Save green by going green

By on April 27, 2012

Community center goes through first winter with geothermal system
by Keith Beebe
ELBURN—J&R Herra, Inc. last November completed the installation of a geothermal system in the Elburn and Countryside Community Center last November, and the center is already seeing the benefits.

A geothermal heating and air conditioning system sounds pretty cool, but just what is it, anyway?

“A geothermal system is basically a ground-source heat pump. What it does is use the Earth’s common temperature to heat and cool (a particular facility),” said Brian Herra, owner of J & R Herra, Inc. In addition to geothermal, the company specializes in plumbing, HVAC and electrical work.

Herra and Co. had their work cut out for them, as the boiler in the community center dated back to 1928, when Calvin Coolidge was president, prohibition was in full effect and no one had ever heard of a “great depression.”

J & R Herra was able to convert the prehistoric boiler to an 8-ton geothermal system by dividing the community center into three mechanical rooms and installing 22 pieces of equipment—from air handlers to compressor units—and adding ductwork to every room in the building.

“The boiler system ran off of water, and we converted it to an air system. Every room had ductwork and a return, so we could add air conditioning, as well. The (community center) never had central air conditioning,” Herra said. “The building now has a duct system in each room to convert over to heating and cooling.”

J & R Herra had to install 60 wells, each measuring 200 feet deep, in the yard south of the building. Those lines were then fused together and run into the building.

Bill Brauer, who is on the community center’s Board of Directors, said he researched the system over the last couple of winters.

“It was time to either get a new boiler in (the community center) or take a look at the other units available,” he said. “We were told about the geothermal program and how there were some grants out there to be had for those who ‘go green.’ We did the research on it, found out the installation of it was probably a little more than a traditional boiler unit would have been. The good thing is that there is no longer any gas in the building at all. It’s now an all-electric system.”

The project was certainly worth the money and time for the community center, as it has reduced its yearly heating and air conditioning bill from the $30,000 to 40,000 range to a modest bill of $5,000 to $6,000.

“Now they have heating and air conditioning, and the reduction in their bill has been tremendous,” Herra said.