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Ground Source Heat Pump 

A group of workers turn off critical emergency equipment and ignore safety warnings.  Fire ignites followed by an explosion and a red hot nuclear reactor core threatens to melt the earth.  Radioactive dust soars and spreads across Russia and Europe .  Fifty thousand people grab three days worth of clothes, food, and money, board buses and never return to their homes in what will become the “Alienation Zone.”   This was Chernobyl twenty-five years ago.

In a New York TImes editorial dated April 25, 2011, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor explosion, Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon wrote:  “I was reminded of a Ukrainian proverb: ‘There is no such thing as someone else’s sorrow.’ The same is true of nuclear disasters. There is no such thing as some other country’s catastrophe.”   Nuclear fallout knows no borders.  But what are the alternatives?

I thought about this question as the excavator arrived on the morning of April 25th to dig the trenches for our ground source heat pump (GSHP) system.  The GSHP (often incorrectly called geothermal)  taps into the stored energy of the earth.  In our closed loop system:

water or antifreeze solution is circulated through plastic pipes buried beneath the earth's surface. During the winter, the fluid collects heat from the earth and carries it through the system and into the building. During the summer, the system reverses itself to cool the building by pulling heat from the building, carrying it through the system and placing it in the ground… (the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma)

Two 290+ foot wells were dug in the first phase of installation.   There was just enough space in our side yard between the living room window and the bushes for a very large truck to set up its portable drilling rig and burrow its way down to the unknown.  I missed their arrival, but when I got home I found a red stream of waste-water winding its way into the backyard.  Hills of pliable clay, thick enough to make a pot, were mixed into the piles of dirt.  It was hard not to stay and play.  At one point the house shook, water sprayed skyward, and I wondered if this was a good idea. However, when I read that one GSHP unit can reduce CO2 emissions of one person by a minimum of 20% I felt better.  And, if our 5KW solar system covers our electrical needs, we will not need any nuclear power to keep us warm.


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