Heating bill expected to top $1.59 million

Yesterday Dartmouth experienced some of the coldest temperatures of the year, forcing many students to take refuge in their dorms. Unlike last year’s winter, however, the warmth comes with a heftier price tag.

The falling temperatures, combined with rising energy costs, have caused the College to spend a record amount on heating residence halls this year. Last year Dartmouth spent $1.26 million dollars to heat the residence halls, while this year the number is expected to top $1.59 million, according to Woody Eckels, director of residential operations.

“In real time numbers, from July ’04 to December ’04, Dartmouth paid $456,098 for heat. For the same time period this year we’ve paid $580,915,” Eckels said.

“Of course the weather has an impact on how much heat is consumed, but nevertheless, we’ve paid substantially more this year.”

Students can play a big role in energy conservation and cost reduction by closing windows when not in the room and by reporting overheated rooms, Eckels said. Something as simple as turning thermostats down from 72 degrees to 68 degrees could make a big difference, he added.

“It would be very hard to predict exact savings, but they would be significant,” he said.

Despite the increased spending on heating, some students are dissatisfied with its distribution. Most of the complaints have come from students living in some of the College’s older dorms, including Hitchcock, as well as in the River cluster, Eckels said.

“It is pretty hot and it was just more noticeable these past few days. We’ve fully opened the windows especially during midday,” Hitchcock resident Christa Hinckley ’08 said.

The older buildings are serviced by steam heating systems, which have a tendency to distribute heat unevenly throughout the building. Although each room has a radiator, there is only one thermostat for the building. Once the room with the thermostat reaches 68 degrees, the heat shuts off, leaving some rooms too hot and others too cold, Eckels said.

“The general rule would be that if we can take care of the too cold, we will rely on the students in the too-hot rooms to turn their heat down a bit using the valve on the radiator,” Eckels said.

In recent weeks many students have contacted the Office of Residential Life to report rooms that were overheated, Eckels said.

“I just called the maintenance people and they came and fixed it later the same day. It’s been fine ever since,” River cluster resident Carol Szurkowski ’09 said. “Everyone’s room is now a normal temperature, and the hallway is too.”

ORL encourages students to report problems sooner rather than later, Eckels said.

“The most frustrating call is when we hear that someone has been hot or cold all winter in February, but they have never bothered to call us to let us know,” Eckels said. “We can’t fix it if we don’t know about it.”

Next year the heating problem is expected to be significantly less bothersome. The new residential clusters, including the Tuck Mall cluster, will have a radiant heat system, Eckels said.

There will be a set temperature for the entire building that will be maintained through piping in the floor, and the cluster will even generate most of its own heat.

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