Learn About Ground-Source Heat Pumps

Ground-source heat pumps can provide cost-effective and energy-efficient heating, cooling and water heating for homes and businesses. While traditional systems burn fuel to create heat, a heat pump instead works by moving heat into or out of a building. Though they require electricity to operate, efficient ground-source heat pumps (GSHPs) can provide the same amount of heat using 65 to 80 percent less electricity than traditional electric heating – and reduce emissions and operating costs accordingly.

Heat pumps circulate a liquid, called a refrigerant, between an indoor air-handling unit and an outdoor radiator. When heating a building, the heat pump heats the liquid by pressurizing it, pumps it from outdoors inside, and then circulates it through the home or building’s heating system.

After the liquid transfers the heat into the building, it is depressurized and cooled. The liquid then travels to the outdoor radiator, where the ambient temperature warms the refrigerant, and the process begins again.

Heat pumps can also be used to cool buildings through a similar process. In this case, the warm air inside a home or building is cooled by the liquid, which has been depressurized. The refrigerant is then sent outside and pressurized, which heats it up, and the ambient outdoor temperature cools it. 

GSHPs use the nearly constant temperature underground to heat or cool homes or buildings and are typically considered the most efficient type of heat pump.

These systems require trenches or wells to operate, and certain site properties may not have sufficient space or geological conditions to support them. GSHPs often utilize ducted ventilation systems to distribute hot and cold air throughout a building, though some utilize hot water distribution systems for heating purposes. Many of these systems also provide domestic hot water.

MassCEC provides rebates to support the installation of GSHPs in Residential facilities. Please see our Residential Clean Heating and Cooling websites for more details on how to apply for funding.


Economics & Incentives 

Although the installation costs can be substantial, a combination of incentives and low-interest financing can significantly reduce these costs, and in some cases, customers are cash flow positive from the day the system begins operation. Due to their high efficiency, GSHPs offer excellent long-term energy savings as well.


The costs for residential GSHP projects average $9,000 per heating ton, typically ranging from $7,000 to $13,000 per heating ton, depending on the site and project type.

Homeowners who install GSHPs may qualify for the following incentives:

Incentive Amount Expires
Investment Tax Credit 26% of system costs Dec 2021
MassCEC Rebate Up to $10,000 Dec. 2020
Mass Save HEAT Loan 0% for 7 years; up to $25,000 Ongoing
Mass. Sales Tax Exemption 6.25% Ongoing
Alternative Energy Credits Varies Ongoing


Businesses installing GSHPs at their properties may qualify for the following incentives:

Incentive Amount Expires
Investment Tax Credit 10% of costs Dec. 2021
Mass. Sales Tax Exemption 6.25% Ongoing
Alternative Energy Credits Varies Ongoing


Next Steps for Installing a Ground-Source Heat Pump 

  1. Visit the Residential GSHP Program Page for information on the application process.
  2. Visit the Finding an Installer page, which lists GSHP installers and provides guidelines on how to evaluate them.
  3. Review data from the MassCEC ground-source rebate program, including pricing, equipment, installer and location information that can be helpful in understanding what is being installed in your area. The data can be downloaded here