Campus copes with high temperatures
| Jay Benedict reporter |
“I might as well be studying outside,” said Emma Tompkins. “At least there’s a breeze out there.”
Tompkins, senior in therapeutic recreation, was studying on the second floor of the Student Recreation Center on Monday afternoon. The building’s cooling system had been offline more than 48 hours, bringing the inside temperature to 90 degrees. Sweat poured off Tompkins as she studied her notes.
“Classes should be canceled when it feels like this,” Tompkins said. “It’s distracting and uncomfortable. We’ve got Canvas and email, professors should use them and let us work from home.”
However, down the hall in the Human Performance Lab, exercise science majors kept at work, despite the rest of the floor being abandoned. Senior Katelynn Witt said two of her classes had been canceled.
“Some of the equipment in the lab is sensitive to heat and humidity,” Witt said. “It isn’t just bad for learning, but it can hurt our machines as well.”
Ultimately, the rec center was closed early Monday and opened late Tuesday after physical plant workers were able to get the unit up and running.
“It’s not a permanent fix, but it will work until the manufacturer’s representative comes on Thursday and gets a more accurate view of the problem,” said Dave Pentola, PSU Physical Plant supervisor for HVAC.
The systems that cool large buildings are run by chillers, which cool water down to about 43 degrees and then pump it into the building where air handlers distribute the cooled air. The compressor that helps cool the water was overheating.
Athletes on the field
The recent spike in heat is affecting operations and people all over campus.
Pitt State athletes took to practice fields just as the hottest days of the year hit campus. Coaches strive to ensure the athletes know how to handle intense workouts and maintain their health. Phil Carr, head athletic trainer and associate athletic director for sports medicine, says that the heat is just another factor that PSU teams prepare for and deal with.
“Getting our athletes back in shape and used to the conditions is the biggest thing we work on,” Carr said.
He says the teams still usually practice during mid to late afternoon, but on hotter days athletes are encouraged to drink more water and replenish electrolytes with sports drinks like Gatorade. He and the other coaches also encourage players to eat frequent, smaller meals instead of large meals.
One of the biggest indicators of trouble is weight loss. Players are weighed before and after practice. An eight-pound weight loss is the equivalent of losing one gallon of fluid. Anyone who loses that much weight is told to consume juice, water, sports drinks and milk over the next 24 hours to replenish themselves.
High temperatures affect how the campus consumes utilities. Landscaping requires more water and cooling units use more power.
The chiller in the Axe Library serves not only the library but also Grubbs and Yates halls. That chiller alone used 2,243 kilowatt-hours between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 25, when the temperature hit 99 degrees.
The day classes started, Aug. 18, when temperature reached 93 degrees, the chiller used 2,005 kilowatt-hours. The 6-degree difference added up to a 238 less kilowatt hours in the same time period, enough to power eight homes for a full day. This is just one chiller for three campus buildings.
Michael Breneman, PSU’s energy manager from Energy Solutions Professionals, is in charge of tracking all this data and helping Pitt State use energy wisely. One of the plans he’s helped implement is scheduling.
“Raising your thermostat just one degree in the summer can save 6 percent in energy costs,” Breneman said. “So we’ve got the systems to cool less during the night, when no one is here.”
For example, from 5 a.m. to 8:50 p.m. the temperature in the Kansas Technology Center is set to 74 degrees. Starting at 8:50 p.m., the cooling system coasts off over the next hour, until it is set at 82 degrees. It stays at this temperature until the following day.
“By implementing this scheduling, the university saves thousands of dollars each month in electric bills,” Breneman said.
In the past, some dorms have had trouble staying cool during periods of extreme heat. Students even resorted to sleeping in lobbies on lower floors to escape the heat. No such problems have been reported this year.
“It was 78 in my room on Sunday,” said Katlyn Sidfrid, freshman in psychology. “I … put a fan in front of our unit. That keeps the air moving and it’s fine now.”
International students from cooler parts of the world aren’t used to such warm weather. Lena Rabet, freshman in marketing and management from France, says it is hotter and more humid here.
“The only place that I’ve been to where it was hotter was Vietnam,” she said.