Geothermal project nears completion

June 03, 2013 | Jim Stewart

shutterstock_135166145
shutterstock_135166145
shutterstock_135166145

The $4.92 million North Village geothermal project, which will provide a new method for heating and cooling the on-campus apartment complex, is scheduled to be virtually complete by the end of August.

A geothermal heating and cooling system uses the water stored amid the earth’s constant underground temperatures to heat residences in the winter and cool them in the summer. “Normally a heating and cooling system exchanges heat by using air,” says Jeff Redderson, head of facilities services. “Instead we’re using the earth, pumping water through wells and releasing heat to and from the ground.”

Furman received a $2.5 million grant in 2009 from the U.S. Department of Energy to pursue the project. The university matched the grant. The system features 24 heat pumps and 20 wells for each apartment building. Each well is 517 feet deep.

Along with improved energy performance, the geothermal system will eliminate the use of outdoor condensing units, reduce the university’s carbon footprint and cut back on maintenance needs. The mechanical equipment could last up to 20 years, with the wells expected to have a lifetime of 50 years.

One building already on the system has reported a 32 percent reduction in kilowatt hours monthly. The project is expected to save the university more than $2 million over the next 20 years.

All but one building in the complex will be on the new system by the end of August. North Village consists of 11 buildings and accommodates 1,020 residents.