Bring on the HEAT!

By Madeline Helser 

Imagine that you’re walking back to your dorm from class in 30-degree weather. What is the one thing you are looking forward to? Being warm, perhaps? Did you ever stop to think about just where that heat is coming from and how much energy is being put into providing it? The Greening Committee asked that question, and instead of a straightforward answer, they received a tour of the basement of Main Building’s energy facility, more commonly called the boiler room.

As we arrived in the basement of Main Building, Stephen Sprague, the guy responsible for the heating, air conditioning, and plumbing, etc., showed us the ins and outs of the boiler room.

First, he showed us the new additions made in the energy facility. There are two new air separators, two expansion tanks, and bundles. The cost of all of the new equipment in Main Building was around $30,000.

The air separators are two yellow tanks that separate the air from the water in the expansion tanks. Previously, air would enter into the water tanks and stop the water from moving. This was obviously problematic. Because of this, they needed to attach a garden hose to the expansion tanks (which were located in the attic, as air travels to the highest point) in order to expel of the excess air. This made the two new air separators a replacement for the garden hose as well as a new-fangled contraption for our heating facilities.

The two new expansion tanks are now located in the boiler room. The old ones used to be in the attic, but because of the new air separators, they are now located in the basement. The expansion tanks are to contain water as it heats and expands in volume, which is then used to heat the building.

The bundles are basically a fancy radiator. Regulated by a thermostat, they convert steam into hot water. There are two burners that heat the water that is converted into steam. The steam needs to be converted into hot water because it is easier to control the temperature of water than steam. The boiler water is kept at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Why is all of this important you ask? Well, because the building is heated by steam!

The water that is converted into steam is heated by natural gas. Antioch buys around half a million dollars worth of non-renewable petrol products each year. This gas comes from the Gulf of Mexico. It is shipped first from New Orleans, LA, to Dayton, OH, then on to us. Fun Fact: The shipment of the gas from Dayton to here is actually more expensive to ship than when it is shipped from New Orleans to Dayton. This is because the shipment of the gas from Dayton to here is regulated by the government, and the price of the shipment of the gas from New Orleans to Dayton is determined by free market trading!

Antioch usually buys a “winter strip? of gas for the period of October through March. The gas used to cost less that $2.50 per decatherm, or one million cubic feet of gas. Now, the gas costs $6.12 per decatherm. At one point last winter, the cost crept up to $16!

Where is all of this gas kept you ask? Well, I can tell you! According to Peter Townsend, natural gas is injected and stored in old oil fields all over the country. Right now, there is more natural gas being stored in our country than there has ever been before.

The main question being asked by the Greening Committee is, “Can we regulate thermostats in the dormitories in order to avoid losing heat to open windows if it becomes too hot?? Well, we can’t do anything in Mills and Spalt, because the heaters are located directly underneath of the windows. We can’t control the ones in Birch because they are mounted wall units. In North, although the heat is not controllable by the students, the thermostats respond to the exterior temperature of the building. So, for instance, if a window is open in North, although heat is escaping, the temperature of the inside of the building does not increase just because it becomes colder as a result of the window being open. In South Building, separate thermostats were installed around 10-12 years ago making the temperatures controllable.

The Greening committee and all who attended the tour were educated on how the heating system works, and how little control we have over it. So if you don’t want heat, but you don’t want to waste energy, the obvious solution is to wear bundle up and to go about your merry ways!

Editor’s Note: The Record office is very, very cold. If anyone has an extra space heater lying around, we could use it desperately.