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Home will tap ground heat

Brief by Allen Best

Energy – December 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Although woefully behind what it should be, alternative energy is gaining some currency in Summit County. First, ground-source heat pumps were installed in a combination Conoco gas station and Wendy’s restaurant in Frisco.

Now, the first residential home in Summit County, a house in Breckenridge, is using the same technology. This technology is based on the idea that in Colorado, the ground stays at about 48 to 52 degrees. That heat can be tapped during winter, and through high-tech exchangers, used to heat homes or even water.

Conversely, that same differential can be used to cool houses in summer.

The geothermal technology at the Breckenridge house is expected to reduce energy costs by 50 to 60% a year, reports the Summit Daily News. Given the current cost of energy, the upfront capital costs of the system should be repaid in eight or nine years — or less, if the cost of natural gas and other fossil fuels continue to rise. Tax credits can reduce the costs even more.

Colorado has 250 such geothermal heating systems, including at high-end homes in Aspen and Beaver Creek.

Encouraging use of such alternative-energy technologies in Pitkin County, where Aspen is located, is a program called REMP, or Renewable Energy Mitigation Program. That program takes aim at homes larger than 5,000 square feet or with energy-sapping features such as outdoor swimming pools or heated driveways. Owners can either install solar panels or other such devices, or pay in-lieu fees that are then used for energy-saving technologies elsewhere, such as in the community recreation center.

Using the Aspen program as a model, a group in Summit County is working on a proposal for consideration by elected officials in several towns.