An underground heating and cooling system at the Gunnison Valley Hospital is a new concept for this area of the country and reportedly a first in Utah.

Installation involves drilling 24 holes vertically into the ground at a depth of 200 feet, each containing heating and cooling units. Pipes are inserted into each hole, then filled with a water-methanol solution that circulates from the surface down to the depth of the hole and back to the surface.The system is regarded as better than air-to-air heat pumps because of the constant middle temperature of 50 to 55 degrees, according to geothermal specialist Gerno Wandtke.

It was installed by Water Furnace West of Salt Lake City, a division of Pacific Power and Light Co.

Wandtke said the system will be reversed during the summer for cooling of the building. The heat will be removed from the air inside the hospital and distributed into the ground. When it is hot outside, the temperature cools. When it is cold outside, the temperature heats.

Cost savings is the main reason hospital officials decided to use the system. It is estimated there will be about a 75 percent savings compared with electrical heating.