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The Underground Solution to Heating and Cooling

 

By Jack Fichter

LINWOOD — J.B. Singh believes in using the temperature of the earth below ground to heat and cool buildings, in part because he is worried about global warming.
Singh of J and P Architects and Engineers in Linwood has been designing geothermal heating and cooling systems since its inception.
“What causes the temperatures to rise, that is not being controlled,” he said.
Singh said more cars are being manufactured; there is more pollution, more power plants running in countries like China where there is massive manufacturing and no control.
“The world is not going to be livable the way that things are right now,” said Singh.
He said he visited in his native India three times last year where the effects of global warming are more apparent in the form of droughts.
“God’s system is self regulating if we don’t monkey around with it,” said Singh.
He said we cannot pollute and overheat the planet and expect God to fix it.
Singh said while double thickness glass, more insulation, skylights, more efficient light fixtures and energy efficient heating and cooling is being used these days, “it is not enough to carry humanity further.”
He has engineered geothermal systems for Salem Community College, Tuckerton Seaport in Tuckerton, Pennsville School District, Camden County College, Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing, a building at JFK Airport in New York and numerous public schools including the Somers Point School.
Singh’s company had also done many feasibility studies for clients. He said the first question asked is how soon will the geothermal system pay for itself through energy savings.
The payback, or return on investment, is often just two to three years, he said.
Singh said he is intrigued by Cape May’s desire for a geothermal heating and cooling system for its new convention hall.
He said the geology underlying Cape May is simply sand and gravel, which makes drilling more expensive. While the construction of a closed loop system might be slighter higher than normal, it would still be cost effective, said Singh.
Cape May is applying for a $300,000 state Department of Environmental Protection grant to install geothermal heating and cooling in the new Convention. The grant is for “Local Government Greenhouse Gas Reduction.”
The advantage of a Ground Source Heat Pump System (GSHP) is that ground temperatures are almost always closer to room temperature than the outdoor temperature. The ground temperature is about 55 degrees here, he said.
A closed loop system consists of an array of six-inch boreholes 400 to 500 feet deep with a “U” 1.4-inch tube of polyethylene pipe inserted all the way to the bottom and the borehole filled to the top with heat conductive grout, said Singh.
Each borehole can cover 1.5 to 1.7 tons of heating and cooling.
Water is circulated through the “U” tubes, either absorbing heat from the earth in the winter or discharging it in the summer. He said the closed loop system is the most reliable of the geothermal systems with the most predictable constructions costs and the fewest operating and maintenance problems.
The tubes would not be directly under a building but to one side.
Geothermal uses substantially less electricity to heat and cool a building and there is no cooling tower, which can breed bacteria. The GSHP equipment uses a small amount of space with the absence of unsightly equipment on top or outside the building out in the elements, said Singh.
He was involved in many of the earliest geothermal installations in the region including the 80,000 square foot Paragon Office Center in Allentown, Pa. in 1992.
Singh, who is 75 years old, said he receives a great deal of happiness seeing geothermal chosen for a building.
He said he is less focused on making money at this stage of life.

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