ORL receives heating complaints
By Jasmine Sachar, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, January 28, 2013
Falling temperatures, which sank below negative 15 degrees this weekend, prompted several students to contact residential operations with complaints about dysfunctional heaters and drafty windows.
The College Troubleshooters team that responds to maintenance emergencies receives approximately 10 to 15 calls per night from students with complaints about heating problems. Most of these incidents involve heaters running out of fuel due to colder temperatures, according to team member Perry Elanchaid.
The campus is heated primarily by a process called cogeneration, in which oil is burned to produce steam, and which is then distributed to campus buildings, according to engineering professor Charles Sullivan. The steam is also passed through turbines to produce electricity.
During the winter months, approximately four to five truckloads of oil are transported to the College’s heating plant every day, Sullivan said.
Newer residence halls use the same heating system as older residence halls do, but tend to have fewer problems because they have better control systems and insulation.
“The College is investing a lot in improving efficiency — looking at which of the buildings are using most energy,” Sullivan said. “They’re going through and putting in completely new heating systems, upgrading lighting, getting better insulation and I think that a lot of that happens behind the scenes.”
Phoebe Racine ’14, who lives in Gile Hall, has called the Office of Residential Life twice to complain about drafts of cold air coming from her room’s windows. The College’s maintenance crew fixed one of the two windows in her room, she said.
Due to the uncomfortable nature of her room, Racine said she spends most of her time at the library. At night, she uses numerous blankets or just sleeps somewhere else all together.
“I think [the draft] is due to my window being a single-paned window, it must have little cracks in it,” Racine said. “My heater is mediocre.”
Alpha Chi Alpha fraternity has also experienced several issues relating to cold weather last week. After one of the house’s windows was left open on a sub-zero night, the house’s pipes froze and burst, leaking water, house manager Paul Hogan ’14 said.
Hogan called the College Troubleshooters, who responded to the complaint within an hour. On normal days, Alpha Chi has the same heating problems as most dorms, according to Hogan.
“It’s either really warm or really cold inside our house,” Hogan said.
Oscar Friedman ’16, who lives in French Hall, said he is unable to close his room’s window. The heaters, however, compensate for the cold winds entering the room, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature.
“It’s a big waste of energy,” Friedman said. “The building is quite old and the heating system is clearly antiquated — it’s obviously very inefficient.”
Under the current heating system, burning fuel produces a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Rosi Kerr, director of Dartmouth’s sustainability program.
More green-friendly alternatives to burning fuel include burning natural gas or woodchips, Kerr said. Converting to these methods would be expensive and require changes to the Dartmouth heating plant, she said.
The Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center, which was built in August 2011, has an energy-saving feature that captures heat from air that is leaving the building and recirculates it back into the building’s air system, according to Kerr.
“We want to use less energy in buildings and we want to produce our energy in the most sustainable way possible environmentally and economically,” Kerr said.
Residential operations sent out a campus-wide email Tuesday, which told students to close and lock their dorm windows to prevent gusts of cold air from entering rooms.