Bring on the Heat: Residence Hall A/C Gets Turned Off


Peter Licopantis

Corr Hall is one of the numerous halls on campus currently dealing with heat.

Leah Cardinale, Staff Writer

The heat is on at Villanova, and no, I am not talking about the start of basketball season. Over fall break, the Office for Facilities Management converted all residence hall climate control units and systems from cooling to heating. This development turned bathrooms into saunas, dorms into steam rooms and left residents tossing and turning at night. 

In an email from the Office for Residence Life, students were told that HVAC units in Alumni, Austin, Corr, Fedigan, Good Counsel, Sheehan, Stanford, St. Mary’s, Sullivan, The Commons and West Campus Apartments are controlled by a central heating/cooling station. It isn’t possible to change from A/C to Heat and then back to A/C with this system, as it is all connected through piping in either a cold water or hot water setting. Once the A/C is turned off, it will not be turned on until late in the spring semester. 

Commons residents beware, because residents who have been switching their thermostats from heating to cooling thinking this will cool the room end up making the problem worse. When the system is in cooling mode, the thermostat senses there is hot water in the pipes so it tries to cool the room down, which it cannot do. 

On the other hand, Delurey, Moriarty, O’Dwyer and Simpson have it rough. These buildings only have heating in them. The Air Conditioning units installed in these halls are disabled when the temperature starts to reach near freezing to avoid any malfunctions caused by running them in the cold. 

All residents were told not to tamper with the units in any way. Now, more than before, students are leaving their personal fans on high and keeping windows open to let in cool air. 

Victoria Leone, a sophomore Moulden Hall resident on West Campus, provided input.

“The weather for this time of year is unpredictable, so it is not practical to have the dorms have only heat or only A/C because it always ends up with the apartments either being 60 degrees or 80 degrees with no in between,” she said.

Students came back from fall break to dorm rooms at 84 degrees. 

“Coming back from fall break, I expected my room to feel fresh and cool, but I walked into a musty and hot room with my posters and lights falling down due to intense humidity. Not the start I was hoping for as I started the second half of my first semester,” freshman Caughlin Hall resident  Steven Marinelli said. 

This has proven to be a challenge for junior Trinity Rogers, a Commons Trinity Hall resident who suffers from allergies. 

“I can’t have my window open; I have bad allergies,” Rogers said. “If the windows were closed, it was a sauna, but if they were open, my allergies would be going crazy.”

Villanova’s student handbook states that “Since all residence halls are equipped with window units or central air conditioning, personal or supplemental air conditioning units are not permitted in the residence halls.” This caution leaves students looking to open windows to combat the heat in the room, but alas, the handbook warns against doing so as well. “Residents should not open windows while heating/cooling units are operating. This can cause condensation and may contribute to mold growth.” 

“We shouldn’t have to keep windows open to cool down. I don’t want mold in the dorms.” said Mia, a freshman living in Stanford Hall. 

Interestingly, Joseph Hohman from the office for Residence Life contradicts the handbook in one respect saying, “Students are permitted to bring a personal fan.” He goes on to agree with the handbook that “we [Residence Life] discourage students from opening windows on hot, humid days or on rainy days as this, we believe, contributes to mold growth due to the disparity in room and outside air temperature. 

  The intense heat is not limited to dorm rooms. In residence hall bathrooms the high temperatures are stifling. “Bathrooms are like saunas. We shouldn’t have to take cold showers in order to be comfortable in our own bathrooms and we shouldn’t be sweating while we’re standing there brushing our teeth,” freshman Josie Calareso said.  

  Joseph Hohman from Residence Life adds: “As stated in the email that was sent out on October 4th, we work closely with our facilities department to determine the best time to switch from cooling to heating in the fall semester. The week prior to fall break we saw high temperatures only in the 50s and we received a multitude of requests to turn the heat on. Again, we were hesitant because it is not easy to go from cooling to heating and then back again. The process takes between 2-3 days. There is no set date when the heat turns on. One year it was October 5th the following year it was November 9th. It is all dependent on weather.

  “Since the system has not been used since the spring system it needs to be calibrated to the optimal temperature and there are some parts that need to be upgraded or repaired,” Hohman continues. “Temperature is set between 70 and 72 degrees, however, as with many mechanical parts such as a thermostat, they sometimes fail and need to be inspected by our facilities crew. Students are always encouraged to fill out a work order so a staff member can inspect the room and make any necessary changes or repairs.”