Heat From the Earth to Warm East Side Apartments

Heat from deep inside the earth will soon be used to provide heat and hot water inside people's homes on the East Side of Manhattan.

The pilot geothermal heating system will supply warmth to more than 200 apartments in a public housing development on East 28th Street, the first of its kind in the city.

Federal grants of more than $1 million will be used to pay for the project, which was announced Thursday by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Sean Donovan.

Donovan said it could become a model for public housing nationwide, if construction costs stay on target, and if the system saves $250,000 a year in heating bills, as expected.

"That would pay back just the geothermal in less than five years. If we see that happening, it will be a direction that we'll be going," Donovan said.

He added that he recently installed a geothermal system in his own home.

Part of the project funds come from the stimulus package enacted by Congress in the spring of 2009.