Out with the Old, In with the New


One hundred years ago, on a snowy, bone-chilling Chicago day like today, the Glessner family would have been huddled by the fireplace in their parlor, since the house’s original heating set-up did not allow winter temperatures to get much higher than 60°F. Now, in 2016, the parlor is located in the first zone of the Glessner House to be heated geothermally, along with the dining room, kitchen, and other first floor rooms west of the parlor.


Around the turn of the new year there was a buzz of activity in the bowels of the museum, as drillers, HVAC technicians, and electricians prepared for the startup of Phase I of the new geothermal system. Ground source gurus pored over blueprints. The building's first heat exchanger and shiny new duct work attached to it were installed in what had been the Glessners’ tool closet and other "behind the scenes" places in the cellar. The drill crew conducted a pressure test of the underground system. The outdoor piping was joined to the indoor pipes via the holes cored into the wall between the courtyard and the basement. The lifeblood of the heat-transporting mechanism, an antifreeze solution of 20% propylene glycol, was introduced into the pipes where it will pick up or deliver heat between the building and the 500 foot boreholes outside.


Finally, all that was left to do was configure the controls, iron out kinks in the hardware, spot check indoor pipes for leaks, and press the ON button!

When the new system is up and running, visitors to the museum – coming to hear a wintertime piano concert in the parlor, for example – will be beneficiaries of the heat pumped up noiselessly from the ground, no furnace or fireplace required. Most of them will be unaware of the hidden labyrinth of pipes and ducts supplying that heat.

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