March 30, 2013

PSU dorm temperatures a "Goldilocks" tale


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Shirin Mehri’s room on the first floor of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Adirondack Residence Hall gets very hot in winter.

Denisse Penafort, who lives on the second floor of that dorm, says her room gets cold, and the heat barely comes on.

Student Helen Affinati lives on the second floor of Adirondack Hall; she says her room temperature is usually fine, with the exception of a draft leaking through the window sometimes.


A sampling of students who make their homes in some of the dorms on campus reported varied degrees of comfort, temp-wise, in their rooms.

Why such such fluctuations?

The college’s central heating plant distributes hot-water heat through radiators in the 12 dorms.

Every building has central thermostats located in the lounges of each, Assistant Director of Facilities William Circelli said. 

The buildings are divided into zones, each of which is controlled by a thermostat.

Most of the high-rise dorms have four zones, he said, with thermostats on the even-numbered floors; the low-rise dorms have more zones per floor, so temperature regulation can be more precise.

Macdonough and Hood halls, both recently renovated, now boast thermostats in every room.

Nine other residence halls are slated for upgrades over the next nine years and will offer that convenience as well, Circelli said.


Students in some dorms can adjust the temperature right in their rooms.

Kent Hall resident Sonia Bennett says her first-floor room is usually cold, but she can use the valve on the radiator to warm it up.

Director of Residents Bryan Hartman explained that the valves on the radiators don’t actually hike up the heat. Rather, they open the vents to allow for the better flow of heat. 

The construction of the buildings plays a role in how cold or warm the rooms are, he said, and there is not a lot of flexibility or adjustability for the heating in older buildings because many of the rooms don’t have their own thermostats.

Hartman said that if students bring air leaks to the attention of maintenance, more caulking can be applied to windows and fix the problem.

Another reason temperatures can fluctuate, Circelli said, is when a resident opens a window located near a thermostat. The device detects the increase in cool air, thus increases heat for the rooms on that floor.


As well, some students may be unknowingly contributing to the problem.

Some put their beds and belongings against the radiators, thus blocking the circulation of heat.

Circelli explained that the heat flows from the bottom up through the radiators — they need space to circulate heat.

Students should not tamper with the heat, he added, when they don’t understand how the system works.

Each individual has a different level of comfort, Hartman noted. Some may like cool rooms while others prefer warmer temperatures.

Adirondack Hall resident Franco Bastida says his room gets so hot that he and his roommate, Zachary Wilcox, sometimes get sore throats.

Wilcox, however, told the Press-Republican the room is chilly at times, but it is generally just right. 

He said it does not get cold enough for him to complain to maintenance but enough for him to wear a T-shirt to bed.

Santiago Loja, on the second floor of Adirondack Hall, said his room is too hot; first-floor Macomb resident Hillary Miranda said her room can be quite warm in the winter, so she uses a humidifier to stay cool.

Stephanie Pierre, who resides on Macomb’s third floor, said she is either too cold or too warm. There is no happy medium.

Katy Brooks on the first floor of Kent said her room is hot in the morning and normal throughout the day.


Mehri said she hadn’t complained to anyone about her too-warm room because she does not know what they could do about it.

”I’m sure they could do something, but I don’t know the mechanics,” she said.

”I complained to my RA, who told me to talk to housing,” Penafort said. “Housing said they would send someone to look at the heat, but they never did.”

Students should call the central-heating plant directly if they need assistance, Hartman said.

”We rely on students to draw our attention to some of these concerns,” he said. “These concerns can be alleviated through awareness of the heating process.”

Reach the heating plant at 564-5030.