One of our proudest achievements at St. Mark’s was the installation of a geothermal heating system that replaced three oil-burning furnaces, ending our winter pollution of the environment. Additional benefits are that it saves us on heating costs and provides us with air conditioning in the summer, since the geothermal heating process can be reversed. After hiring a consulting engineering firm to assess the heat loss from our buildings, eight wells were drilled, each about 500 feet deep.
Drilling was begun in March 2007 – five wells under the parking lot on the west side of the church, and three more outside the chapel on the east side. The construction crew then fed loops of polyethylene pipe into the wells, to carry fluid – a mixture of water and nontoxic antifreeze – down into the well and back up again. While underground the fluid absorbs heat from the relatively constant temperature of the earth below the frost line, and this heat is extracted when the fluid is circulated through heat pumps inside the building. After the wells were capped and sealed the tubing was fed into the church basement furnace rooms below ground, so when the job was completed nothing was visible outside.
Sunday, March 25, 2007, was Launch Day at the church. Dr. Andreas Athienitis, a solar engineer from Concordia University, spoke to us about alternative energy sources. He said we were using a form of solar energy (since the earth energy we were tapping into came originally from the sun). At the end of the service the congregation went out into the muddy parking lot, where then rector Karen Egan blessed the wells (see below).