Geothermal heating and cooling systems are expensive to install, but in the long run are offering big savings for schools, businesses and homeowners who install them.
When the town of Gorham built the Great Falls Elementary School a few years ago, officials decided to install a geothermal system.
Under the school’s lawn are more than 60 wells that are 400 to 500 feet deep.
“So that’s taking water from the earth through a closed-loop and then it’s distributed throughout the building and then we either gain heating or cooling from that loop through a heat pump,” Gorham Facilities and Transportation director Norm Justice.
Justice said geothermal is 30 percent cheaper than heating with a conventional natural gas system, which saves the school district tens of thousands of dollars each year. He said there are added benefits to geothermal as well.
“You’ve probably done a hundred stories on schools with air quality issues. It usually results because of high humidity in the summer months. You dehumidify a building when you’re running air conditioning that’s a huge air-quality benefit too for schools,” Justice said.
Geothermal has been available in Maine since the 1970s, mostly installed in large, commercial buildings and public facilities.
However, more and more homeowners are opting for geothermal as well.