Bronxville Village Hall. Photo courtesy Bronxville Green Committee
By the Bronxville Green Committee
April 6. 2022: Beneath the lawn of Bronxville’s Village Hall lie twenty wells, each drilled to a depth of 400 feet and filled with flexible piping that circulates water to twenty heat pumps located in the basement. This geothermal system, also known as a ground-source heat pump system, provides most of the heating and cooling for the 20,500 square foot Village Hall.
Installed in 2005, this system has been saving the Village money and has drastically reduced its reliance on heating oil. Geothermal systems are among the most efficient heating and cooling technologies available, and they also work in single-family homes and apartment buildings—for both new construction and retrofits.
A few feet below the surface, the earth maintains a constant temperature. In our region, that temperature ranges from 50-60 degrees F. In the winter, heat pumps take heat from underground and pump it to the surface; in the summer they pump heat from the air into the ground. Run on electricity, they work very much like a refrigerator coil and motor, which essentially extracts heat from an enclosed box, but unlike a refrigerator, they can send heat in both directions.
Geothermal systems are good for our health, our pocketbooks, and the environment.
Geothermal systems offer many benefits:
-Provide heating and cooling in one system. No more window air conditioners.
-No outside equipment—it’s all underground and inside.
-Comfort: Steady temperatures and low humidity. No drafty corners or pockets of humid air.
-Quiet. No clanging steam pipes and loud motors.
-Healthy and Safe: Release few to no pollutants associated with the combustion of fossil fuel.
Village Hall does rely on fuel oil backup during the coldest winter months. In 2018 the system burned 4000 gallons. That’s far less than a building of its size running completely on fuel oil would require. By all accounts, geothermal systems have also become more efficient in recent years; heat pumps now operate well in very cold climates, which makes them suited to buildings in the Northeast. According to NYSERDA, a new geothermal system can run without any fossil fuel.
New York State has six million buildings, which produce 32% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions (1). To drastically reduce our emissions by 2030, which scientists tell us will be necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change, here in Westchester we need to electrify 80,000 buildings each year, a tall order (2). Ground-source heat pumps are expected to play a big role in that transformation.
As we electrify our homes and businesses, we’re also greening the grid. Once the electricity running a geothermal system is generated entirely by solar or wind, it produces zero emissions.
You can determine if your home is right for a geothermal heat pump system by getting an energy audit, which often starts by identifying where added insulation or plugged holes will better seal the envelope of your home. Bedford2030, a nonprofit that assists residents transition to clean energy, is now offering free home energy consultations, in person or via Zoom; learn more here.
Finances are also a consideration; ground-source heat pumps cost more than air-source heat pumps, which don’t require expensive drilling, and both involve significant upfront costs that can be recouped over time in lower energy bills. A contractor can help identify rebates, which can be substantial.
Perhaps you’re ready to consider a geothermal heating and cooling system for your home, apartment building, or business. Learn more here and here. And the next time you’re in Village Hall, give a thought to the comfort provided by its geothermal heating and cooling system.
The Bronxville Green Committee is a volunteer organization that is part of the Village of Bronxville. We work to propose and implement environmentally sustainable programs in our community. Visit our website to learn more and join our efforts.
“The New York State Climate Action Council Draft Scoping Plan,” December 2021.
Nina Orville, Executive Director, Sustainable Westchester Annual Meeting, February 16, 2022
The Bronxville Green Committee is a volunteer organization under Village government. We work with the Trustees and Village staff on programs that promote clean energy initiatives and sustainable ways of living. Our programs include The Bronxville Giving Garden, a community garden whose produce is donated to local groups; Take Back Day, when we collect items to be recycled; and Pollinator Pathways, which encourages adding native plants to our gardens. We believe everyone can make a difference by adopting simple, sustainable practices in daily life so we can work together to protect what we love -- our families, our homes and our town.