Eagle County to investigate heat pump tech for the county’s administration building | VailDaily.com

Eagle County to investigate heat pump tech for the county’s administration building

Heat pumps are far less expensive that conventional gas boilers

Eagle County officials are investigating converting heating in the county administration building in Eagle from gas-fired boilers to geothermal heat pumps.
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Eagle County’s drive toward environmental sustainability could go underground in the next couple of years.

Specifically, county officials are investigating the prospect of using geothermal heat pump technology to warm county buildings. In a recent update to the Eagle County Commissioners, facilities director Jesse Meryhew said the county in 2023 will look for project partners, with work possible in 2024 depending on planning. Grant funding for geothermal projects will also be available in 2024.

Meryhew told the commissioners that heat pumps pipe fluid, possibly water, into holes between 475 and 675 feet deep. The fluid is warmed as it travels into the earth, creating heat for buildings.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, heat pumps can also be used for air conditioning and water heating. According to the EPA’s website:

“If the ground temperature is warmer than the ambient air temperature, the heat pump can move heat from the ground to the building. The heat pump can also operate in reverse, moving heat from the ambient air in a building into the ground.”

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Those pumps are driven by electricity. But, Meryhew, said, the systems are “extremely efficient.” Heat pumps could allow the county to either get rid of current gas-fired boilers or keep them as backups.

Meryhew said heat pump systems have projected lifespans of between 80 and 100 years. There’s no data on lifespans longer than that.

Heat pumps save water, and are more simple devices than gas boilers. Noting that a big gas boiler can cost $500,000, Meryhew said heat pump replacements cost “significantly” less.

Eagle County Manager Jeff Schroll was Gypsum’s Town Manager for many years. He told the commissioners that Gypsum in 2010 and 2011 investigated the possibility of leasing land to a company interested in a different kind of geothermal energy. That type would tap into superheated water far underground and pipe that heated water to community facilities.

That idea never took off. Gypsum Public Works director Jeff Shreeve recalled the firm that approached the town at some point gave up the effort with no notice.

“They were looking at doing some (test) drilling at the very north end of our (equipment) yard,” Shreeve said, adding that he’d cleaned out that part of the yard in anticipation of drilling.

But heating the county building could happen sooner than later.

“A year is way too long,” Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said, adding she’d be interested in the county self-funding a project.

Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry noted that the Eagle Valley Library District might be interested in buying into a project to heat its Eagle library, which is across the street from the county administration building.

Meryhew noted that if the library participates in a project, it would be relatively easy to include the Golden Eagle Senior Center, too.

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