UMass wastes energy and there is a simple solution

By Ian Hagerty

Jack White/Dallas Morning News/MCT
Jack White/Dallas Morning News/MCT

I’ll never forget a class I had my freshman year at the University of Massachusetts. It was a World Literature Class in Bartlett Hall, and the heat ran for the majority of the spring semester. Myself and the other students in the class wondered what we could do, but there wasn’t a thermostat available in the room, let alone anywhere that we knew of. We opened the windows of the room, expecting some slight relief but unfortunately the heaters were directly underneath. This created an invisible wall of heat, blocking any cool air from entering the room.

As I sat there, sweltering, I couldn’t help but picture the countless dollars in electricity that was blowing directly out of the windows, relentlessly and senselessly. It was an incredible misuse of resources, monetarily, as well as ethically when considering our constantly changing global environment.

You may not have personally experienced a classroom such as this, but think about your own dorm room, or possibly your friend’s dorm room. As far as I have seen, many people leave their windows open all winter long, at least partially, as they strive for relief from the overbearing heat that is pumped into the dorms. I don’t live in a dorm anymore, but I remember my dorm in Pierpont Hall in Southwest – we could never close the windows, or we would suffocate from the heat. When you add up the number of dorms that must be experiencing this problem, UMass must really be wasting a daunting amount of money on heat.

As far as I am concerned, though, there is a very simple solution to this problem. Why don’t we just put adjustable thermostats in each dorm room? According to, the cost of thermostats and their installations are approximately $200, on the high end. This would be a bit of an expense on the University. However, with the rising costs of fuel and therefore electricity, I believe that the school would, in a very short time, make all of the money back it has invested in personal programmable thermostats.

After the money is made back, the school would be saving countless dollars on energy expenses each year. Students constantly complain, and rightly so, about the rising costs of tuition and housing, but maybe this could be a way to alleviate some of the cost, even if only a small portion. People are always saying that times are tough, and efficiency is of rising importance, so let’s solve a problem. Personal programmable thermostats are a very simple and very common modern convenience, and with them, the school could really make a difference.

All in all, it really is our responsibility, especially as a school full of young and educated people who are soon to have a strong influence on the world, to take some significant steps toward a positive change in the way that we live. More and more experts in the scientific world are agreeing on climate change as a truth.

A recent report from the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change stated that scientists involved in the study, are 95 percent positive that humans have a major responsibility in rising temperatures on the Earth, primarily caused by carbon dioxide from pollution. I’d be more likely to fold on a straight flush than ignore a statistic like 95 percent.

Of course, part of this pollution is energy usage. Yes, we do have an extraordinarily efficient Combined Heat and Power facility at UMass. The facility most often burns cleaner natural gas and produces far fewer emissions than the previously used coal burning power plant, but it still couldn’t hurt to further reduce our emissions. Our planet is heating up and emissions are still on the rise, so any change made is a step in the right direction.

We students at UMass pride ourselves on being scholarly, and I personally hope that we are somewhat devoted to the greater good of mankind, if not only for individual benefit. I think it’s time that we actually started to act the part. We are very well aware of the problems the future of this world is facing, and even if we don’t believe in them, saving a few bucks couldn’t hurt. With a few minor changes to the heating systems in our dorm rooms and classrooms, we could really make a big difference. Why would we be wasteful, especially if it isn’t beneficial in any way at all?

Ian Hagarty is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]