Kent County Buildings Upgrade to Geothermal

Two county buildings in Kent County, Michigan have utilized geothermal heat pump systems in their new construction in order to reduce energy costs. In November, construction of the 63rd District Courthouse on East Beltline Ave was completed and included a closed loop vertical field 300 feet beneath the building€™s parking lot.The decision to install a ground source heat pump system was motivated by economic and environmental issues. The geothermal heating and cooling system will provide a consistently comfortable temperature in the courthouse while keeping energy bills low and reducing the building€™s carbon footprint. "The whole process is simply transferring heat from one place to another," said Don Steeby, an associate professor of heating and refrigeration at Grand Rapids Community College. "It is the most sustainable alternative energy available. The heat is always there, regardless if the sun isn't out and the wind isn't blowing."In just the few months after installation, the courthouse began to see immediate savings. The heating costs for the past winter were almost cut in half from previous winters and the system will pay for itself within 10 years.The second Kent County building to utilize a geothermal heating and cooling system will be the new addition to the Kent Count Correctional Facility. The addition broke ground in May and is expected to be completed by 2012. The three-story addition will feature a closed-loop geothermal system as a part of a $27 million renovation.While the Correctional Facility and Courthouse are both new constructions, geothermal heat pumps can be retrofitted into older buildings. Students from Michigan State University conducted a study on buildings that could benefit the most from the addition of a geothermal heat pump and the aquarium at the John Ball Zoo was a top candidate. While the zoo is not likely to receive the funding needed for this retrofit in the near future, it is evidence that geothermal heat pumps can be utilized in both old and new constructions.