Hinsdale Central teacher explores geothermal home
Joe Capozzoli (left) shows Hinsdale Central High School engineering teacher Jim Bryla how he uses geothermal energy to cool and heat his Hinsdale home. | Kimberly Fornek—Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:18PM
HINSDALE —It’s not often you tour a 15,000-square-foot house that’s for sale for $4.8 million and spend all your time in the basement.
But that’s what Jim Bryla, architecture and engineering teacher at Hinsdale Central High School, wanted to see in the Capozzolis’ home in Hinsdale last week.
Joe Capozzoli built his family’s home in 2008 and 2009 with a geothermal system for heating and cooling that takes advantage of the constant temperature below ground.
“We typically have the students research various forms of green technology,” said Bryla who has taught two of Capozzoli’s children. “A huge goal” of the honors architecture class is to learn how it can be applied to a house.
The Capozzolis’ system consists of 12 holes bored 150 to 300 feet into the ground on their property at 6143 S. Madison. Four to 6 feet below ground and deeper, the temperature is a consistent 58 degrees, Capozzoli found. The difference between the underground and above ground temperatures is used to cool the home in summer and heat it in the winter.
Within the 12 borings are two tubes with propylene glycol running through them, a non-toxic fluid used in antifreezes, engine coolants and for heat transfers. The propylene glycol-filled tubes come into the basement and are pumped to units where, the heat is either extracted from the propylene glycol and put into the house, or extracted from the house, absorbed by the propylene glycol and put back into the earth, depending on the season.
Unlike other clean sources of energy, such as solar and wind, a geothermal system does not depend on the weather.
“The sun only shines so many days of the year,” Bryla said. And many regions of the country do not have consistently strong enough winds to power wind turbines.
“But the earth isn’t changing,” Bryla said. “Because geothermal energy can never be depleted or turned on or off (by) nature.”
It wasn’t the environmental advantages that got Capozzoli interested in geothermal energy, however.
“It’s more about efficiency and saving money,” Capozzoli said.
His electric bills this past summer were about $250 a month to cool and light the two-story house and full basement. He estimates his monthly utility bills would be 70 percent more without the geothermal energy.
“It’s irresponsible to build a house like this and not reduce your footprint,” Capozzoli said.
Capozzoli said even smaller homes would recoup the initial higher investment of installing a geothermal system with lower utility costs over time.