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What It Is: Geothermal In Action

Park Chase Apartments, Oklahoma

Kenn Beck, HUD Property Manager:

"We took over this large apartment complex of 348 units. It was heated and cooled with a two-pipe system chilled water and heated water. The system is 27 years old. Many of the lines were plugged.

"The whole system was inoperative and we found out that a lot of the equipment was installed and used some 27 years ago, so we were faced with a total replacement of the HVAC system. You had people heating their units last winter with open-flame kitchen stoves.

"We wanted the best and cheapest thing for the government so we hired an engineering firm in Tulsa to evaluate the entire system. They evaluated every option from gas, combinations of gas and electric, all-electric, and heat pumps.

"They came to the conclusion that the most economical thing for the government, considering cash rebates and cash benefits from the utility company, was the ground-source heat pump.

"The simplicity of the thing has sold me on it, particularly the ground-source heat pump. It's a lot simpler than the air-to-air. The air-to-air is nothing like the ground-source. The unit that we buy is just almost like a window air conditioning unit. You just plug it in; it's already charged.

"There is no filling it with freon in the field and overcharging or undercharging it. The escape of freon has become an issue and the people that we talk to have nothing to do."

Wes Smith, President, Smith Associates:

"The gas hot water hydronic system had a lot of favorable features but it couldn't compete in the long term with the heat pump systems for this project."

Jim Bose, IGSHPA, Oklahoma State University:

"The role that I play, working in combination with the utility companies like Public Service Oklahoma and the Electric Power Research Institute. We're looking for subdivision programs where we can demonstrate this technology in different areas of the country and different kinds of projects.

"The HUD project here is an example of a kind of project that we feel like has quite a bit of promise. You have a well-distributed area where the buildings are placed. It would be difficult to come in there with a chilled water system because of the underground piping and existing utilities that are here. An example of the kind of project where the ground-source technology is well suited. Distributed buildings where it's easier to come in and add modular type of units in the various buildings and put that all together in a package that probably has an efficiency higher than anything else that we could do. "

Kevin Cahill, HUD Renovation Manager:

"We were trying to reduce the glass area in all buildings. All the windows on the project were single-hung, non-insulated windows. We had a lot of conditions where we had three of those windows side-by-side. We took two of the windows out and left one in. Actually, the one that was left in was a new double-hung insulated window. "

Jay Murphy, K & M Shillingford

"Three very intelligent and basic questions. The first question, was it comfortable? Were the people and the tenants that lived in the apartments comfortable in the earth-coupled geothermal apartment complex? The answer to that from the maintenance department was 'Yes.'

There is a 100 percent occupancy in the geothermal building. The other two buildings, which consist of window air conditioners and central furnaces, did not have a 100 percent occupancy. There was a waiting list, that if anybody left the geothermal apartment complex, the existing tenants from that property wanted to move into the geothermal building because of its comfort.

"The second question that Mr. Beck from HUD asked the maintenance man was reliability. What was the maintenance track record on the geothermal systems? The answer to that is the two existing gas heating and electric air conditioning had a preventative maintenance contract and an annual service contract with also additional service calls throughout the year.

"The geothermal system, being six years old, has no maintenance contract, probably two or three service calls over the last six years, and all the maintenance crew does is change the filters. That's all.

"The third question that Mr. Beck from HUD posed to maintenance was about utility bills. That answer was very simply put that the geothermal building cost approximately half the utility bills that the other two buildings have.

"So, in a nutshell, the three items that were of most concern to HUD comfort was answered, dependability and reliability from the service standpoint was answered and operational savings of up to 50 percent was answered."

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