Brr. It’s Cold in Here!

Challenge #2: Staying Warm for Winter.

Going to sleep last night, I knew I had forgotten something, but I just couldn’t figure out what it was. My roommate had already gone to sleep as had the rest of my suite. I went through my normal routine: shower, brush teeth, set alarm (well, two alarms, since I tend to sleep through the first!). But I knew there was something I was forgetting to do. Although I was uneasy, once I climbed into bed, I was asleep within minutes. But at 3 a.m., I woke up suddenly to a cool breeze blowing swiftly across my face, and I instantly remembered what I had forgotten to do before I went to bed. (Can you guess what it was?)

I live in a dorm building, therefore I don’t have personal control over the heat setting. Dorm buildings at Yale are automatically set at 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. This sounds balmy, but when I actually took the temperature of the air in my room, it was a cool 60 degrees (but even colder with wind chill!). In the hallway, it was 63; in the bathroom, 66; in the room across the hall, 64. No part of our suite was even close to the 70-degree mark, which means that the heating system (set on a positive feedback system) is running very inefficiently, constantly trying to heat the room up to 70 degrees but never succeeding. So my ultimate question for this challenge: Where does all the heat go? And in the words of my roommate Erin, “Why is it so cold in here?!”

Earlier this week, I spent some time exploring my suite with a thermal leak detector to find places where heat was escaping. The three primary problem spots: windows, doors, and vents. The biggest problem is the windows, because although we keep them closed, the large glass surface (and the 20-degree temperatures outside!) absorbs the thermal energy from the heated room air. The tiles in our bathroom also have a similar effect on the warm air. We are loosing heat right and left!

Therefore, we have five new changes in our suite:
1. Our windows are now covered with thermal cloth curtains for better insulation.
2. We keep our doors closed to our rooms so heat doesn’t escape into the empty hallway.
3. We have stuffed rolled up towels at the base of the doors for better insulation.
4. We close our vents as we leave the room so heat isn’t wasted on empty rooms.
5. We put down new rugs on all the floors to insulate the warm room from the cold tiles. (This is nice for our feet, too!)

Now, before I go to bed, I have a newly established routine to decrease my thermal energy footprint: shower, brush teeth, close curtains, close doors, position rolled up towels, and set two alarms (this still hasn’t changed!). Not only am I decreasing my energy consumption and saving money on the heating bill, but the best part is that I no longer have to hear my roommate complain about the how cold it is in our room!

P.S. If you are wondering what it is I forgot to do last night: I didn’t close the curtains or put the towel under my door! Each of these would make my room colder individually, but the combination of the two also created a draft—which I really did not appreciate at 3 a.m.! I will not forget tonight!

Ronit Abramson

Read Ronit’s previous post, Carbon Footprint Balloons.

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2 Comments for Brr. It’s Cold in Here!

Ben | January 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Ronit! Well done, you're awesome! By the way, I turned off my lights in the common room and thought about you — you're just plain inspiring my friend

Ben | January 30, 2010 at 1:23 am

Ronit! Well done, you're awesome! By the way, I turned off my lights in the common room and thought about you — you're just plain inspiring my friend



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