Hot Springs upgrading geothermal heat system

The world’s largest geothermally heated hotel, which happens to be connected to the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool, is in the middle of a major upgrade to its 30-year-old heating system.

John Bosco, vice president of operations for the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, said the extensive geothermal system that heats the bathhouse, fitness center, spa and business offices, as well as the 107-room lodge that sits above the pool, has been in need of an upgrade for several years.

With construction about to begin on a new Grand Avenue bridge, “we saw it as a good opportunity to get under Sixth Street to replace our infrastructure before that project gets underway.”

That infrastructure involves an extensive, super-insulated piping system that takes the 122-degree Fahrenheit water from the main Yampa Spring, or “Mammoth Hot Spring” as it’s known, and transports it to a mechanical room and central distribution area in the respective buildings.

From there, the naturally heated water is circulated throughout the buildings, including for individually controlled heating for guest rooms.

The hot spring water also boosts domestic water heating for showers and other use throughout the lodge and bathhouse building, including the commercial laundry operation.

And, the same hot springs water that also feeds the therapy and recreation pools is also used in the snowmelt system under sidewalks, stairs and parking areas at the lodge and around the pool area.

“We are taking full advantage of the opportunity to bring some efficiencies to the system, and be able to transmit quite a bit more BTUs than we were able to before,” Bosco said.

Construction on the original geothermal heating system began in 1985, the same year the lodge was built, and became operational on Memorial Day 1986, he said.

The natural hot spring produces 3.5 million gallons of water per day. The geothermal system initially utilized stainless steel exchangers, but those soon had to be replaced with titanium heat exchangers due to the corrosive nature of the hot mineral water, Bosco explained.

“Geothermal heating is very efficient on the month-to-month operating side of things, but there is a lot of maintenance involved with these systems because of the corrosiveness,” he said.

Work started in early November to replace main transmission pipes as well as the PVC piping that is used to distribute the heated water into the lodge building.

“We’re in phase one and two of the three-phase process,” Bosco said.

That more extensive third phase will take another two years to complete. In addition to building a new boiler room and hot water booster system, the four-pipe system serving each individual guest room and other areas of the lodge will eventually be replaced.

“That’s a much more invasive process, and will take anywhere between two and four constructions seasons to complete,” Bosco said.

Construction will be limited to the least busy times of the year for the lodge and hot pool, avoiding the busy summer seasons, he said.

“This system is unique to our source, so it does represent a high original investment,” Bosco said of the project, which is expected to exceed $1 million once completed.

“The original engineers said to expect a 20- to 25-year lifespan, so we’re past that,” he said. “We are hoping that, with improved materials, we can get quite a few more years out of it this time around.”

In addition to the work on the heating system, the Hot Springs is also building a new parking lot behind the lodge building to replace some of the parking that will be lost when the main pool parking lot is closed for staging as part of the two-year bridge construction project.

Besides that 42-space lot, the Hot Springs has established parking areas at a former car dealership lot on Sixth Street west of Laurel, as well as a smaller lot next to Sioux Villa Curio. A shuttle system will carry pool patrons to and from the outlying parking areas, Bosco said.

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