There are over 40 geothermal installations in Philly. Here are a few …
Friends Center, Center City
The Friends Center began working on geothermal in 2004. Set in a historic district, they needed approval for the project, and received it based on preserving the visual historic character of the site.
Drilling began in February 2008 and went to 1550 feet below the surface. Because of the small lot size, they drilled 6 vertical wells in an open loop system. Groundwater exchanges heat with water from the building, with the two loops isolated from each other. Heat pumps were added and some radiators were replaced with fan coil units. Total system cost: $2.3 million, more than half covered by grants.
In 2015 Bartram’s Garden along the west bank of the Schuykill River installed a geoexchange system to heat and cool their 1728 house and buildings. They sank 12 wells 300 feet deep under their stable yard.
Ronald McDonald House, West Philly
German Historic Society, Spring Garden
In 2019 the German Historic Society completed a geothermal upgrade of the system heating and cooling their 130-year-old structure.
Their drilling contractor dug down through the soil and a layer of Wissahickon schist, hitting solid granite at 400 feet. At that point further drilling got slower and more expensive so the project is designed with 23 shallow wells to fit that depth. Total cost: $1.2 million.
The closed-loop, vertical pipe system has been running since then with monthly utility costs significantly below previous levels.
Police Tactical Training Facility
This new 30,000 square foot building was designed and built to LEED specifications. Operations began in 2013. Housing the department’s SWAT, canine and bomb disposal units, it also includes training, conference and break rooms. They had no problems with the geothermal portion of the system, but remind us that
heat pumps, running year-round, need more frequent maintenance and wear out faster than heat pumps running only in the winter. Overall, less maintenance is required though, as the systems are simpler and need no cooling towers.
Enterprise Center, West Philly
The Enterprise Center, which renovated a former TV studio in the late 1990s, provides leadership training and connections for minority businesses.
Geothermal systems are in place in more than 1,000 schools in the United States. Keeping students comfortable in the quiet, humidity-controlled environment provided by geothermal is a 4-way win:
- Provides a safer and healthier for students (reduces absenteeism)
- Provides a quieter, healthier working space for teachers (maintains a better learning environment, results in fewer sick days)
- Geothermal systems are cheaper to run (saves money for other uses in tight academic budgets)
- Greatly reduces the carbon footprint (sets a good example for students, provides climate leadership in local communities)
Here are some case studies:
Case Studies OF SCHOOLS
Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Kensington High was completed in 2010. Built to LEED standards, the archtects included a geothermal heating and cooling system. The system required 96 wells drilled 500 feet down in the field next to the school. 76 heat pumps located in each classroom and office allow teachers and staff to set temperatures to their liking. Staff report minimal upkeep and widespread satisfaction with the system.
New building – Operating since 2010
79% reduction from base electrical energy use in building HVAC using geothermal
58% reduction of baseline annual operating costs from geothermal system
29% reduction of 20 year life cycle cost from geothermal system
William L. Buck Elementary School, Valley Stream, NY
Retrofit building – Operating since 2015
Includes 40 geothermal water-sourced heat pumps with separate controls for each room. Uses water from the water utility’s main distribution system to heat and cool the 1950’s era building. The heat exchanger is a food grade, double wall containment unit, ensuring no contact between the school water supply and the geothermal loop.
School saves about $40,000 in heating costs while also providing cooling in the warmer months.
Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, Irving, TX
New building – Operating since 2011
Includes 600kW of solar panels, a 2.4 kW wind turbine and 107 geothermal water source heat pumps installed on the campus, fed from 505 geothermal wells bored approximately 250 ft deep.
Assistant Superintendent Scott Layne reported that the environmental comfort system is well-balanced and provides constant temperature throughout the campus buildings.
Jim Scrivner, Energy Manager for the school district, commented, “When energy use is compared with other schools in the same district, LBJ MS consumes about 60% of average energy consumption.”
Page last updated — June 2021