ROCKAWAY, NJ— The new 163-room Hilton Garden Inn slated to open here in December will be the first Hilton property to use a geo- thermal heat pump for heating and air conditioning. Unlike traditional systems that burn fuels for heat and require separate air conditioning or chiller systems, a geothermal heat pump employs a GeoExhange system. This transfers heat from one place to another using a simple process to provide both warmth and cooling. The system taps the earth’s supply of renewable thermal energy, underground or underwater, where temperatures remain fairly moderate at 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Ground was broken for the new Hilton Garden Inn in March. “This is a franchised hotel so Hilton didn’t have anything to do with selecting the GeoExchange system; however, we did approve it based on performance,” said Phil Keipper, vp/franchise design and construction. “We would be willing to use this system in other hotels but we are currently studying several other alternatives as well,” he added. Mark Honchell, project architect, has been working with the GeoExchange system for nearly 10 years. He anticipates that the property will save nearly $85,000 annually on energy costs with the system, and realize payback within three to five years. “Geology has a big impact on the effectiveness of this system,” Honchell said. He noted that an area with open caverns would not be a good place for the GeoExchange while regions with dense soil or rocky areas would be suitable. The system would also work well at a lakeside location. “The system is coupled to the ground,” Honchell said. “It doesn’t use any compressors and doesn’t create noise so it’s desirable for the environment. It benefits the guest and the owner and the money that is saved can then be used to enhance or improve other aspects of the hotel.” In outlining the mechanics of the system, Honchell explained that a plastic pipe is put into a well in the ground. “All we do is circulate the water from the ground back to the building,” he said, adding that to maximize use of space, well fields are located underneath the property’s parking lot. In addition to using the system for general heating and cooling, the hotel’s pool is dehumidified and heated with this system. “The life expectancy of the unit is more than 20 years,” Honchell noted. “All repair and maintenance materials are standard industry materials. The system is simple, less costly to maintain than other energy management systems and it’s got a 66% better replacement cost than other systems.” The GeoExchange system will be maintained by the engineering staff at the Hilton Garden Inn Rockaway which includes one full-time engineer and one part-timer. The property will be owned by Rockaway Townsquare HGI, LLC and will be managed by Greenbelt, MD-based Coakley & Williams Management Co. The five-story Hilton Garden Inn will feature a glass-walled pavilion housing the guest reception; a full-service, 56-seat restaurant; business center; four Conferencing Suites and a Presidential Suite. There will also be two function rooms and 1,500 square feet of pre-function space. Guestrooms will be equipped with a “hospitality center” with microwave oven, coffeemaker, and mini refrigerator; a sitting area with an easy chair and ottoman; a hairdryer, iron and ironing board. Business-oriented features will include a large work desk with pull-out shelf for a portable computer; adjustable lighting; an ergonomic chair; two telephones equipped with two lines, voice mail and data ports. In-room entertainment and information services, including on-demand movies, satellite cable television, video games and interactive Hilton guest services will be provided by On Command Corp.