Workers with Rhode Island Artesian Well Inc. operate a drill on the grounds of Chateau-sur-Mer in Newport as part of the installation of a geothermal climate-control system in the National Historic Landmark. (Photo by The Preservation Society of Newport County)

Preserving History, Embracing Sustainability: Chateau-sur-Mer’s Geothermal Transformation

To provide much-needed temperature and humidity control and to reduce its reliance on oil, The Preservation Society of Newport County is expanding its use of renewable energy by installing a geothermal system at Chateau-sur-Mer.

This clean and sustainable energy source already has been a success at The Breakers, Chepstow and the Berwind-Stautberg Scholars Center at The Elms.

Contractors are digging 21 wells, each 425 feet deep, on the south side of the Chateau-sur-Mer property as part of a closed-loop geothermal system. Underground pipes will carry fluid that will pick up the constant underground temperature of approximately 50 degrees and transfer it to the house, cooling it in summer and helping to warm it in winter. The system also will utilize electric heat pumps and air handlers in the basement.

The geothermal system is expected to reduce Chateau-sur-Mer’s use of heating oil by as much as 80 percent. The system will also keep humidity levels steady inside the house. This is important for protecting the interior and its contents, especially vulnerable items like textiles, leather, paintings, paper and wood.

“For several years, we have been aware of the need for better climate control at Chateau-sur-Mer,” said Trudy Coxe, CEO of the Preservation Society. “This initiative will help us fulfill our mission to protect and preserve this National Historic Landmark while also reducing our carbon footprint.”

Existing shafts inside the house will be used for the required piping and wiring; there will be little or no modifications to the existing historical conditions. The project is scheduled to be finished before June 2, when Chateau-sur-Mer will reopen for tours.

Donovan & Sons of Middletown is the general contractor on the project. Subcontractors include Shamrock Electric, Precision Well & Pump Systems, and Rhode Island Artesian Well Inc.




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