John Schaefer can talk the talk.
He walks the walk at the head of the Conservation 101 classroom march.
Schaefer, director of public works in the Village of Homewood, has helped implement plans to conserve energy and natural resources during his tenure while saving residents money and helping the village stick within a budget fixed by tough economic times.
His work runs the gamut from the recent installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system in Homewood’s Public Safety Building to the village’s participation in cooperative ventures such as the sales of rainwater catching barrels and a 50-50 tree purchase program.
The new geothermal heating and cooling system in the police and fire department building at 17950 Dixie Highway was installed at a cost of $1.5 million, Schaefer said. Construction started in November. The project was completed in mid-February.
Schaefer said the new heating/cooling system—one-of-a-kind in the South suburbs—is expected to pay for itself in 10 years through savings gained from doing away with the purchase of natural gas and cutting back on the use of electricity as well reducing maintenance costs.
“It’s very new technology out this way, where we’re basically using the warmth and cooling of the earth to heat and cool the police and fire departments,” Schaefer said. “It’s an energy-efficient program. It helps improve the carbon footprint, per se—because we’re not using natural gas—and our energy as far as electric use is going to go down.”
Schaefer said contractors drilled 27 wells in the rear parking lot of the village hall complex, each one about 400 to 425 feet deep. He said water is collected in cylindrical tubes and circulated throughout the wells before it is pumped into the police and fire building at about 52 degrees.
Then, heating and cooling measures are applied to raise the temperature of the water and ultimately regulate the temperature in the building.
Schaefer is proud to promote the Village of Homewood’s annual cost-sharing initiative with residents in planting trees, too. He said the village purchases trees and splits the cost with residents 50-50 in a win-win scenario: Trees provide beauty, shade and raise property values in the village.
And, then, there is the matter of conserving water.
Schaefer said village officials offer rainwater collection barrels for purchase in conjunction with events like Homewood Days. He said the collection process can be one of the best ways for homeowners to cut costs on their water bills and strive toward becoming more eco-friendly, too.
“The water that is collected is very good for plants—it’s high in nitrogen,” Schaefer said. “And you’ll save money on your water bill.”