Gwinnett Tech helps Habitat go green

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett Technical College is helping a Habitat for Humanity house go green.

Last week, students and faculty from Gwinnett Tech's air conditioning technology program began installing a geothermal heat pump system, which uses the earth as a source of heat in the winter and coolant in the summer, at the Ridgewood Place home in Lawrenceville. It is the first time the energy-efficient system has been installed in a Habitat house in Georgia, officials said.

Students assisted in both the design and installation of the system, said Stan Osborne, an air conditioning technology instructor.

"It's the ultimate training experience, and it gives them a chance to give back to the community," Osborne said. "We don't just teach technology. We teach work ethic ... (which is) being good to the community and giving back."

Student Mitchell Ward said the experience was "pretty priceless."

"Coming out here and getting the hands-on (experience), I don't think you could pay for this," he said.

The Lawrenceville resident and former engineer said he enrolled at Gwinnett Tech after he was laid off from his job. He enrolled in the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) technology program to learn a new skill.

Osborne said the geothermal heat pump system is the most energy efficient system available. Although the cost of installation is about three times that of a conventional heat pump, the geothermal system will cut the cost of heating, cooling and water heating in half.

Several businesses and organizations donated equipment for the installation, Osborne said. Jackson Electric Membership Corp. (EMC) underwrote the drilling and other construction needs. Michael Well Co. helped bore holes in the ground so students could install the earth loops for the system. Baroid Industrial Drilling Products donated the grouting to fill the holes and protect the piping. Consolidated Piping donated the piping, R.E. Michel Co. donated the duct work, and Honeywell donated accessories such as an indoor air quality system.

In a couple of weeks, Gwinnett Tech students will also be installing a solar water heater on the roof of the house, Osborne said. That system is being donated by EnerWorks Inc.

The major renovation of the existing home is being sponsored by 12 Stone Church.