Residence hall heating, cooling causes students discomfort

Heating and cooling in the dorms has a large impact on students' living situations. (Photo illustration by Lyndsey Saunders | The Collegian)

K-State’s residence hall rooms automatically allow for only warm or cold air to run based on the temperature outside.

Darrell Reese, freshman in mechanical engineering and resident of Haymaker Hall, said he feels like residence hall students do not have much control over temperatures because of the design of the heating and cooling systems.

“I think it is flawed,” Reese said. “We don’t have that much control on how we want our rooms and how we don’t want our rooms.”

This is due to older pipe-system designs, which the residence halls have kept to keep the cost of living in residence halls down, according to Nick Lander, assistant director for Residence Life.

“Our resident hall system, our Housing and Dining department, gets no money from the state of Kansas,” Lander said. “We get no money from tuition dollars. Everything that we have financially is what students pay to live with us. The more financially efficient we can be, the less we cost.”

The inability of residence hall students to control the temperature fully can cause them discomfort, Heather Brander, freshman in social work and resident of Moore Hall, said.

Brander said one of her main issues with the residence hall air systems is that she does not have the power to control whether or not her room gets heat or air on a given day, so her room may remain too hot or cold to meet her personal needs for that day.

“It works well sometimes unless you want to control when the fan is on because you have no control over that,” Brander said.

Lander said he encourages incoming and current residents to be patient, bring a fan and follow the instructions given on how to use the system.

“If you have a concern and think that something is not working correctly, report it,” Lander said. “That way we can double check and make sure there is not a problem. Don’t hesitate to talk to staff and put in a work order to make sure things are okay.”

There are thresholds in the residence air and heating systems that tell them whether to run hot or cold water. If the outside temperature is 65 degrees or higher, there is air conditioning. If it is 50 degrees or less, there will be heat in the buildings, Lander said.

“There are certain times a year, typically late October and early November, and March and April, where the temperature will be above 65 degrees during the day but below 50 degrees at night, so the system can’t adjust fast enough because it is pushing water to hundreds of rooms,” Lander said. “It can take, in large buildings, up to 24 hours for the system to completely turn over.”

Depending on what side of the building a resident’s room is on, it may get more sunlight, which can also effect the room’s temperature, and residents on higher floors will more than likely have warmer rooms because heat rises, Lander said.

All of the current residence halls have a two-pipe system, which means that in every room, there is a heating and air conditioning unit with a pipe going into and coming out of the unit, Lander said. Each room with the two-pipe system has a thermostat that is occupancy-censored, so it knows whether someone is in the room or not. If no one is in a room, the air and heating unit in that room does not run, which helps keep residence hall energy costs lower.

“Most of our residence halls were built in the 1960s, so all of Derby Complex, all of Kramer Complex, was built in the 1960s and that was pretty much the technology that most residence halls were built with throughout the country,” Lander said. “The Strong Complex is older, with the same type of technology.”

Today, it is more common to have a four-pipe system, Lander said.

“That is what Wefald Hall will have, a four-pipe system,” Lander said. “You actually can have heat and air independently in separate student rooms. One room can have heat and the next room can have air conditioning at the same time.”