“Heat is Cheap; Air Conditioning is (Almost) Free” for Camp Ewalu

“Heat is cheap and air conditioning is practically free,” raves Dale Goodman, former director of Camp Ewalu in Strawberry Point, Iowa. Before he retired, Dale led Ewalu through a capital campaign and subsequent construction that updated facilities and added many money-saving, environmental features to Ewalu. The core of these features was the addition of geothermal systems that now heat and cool 6 buildings.

Ewalu added three geothermal systems in all. One to serve their office, a second to serve a lodge, and a third that feeds a new lodge and three new cabins. These geothermal systems include water wells that are drilled about 250 feet deep. The water from these wells comes into the buildings at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. From that point it is warmed 15 degrees in the heating season, or used almost “as is” in the cooling system. Since it only has to be heated 15 degrees, the heating systems are very energy efficient. The cooling aspect of the systems is essentially free. (The only real cost is the relatively minor cost of electricity that circulates the air-conditioning.)

Dale notes that “we would never have considered conventional air conditioning in our new buildings.” The cost of adding conventional air conditioning to these structures and the annual cost of running them would have been prohibitive. “The heat and coolness of the earth helps us provide comfortable buildings at a quarter of the cost!” Ewalu would have to substitute eight forced-air systems to cover what their three geothermal systems can do. The geothermal systems are also simpler and require less maintenance.

According to Dale, Ewalu has seen “the biggest impact of the geothermal systems on our youngest campers.” The three new cabins are used by their mini-camp program for second graders. Ewalu has doubled the number of mini-campers since the new cabins were added. Dale attributes this to the coolness (summer comfort) of the new cabins and lodges. “Parents are satisfied that these cabins will be comfortable for their first-time-away-from-home kids – who are already experiencing a 'culture shock' in other ways.” Dale notes that adult retreating at Ewalu has increased in warmer months as a result of the improvements, too. “The facilities are now more comfortable in the warm seasons and in the cold seasons.”

The geothermal systems were not all of the “green” features in Ewalu’s upgrades. They used a roofing material that is recyclable and will last three to four times longer than conventional shingles. They used exterior trim that was made by a local sawyer who mills retired western red cedar telephone poles. The interior finish lumber was milled from trees that were blown down in a storm at Ewalu. Construction also included toilet partitions that are made from recycled plastic, upgrading windows to “low – E” glass, and adding attic insulation to many existing structures.

These changes would not have been possible without a commitment to care for creation. In Dale’s opinion, “we are a camp of the church; it is our responsibility – simply part of our mission - to be good stewards of the earth.”

Ewalu Barred Owl Lodge

Ewalu Walnut Cabins