Wahkeena Nature Preserve Gets Greener Still!
Posted November 12, 2013
Topics: Natural History

Written by Curator Emeritus Bob Glotzhober

Photos by Linda Pansing, OHS archaeologist

Fall colors have turned, and most of the green leaves that became bright yellows and reds have dropped to the ground. The hills of southeast Ohio are quickly becoming all brown. But last week Wahkeena Nature Preserve started to become a little more green.

Wahkeena is an OHS site at the edge of the Hocking Hills, south of Lancaster. As with most of the OHS sites, this site has the daily operation run by a local partner group, in this case the Fairfield County Historical Parks. The nature center building there is an old log lodge, converted with logs from an old barn in the 1930s by then owners Frank and Carmen Warner. One coal furnace and two fuel oil furnaces later, the heating system was in need of replacement. As site manager Tom Shisler started talking with the OHS Historic Site Facilities team in Columbus, a joint decision was made to replace the old furnace with a geothermal system. This system is a "closed loop system", pumping a recirculating fluid underground, where it absorbs the ambient ground temperature, which is near 50 degrees year-round, and then pumps that temperature up to heat exchangers in the basement. It works like a heat pump, but much more efficiently since the ground temperature is nearly constant. No worry about, "do I convert to the back system at 32 degrees or 25 degrees or when"? While somewhat more expensive to install, the life of the geothermal system is long, and the energy requirements are among the best possible. Naturally, this reduces use of electricity and coal or oil, so geothermal systems are highly environmentally friendly, green systems. Just as good, from a management and financial standpoint, they greatly reduce the long-term costs of operating the site. This helps the bottom line at OHS, which no one complains about!

This past week, three wells were drilled, each 150 feet deep into the ground. Then tubing connected these underground into the basement. This week, the new heat exchanger/furnace will be installed in the basement, and soon the new geothermal system will be up and running. By spring, grass growth in the lawn area where the wells were drilled will eliminate any evidence of the massive effort of drilling the wells and connecting them to the basement. The evidence of disturbance will be gone, and so will the old, higher energy bills. Welcome in a greener Wahkeena Nature Preserve. The work was funded in part from funds in the Carmen Warner Foundation, established in the Warner will to assist with maintenance of the site, and with emergency repair funds that OHS receives from the State of Ohio.

When the new Education Building at Cedar Bog was dedicated in April of 2009, it included a number of green technologies. It too has a geothermal heating and cooling system in this case powered by ground water that also feeds the buildings water needs. Cedar Bog also has extra thick wall insulation, an energy capturing tromb wall, solar panels on the roof, special low flow toilets and non-water urinals and a variety of other energy efficient options. Exhibits at Cedar Bog discuss each of the green technologies used.

While these two examples are great, in some ways they are just the beginning for OHS. The Ohio Historical Society has begun a Sustainability Initiative at the Ohio History Center in Columbus, from which lessons will be shared with other OHS sites in future. At OHC, we are pursuing LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, which is a 3 year process to "green" our building and operations. Watch for future developments at our Columbus facility, or contact Amy Kaspar in the Historic Site Facilities office at [email protected].

Bob Glotzhober
Curator Emeritus of Natural History

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