Archive | September, 2014

A geo-what system?

The new IKEA in Merriam, Kansas, has shoppers and budding interior designers excited, but they aren’t the only ones. Green energy aficionados are happy to see a geothermal HVAC system helping to heat and cool the expansive store. But what is a geothermal HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, and what’s the big deal?

What is a Geothermal HVAC system?

Unlike ordinary heating and cooling systems, geothermal HVAC systems transfer heat to and from the earth using a loop of buried pipes filled with fluid instead of burning fossil fuels to generate heat. Outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons, but underground temperatures don’t change as dramatically thanks to the insulating properties of the earth. Four to six feet below ground, temperatures remain relatively constant.

How does a Geothermal HVAC work?

popular mechanincs geothermal hvac heat exchange

A geothermal cooling and heating system has four main components: a heat exchange pump unit with compressor, a loop of underground pipes, heat-exchange fluid, and air-delivery ductwork.

In the summer, the system passes cool water from the underground pipes across a heat-exchanger before passing it back through the system where it can be re-cooled by the earth. In the winter, the lukewarm water pumped from the underground pipes runs past the heat exchanger and is then compressed, warming it to an even higher temperature, before a fan system distributes the warmth throughout the building.

Why is a Geothermal HVAC a great idea?

  • Most geothermal heat pump systems are very energy efficient. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the system’s fan, compressor and pump. For every unit of energy used to power the system, three to five units of equivalent energy are supplied as heat. The system works just as effectively in warming and cooling and can be engineered to require no additional backup heat source.
  • It’s low-maintenance. A geothermal system may cost more up front when compared to a more traditional HVAC system, but it requires less ongoing maintenance. Underground pipes — the most expensive part of installation — can last for generations, and the heat-exchange equipment typically lasts decades since it is protected indoors.
  • Installation can be flexible. Depending on the site, the underground pipes may be buried vertically, meaning little above-ground surface is needed. If desired, a small backup system can be added for extremely hot or cold days so that the underground pipe system is right-sized for average temperatures.
  • It’ll keep going and going. New guidelines and techniques have eliminated the issue of thermal retention in the ground which means heat can be exchanged with it indefinitely. Plus, modern underground pipe systems don’t consume extra water.

So if you shop at the new IKEA store, take a moment to enjoy the air temperature and appreciate the energy-efficient comfort you’re experiencing. And next time you’re looking for an HVAC upgrade at home, consider a geothermal system of your own.

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Support your team and our air

idle-free school zone

Football season is here, and with it comes tailgating! If you plan to join the crowd at Arrowhead to watch a game, it’s important to remember how your participation can impact air quality. Here are some tips for celebrating in an air-friendly way.

  • Your grill affects more than your burger. A typical charcoal grill is good for burgers, but not so good for our air. Help out by using a charcoal chimney to light the coals instead of lighter fluid. This produces fewer harmful fumes. You could also consider using a propane or natural gas grill. Each creates less air pollution than charcoal.
  • Be car-conscious. We know that you know it’s best to carpool to the game. Be sure to look up the best route before you go for quick entry and exit. Less time spent in the car means fewer emissions and more time for tailgating. Arrowhead has made some changes this year to help traffic flow smoother, which limits idling. Check Arrowhead’s website for more information.
  • Avoid foam food containers (which is often mistakenly called Styrofoam). The lifecycle of polystyrene — used to make foam food containers — has many impacts on air quality, from manufacturing to disposal. It’s bad enough for the environment that some communities have banned the product altogether, and you usually can’t recycle it after it has been used to hold food. Look for alternative packaging when you buy food or utensils — materials made from recycled paper, recycled plastics or biopolymers (plastics made from plants). By purchasing alternative containers, you use your dollars to send a message to manufacturers that it is important to be air- and eco-friendly.

Go Chiefs!

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When the lights go out: how to recycle and dispose properly

bulb-87565_1920By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

Many of us have replaced our standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. But what do you do with the old bulbs when they burn out? Properly disposing or recycling light bulbs can increase your safety, save energy and help the environment.

Fluorescent bulbs

Both fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent (“squiggly”) bulbs are hazardous and require special handling. Both types can be recycled through local household hazardous waste programs and at Batteries Plus. Compact fluorescent lights can also be recycled at Home Depot, Lowe’s or other hardware stores. Always call stores first to make sure they participate in recycling programs.

What if bulbs are broken?

The hazardous component of fluorescent light bulbs is the small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. Keep yourself and sanitation workers safe by following proper cleanup procedures.

Incandescent, halogen and LED bulbs

Unfortunately, there are no options to recycle incandescent, halogen and LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs in the Kansas City metro. Since these types of bulbs do not contain any hazardous materials they can be thrown away in your regular trash. For safety’s sake, place burned out bulbs back in their original packaging or in a plastic bag before throwing them away.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-8326.

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Avoid idling cars on school grounds

idle-free school zone

Car idling is a big concern for air quality, and one place that is notorious for lots of idling engines is your local school. When dropping off or picking up children from school, it’s important to be aware of your idling habits. Turning off your car engine while stopped helps improve the air quality by reducing the amount of ozone-forming emissions and other pollutants.

  • Idling is bad for students with asthma. According to Children’s Mercy Hospital, one in 10 people is affected by asthma, including more than 28,500 children in the Kansas City area. Less idling means fewer vehicle emissions and particles that contribute to air pollution, making the air safer for everyone to breathe. Take a look at this checklist to determine if your school is asthma-friendly.
  • Parent organizations can be drivers of change. PTAs, PTOs or School Advisory Councils can encourage schools to implement Idle Free Zones. MARC provides schools with signs to place along pick-up and drop-off areas and parking lots as a helpful reminder to parents and visitors that your school is committed to preventing increased emissions and protecting air quality. Contact a MARC Air Quality staff member if you would like a presentation about air quality at your next PTA meeting.
  • Watch D.O.G.S. can watch out! Does your school have a Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) or other parent volunteer program? These volunteers can help improve air quality by asking parents to turn off their engines during drop-off and pick-up times. You are also a critical role model, so practice healthy air habits like not idling and speak up for your student’s health!
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Stop carting your cartons to the trash

By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

Milk, juice, broth, soup and wine cartons are now recyclable in the Kansas City area through curbside programs and at recycling centers serviced by Deffenbaugh, Republic Services and Town and Country.

There are two types of cartons: shelf-stable and refrigerated. The shelf-stable cartons contain a thin layer of aluminum which serves as an oxygen and light barrier. Products in this group include juice, soups and broth, wine, and soy and grain milk. Refrigerated cartons are made from paperboard (non-corrugated cardboard) and coated with a thin layer of polyethylene, a type of plastic. These cartons include milk, juice, cream, egg substitutes, and soy and grain milk cartons.

After cartons are collected they are taken to a material recovery facility to be sorted and baled. The bales are then shipped to paper mills, where cartons are mixed with water in a hydrapulper — like a giant kitchen blender — to extract all the paper fiber. These paper fibers are then made into products such as tissues, office paper and wall board.

Always call your hauler or recycling center first to make sure they accept cartons.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-8326.

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Be air-friendly on campus

packed carThe first day of college is an exciting step for a freshman — and may be ho-hum for returning upperclassmen. But both newbies and old hands can make life on campus air-friendly by going car-light or car-free. Keep these tips in mind as you send your student off on that next adventure:

  • Carpooling is for cool kids. Sharing the ride between home and college with a new friend can save emissions and gas money, especially if each student would have otherwise driven separately. Plus, the long car trips provide an opportunity to get to know new friends. Try using RideShare’s single trip matching to find a carpool buddy.
  • Consider car-sharing. Most colleges require that freshmen live on campus, and campuses are often easy to navigate by bike or on foot. For those occasional off-campus trips, research car sharing services such as ZipCar — available in our area at the University of Missouri–Kansas City — or look for a similar company in another city.
  • Invest in two wheels instead of four. A bike — with a reliable lock — will often get a student closer to class in less time, compared to driving in circles searching for a spot in overcrowded parking lots. Try a folding bike for cramped dorm spaces. And don’t forget that your Kansas City B-Cycle membership works in more than 20 cities nationwide!

Staying local? Most of our region’s local colleges are served by public transportation. In fact, a UMKC student ID doubles as a KCATA bus pass and the JO’s K-10 Connector runs between KU’s Edwards and Lawrence campuses with a stop at Johnson County Community College in between. Try a combination of carpooling, biking and transit to get from home to class. All of Kansas City’s regional transportation systems use Google Maps, so finding a route is just a few clicks away.

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