School’s HVAC Energy Savings Reach New Heights
Oklahoma City, OK
Square Footage: 144,000
Type of System: Geothermal Ground-Loop System
Number of Units: 88 ClimateMaster Heat Pumps, Ranging from 3½ to 5 Tons
Project Manager: Jim Matthews
Subcontractor: Hunter Mechanical & Controls
Controls Contractor: Global Logic Corp.
Architect: Boynton, Williams & Associates
School districts across the United States are increasingly turning to geothermal heating-and-cooling systems due to overall energy and cost savings. Western Heights Middle School realized the benefit and installed a ClimateMaster geothermal system.
Located within a mile of the ClimateMaster world headquarters, what makes this system even more interesting is the fact that the middle school also happens to be located in close proximity to Western Heights High School; equipped with conventional heating-and-cooling equipment that has been installed at various stages of its 40-plus-year history.
“The middle school is about 144,000 square feet,” said Western Heights Public Schools project manager Jim Matthews, who is responsible for maintaining the heating-and-cooling systems at all of the schools in the district. “And the high school is much larger – but at the high school, there are some sizable spaces that aren’t air-conditioned. The volume of ‘conditioned’ spaces within the two schools is roughly the same.”
School HVAC Comparison
For a sixth-grade class project on alternate fuels and energy sources, some of the middle-school students asked Matthews to help them better understand the heating-and-cooling system at their own school building. This simple request opened a broad window of opportunity for Matthews to teach the sixth-grade kids about the operational and energy-saving advantages of geothermal systems.
Western Heights Middle School – which welcomed its first students in academic year 2004-05 – was built with a geothermal ClimateMaster heat-pump system that encompasses 88 heat pumps ranging from 3-and-a-half- to 5-ton heating-and-cooling capacity.
Meanwhile, Western Heights High School dates back to the 1960s – and its conventional heating-and-cooling system consists of a polyglot arrangement of equipment that has been installed as the high school expanded several over the years.
“For this presentation to the sixth-grade kids, I compared just one particular month’s electric bills for the two schools,” said Matthews. “And I wouldn’t want to base anything approaching what we might call a ‘scientific’ judgment on just one month’s results, but anybody can see that the difference for that one month was pretty dramatic.
“Again, the ‘conditioned’ space of each of the two schools is almost exactly equal – but the high school’s total energy bill for that one month was approximately $3,500 higher than the total month’s energy bill for the middle school.”
A random check of other months – comparing the high school with its conventional heating-and-cooling system to the middle school with geothermal – reveals that the middle school’s monthly energy cost consistently comes in between about one-third and one-half of the high school’s monthly energy cost.
Matthews, who came to Western Heights Public Schools after a multi-decade climate-control career spent largely in the printing business, recalls some of the details of the installation of the geothermal system as the middle school was being built.
“This middle-school geothermal system has a ‘vertical’ ground loop that’s made up of 200 wells – each drilled 350 feet deep,” said Matthews. “The drilling contractor was able to drill four wells a day, so it took a good 50 working days to get 200 of them in.
Although the ClimateMaster factory is physically within sight, it is several steps removed from the end-user through the usual marketing/distribution channels. Matthews credits subcontractor Hunter Mechanical & Controls with the decision to go with ClimateMaster equipment when the middle school was being built.
More Heating and Cooling Bang for Your Buck
Flexibility and expandability may just be icing on the cake for Matthews when he waxes philosophic about the ClimateMaster geothermal heating-and-cooling system at Western Heights Middle School.
“I’ve talked to several people who have put geothermal systems in or are thinking about putting geothermal systems in,” said Matthews. “And they wonder if they can really get the bang for their buck with a geothermal system.
“But at our middle school, we have several different things that speak to the fact that the system is working for us, starting with the observation that it’s just so much more efficient – with the cost savings.
“And we’ve also found that – for us, anyway – it has cost a whole lot less to maintain it. Heck, my HVAC guy seldom ever even has to go over there – that fact alone speaks volumes.”