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  • Writer's picturePA-GEO

PA's First Zero Energy Building Uses Geothermal to Optimize Efficiency

In case you missed it, Millersville Univeristy's Lombardo Welcome Center recently became the first Zero Energy Certified Building in Pennsylvania. The innovative building joined the ranks as 1 out of just about 100 Zero Energy Certified Buildings across the world. In its first year, the Welcome Center not only covered its own energy consumption - it generated 75% more than it needed - making it one of the five most positive energy buildings in the country.

The Welcome Center, which opened its doors in Spring 2018, now has over a year's worth of energy data that solidifies the strength of its zero energy design.

Geothermal + PV = Optimized Zero Energy Design

So what technologies are to thank for such success? In addition to impressive energy efficiency measures that set the foundation for energy optimization; the combination of geothermal heat pump (GHP) technology and photovoltaic (PV) arrays made Zero Energy Certification achievable and cost effective for Millersville.

The University's"Energy from Below", as they've called it, includes a vertical loop consisting of 20 wells located underground in the rear of the building.

The GHP system takes advantage of the constant temperature below the surface of the Earth by extracting heat from the relatively warmer ground during the cold winter months and dumping heat into the relatively cooler ground during the hot summer months. This heat exchange between the ground and the building allows the heat pump to consume less energy while bringing the outside air to a comfortable indoor temperature.

Leveraging the Earth's below-surface temperature to reduce energy consumption and lighten electrical load then allows the PV Array to be sized most efficiently, in turn minimizing the space and first cost needed for the PV.

More Expected GHP Benefits for the Campus

In addition to reducing energy consumption, Millersville can expect to see a plethora of other economical, environmental and societal benefits with their new GHP system, including:

  • Elimination of Carbon Emissions to Accelerate Carbon Neutrality Plan: GHP Systems utilize the unlimited amount of thermal energy stored in the Earth to deliver heating & cooling to a facility. Because GHP systems do not require fossil fuel burning and electricity needs are met by clean PV, the Lombardo Center should have virtually zero carbon emissions.

  • Long Equipment Life to Save on Equipment Replacement: Both the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Electric Power Research Institute have concluded, based on independent research studies, that the appropriate service life value for geothermal heat pump technology is 20 years or more. This benchmark is the current industry standard.

  • Noise and Eyesore Elimination to Create a More Inviting Campus: GHP Systems do not utilize outdoor compressors or fans so outdoor noise is eliminated. Geothermal piping runs underground and units are kept inside where it cannot be seen by outdoor passerby. This is a sure value add in academic settings where focus and noise reduction are important to the productivity and comfort of students and faculty.

  • And More...

Geothermal Heat Pump Technology is proving to be a renewable catalyst for zero energy projects. PA-Geo looks forward to seeing more campuses pave the way for a cleaner, more stable energy future.

To read more about Millersville's new Lombardo Welcome Center, click here to check out the story on their website.



The Pennsylvania Geothermal Heat Pump Association, Inc. (PA-Geo) is a nonprofit, member-driven, trade organization founded in 2019. PA-Geo's founding members are residential and commercial geothermal professionals and subject matter experts focused on the advancement of geothermal heat pump (GHP) technology  in Pennsylvania.  PA-Geo focuses on increasing the visibility and understanding of GHP systems by connecting consumers with local professionals and inspiring property owners and stakeholders to invest in GHP systems. PA-Geo also provides training and education to those who wish to broaden their knowledge of geothermal technology and its many environmental and economical benefits.


Geothermal heat pump (GHP) systems use the thermal properties of the earth, in conjunction with electricity, to provide space conditioning and water heating to facilities.  Below the surface of the earth, the temperature remains constant. This stable temperature provides a source for heat in the winter and a means to reject excess heat in the summer. In a GHP system, a fluid (typically water) is circulated between the building and the ground loop piping buried in the ground. In the summer, the fluid picks up heat from the building and moves it to the ground. In the winter, the fluid picks up heat from the ground and moves it to the building. Heat pumps in the building make this transfer of heat possible.


We invite you to join us in achieving our goal to expand the use of geothermal heat pump technology in PA and increase your business! To view membership types/pricing or to submit a membership application, please click here.

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