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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

Change is Difficult for Adults
It’s time for architects to specify geothermal heat pumps

Recently I was invited to be the guest speaker for a local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

As I often say at seminars, change is very difficult for adults. I have also known for a long time that change is difficult for architects and that was clearly evident at our recent meeting.

Folks, let’s reason together for a moment. Visualize the average one–story business building in your town. Usually it has four exterior walls, a slab floor and a flat roof. The only basic difference from one building to the next is perhaps the color of the building and name of the business on the sign out front.

Now, consider this. Where is the hottest place on that building on a hot summer day?

If you said the roof, you are correct. How would you like to sit on that roof and try to make homemade ice cream? You would probably keel over before the ice cream was ready. Even if you succeeded, you would have used a lot of energy.

If you think about it, the last place you’d want to place your air conditioner is on the roof. So why do we continue to do it? Time, after time, after time.

I had an engineer tell me in one of my seminars that an air conditioning unit on the roof did not waste as much energy as I thought.

I asked him, “Well, just how much does it waste?”

“Only about 9 percent,” he replied.

I responded, “9 percent?” And then I told him, “I sure would like a 9 percent pay raise and I sure would hate a 9 percent pay cut. I wish my CD at the bank would pay 9 percent and I wish I were 9 percent taller. I wish I were 9 percent younger, too.” Well, he got the picture and I doubt he will ever say that 9 percent is insignificant again.

While adults haven’t seemed to figure out that placing an air conditioning unit on top of a roof is a bad idea, younger folks have a different view.

I have often asked high school students, “Wouldn’t it make sense to locate an air conditioning unit in the earth where it’s a constant 57 degrees? Their answer, of course, is yes. (I’m talking about a geothermal unit, by the way).

I asked the architects at our meeting, “How many of you are familiar with geothermal heating and cooling?” Nearly every hand went up.

I then asked, “How many of you think geothermal is the most efficient heating and cooling system available?” Most raised their hands.

“How many of you would consider geothermal as a green product?” All raised their hands.

“How many of you have specified geothermal systems in any building you have designed?” Two hands were raised.

And then came the most revealing question of all. “How many of you have geothermal system in your houses?” Zero hands.

Yes, change is difficult for adults, including architects, but folks it’s time to change and you mark my words, we will.

See you next month.

P.S. Of course, as many longtime readers of this column know, I have geothermal in my wife’s house.


More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


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