Geothermal wells to heat and cool new residence hall at St. Lawrence University in Canton, save lots of energy
Friday, August 30, 2013 - 9:37 am

CANTON — Workers building St. Lawrence University’s new residence hall have begun drilling geothermal wells that will provide heating and cooling to the building when it is completed.

The project will include drilling 24 geothermal wells adjacent to the building, each about 450 feet deep. Piping connecting the underground wells to the building will transfer heat in the winter and cooling in the summer from fluid pumped through the system.

This method of heating and cooling is clean and energy-efficient, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The drilling process will continue into the first few weeks of September, and you will see the well-drilling rigs on the lower portion of the quad during that time,” said St. Lawrence Chief Facilities Officer Daniel Seaman. Drilling will occur only during daytime hours.

“Once the well field is finished and after all of the piping is in place, the wells and piping will be covered with five feet of topsoil and seeded for grass,” Seaman said. “You will never know the geothermal well field is under the quad.”

The soil temperature surrounding the geothermal wells remains constant throughout the year. During the winter months, underground pipes, called a ground loop, circulate fluid that has absorbed this heat from underground and returns it to an indoor heat pump. The pump extracts the heat then distributes it throughout the building as warm air.

During the summer months, the fluid is pumped back into the wells, which absorb the heat, leaving behind cool water to be circulated through the system as air conditioning. The ground serves as a heat source in the winter and a heat sink in the summer.

Geothermal heat pumps are the most energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective systems for temperature control, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It is estimated using geothermal energy for the new residence hall will reduce the university’s carbon footprint by 65 tons of carbon.

The benefits of using geothermal heating and cooling include:

• Decreased use of fossil fuels

• Decreased levels of carbon emissions

• Reduced heating and cooling costs

• Sustainable source of heating and cooling

Construction of the residence hall, which is being built on the former road and parking lot between the Noble Center and the quad, began in April. It will be home to as many as 155 students when it opens in fall 2014.

For more information on the new residence hall, including fast facts and a live webcam of the construction, visit