Staying warm, staying efficient

Author: Rachel Novick


Peek under desks all across campus and you will find more than a few space heaters at this time of year. If one of those desks is yours, or if you are considering bringing a space heater to work, consider that most space heaters use 1,500 watts. If they have a low setting, it’s typically 750 watts. That’s more energy than your computer, lights, printer, phone, and fax machine use, combined.

In contrast, the campus power plant heats university buildings through a highly efficient closed steam loop; the steam is co-generated along with electricity, effectively using the same fuel twice. The presence of space heaters suggests that the central heating is not meeting everyone’s needs, but most situations can be resolved in a more efficient manner. If you or a member of your office is uncomfortable during these winter months, please take the following steps:

  1. Consider whether the expected dress code in your office is reasonable during cold weather. Staff members should feel that it is acceptable to wear warm socks and winter shoes.
  2. Consider how office furniture can be rearranged to provide staff members with optimal access to heating vents.
  3. Make sure that your heat is working properly: if automatically controlled thermostats are not maintaining a temperature between 70° and 75° or if manually controlled thermostats do not respond when you change the temperature setting, place a work order to have the situation corrected.
  4. If none of the above strategies addresses the problem, consider a radiant heat foot warmer instead of a space heater; they only use about 90 watts.
  5. Keep in mind that your computer should not be located in close proximity to a heat source.
  6. Space heaters should never be used during air conditioning season.

Please contact the Office of Sustainability anytime at to request an on-site consultation about how best to meet your heating needs. Stay warm!