Campus Utilities continues college heating update

As the inclement winter months approach, heating in buildings across campus will play an increasingly important role in the daily lives of students, faculty and staff. Fluctuating temperatures in both academic buildings and residence halls spur a number of maintenance requests, but the college is currently in the process of updating its heating and cooling technologies to increase efficiency. A central steam-powered heating plant located behind the MacVittie College Union heats all academic buildings, while each residence hall has its own satellite unit that provides heat via circulating hot water. Recent construction at Monroe Hall, Doty Hall, Letchworth Dining Hall and Seneca Hall included the addition of more energy efficient geothermal climatization units, which derive a portion of their temperature control from natural heat hundreds of feet below ground.

Alongside domestic water heating for showers and the rainwater collection systems in Monroe and Doty, all of these campus heating units are overseen by the 17 campus utilities staff members at the Heating Plant. They ensure that buildings maintain reasonable temperatures and address maintenance calls and work orders 24 hours a day.

“The students can be our most powerful allies in taking care of things,” principal engineer Bill Cox said.

The College completed a $1.5 million changeover of the satellite heating systems on the south side of campus in summer 2013. According to Cox, a similar change for North Side, costing between $1.4 million and $1.6 million is set for 2016.

The more energy efficient heating systems replace 30-year-old boilers that are roughly 80 percent efficient with more advanced boilers running at about 98 percent efficiency. Each boiler is smaller than the older models and splits its workload between two separate units rather than just one, heating water to be pumped throughout each building. The heat from the water radiates through individual rooms. The models for the geothermal and newer gas-powered units are similar, with the geothermal units including a more complex pump system to transfer water heated underground.

Cox said that the older boilers, while less efficient and therefore more expensive, are more durable than the new, more technologically advanced boilers. These new models require a “highly trained crew.”

According to junior Tyler Sherman, a resident assistant in Monroe Hall, the sensitivity of Monroe’s new boiler model has already caused a climatization issue this school year.

“It was mid-September and we hit a cold spurt,” he said. “So when it hit that decrease, it set off the heat. The heat was like blazing and it was miserable. And then it started warming up again, but the heat was still on.” He added that the utilities staff quickly repaired the issue.

Plant utilities assistant Kerry Pickering said that students could take several precautions to prevent uncomfortable heating issues in their rooms. The computerized boilers are set to activate heat when the outside temperature is at 54 degrees, but thermostats in individual rooms can be manipulated by small student mistakes, leading to excess or lacking heat. She advised students to prevent items from blocking their radiators and to avoid opening their windows on cold days.

“Every time somebody opens a window we have sensors throughout the buildings and if one sensor says, ‘oh my gosh, it’s 60 degrees in this building’ when in reality it’s like 72 … the system is going to say we need to produce more heat, so you’re going to have the boiler running longer and circulating more heat,” Pickering said.

Students who feel that the temperature of their room is too hot or cold should contact a resident assistant or residence director or place a work order at