Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Big Hug From Mother Nature

Speakers at Texas Tech's energy forum in Amarillo today addressed many topics, but digging deep for heating and cooling were a focus.

In a case study, a middle school in Frisco adopted a geothermal heat pump system that will save it $1.7 million over 20 years compared to a central gas boiler and air-cooled chiller, said Don Penn, consulting engineer with Image Engineering Group in Grapevine.

It all comes from filling classrooms with air blown across pipes that go up to 400 feet into the earth. Water under low pressure in the pipes becomes the same temperature the soil is, around 60 to 70 degrees, makes a u-turn and goes back to the surface to units that heat or cool school rooms, depending on the season.

There is a temperature control unit for each room so giant heating or cooling units aren't cranked up because the band wants to practice after hours, forcing the heating or cooling of many rooms that are empty.

"Each room is its own atmosphere," Penn said.

The life of the well field should be quite long, given the low pressure inside heavy-duty pipes.

"You'll be tearing the building down, and the well field will still be there," Penn said.

So the deal is about saving money, and then there's the carbon that is never released into the atmosphere because there's no coal or natural gas involved.

I know he's a salesman, and there weren't any naysayers invited, so my jury is still out on the viability of the technique. However, representatives of Lubbock Christian University who are using it on their campus vigorously vouched for it.

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