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Heating of Campus Buildings

Contributed by Lori Ray on 10/04/12 

Submitted on behalf of Zach Newswanger, Director of Maintenance and Richard Couture, Associate Vice President, Office of Facilities

The change of seasons means we're getting into the need to provide heat in all buildings across campus.  As is typical with this time of year as well as springtime, we can see a wide change in outside air temperature - one day it might be 70 degrees, then go down to the upper 40's and back up to the mid 60's in a couple of days.

The Office of Facilities receives a number of calls with requests to "turn on" or "turn off" the heat based on the daily variance in outside temperature.  We thought it might be helpful to explain how the buildings are heated and cooled so that the campus community has a better understanding of what is involved.

Virtually all of our buildings are heated by large, commercial-size boilers and cooled by chiller units (Emerson Hall is the only residence hall that has cooling capabilities) that run heated or chilled water through a piping system.  The piping system in almost every building is a two-pipe system (supply and return).  This means that only heated or chilled water can run through the pipes at any given time.

Generally, around late October to early November, the Office of Facilities maintenance staff will begin the process of converting from chilled water in the piping system to heated water.  Due to the size and number of boilers that need to be "fired up", this is a two to three day process.  Due to the cool temperatures starting earlier this year, we have begun this process for some areas over the past couple of weeks.

In keeping with the College's "temperature set point" policy, we do our best to keep the buildings maintained in the 69 - 71 degree range for the heating season; however, when the outside temperature can vary so much on a daily basis during this early part of the heating season, it is not possible or energy efficient to convert from heated water to chilled water in the pipes on anything approaching a daily back-and-forth basis.

So, if we find that there are a couple of days that sneak in with outside temperatures in the upper 70's or higher, please understand that it is not possible to "turn off" the heat and convert to "cooling" the buildings for such a short period of time.

Additionally, we also receive a number of calls regarding the use of space heaters in campus buildings.  We ask that you refrain from this and please go to the Office of Facilities website for information on the campus policy regarding the use of space heaters:

We hope this information has been helpful.  If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Facilities at 274-3225.

Thank you.

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