HVAC upgrade at the Hampton Library: An update from Kelly A. Harris, Director

The Hampton Library has a failed geothermal well. You may remember in August when our system went into complete failure. It was a bit warm but we opened our windows, turned on some fans and took it in stride. The moment the system failed the Board of Trustees and I put a plan in place to make sure we had heat in the building this winter and no disruption of service to you, our patrons. We are currently looking at options to cool the building if this winter ever ends.

I am happy to announce the Board of Trustees of the Hampton Library has entered in to a contract with H2M Architects + Engineers to engineer a solution to our geothermal water source heat pump system. H2M will soon begin work on designing a new closed loop evaporative cooling tower system. This project will use the existing building heat pump equipment as currently installed and convert the condenser water heating and cooling system from an open loop geothermal system to a closed loop system. Using the water in the closed loop of an evaporative cooling tower instead of a geothermal well will remove the impact of iron fouling.

Speaking of loops we want to keep you “in the loop.” Over the next few weeks I will be putting together an informational brochure which will be mailed to our box holders in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack. It will also be available on our website and in print at the Library. Updates will be given to you the community via our website, facebook, HamptonLibraryHVAC twitter feed and sent as press releases to our local media outlets. I will also schedule a community meeting.

Our HVAC woes were the topic of stories this week in our local papers. Both the Sag Harbor Express and the Southampton Press covered the story.

In the interest of full disclosure, when I received the request for a story from Ms. McKinley of the Southampton Press I felt it would also be beneficial to our community to have the same information sent to our other official paper of record, The Sag Harbor Express. I believe more coverage of the issue means more of our community can be made aware of what is going on. Below are the questions posed to me by Erin McKinley of the Southampton Press.

I answered follow up questions with Sag Harbor Express reporter Kathryn Menu via a telephone interview. Ms. McKinley from the Southampton Press followed up with Library Board of Trustee President Elizabeth Whelan Kotz. I have included President Kotz’s email correspondence below too. 

Questions posed (via email) by the Southampton Press and answered by Director Kelly Harris on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 

When did the library have the geothermal system installed? How much did it cost?

The Library’s geothermal system was installed as part of our renovation and expansion project which broke ground in September of 2008. The total cost for the expansion and renovation (which included the instillation of a geothermal water source heat pump system) was 6 million dollars. Over Two million of the six million dollar project was raised through a capital campaign for private donations.

Why did the library opt for a geothermal system? How does it differ from a traditional system? How does it work?

The Library chose a geothermal system because when functioning properly it is both very green and energy efficient.  The system works by using the ground to keep the water needed to run the system at a constant temperature. There is an energy savings because there is no need to dramatically to heat or cool the water to run the system. We have three wells one source well and two return wells. The water is pulled from the source well run through our system and returned to the ground.  It is green because we are not using fuel oil like a traditional system.

When the problem was first discovered?

The system failed mid August of 2013.

What is wrong with the system?

Failure of the system was caused by severe iron fouling. The large quantity of iron now present in the water was not present when the well water was originally tested and the system was installed.

 It is important to note: After speaking with professionals involved in geothermal systems including engineers, well companies, and HVAC specialists; it became clear our problem is unique in how quickly and dramatically iron fouling occurred.  We have been diligent in our actions to find out why the system failed and researching the best way to fix it.

Do you have an estimate on how much it will cost to repair?

At this time I do not have an estimate to the cost of the repair. We are dedicated to choosing the most cost effective; energy efficient solution possible. At this point to “ball park” a number would be difficult if not impossible.

Who installed the system originally?

Multiple contractors are involved in the installation of a geothermal water source heat pump system. The system was installed during our expansion and renovation, the project manager was Island Structures Engineering.

Who will be doing the repairs?

Once again we are exploring our options, once a plan of action is decided upon; the Library will be have an informational meeting and presentation as well as a written statement mailed to our patrons and posted on our website.  


Questions posed (via email)  by the Southampton Press and answered by Board of Trustees President Elizabeth Whelan Kotz on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 

What is the problem with the geothermal system and how was it discovered?

The system failed because we have severe iron fouling of our well which has rendered the capability of using our geothermal water source heat pump system impossible. The system failed in mid-August this past summer. The problem was discovered when iron sediment clogged the machines preventing water flow to the system.

How much did it cost to install the geothermal system?

It was part of our restoration and expansion. As Kelly reviewed with you the total cost for the project which included the instillation of a geothermal water source heat pump system was 6 million dollars.  We were fortunate to have raised over two million dollars of the cost for the project through a capital campaign for private donations. 

What options is the library considering moving forward to either replace or repair the system?

We do not know.  We are currently working with engineers to solve the problem but we are in the very beginning stages and have yet to secure a contract.  Again as Kelly reviewed with you, we are at a loss as to how rapidly and why the system failed. The quality of the water in the well fouled quickly when the iron level spiked and ultimately clogged the machinery.

What are the benefits of the new system?

Again, we have not had this project engineered out so we do not have specifics.

How much will it cost to install? When will it be installed?

We do not know but we are working very carefully to find the most cost effective and energy efficient way to solve this issue.

Is the library considering legal action against the company that installed the geothermal system?  

The Library Board of Trustees is still exploring all of its options.

And if I could just add a comment, The Hampton Library’s Board of Trustees is grateful to our Director, Kelly Harris, and the entire Staff who have all worked hard to ensure that library service has not been affected by this situation.  Despite the system failing in mid-August, the Library has seen record attendance for programs, and both circulation and door count is up. The patrons and the members of Bridgehampton and Sagaponack communities are our first priority and we will make decisions carefully and conscientiously.  As soon as there is a plan in place, they will be the first to know. 



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