Best way to heat, cool McMansion

Deciding among electricity, propane, geothermal or solar

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Q: We need some help selecting a heating and cooling system for a 3,000-square-foot house we're going to have built. Our area has lots of cold, sunny winters, and natural gas is not available. We're primarily considering a heat pump powered by either electricity, propane (we're worried about high fuel costs) or geothermal (we're worried about rocky soil). We were also wondering about solar heating. Keep up the great column! --Laurie L. A: Propane costs can fluctuate up and down in much the same way gasoline prices do, so I don't see a lot of houses heated solely with propane, especially of the size you're going to build. Geothermal heat pumps are also pretty rare in areas that have rocky soil -- the high cost of the initial installation makes it difficult for the energy savings to pencil out against the initial cost. Given those options, and since you are looking for a cooling system as well as a heating system, an electric heat pump is probably going to work out best for...