Here’s a fun fact. When it comes to heat gains, one computer = one student. Adding one computer to a classroom adds as much heat as one human.

So if 25 students are in a classroom, adding 10 computers makes the room as uncomfortably warm as adding 35 bodies. And this discomfort has a dramatic negative impact on the students’ learning abilities. The average age of a K-12 school in the US is 47 years old, and it’s a good bet that parts or all of the school’s HVAC system originally came with the building.

The solution? Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP) systems would increase the comfort level while reducing the cost of energy for the school. Take these examples:

Philadelphia High School compared operating cost estimates between a conventional and a geothermal HVAC system for their 90,000 square feet over a 20-year cycle. Here’s what made up their minds:

Operating Cost/yr:

 Conventional HVAC:  $237, 286

Geothermal HVAC:    $55.478

Savings:                     76.6%

Maintenance Cost/yr:       

 Conventional:            $28,000

Geothermal:               $9,000

Savings:                     68.8%

For the American Water Buck School Project, one of the largest private water companies in the US teamed up with FHP/Bosch to develop a state of the art geothermal pilot project. The chosen site was Long Island’s Buck Elementary School, built in 1957. The geothermal heat pumps use water from American Water as their medium. The system is currently delivering year-round comfort and has enabled the school to use their facility throughout the summer. Best of all, the GHP system has reduced their overall energy use by 30k BTUs per square foot and saved the school over $6,000.

The Bard College Alumni Houses are a collection of 11 residence halls in the center of the campus. The oldest of the Alumni Houses date all the way back to 1987. Each one houses between 19 and 21 students.  All of the buildings are heated and cooled with geothermal heat pump technology.

Using the GHP systems, along with other energy-saving practices, has lowered energy costs at the school by over $100,000 annually, and provided peak summer demand savings of 450 kW while reducing CO2 emissions by over 400 tons.

Bard College’s commitment to installing geothermal systems among the measures taken has significantly reduced its energy costs and made for a healthier, more comfortable college environment.

John (Jack) P. DiEnna Jr is the Executive Director of the Geothermal National & International Initiative and can be reached at jdienna@geo-nii.org