Geothermal Energy Harnessed at Glenwood Hot Springs

Steeped in history, Glenwood Hot Springs has attracted millions of visitors to swim, soak and enjoy a spa since it first opened on July 4, 1888.

Today, the beautiful red sandstone complex continues to make history as a green building.

In fact, the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge ranks as the largest geothermally heated building in Colorado! A series of titanium heat exchangers submerged in the nearby Yampah Spring make it possible to heat the entire 107-room lodge, plus some of the surrounding sidewalks and rooflines, using water heated by the earth’s core.

The Yampah Spring, which announces itself to those driving into or out of Glenwood Canyon with a characteristic whiff-of-aging-egg scent, was what first attracted the Ute Indians to bathe in the area. The waters later attracted Walter Devereux to build pools, a resort and a playground for wealthy Victorians on the site.

Pumping out 3,500,000 gallons of 122-degree Fahrenheit water each day, the spring is what enabled the resort to install geothermal heating when the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge opened in 1986.

The lodge’s geothermal system not only heats the rooms, it also warms snow-melt systems under sidewalks, a parking lot and areas along the north eaves of the lodge’s roofline. The same technology preheats the lodge’s domestic hot water, and the Centre for the Analysis and Dissemination Energy Technologies, located in the Netherlands, recognized the innovative design of the water-heating system with an award in the early 1990s.

The bathhouse, pool lobby and retail shop floors of the complex, built in 1977, are geothermally heated in the winter, warmed by a gravity-flow system that was installed in the 1970’s and uses no pumps or other energy-consuming devices.

The Yampah spring naturally heats the large pool, which measures 405 long by 100 feet wide, to around 90 degrees. The spring keeps the smaller therapy pool, which measures 100 feet long by 40 feet wide, at a toasty 104 degrees. John Bosco, Hot Springs vice president, comments that “our problem is that we must cool the water before it enters the pool! It comes from the ground at about 122 to 124 degrees Fahrenheit. It is pumped through a series of pipes, valves, heat exchangers, then purification and filtration systems before it gets to the pools.”

Starting in 2004, locals, who have long enjoyed a nighttime plunge or soaking in the waters while watching snowflakes float down, no longer had to brave such cold feet; a snow/ice melt system was installed under portions of the deck.

The lodge, which completed a multi-million dollar renovation at the end of 2011, has continued to green-up its red buildings over the past few years. After SGM, an engineering firm in Glenwood Springs, studied the resort and made 78 recommendations, the Hot Springs completed 34 of the most cost-effective ideas in 2012. Clean Energy for the Region (CLEER) helped the Glenwood Hot Springs implement those recommendations and secure rebates to help cover the costs.

Those changes included upgrading the lighting ballasts and converting every light bulb from incandescent to LED, except for a few decorative lights in the lodge chandelier and spa. Those changes translated into 30 percent energy savings over the old bulbs and ballasts.

The resort also replaced boilers and HVAC chillers with new, efficient models and began systematically replacing water pumps. Within three months, the Hot Springs recorded a 19 percent decrease in gas use, a 9 percent decrease in electrical use in the pool complex and a 12 percent decrease in electrical use at the lodge.

“This helps save us money, but it also leaves less of a carbon footprint,” comments Director of Sales Jeremy Gilley. “Since I started working here in 2011, the owners and executive management have emphasized the importance of being good stewards of this amazing natural wonder.”

Gilley continues, “Gary Bosco, our building and grounds manager, headed up these most recent efforts. But the Glenwood Hot Springs’ investment in our larger geothermal systems was initiated by our board of directors starting over 40 years ago – long before anyone came up with a way to actually measure ecological footprint."

TripAdvisor awarded the Hot Springs Lodge with a Green Leaders award in 2013. It also rated the Lodge as a bronze-level green hotel in 2010, recognizing green practices that ranged from low chemical gardening, towel reuse, Energy Star appliances in the guest rooms to educating guests on green practices, recycling and tracking energy use.
Written by Nicollet Toussaint of Roaring Fork Lifestyle Magazine