County digs deep to find new heat | RecordCourier.com

County digs deep to find new heat

by Susie Vasquez

The old courthouse in Minden is getting a cutting-edge update this month, with the installation of an energy-saving ground-source loop heating and cooling system.

Using a system of 40 “wells” 300 feet deep, the system will take advantage of the earth’s relatively constant temperature to provide heating, cooling and hot water for the building.

Water heated to 51 degrees by the earth will be pumped into the building from the parking lot through a series of pipes.

During the winter, the fluid collects heat from the earth and carries it through the system and into the building. During the summer, the system reverses itself to cool the building by pulling heat from the building, carrying it through the system and placing it in the ground.

This process creates free hot water in the summer and delivers substantial hot water savings in the winter, according to the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association.

Reduced energy costs for this earth-friendly, nonpolluting system will be 50 to 75 percent when compared to traditional systems, according to Jeff Wolf, vice president of EnLink Geoenergy Services Inc., the Texas-based company doing the work.

“You get $3 back for each $1 invested in the system,” he said. “It works and it’s great.”

Enthusiastic and affable, Wolf spoke over the grinding drills in the parking lot Tuesday. Mud and rock spilled from one mechanical beltway and a neat coil of black piping, which will ultimately be installed as a closed system in the holes, stood ready.

Once the pipe is installed, the water will be transferred through collector trenches into the building and the trenches will be sealed, Wolf said.

“There are no moving parts,” he said. “The entire mechanical plant is buried. People won’t even know it’s here.”

The project started last week and the digging should be completed in about 20 days, Wolf said.

The decision to install the new system was made when the building’s boiler, heat exchanger and cooling tower, now 30 years old, were due for replacement, according to Assistant County Manager Michael Brown.

“The county is faced with so many increases in electric power and gas, we’re looking for alternatives,” Brown said. “We’re also looking at solar technology to see what we can do in that area as well.”

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have named this system the best and cleanest technology for heating and cooling commercial and public buildings, Brown said.

The new system will cost $400,000, he told members of the Minden Town Board last week.

Wolf said his company installs systems nationwide. When this one is complete, his company will be installing a similar system in Reno for the Regional Transportation Commission, then moving to the Milwaukee, Wis. area.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.