A Solution For Heating at TESC
By Pat Rasmussen
Last summer The Evergreen State College said they wanted to replace natural gas heating with a carbon neutral, sustainable heating solution. Asked for my opinion, I then called the US Energy Office and queried them about what such a solution might be. They said air source VRF heat pumps would be a good solution in our mild climate and that a number of schools are using it now. They also said that a number of schools in the region are using ground source geothermal heat pumps and that would also be a good retrofit for Evergreen.
They put me in touch with an engineer who has been designing air source VRF heat pump retrofits and VRF for new buildings. I pointed him to the Evergreen 2008 Master Plan where the energy needs for the campus are outlined and asked him to see if it would work to design a system that could meet Evergreen's needs. He said that VRF would be a good retrofit for Evergreen - it could heat and cool their buildings and heat their water. He created an information packet to describe how this works. The cost of the system would be $8 to 9 million, less than the $10 to 15 million estimated cost for a biomass gasification system.
Air source VRF heat pumps were developed first in the US in 1970, then bought by the Japanese and developed there. At this point 90% of new buildings in Japan are being heated/cooled by VRF in Japan and 80% in Europe. About 10 years ago the technology came back here and has been growing steadily. In the past 5-7 years the technology has advanced rapidly.
The air outside is a huge heat sink. The air source heat pumps use heat in the air, condense it and increase it to heat the inside of buildings when heat is needed and cool them when it's too hot inside. They also heat the water needed in buildings. The heat pumps run on electricity but the energy use is much less than other systems, leading to large energy savings, and it can come from solar or wind. Nothing is burned.
Evergreen can have the heat they want for their buildings, get off fossil fuels, move further toward carbon neutrality and join the other schools in our region that are choosing this green alternative.
Following is a partial list of schools using air source VRF heat pumps: