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Church of the Redeemer to celebrate new geothermal HVAC system

Holding 'thanksgiving' ceremony on Nov. 18

By Larry Perl, lperl@tribune.com

12:24 PM EST, November 14, 2012

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And God said, "Let there be heat."

Six months after an Earth Day ceremony to start Church of the Redeemer's installation of its new geothermal heating and air-conditioning system, the work is done and the system is up and running.

Now, the church is set to hold a "thanksgiving" ceremony on Nov. 18 to celebrate the conclusion of the project.

Redeemer, in Homeland, is one of two Episcopal churches that are going geothermal. Also up and running is the geothermal system at Cathedral of the Incarnation above Charles Village, seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. That project cost $1 million, in a building newer than Redeemer.

The geothermal system uses the earth's ability to heat and cool — not unlike solar energy, but under the earth.

In April, the Rev. Paul Tunkle, rector of Redeemer, praised the church's decision to install the high-efficiency, underground energy system as "a bold theological step to protect this fragile earth."

The HVAC system — five years in the planning — is part of a $4.6 million "Generations" capital campaign that includes replacement of windows with energy-efficient windows as well as renovation of the church organ.

The project required Redeemer's staff to move to temporary trailers, close the chapel and hold all services in the main church until the project was completed.

Plans called for a well to be dug 300 to 400 feet deep, so geothermal tubing could be dropped in.

The geothermal system is for the administrative office building and day school. The remainder of the campus, including the main church, a parish hall and the chapel, has been upgraded from fuel oil to natural gas.

Ellen Chatard, program director for the church, said she could already feel a difference.

"It's much more temperate than it was before," Chatard said as she stood in the parish hall on Sunday, Nov. 11, before the 10 a.m. service.

The church raised about $3.4 million on its own, and borrowed the rest from its endowment. The church plans a fundraising campaign to rebuild the endowment, said Chatard, whose husband, Albert, was construction manager for contractor March Westin Co., based in Charles Village.

Other area geothermal projects include Friends School's middle-school building, which was built in 2005 with a geothermal HVAC system.

Next Sunday's celebration at the Church of the Redeemer, located at 5603 North Charles St., will start at 10 a.m.