Geothermal – “Hurricane-Proof” Heating & Cooling Systems

November 2012

Dear Friends,

Last week’s Hurricane Sandy caused many damages to people and their properties in the affected coastal areas. One less known fact is that it also caused some oil or propane tanks to pop up and spilled the contents into the water. This was reported in a recent New York Times article. For the catastrophic losses of properties and even lives, a number of damaged oil tanks and the spilling of their contents may not seem significant enough to get people’s attention. However, since the oil tanks, associated with residential or commercial buildings, are part of the heating systems of those buildings, this problem prompted people to think about “hurricane-proof” heating systems. Geothermal system is a great candidate for this. Deeply buried in the ground without the conventional cooling towers or condensing units exposed outside, a geothermal system would allow its owner to worry about one less thing at the aftermath of a disaster like Sandy, for it eliminates the oil tank, buried or above ground. That is not to mention during normal times it gives significant energy cost savings, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In fact, this “oil tank pop-up and spill” problem caused by severe weather conditions is not limited to the coastal areas. Just in the summer of last year (2011), Tropical Storm Irene ravaged a picturesque inland village in Schoharie, NY, a town at 40 miles to the west of Albany, NY. Citing an article in the NYT of January 2012 that reported this problem: “Then it (the village) fell victim to  Tropical Storm Irene last summer, and the village’s most picturesque feature — the placid 80-yard-wide Schoharie Creek — swelled to a mile-wide torrent in a matter of hours. Floodwaters rose as high as eight feet on Main Street, swamping all the businesses. Of 350 homes, 270 were flooded. Fuel-oil storage tanks the size of brownstones toppled like dominoes, spilling their contents into roaring waters.”

My friend, next time when you are considering heating and cooling systems for your own building, or for your client, and if you find yourself struggling between your sustainability conscientiousness and the higher upfront cost of a geothermal system, please also take the above stories into consideration. That may help you make the good decision more easily.


Very Truly Yours,

George Hu, PE, LEED AP, President
AWE | Air Water Energy Engineers, Inc.

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