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Avon’s new way to heat hot tubs and showers

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Daily file photoAvon is debating whether to heat water at the rec center or melt snow on streets with heat produced at its wastewater treatment plant.
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AVON, Colorado ” Dumping more than 600 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air a year, the Avon Recreation Center is the biggest energy glutton in town.

That could change with some crafty engineering. Instead of using high polluting, gas-fired boilers to heat the rec center pool, hot tubs and showers, the town wants capture the excess heat created by the nearby wastewater treatment plant and transfer that heat to a chemical mixture that would be pumped throughout the town.

This would nearly eliminate the need to burn fossil fuels and would reduce the rec center’s carbon emissions by 568 tons a year. As of now, the rec center uses about 50 percent more energy than your average rec center, such as the one in Glenwood Springs.



But at the same time, the town could be using this excess heat to melt snow and ice on the future Main Street and downtown area in west Avon. While heating streets this way produces far fewer carbon emissions than traditional snowmelt systems using gas boilers, heating streets in any fashion could add more pollution back to the town’s carbon footprint.

So, there’s a lot of ways to look at the environmental pros and cons of this heat recovery system. It would be the first in the United States to be used for snowmelt, said Scott Vandenburgh, a consultant with CDM Inc., which performed a feasibility analysis on the heat recovery project.

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What seems to be the ultimate environmentally friendly option would be to use captured heat from the wastewater treatment plant to heat the rec center and other town buildings, and not even bother with the snowmelt.

This would drastically reduce carbon emissions on already existing buildings instead of creating something new that requires energy.

But the town seems convinced that some amount of snowmelt in downtown Avon will be necessary for safety, especially considering the emphasis being placed on making Main Street “pedestrian friendly.” With so much money being spent on rejuvenating this area, it would be a shame to have snowplows rumbling through the area at all times, town leaders have said.



“The functionality and attractiveness of the area is greatly inhibited if we don’t snowmelt,” mayor Ron Wolfe said at Tuesday’s town council meeting.

Say for instance the town were to install a traditional snowmelt system, heated entirely by gas-fired boilers. This would dump about 288 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year, according to the feasibility study.

The proposed heat-pump system, in comparison, is about 47 percent cleaner. It would put only 153 tons of carbon into the air a year, making it a much more environmentally-friendly alternative, according to the study.

There’s also the “do nothing” approach, meaning no heat recovery system and no snow melt. While manual snow removal in itself has a minimal carbon footprint compared to a snowmelt system, the town wouldn’t be able to drastically lower the emissions from the rec center without the heat recovery system.

The proposed heat recovery system would be a “hybrid system,” including one “heat pump,” which is what circulates the heated chemical mixture. It would be boosted by a solar-thermal system, which heats water with the sun.

The proposed snowmelt system also would have a gas-fired boiler as sort of a backup, a way to keep the system running smoothly during the peak of snow season.

The town would have the option of installing a snowmelt system run exclusively by two heat pumps without a solar thermal system, and without a gas fired boiler.

The carbon emissions for this method? Nearly zero. If you’re looking just at pollution, there would only be 37 tons of CO2 emitted a year from the rec center, and none from the snowmelt.

The downside is that it would be difficult to control and may not perform well during the snowiest, coldest hours, Vandenburgh said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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