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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Oil prices won't affect campus heat, just cost

With winter quickly approaching, and with heating oil prices continuing to climb over the Northeast, concerns are rising as to how students will be affected in the coming months.

"Fundamentally, people on campus won't be affected greatly," John Gratiot, acting director of Facilities Operations and Management, said.

"Everything will continue to function in basically the same way. Starting right away we are working on a multi-pronged approach of getting the message of energy conservation out."

As a result of a continued level of service, the College is simply prepared to spend more money.

"During the peak heating season we are expecting to be spending close to double of what we spent last year," Gratiot said. "Overall we expect to spend an average of 75 percent more."

And these figures refer just to the cost of oil.

"We are also expecting the price of electricity to jump about 20 percent as a result of higher oil prices," he said.

An on-campus plant produces approximately 40 percent of all electricity on campus. The price hike from outside utilities and the higher oil prices, however, are expected to increase fuel as part of total utility costs by almost 15 percent.

The College heats its buildings by means of water-tube boiler technology. Oil is piped into the power plant and is burned to create high-pressure steam that runs turbines. The remaining steam is then distributed at a lower pressure all around campus for heating purposes.

"The steam is always out there though it is not necessarily supplied," Frank Roberts, assistant director of engineering and utilities, said.

"Each building has to be controlled individually, and the time we turn on the heat varies by the age and type of building," Roberts said.

Some of the older buildings tend to lose heat more quickly, because they use older steam technology and have to be regulated more closely.

"In general, the heat is turned on as the temperature drops and we start getting some complaints. Usually we have to turn it on and off twice in the fall, but by mid-October we get it turned on for good," Gratiot said.

Despite the ambiguity of the exact date that the heat comes on, there are guidelines that the plant must meet. All dorms must be heated to at least 68 degrees in the winter.

An important issue surrounding climbing prices that the plant is trying to press is energy conservation.

"Energy conservation is something that most people in the U.S. have forgotten about," Gratiot said. "We have a challenge ahead of us."

Facilities Operation and Management is planning on starting an energy conservation campaign to promote awareness of the issue. Possible strategies may include the distribution of flyers to every member of the Dartmouth community.

"In general, Dartmouth has a good energy conservation history," said Roberts. "We have just grown complacent over the past decade."