Geothermal heat pumps to be installed at Orchard House

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord, MA

EnergySmart Alternatives of Medford, Massachusetts has been hired to install a geothermal heat pump heating and cooling system for the historic home of ‘Little Women’.


Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, home of ‘Little Women’, is preparing for the installation of a new state of the art geothermal heating and cooling system. EnergySmart Alternatives, LLC (EnergySmart) of Medford, MA has been awarded the contract for the design and installation. The existing heating and cooling equipment is approaching the end of its life and requires major repairs.

“Historic buildings are ideally suited for geothermal heating and cooling where noise and aesthetics are a major concern,” said Jayme Ciaramitaro Co-Owner of EnergySmart. “Using the constant temperature of the earth, geothermal cooling does not need noisy outdoor air conditioning units while geothermal heating eliminates the use of fossil fuels. The new system will also be equipped with an easy to use real-time monitoring and control system that can be accessed through a smart phone. “

However, there are a number of site conditions that make this particular geothermal installation a challenge.

Archaeologists from the Fiske Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston are currently conducting archaeological excavations at the back of the property in the areas to be disturbed as part of the geothermal installation. The idea is to preserve any artifacts that may exist below the surface before drilling is under way. Any significant findings would not preclude the geothermal system’s installation but could cause delays to the proposed fall 2017 work schedule.

There is also the challenge of the overall building energy efficiency. Because Orchard House cannot be insulated or upgraded in any way that affects the aesthetics, the heating and cooling requirements are very high. In fact, the only way to control the humidity with the current system is to run the heat and air conditioning at the same time. Geothermal heat pumps have been selected as it is the most efficient way to deliver heating and cooling to the building with equipment efficiency ranging from 300 to 500%.

Geothermal heating and cooling is not new. EnergySmart has installed over 200 geothermal heat pump systems throughout Massachusetts since it was established in 2010. Melanie Head Co-Owner of EnergySmart stated, “We are excited to be working at such an important historic property, right in our backyard. It’s another great example showing that geothermal is not just for new construction.”

Since 2014, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has offered rebates for geothermal installations. As of March 15, 2017, EnergySmart has secured 43 rebates for homeowners totaling over $356,000!

Navigating the rebate requirements can be cumbersome. Here is a list of steps you should take to participate in the rebate program:

  1. Determine whether you qualify

If your electricity is provided by National Grid, Eversource, Unitil, or a Municipal Light Plant in Ashburnham, Holden, Holyoke, Russell or Templeton, then you are eligible.

  1. Call Mass Save and schedule a Home Energy Assessment

A Home Energy Assessment is required to participate in the geothermal rebate program. To schedule your Home Energy Assessment contact Mass Save.

  1. Choose a geothermal installer

A list of pre-qualified geothermal installers can be found on the MassCEC website.

You can find out how many rebates each installer has obtained and the types of projects they have completed by downloading the Project Database.

  1. Have the geothermal installer complete the rebate paperwork on your behalf

You will be asked to provide the date of your Mass Save Home Energy Assessment, your signature on a Participant’s Agreement, and a copy of your electric bill. The installer will be able to tell you the value of your rebate once the paperwork is complete.

  1. Wait for MassCEC approval and then install the geothermal system
  2. Have the geothermal installer complete the final rebate paperwork

You will be asked to sign the final paperwork verifying that the system was installed.

  1. Wait three weeks for your check to arrive

The check may be written directly to you or to the installer.