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Best heat option for 200 year brick home w/steam boiler- geothermal?

4 days ago

Although there’s a lot that can be improved here, I’m requesting this post focus on the major pain point - the heating system. For the sake of space, I’ll bullet the details:

  • Home is 200 years old and brick, original windows (with storms). It is more of a federal style, so the rooms are broken up (ie, not open concept). Theres no ductwork, but AC would be a good idea. Northeast US.

  • Massive 100 year old coal boiler converted to fuel oil (2 fuel tanks in basement). It has a newer burner (right term?). No central AC, just original steam radiators and Hartford loop. Electric hot water. No natural gas is available. Propane is delivered for fireplaces. Electric is prehistoric.

  • Recently upgraded attic insulation (bills were a few hundred lower this year, not a substantial difference, but decrease was despite higher fuel oil prices).

  • There is an original “point” well in the basement, probably 200 years old. You can see water just looking down into it with a flashlight.

  • Without intervention, I estimate we can expect floods every 10 years that reach the basement (based on the last couple floods, one a byproduct of hurricane Sandy, I think).

  • The water table is very high. A gas station in the area tried to put in geothermal and said that, with the high water table, they wouldn’t have tried it if they had to do it again. I assume the workers were not experienced with high water tables. When they put the new gas tanks in the ground, they kept bouncing back up. I don’t know about water quality, but it looks good at the creek, if that matters 😂.

  • I read a post here stating that direct exchange geothermal can work for some high water tables. There’s plenty of lawn to do a more horizontal setup.

It seems like local contractors haven’t historically been the most helpful with advice - I’m told they mostly trying to sell their preferred system/sales pitch rather than what would be ideal for this specific home.

We have looked at air source ductless heat pumps, too, but it would cost a lot (especially with the number of rooms).

I can’t help but think there must be a way to take advantage of the high water table and/or point well to make a cost effective solution for this. I’d hate to think the only viable solution is to buy a newer boiler and use AC window units in the few rooms where they can work (poorly).

Thank you for sharing your expertise!

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