Chattanooga Fire Stations Go Underground Green

by Mariah Grimes

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop)- Chattanooga Fire Stations 9 and 11 are now responsible for more than just saving lives! They are now saving large amounts of energy by making the switch to geothermal energy.

Geothermal heat pumps are heating and cooling systems that use the earth’s relatively constant temperature to provide heating, cooling and water heating for homes and commercial buildings. By using the earth’s natural underground temperatures, not nearly as much energy is required to cool and heat homes and businesses.

Because water is used to transfer heat instead of air, geothermal heat pumps are four times more efficient than conventional AC systems, can cut energy costs in half, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

On Tuesday, February 26, the Chattanooga City Council voted that Fire Stations 9 and 11 will make the switch to geothermal energy. Many businesses and homes are turning to geothermal because of the longterm payoff. It takes approximately 4 years for the switch to geothermal energy to pay for itself, which is initiative enough for local schools such as Red Bank Middle School and Brainerd High School to make the change.

Fire Station 9 and 11 plan to make switch to geothermal energy.

Fire Station 9 and 11 plan to make switch to geothermal energy.

Fire Chief Randall Parker said, “There is on average 30-40% reduction in operational costs related to standard heating and cooling.” The amount of money saved is crucial to large businesses, schools, and green-promoting groups.

Greenspaces is a $2 million green building initiative that works with commercial and residential builders to encourage and educate them to make construction less wasteful and more environmentally responsible. To reflect their initiative’s mission, Greenspaces uses geothermal energy for heating and cooling in its building.

Greenspaces hopes more Chattanoogan families and businesses make the geothermal change.

Greenspaces hopes more Chattanoogan families and businesses make the geothermal change.

Anj McClain, director of Greenspaces, was enthusiastic about the switch to geothermal energy for the fire stations because of the progress shown in their own building. “For example, if the underground water wells are approximately 60 degrees in the winter and it’s 30 degrees outside, we only have to use a minimal amount of energy to heat our building since we use the underground heat instead of heat from the air. It just makes more sense. To get this building at 70 degrees, we don’t have to start with 30-degree air, we get heat from the already warm earth. It’s much more efficient than standard heating and cooling systems,” said McClain.

Fire Chief Randall Parker¬†said,”We want to use it [geothermal energy] for several reasons: it reduces our operating costs, it reduces damage related to weather from hail stones because there are no outside coils to be damaged, and it reduces the dependence on fossil fuels.”

Greenspaces’ McClain said, “I think this is only the beginning of a tremendous environmental change for America and I’m glad Chattanooga is on board.”

This will be a great change for the fire stations since they are taxpayer-funded. Controlling costs is not only a good thing for the citizens, but is environmentally responsible because it preserves fossil fuels’ natural resources.

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