Westchester Country Club goes geothermal

The club renovates its heating and cooling system

Joseph Alonzi, CGCS
Westchester Country Club, Rye, N.Y.
Published date: April 2010

Westchester case study 1 - clubhouse

Since its inception in the early 1920s, Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., has conducted business in a conventional manner. In 2001, when the task of renovating its heating and cooling system for its 340-room facility commenced, the club decided to take an unconventional approach.

Making history

Just east of the historic mansion, a series of 180 underground wells (at least 300 feet deep) were installed. These wells were part of a $7 million HVAC project, the largest geothermal project in the state at that time, realizing annual energy savings to the club in excess of $200,000.

The geothermal system is the single most significant energy reduction project in the club’s history. The heating and air conditioning system used water source heat pumps, which is the most efficient system in today’s market.

The benefits of geothermal systems

Geothermal systems utilize the earth’s natural heat for cooling, heating, and energy generation. The earth provides heat in the winter and acts as a heat sink during the summer. System designs may use vertical or horizontal subsurface systems to provide for the heat exchange.

These systems generally require less maintenance and can last for more than 20 years. This energy system is the most environmentally friendly and economic system to maintain. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), GHPs use 25%-50% less electricity than conventional heating or cooling systems.

The DOE states: "This translates into a GHP using one unit of electricity to move three units of heat from the earth. According to the EPA, geothermal heat pumps can reduce energy consumption and corresponding emissions by up to 44% compared to air-source heat pumps, and up to 72% compared to electric resistance heating with standard air-conditioning equipment. GHPs also improve humidity control by maintaining about 50% relative indoor humidity, making GHPs very effective in humid areas.”

Geothermal power is cost effective and sustainable. Advances have dramatically expanded the range and size of viable resources, especially for applications such as home heating, opening a potential for widespread exploitation.

Geothermal wells release greenhouse gases trapped deep within the earth, but these emissions are much lower per energy unit than those of fossil fuels. As a result, geothermal power has the potential to help alleviate the affects of global warming if used instead of fossil fuels.

Geothermal technology

Westchester case study 2 - diagram

The premise behind the technology combines old and new thinking. Water is run through underground pipes to a stable ground temperature, which acts as the heating and cooling engine.

“There is a traditional aspect to the system– individual heat pumps in each room– and the geothermal field, which is the newer technology,” said Bob James, director, Westchester Country Club.

The system functions through a 1¼-inch plastic plumbing pipe in each well that is circulated to a horizontal manifold pipe 10 feet below the ground. This pipe carries the water to and from the building. Piping in the building circulates the water through a heat transfer coil on each heat pump. Heat pump compressors expel heat from the building in the summer and return heat from the field in the winter. View an example of how geothermal technology works.

Our geothermal system was more expensive than conventionally replacing the building’s boilers and chillers. The club estimated that it would cost around $400,000 more to install the geothermal field over a conventional system. The extra cost was paid back in about 30 months from fuel oil savings. The overall cost of the project was also offset by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, providing $250,000 toward the cost of installation.

“There are savings in both fuel consumption and electric consumption. We reduced our annual fuel oil consumption from over 250,000 gallons a year to just under 35,000 in 2009,” said James. “We still have a small oil-fired boiler in order to produce steam for cooking and cleaning in our kitchen, but we estimate the overall savings to be now more than $250,000 a year.”

The club’s contractor, R.J. Dooley & Associates, has been installing geothermal systems since the early 1980s. They have completed more than 40 geothermal projects since 2001.

“The projections for the club’s oil consumption were better than expected and reductions of over 200,000 gallons a year translates into big savings and a reduction in the club’s carbon emissions,” said Robert Dooley, owner of Dooley and Associates. “With the geothermal system, you are extracting free heat out of the ground, and it is about 40 percent more efficient to operate than the most efficient gas system.”

Learn more about Westchester Country Club.