A 72-unit public housing project in the City of Lockport, New York, which has been expensively heated with electricity for more than 40 years, will soon make use of the earth’s underground warmth for its heating and cooling needs.
Autumn Gardens, 788 E. High St., is in the process of being converted to a geothermal heating and cooling system, said Kevin A. Bancroft, executive director of the Lockport Housing Authority.
“We needed to do something,” Bancroft said. “The cost of electricity, which has been used since the project was built, is not sustainable any longer.”
“The only other alternative would be natural gas, and there is no natural gas on-site currently, so natural gas would have to be brought on-site from the road. Also, with natural gas, we’d have to add onto each building a boiler room with the boilers and the hot water,” Bancroft said. “By the time we figured the infrastructure cost for adding onto the buildings, the piping to reach each apartment, a separate heater for each apartment, the costs weren’t that far apart.”
The New York State Energy and Development Authority has approved aid to the project. Spokesman Peter Constantakes said the Housing Authority will receive a $68,400 grant when the project is completed, plus another $25,200 if it shows a savings of at least 29 percent in energy costs in the first year of operation.
Jens Ponikau, a board member of NY-GEO, predicted a 70 percent savings. He called Autumn Gardens “a picture-perfect site” for geothermal.
Bancroft said, “Down the road, we’re hoping to recoup 50 to 75 percent savings on what we’re spending now on electricity.” He said the annual savings could work out to $40,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on the weather.
The Housing Authority has experience with geothermal, having converted its office building to that source last year, Melonic said.
Geothermal service also will provide cooling, enabling tenants to eliminate window air conditioners, for which they are charged extra, Bancroft said. “These are baseboard electric heaters, so there is no ductwork, nothing to bring a central air system in.”
There will continue to be an electricity cost connected with heating and cooling, because of the heat pumps necessary to bring the geothermal air into the building.
Nowak said Autumn Gardens becomes the third public housing project in New York State to acquire a geothermal heating system. The others are in Manhattan and Yonkers.