By Scott Prater
NEW BOSTON AIR FORCE STATION, N.H. — The 23rd Space Operations Squadron expects to save more than $40,000 in energy costs this year.
This past December, 23 SOPS civil engineers refitted a warehouse on base with the latest geothermal heating ventilation and air conditioning system. The technology incorporates heat pumps, distribution subsystems and above all, the Earth’s constant temperature, to create a drastically more efficient heating and cooling system than traditional HVAC systems.
Bryan Henderson, 23 SOPS civil engineer, said though the cost to install the geothermal technology in New Boston Air Force Station buildings is 20 to 30 percent higher than traditional systems, the technology will pay for itself in lower utility expenses during the next three to five years.
“Actually, we’ll save increasingly more every year as the price of heating oil rises,” Henderson said. “Plus, the maintenance costs of our new system will decrease dramatically. It presents a huge savings for the base.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, geothermal systems are the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective space conditioning systems available today.
It’s a simple concept. In New Hampshire, ground beneath the frost line (about 7 feet) maintains a temperature between 55 and 57 degrees year round.
Geothermal technology calls for construction crews to drill wells, sometimes 100 feet down, next to a building. They then lay a system of pipes into the wells in a closed loop.
Fluid is pumped through the system of pipes, where the ground heats it. When it returns to the surface as part of the closed loop, it registers between 55 and 57 degrees. Heat pumps and exchangers then bring that energy into the building as warm air.
“In reality, we are just moving heat,” Henderson said. “The Earth is the engine. It’s doing a majority of the work. People think, ‘it’s only 57 degrees,’ but it requires much less energy to heat something from 57 degrees to a comfortable room temperature than it does to heat winter-cold air to a comfortable room temperature.”
Perhaps more impressively, the system also works to cool buildings during the summer months. Engineers simply reverse the system for those 90-plus degree days.
The 23 SOPS CE warehouse is the third building on station to benefit from the new system. Engineers first installed geothermal technology at the NBAFS fitness facility back in 2009 and again in a smaller building at NBAFS in 2010.
The geothermal systems have become so successful at saving energy that squadron leaders plan to outfit the remaining 10 buildings on base with the technology as replacement needs occur. Henderson believes 23 SOPS may be leading the way for military installations in their energy conservation efforts.
“The installation of ground-source heat pumps was one of many successful strategies implemented by the 23 SOPS energy team,” said Lt. Col. David Hanson, 23 SOPS commander. “In this fiscally-constrained environment, where every dollar can mean success or failure for the warfighter in the field, these initiatives are the right thing to do.”