the volume of our unit, was unable to move the air around enough to adequately cool the living spaces. And now that winter is here the same is true for heat. Our contractor, Revision Energy, has been absolutely wonderful about coming back to continue working on things. I assume they’re losing money on this job. They and we still hope for a resolution. In the meantime, I’ve re-lit the pilot on my old hot water radiator system boiler.

  15. What I really want in my current home is a way to replace my oil burner with an electric one and keep the forced steam radiators. I found one company online that did something like it and it was $$$. I had a condo with an older heat pump and 1) it was insufficient, and 2) the forced air triggered asthma for a member of my household. If I ever had the luxury of gut-rehabbing a house, I’d put in a system either with electric radiators or maybe with a heat pump but also an accompanying whole house humidifying system, heated floors in several rooms, etc. Not having won the lottery lately we try to just keep the heat very low and insulate.

  16. Mini splits might make sense if there were incentives for solar panels as well. Is there any push for some kind of help (0% loans, rebates , etc.) for installing solar panels?

    1. I’ve read that solar panels life is only 15-20 years, and then they have to be replaced. But there is no way to recycle the spent solar panels, and they have chemicals that are very bad for the environment. For me, it’s a deal breaker. I also don’t like seeing those panels on beautiful old homes.

  17. I do not have ducts, but forced hot water which makes conversion less appealing. Furthermore, there seems to be too many drawbacks to the system that I found doing some basic research. For new home construction with ducts and solar panels this technology seems like the way to go. However, seems like a big expense if my current single/centralized system in place works with forced hot water to change to a multi-unit system or new ducts in a house that done not have it. I value reducing my carbon footprint, but I would need to look at it more. For reference, the list below was taken from a “green technology” site that listed the pros and cons of heat pumps (I only listed the cons).

    High upfront cost.
    Difficult to install.
    Questionable Sustainability.
    Requires significant work.
    Issues in cold weather.
    Not entirely carbon neutral.
    Planning permissions required.

  18. I have just read a somewhat worrying characterization of heat pumps as susceptible to serious malfunction if turned on at full force, i.e not started at fractional power and gradually brought up to full power. Power outages in cold weather supposedly represent a particular danger.

    1. Absolutely not true. The controller systems bring them up gradually, even in the ‘Powerful’ mode, which brings them up more quickly.

  19. Thanks, Senator, for pushing for climate-saving investments. The planet is in crisis.

  20. I have oil heat and splits. Do not like that to qualify for split rebates, my oil system needs to be basically shut down. The rush to end fossil fuel seems to me premature when reliable sources of energy are not still able to replace energy needs. As well where is the discussion about all the products we rely on are made from petroleum?

    1. These are the exact same people for whom helical nitrogen fertilizer is now a “crisis.” I leave it to you to look up how many people we have to kill to rapidly ratchet down chemical fertilizer at the speed or is currently being imposed in Holland, Canada, Sri Lanka etc.

  21. Last year, I bought half of a two-family house in Cambridge. While I initially thought the house needed no work, pretty soon everything stopped working–with the notable exception of the gas-powered steam heat. Long story short, I decided that so much was on the verge of breaking in the kitchen that I should probably redo the kitchen (I’m replacing a badly leaking gas range with an electric oven and an induction stove) and get rid of the hideous, misaligned beige bathroom tile while I was at it. Construction starts next month.

    In contrast to the kitchen and bathroom renovation, which will improve my enjoyment of the house tremendously, converting to heat pumps would require substantial up-front cost that would, in replacing one working heating system with another, leave me at best equally well off. Although I’d like to install heat pumps someday, on some level, I’m terrified that they wouldn’t work as well as my current heating system. Converting to heat pumps now, which sounds like a lot more expense and house-related headache, is just more than I can afford–in many senses of the word–to take on.

  22. Thank you for the survey – as one of your city constituents who owns a unit in a multi-family (12 units) I hope you will continue to respect the diversity of housing stock in your district.
    There is no one solve for this crisis, and whatever we do needs to respond to respect this diversity . Create a policy/plan for all of us, not just single family homeowners. Sets goals and reach them in as many ways as needed.

  23. This survey does not capture our decision process. We do not expect to be in our home 15 years from now at which point a developer is likely to tear it down and rebuild. Therefore, it is not clear if a heat pump is cost effective.

  24. I got some quotes this summer and it would cost upward of $80,000 to eliminate gas in my home based on recommendations from Abobe. The biggest cost is duct work for my second floor. The rebate system is not favorable to doing the work piecemeal.

    1. I’d find another HVAC contractor who does heat pumps. Though we have a small house, 1750 sq.ft., our whole-house cold weather mini-split system with 5 indoor units cost $20k.

  25. Although this survey is timely and surveys should be continuous, do the physics, New England weather for the foreseeable future, the heat pump technology, the current expense of conversion in older housing, and the net drain on the electrical power grid indicate that conversion on a massive scale is premature?

  26. We live in a hundred year old small colonial. I brought a company in about 18 months ago to have my home assessed for heat pumps, which my son had installed in his much newer home at that time. I was told it would cost close to $20,ooo as I recall and would be marginally effective as the location of windows, stairway to second floor and closed floor plan would require multiple units all of which would have duct work running across the front of the house. So, some old homes are not good conversion candidates. Also, we have newish gas furnace thru Mass Save. I believe we received both a substantial discount and five year 0% financing. A conversion to heat pumps for many seniors and others will incomes less than the Belmont median will require that type of financial incentive.

  27. When I looked at Mass Save for the heat pump (2021), it was not very organized and inefficient. Insulation program is well organized (I did it in 2020), but the heat pump incentive need to step up its program! I have a Unico system and cannot be used w/ heat pump system; so they told me.
    Until I can justify a decent program, I will stay with my stem heat.

  28. As has been pointed out eloquently and sometimes poignantly homeowners and landlords find themselves in very different situations, financially and with respect to the conditions and histories of the buildings and the current heating and cooling systems which should eventually be changed. Some can switch to heat pumps or geothermal systems more easily and affordably and well before others. There is no one solution or option that is best for all residents at the same time to achieve significant improvements in efficiency and reducing the emissions generated by their essential building systems. As a minimum sometimes relatively easy improvements in the building envelope can help to reduce heating and cooling loads and therefore expenses and emissions. But it will take a few decades to make serious inroads into our use of oil and natural gas in our buildings. To progressively and consistently make progress in this direction among other factors we need to increase the availability of products and staff trained in their installation and maintenance. These observations mean we need to start seriously moving in this direction wherever and however we can without further delays. In this context I find it reprehensible that gas utilities are still trying to extend their use of gas to new construction and even to areas not yet served by them and to propagate misinformation about the merits of introducing new gases (green hydrogen and renewable natural gas, which is also the notorious greenhouse gas methane) as their pie (or pipeline)-in-the-sky solution to the problems generated by our use of methane. They are trying to convince us that polluting “fossil-free” gases are actually pollution-free, despite the fact that it is the chemical composition and properties of a gas that determine its impact when it is combusted, not whether it was formed millions of years ago from fossils or in a more recent man made process.

  29. We added mini splits and kept gas furnace as compressors will not function in temperatures below 30 or 10 degrees depending on compressor. Questions imply one or other is the option when my understanding is that mini splits are not total solution.

  30. There is an assumption that electric energy is cleaner than fossil fuels, but we need to know the source of it (nuclear, wind, hydroelectric, coal, oil, gas, geothermal). A quick check online resources shows that much electrical power is still generated by fossil fuels. That larger systemic issue need to be addressed before I’d consider doing anything.

    It’s not clear if the Mass Save cost of converting to a heat pump from gas-based hot water radiators, which I have, also includes the the removal of the old furnace and radiators. Likely not.

    As much as I love the idea of cutting the fossil fuel cord (and the space I’d reclaim by the removal of my giant radiators), the cost of converting is simply too high for me.

  31. The supply of reputable and qualified contractors to complete this work is also a barrier. MassSave is great because you have protection in your purchases through the design of the program – at least for home insulation installation and the like.

    There is simply a limited supply of businesses in the area I would feel comfortable entering into a long-term and costly business arrangement with. The amount of time and energy to vet contractors and get quotes and deal with the interruptions associated with construction are considerable. At my life stage this cost is substantial and creates a lot of additional stress while I am balancing a career and other obligations.

    There are thousands of homes that could benefit from this program but we also need to be sure that consumers are protected and can have confidence when contracting for this work.

    1. HVAC contractors are among the least trusted scammers and incompetents to begin with and for good reason. If you get one to show up you’ll be treated to a lecture about why the previous guy was ann idiot and everything he did must be ripped out and replaced to promote sustainable technologies, which means buying the sales rep a Tesla. First get an industry that can even install current tech competently and then we’ll worry about not gearing to dilithiumw crystals.

  32. We replaced the steam boiler in our 1890’s Back Bay building which has 28 units and switched from oil to gas about 10 years ago; I forget how many tens of thousands it was. At the time we thought we were doing the right thing as gas is cleaner than oil. We did get a considerable rebate from National Grid to do the conversion. A few units have installed their own AC units, but there is no existing ductwork in our building.
    This year I replaced the old HVAC unit in my suburban office with a heat pump. Unfortunately Mansfield Electric offered no rebates so it was entirely out of pocket. $13K.
    P.S I love putting my snowy mittens and hats on the toasty radiator after shoveling!

  33. I just thought of another comment…when I first bought my condo 15 years ago I looked into replacing the windows to triple-paned ones. In Back Bay, energy efficient windows are NOT ALLOWED due to the historical restrictions. Instead I could have my single-paned windows reglazed for about a thousand dollars each, 15 years ago.

  34. Our house in Arlington was built new in 2017. It is heated by propane with a tank under the front yard; there is no natural gas on our street. As soon as we moved in, we had rooftop solar installed (about $30k upfront cost, ROI is about 7%/year, we’re happy with the result) which covers all of our electricity usage (including AC) but not, obviously, heat.

    I am very concerned about climate change. I would like to replace our propane furnaces with heat pumps and install a second solar array to power the heat pumps. The up-front cost is not a problem for us, but I think the net result needs to be at least close to break-even long term for us to proceed. I vote for pro-environment candidates and would happily pay more taxes for large-scale climate improvements, but just throwing cash at money-losing improvements for my own house while the rest of society allows the planet to burn does not make sense. Doing so wouldn’t be pro-environment; it would just rich-white-guy virtue signaling. It would be better to put that money toward more pro-environment government.

  35. Just curious……..where does electricity come from? It is not a fuel. Are gas and oil used to manufacture it? Am a senior living in a 100+ year old house. Have a gas furnace. Looked into mini splits but the cost was exorbitant.
    Senator Brownsberger ……I wish you would look into the punitive WEP provision which prevents public retirees from collecting all of the SS benefit’s THAT THEY HAVE EARNED. Getting that little bit of money back would help the 85,000 Massachusetts residents and more than 2 million public retired public employees nationwide. Please support bill HR2337. We have a short window of less then 4 weeks before changes come to congress.

  36. I own a two family side by side in Brighton. I had MassSave do a home energy assessment to give me insulation, appliance rebates and a quote for heat pumps. I moved forward with the insulation and converted gas stoves to induction. When it comes to heat pumps, just for one of the homes that I live in, I was quoted $20k for a three piece systems that included a unit for the first floor and each of the bedrooms. I don’t have ducts so it would be installed on the the side of the house. There was no solution for the bathroom other than electric baseboard on a separate thermostat in the bathroom and with tenants in the future, I’m worried about my pipes freezing. In Brighton, I rent to grad students and am cost conscious to what they can afford. I grew up with forced hot air and don’t like it so I really prefer the current hot water radiators I have now. To move forward with changing the two family would cost in total $50k- $20k per side plus another $10k to remove the chimney and make the kitchen and bath larger to get more rent to make up for the up front investment.

  37. I Am 85 and won’t be living long enough to regain any cost benefits to convert from oil

  38. I installed a minisplit heat pump system for the third floor of my 2 family house. It works like a dream and I want to try to do more in the bottom two floors, but I decided to take a stepwise approach before doing it. First investment will be solar panels. Using SunBug Solar for that. Next, I want to blow insulation into the walls. I am thinking of cellulouse insulation. Once that is done, I’d consider the minisplits. My idea is that I want right size the pump system to the house after it has been insulated.

  39. My biggest issue is we recently upgraded to a high efficiency boiler (7 years ago) and JUST FINISHED paying it off last month. We cannot personally afford to replace our system again.

  40. Thank you, Senator, for your care to our climate. I wish there had been a comment box on the survey. I had 4 mini-splits in our condo on Orchard St. I could only use the heat function in cool vs cold weather or my oil pipes would freeze. In my current home on Worcester St., I have no wall space for heat pump mini-splits. Re vents/ducts, we don’t have that except for new ones created for a high velocity A/C, designed for older homes. I question if heat could be pushed through those?

    Our HVAC is new, gas, high efficiency, with on-demand water and it was quite expensive. We didn’t have the option of electric because there were none that were great or as efficient. We installed solar panels and feel as good about our situation as we can.

    Also, many above questioned the mini-splits ability – they do have a higher maintenance need and we had a lemon that limped along. That’s my biggest reason for not doing mini-splits.

  41. Question – reading above where, on a -20 degree day, the heat pump did not find any heat…. would a winter coat of sorts help? Build a solar gain structure around it?

    1. Recall that the heat pulled inside by a pump would refrigerate the structure interior.
      The coat in this case might lock more cold air around the heat pump unless you could somehow get the solar heat without obstructing the dissipation of colder air.

  42. We moved into a very old 120+ old two family in 2020.

    Installed ducts and warm air gas furnace. Mini splits wouldn’t work to circulate heat and cool throughout the condo. All the contractors willing to work on the property were clear about needing gas to provide adequate heat.
    Would consider a hybrid gas/ heat pump system but at the time couldn’t find a contractor who was familiar with them nor could we source them.

    Maybe in a future scenario but due to insulation challenges our coldest days would require backup heating. I feel satisfied I reduced the carbon footprint by replacing a very old oil boiler with a 98% furnace it would be hard to justify a further HVAC rework.

  43. The comments above mirror our experience – in that we are very interested and highly motivated. The MassSave/City of Cambridge energy advisors have been helpful and yet not as helpful as they need to be if we are to rapidly transition . Like Sarah Marie Jette, and Steve Miller we own a 2-family – the advisors talked about how complicated the conversion would be – which may be true, but with thousands of buildings like ours in the city, we need to work on providing a clear path forward for homeowners – or many (most?) will not move forward. We did not get a clear easy path and the vendors we called were not responsive. For us to electrify on the scale we need to the process has to be smoother and clearer. ANd we need to have technical and financial help for all. Plus we need rapidly to develop a process for people in emergency situations like Jan Devereux – for when a system fails there is a ready solution that can be installed almost immediately. Once you have spent money to fix/replace a failed system with a lifespan of 15-30 years, it would be hard to justify replacing that system – esepcailly taking into account the embodied energy.

    On another related topic: we need to install networked geothermal systems since that system could be a game changer. In some places it should be able to transition off fossil fuels with less expense than individual heat pumps.

  44. Answered “can’t guess” on $$ questions. Other capital investments we are considering in parallel:
    – battery storage for our solar panels with annual production very well matched to our current annual load: sick and tired of selling to BMLD for 11 cents and buying for 18 (and rising)
    – gas heats our DHW year-round – are solar hot water, heat pump or hybrid HWH viable?
    – electric vehicle with home charging
    – sacrifice attic storage space to super-insulate cap

  45. I live in an old house that was designed for the heating we have. The house will fail at some point and a new one will take its place, maybe in 20 years. Without the system I have, the pipes would freeze. With any further renovation, I can truly expect the house to be totaled. I know this because I grew up working on old houses in the area. While my primary heat is gas, I have a number of rooms shut off when not in use during the winter, my consumption is considered low even for my modest house. I have mini space heaters at my kids desks. I have thermal drapes in layers. I do a lot of things. I don’t ever get the feeling that people who work on the houses we have are consulted on these matters, because the questions you pose don’t always fit the situation.

  46. When I bought my home in 2010 I had Mass Save come in for an audit. After, I got 3 estimates for insulating my home. Only one company was affiliated with the Mass Save program – they said they’d have the home insulated in 4 hours.
    The other two companies, not affiliated with Mass Save, were going to take 3 days. I went with one that spent three full days (~26 hours in all) and paid for it myself (no Mass Save rebate), but got a quality job. I don’t have a lot of faith in the companies Mass Save contracts with – I hope it’s changed since then.
    Since then, I’ve installed high velocity a/c due to lack of duct work and am very satisfied with that.
    From what I’ve read, heat pumps run on electricity, but I couldn’t fine average electricity costs in this area. Will it keep the house warm in the winter and cool enough in the summer?

  47. The issue for our Government representatives is not about how each of us individually heat our homes or businesses.This should be about what resources we have to make those choices.
    Electricity approaching 18c KWH

    We tell folks to buy electric cars, yet our power grids cannot sustain .This is why the utilities are seeking out energy efficient projects, to put less strain on the grid (which is crumbling).Then they tell us to buy electric cars, heat pumps, solar panels.
    If your infrastructure cannot support the very products you are pushing, prepare the infrastructure for the future.
    Leave the individual choices to the individual,based on the reliability of the systems,supporting it.
    Please concentrate on supplying future power at a reasonable price, that can sustain the green technology being pushed.
    We do not want to end up having a green technology with roaming blackouts.
    Thank you

  48. My gas heating system if fairly new and apparently very efficient. However, I don’t have AC so I looked into heat pumps and got estimates this summer. The costs were between $15-25,000 and I ultimately opted for one of the new model Soleus window units for $500 that claim to operate like heat pumps.
    Thanks to Will for taking this on.

  49. Please avoid yes/no answers, where the rationale is provided, which may not match my rationale. A simple yes/no would be better. Follow-up questions for rationale would suffice. I’ve made similar comments to previous surveys. It’s like the question – “Will you vote for Will in the next election? Yes – I always vote Democrat; No – I always vote Republican.” The rationale makes the response absurd for at least some people.

    I have a gas boiler with forced hot water, with a mix of radiators and baseboards, so no air vents. Based on contractor quotes that I received and reviewed with Abode Energy, the cost of an air-sourced heat pump (ASHP) minisplit system is about 2x the cost of a new energy efficient gas boiler and hot water heater. One contractor was going to quote vents for ASHP, but I never got the quote. The gas vs. heat pump installation difference would take a while to recover financially – we’d get better cooling than current window air conditioners, but inferior heating. Air-sourced heat pumps are OK, but not warm like forced hot water or air. Ground sourced heat pumps are a great solution, but the installation cost is even more.

    Solar panels on my roof have a ~20-year payback, due to an oversized (~5 story tall) Belmont shade tree on the street to the south of my home, plus more trees to my west and southwest. I’m not sure which is better – shade from the tree during the summer helping keep my home cool, or having solar panels to supply an ASHP.

    As an alternative to my own solar panels, I’ve only looked a little at community solar (, but Belmont doesn’t participate. Perhaps that doesn’t matter, if Belmont Light is already truly at 100% renewable energy ( I don’t understand renewable energy credits (REC) well enough to know if the 100% is true renewable, or an accounting game that allows Belmont to still get power on a cold, dark, windless night during a drought.

  50. I live in a townhouse condo, so I’m responsible for my HVAC, but the condo association has a say in how large a unit I can place outside and where it is located. Also, I just replaced my gas furnace in 2018, so it’s a little soon for another major investment.

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