Geothermal system used to heat and cool Mesa State dorm

Mike Moran
Business Times

A combination dormitory and retail building on the Mesa State College campus in Grand Junction taps into a geoexchange unit that takes advantage of constant underground temperatures to make heating and cooling units more efficient. Haining Refrigeration in Grand Junction installed the heating and cooling units in the building along North Avenue as well as elsewhere on the Mesa State campus. (Business Times photo by Mike Moran)

When Haining Refrigeration installed units to heat and cool the mixed use dormitory building at Mesa State College, the company tapped into a geoexchange system that lies beneath a large open space northeast of the dorms on the Grand Junction campus.

“Mesa State is going to have a tremendous edge (over other campuses),” said Jim Hopkins, owner of Haining Refrigeration in Grand Junction. “It’s proven technology.”

Hopkins’ company has installed more than 250 heating and air conditioning units on campus. “The most impact Haining is having, and the most substantial, is the geothermal work,” Hopkins said.

Some people in the heating business sometimes interchange the terms “geothermal” and “geoexhange.” Others restrict the use of “geothermal” to systems that strictly provide heat.

Water that’s pumped from the geoexchange field at the college is either heated or cooled, depending on whether the units are geared to heat or cool the building, said Kent Marsh, director of facility services at Mesa State College.

Because the temperature underground is warmer than the air temperature during the winter, the water pump uses heat from an underground energy “loop” to heat water and in turn heat the dorm building.

When cooling a space, the system extracts warm air from the rooms and sends it underground to be cooled. The warm air can also be used for the hot water heater.

The dorm, which sits along the north side of North Avenue near 10th Street, also benefits from the physics of heated air. When retail shops on the ground floor are heated, some of that air rises to the dorm rooms above the shops.

Over time, the college can potentially sell energy from the geoexchange system to utilities.

Haining uses geothermal pumps that are more efficient than traditional pumps. They produce five units of energy for every one unit of energy consumed, according to the Haining website.

When cooling, the units deliver dehumidified air. When heating, the units deliver heat without the normal blasts that some systems emit. The pumps are also quieter, according to Haining.

The next project for Haining Refrigeration is the installation of 87 more heating and cooling units in Mesa State dormitories under construction on Bunting Avenue.