Dorm Heating

Every year questions arise about dorm heat and our heating policy on campus. Dorm heat follows the same heating and cooling policy as the rest of the campus, and we strive to keep temperatures within the comfort range, 68-72 degrees, during regular work hours. Please see the Heating Policy for more information.

About Dorm Heating Systems

We have two basic types of heating systems in the dorms: steam radiation or hydronic (water). Hydronic systems are either passive strip heaters along the base board that warm the room by convection or fan powered unit heaters with individual room control. Some buildings have cast iron radiator steam or hydronic systems.

To heat effectively, each of these systems needs to be free of obstructions so air can flow through and around them. Do not pile clothing or towels on them, push your bed against them, or push carpet against the bottom of the heater as this will significantly limit heat to your room.  Please make sure you allow enough room and air flow around your heater for best efficiency and heat. Consult the table at the end to determine the type of heating system in your dorm.

There is a third type of HVAC that is being introduced into new construction.  Heat pumps are noted for their efficiency at extracting heat and can either be a variable refrigerant flow system or a conventional heat pump, ground source, water source or air to air system.  The basic principle is heat transfer.  The systems work in the winter to extract heat from the ground or outside air to heat a space or the reverse in the summer as air conditioning to extract the heat from the space.  Parrish Hall and the Dwell Infill have these systems in place with more planned for future construction.

Steam/Radiator Heat

Steam heat efficiently moves a lot of British thermal units (Btu's, a measure of heat) in a small pipe. You may notice that steam heat makes some peculiar noises, all of which are normal. Cracking and popping sounds, hissing or gurgling sounds, and even loud hammering sounds are all normal radiator heat sounds made when steam and air move the through the system.

Steam heat is very consistent, and radiators hold the heat for a long time. Radiators are a closed system.  Steam does not enter the room. If a radiator is cold, it's possible that the valve has been shut off (turn the knob on the radiator counterclockwise to open it up or vice versa). If the valve is open and the radiator is still cold, the steam trap may be fault, and "workbox" should be notified for maintenance attention. If the room is too warm, you can shut the radiator valve or block the radiator to minimize the heat.

Baseboard Hydronic heat

Baseboard heat is quiet and reasonably effective. A pump simply flows hot water through the pipe. Aluminum fins pressed onto the pipe transfer the heat to the air. A tilting louver at the top of the unit can be closed to limit or shut off air flow. If your baseboard unit makes a gurgling sound, air is in the lines. Air will cause flow problems and reduce the heat available, so please report gurgling to "workbox".

Fan Powered Unit Heaters:

The principle of fan-powered heaters is the same as the baseboard heater (hot water, pipe,aluminum fins). The fan promotes rapid and even heating of a space. It draws the cold air off the floor and blows it through the heater core up into the room which mixes and breaks up cold spots. It also has a thermostat and runs relatively quietly. Please note that the fan will run ONLY when the thermostat is calling for heat. There is a slight delay between the activation of the hot water valve and the activation of the fan to ensure that warm air will blow out of the unit. When room temperature is reached, the fan will shut off.

For specific information about your dorm click on the name.
Type of heat Control Dorm
Steam Knob on valve Mary Lyon 4 [pdf]*
Roberts [pdf]
Worth [pdf]/Lodges [pdf]
Woolman [pdf]
Hot water Radiator or Baseboard Limited to Louver
or valve on radiator
Dana, Hallowell [pdf]
Kyle House [pdf]
Palmer/Pttinger [pdf]
Parrish [pdf]
Wharton [pdf]
Willets [pdf]
Fan-powered Unit Heater Thermostat** Alice Paul, David Kemp [pdf]
Mertz [pdf], Dwell/Dana/Well Infill

* Lower level rooms have hot water baseboard heat.
** Thermostat control is limited by energy management system.