Campus cooling system no match for March hot spell

While centralization makes the campus heating and cooling system more efficient, it also makes it slow to respond to weather anomalies like the current unseasonable heat wave, says Susan Mark, executive director of Facility Services.

“We know that occupants are experiencing uncomfortably warm conditions inside some buildings,” she said Monday. “We are reviewing our system operations and can offer a few actions individuals can undertake to reduce the heat load in spaces.”

Windsor is experiencing record highs of over 20 degrees, well above the normal day- and night-time temperatures of 6 and -3 degrees Celsius.

The University’s central cooling system is scheduled to start up in late April, says Mark.

“Maintenance staff requires several weeks to prepare equipment at the Energy Conversion Centre, the Central Refrigeration Plant and all the buildings on campus to switch over the system from heating to cooling,” she says. “Once this switch is made, there is no turning back to heating mode. Based on historical data, heat will still be required during the months of March and April.”

She says the University’s central heating and cooling system offer several following advantages:

  • The central cooling system has 4,800 tons of installed capacity. If each building were cooled individually, the installed capacity would rise to 6,200 tons. The central system allows for diversity, thus reducing the overall required installed load.
  • It allows for the purchase of energy at reduced rates due to the larger volume.
  • The low carbon footprint of the heating and cooling system reduces production of greenhouse gases, thus reducing global warming.
  • Less space is required in individual buildings to house mechanical equipment dedicated to cooling, thus allowing increased space for academic programs. It also reduces maintenance costs.

Facility Services is currently completing an infrastructure upgrade to the chilled water system on campus at a cost of $4.5 million dollars over the next several years. It will increase system efficiencies, have significant energy savings, and optimize the chilled water distribution more effectively in response to an increase in demand.

Mark promises that maintenance staff will be optimizing damper settings in buildings to take advantage of the cooler air in the evening to assist in reducing the inside temperatures, and suggests that temperatures can be moderated if individuals take these steps:

  • Check that the thermostat in an area is not set high.
  • Turn off the lights.
  • Leave doors open to improve air circulation.
  • Close any blinds available in the space.
  • Unplug any appliances that are not in use.
  • Shut down computers and printers at the end of the day.

Finally, she acknowledges that normal temperatures for this region have changed over the past several years. As a result, her office is reviewing changing the dates of the switch from heating to cooling in the spring and back again in the autumn.