President George W. Bush takes a break during work at his ranch in Crawford, TX (above, White House photo). His Crawford home (below) makes use of geothermal heating and cooling. (AP photo).
The use of geothermal energy actually has a long history in the United States. And that history stretches from ordinary people to our nation’s leaders. Two of our past presidents enjoyed geothermal resources on holiday and, today, President George W. Bush is using geothermal heating and cooling at his Texas ranch.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN), archeological evidence shows that the first human use of geothermal energy in North America occurred more than 10,000 years ago, when hot springs were employed as a source of warmth.

In 1807, settlers founded the city of Hot Springs, AR where, in 1830, Asa Thompson charged one dollar each for the use of three spring-fed baths, which is believed to be the first known commercial use of geothermal energy.

In 1847, in a valley just north of what is now San Francisco, CA, a site known as The Geysers was discovered. In 1852, it was developed into a spa called The Geysers Resort Hotel. Guests there included former Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt.

The city of Boise, ID, built the first district heating system in 1892 using water piped from hot springs to its buildings. Within a few years, the system was serving 200 homes and 40 downtown businesses.

The first geothermal power plant in the U.S. went into operation in 1921.

Professor Carl Nielsen of Ohio State University is credited with developing the first ground-source heat pump, in 1948, for use at his residence. J.D. Krocker, an engineer in Portland, OR, pioneered the first commercial building use.

In 1994, the DOE initiated two industry/government collaborative efforts to promote the use of geothermal energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One is directed toward the accelerated development of geothermal resources for electric power generation; the other is aimed at increasing the use of geothermal heat pumps.

This photo shows the president's home while it was under construction. Its geothermal systems provide heating/cooling and domestic hot water.


Today, President Bush is personally taking advantage of geo-thermal energy. In building the “Western White House” — the president’s home on his ranch in Crawford, TX — he’s gaining energy savings and using an environmentally friendly approach with the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system.

The single-story, eight-room, ranch-style house, constructed using local limestone, is designed to fit its surroundings. Also included on the property is a two-bedroom guest house for the president’s two daughters.

The two buildings both have geothermal systems that provide heating/cooling and domestic hot water.

Shown is a generic illustration of a vertical ground-loop geothermal system. (Courtesy of the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association.)
For the main residence, the kitchen, dining room, and living room/family room use a two-speed, 6-ton water-source heat pump to provide comfort both for the first family and for meetings or gatherings at the home. The system is designed to handle up to 75 guests. The president’s office, master bedroom, bathroom, and laundry area use a 3-ton water-source heat pump. The guest house has its own 2.5-ton unit.

Each heat pump has one or two water-cooled circulating pump modules depending on capacity. All of the equipment is installed in insulated mechanical closets, both to maintain the aesthetics of the home and to prevent any noise outside, when the president and first lady relax on the porch that extends the length of the house.

Each of the heat pumps has its own vertical ground loop for geothermal heat exchange. Well bores were dug to a depth of 300 feet, one well for each ton of cooling capacity.

Because the underground temperature is a constant 67 degrees F, the ground loops use pure water. No antifreeze is needed.

The geothermal system has been in operation for about 1-1/2 years now, keeping the Bush family comfortable while reportedly using about 25% of the electricity of a conventional heating and cooling system. Temperatures in Crawford can rise as high as 105 degrees in the summer, but while he’s inside, the president always keeps his cool.

For more information on the history of geothermal energy from DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network, visit (website).

Sidebar: Western White House Project

Those involved in the Western White House project include:

Equipment supplier: Trane-Waco Business Unit of The Trane Company, Waco, TX.

HVAC installing contractor: Tradesman Heating and Air Conditioning, Waco, TX.

Geothermal loop contractor: Ball Drilling Co., Austin, TX.

Architect: David Heymann, associate dean of architecture, University of Texas.

Publication date: 08/26/2002