Utility operations begins shift over to heat amidst student complaints

In this file photo, UConn's Buckley Residence Hall is pictured. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

Although the first autumn chills hit the University of Connecticut campus last week as students bundled-up for cold morning walks to class, some residence halls still remained unheated. 

Facilities manager Aris Ristau said the heat would be turned on by the end of the week following a decision that was made Monday morning by facilities, but students are still concerned about residence hall temperatures.

“It’s been really cold,” Buckley resident Shay Subramanian said. “It came to the point where I had to wrap myself in my comforter while doing homework at my desk.” 

The lack of heating is caused by delays in shifting campus buildings from cooling to heating systems, Director of Utility Operations and Energy Management Stanley Nolan said. The shift begins on the first cool day of the semester, but it takes time, Nolan said in explaining why some students in residence halls have heat and some don’t. 
 
The aged infrastructure of some residence halls causes delays because of repairs that have to be made before the shift can take place, Nolan said.

“We know it’s cold outside, but until we start hearing from students, we don’t know when exactly to turn the heat on,” Ristau said. “Work order calls from students saying it’s too cold in their rooms is a good start for us.”

Resident assistant Anurag Ojha said that despite the last week’s need for heat, past semesters have left residence halls too hot, forcing students to open their windows despite freezing weather.

“All I could tell them is to close or open their windows,” Ojha said.

When rooms are too hot, it usually means that radiators are not regulating heat, Nolan said. Broken fans and leaking valves in radiators are often the problem. 

Nolan said that it is best if students call in work orders to solve these issues, but books and other materials that are put on top of radiators in some rooms could also lead to heating problems. This causes uneven distribution of heat, which creates overly cold and hot areas in the room.

Nolan said that the temperature of residence halls is determined by an energy conservation committee that was formed in 2008 as part of the UConn’s initiative to save energy and water across campus. The committee sets a temperature setback point to reduce the energy used in heating and cooling buildings. 

Setting lower temperatures showed three percent savings per one degree Fahrenheit, according to a 2008 assessment by the committee. 

Nolan said that as part of the energy conservation initiative, occupancy sensors have been installed throughout buildings on campus. There are setback periods in which heating, cooling, lighting and other energy intensive systems are turned off to preserve energy when there is no one around.

These systems turn back on at 8 a.m. every morning to circulate fresh air and reheat buildings, Nolan said.

While most students cannot control the heating temperatures in their rooms, some residence halls have rooms with control knobs that can. 

Ristau said that Towers has a control knob in every third room that sets the temperatures for the two rooms adjacent to it, but there’s not always a control knob for each room. 

Despite an aged infrastructure, Ristau said that he doesn’t worry because the buildings are insulated and well built.  

Nolan said the new STEM building will be built with the goal of reaching LEED Gold standards. The recent EcoMadness competition is a part of the energy conservation committee’s efforts in creating a more sustainable campus.


Diler Haji is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.