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Frequently Asked Questions

Air Conditioning
A dropdown answering frequently asked questions about air conditioning in the residence halls.
How do you determine when the heat gets turned off and the AC turned on?

Ah... the weather in Williamsburg, where else can you wear shorts one day in January and then wear a sweater the next? With the exception of the Fraternities, Lemon, Hardy, Chandler, Landrum, Ludwell Apartments, and Tribe Square, our buildings are simply not designed to switch back and forth between heat and AC. The system in a residential house or apartment is small and usually a heat pump, which can be switched quickly between the two. But a heat pump is inefficient for large buildings, so our buildings rely on either chilled or heated water to control the temperature in our buildings. The catch is that the system can only do one at a time because there is only one set of pipes (2 pipe system: one to carry in the water and one to carry it out). In order to switch from heat to AC or vice versa we have to shut down the system, drain the water and then start it back up again; this can take up to 48 hours and often by that time the temperature has already changed back. This is why we identify switch over dates in October and April when we can switch over the entire campus at once; that keeps the systems running as smoothly as possible and does not put an undue strain on our older building systems. We have some control over the general temperature settings, and we cut the heat back or AC to very low levels as the temperatures dictate.

Residence Life and Facilities Management monitor three different websites (National Weather Service, Weather Channel, and Weather Underground) to get an idea of what is coming with the weather. Because of the lag time required to switch back and forth due to staffing and equipment requirements, we have to balance between anticipation and reaction to set the building systems between heat and air conditioning. A good analogy would be steering a car with 10 second delay between moving the steering wheel and the tires actually turning. With that information in hand, we work to anticipate building settings based on the best forecast we have.

This document contains more information about when we do the switch over.

Why aren't all of the residence halls air conditioned?

Sweating in your room on a hot August day does make you wonder how could any building be designed and built without AC. Up until the mid-70s almost all of the residence halls on campus were not air conditioned, nor was it considered a ‘must have’.

While the university has made strides in retrofitting older buildings with air conditioning such as Bryan Complex, Old Dominion, Yates, Barrett, Chandler, and DuPont, there are several factors that influence our ability to retroactively install AC:

Power: Older buildings often need to have an electrical upgrade to accommodate the AC equipment; buildings were not designed with as many outlets or the capacity to carry the electrical load that comes with modern electronics. All of our buildings meet current safety codes, but there isn't the capacity for adding much else to the building.

Space: Another important factor is where to put the system – where do you put the fan coil unit? Do you use ducting, and if so, is there room to run the ductwork in the ceiling? How do you pipe the chilled water into each room? Probably the most important question is where do you put the main equipment and fresh air intakes? Since the windows are closed when you air condition a building, you have to have a way to draw in the outside air, and more importantly, how do you temper the outside air to keep the humidity levels down?

Building Envelope: You can’t air condition a building without considering the building envelope: installing a state of the art system in a building that still has 1950’s era single pane windows is a waste of energy. An additional consideration is a moisture barrier; brick and cinderblock construction will act like a sponge and soak up moisture from hot outside air as you cool a building. And when humid air hits a cold surface such as a chilled water pipe, you get condensation, which can lead to water damage and possible mold.

As a result of the university’s experience with several air conditioning retrofits, there are written construction standards that are used to dictate how we go about future installations. Instead of doing such upgrades piecemeal, it is much more efficient to upgrade a building’s cooling at the same time as a comprehensive renovation, such as we did with Chandler and Landrum. During the renovations, we stripped down the interior to the point where moisture barrier on the exterior walls, ducting, piping, and electrical power could all be installed in the most efficient way possible. Not only does this make maintenance easier, the result is more energy-efficient.

A dropdown answering frequently asked questions about allergies in the residence halls.
My allergies are making me miserable, what can I do?

Welcome to the allergen capital of Virginia! Between the rivers, swamps, heat, and humidity, this is a perfect place for all kinds of stuff to make you sneeze and your head feel like it is going to explode. Stuff Guy had to go to an allergist himself, and he has scars from 5 years of shots to prove it!

Unfortunately not every student may bring their own window unit because the power drain on our building electrical systems would be too much. Students with a diagnosed disability who need air conditioning as an accommodation should register with Student Accessibility Services. If approved, and depending on individual need, a student will either be placed in a chilled-air system residence hall, or the university will provide and install a window unit at no cost to the student. Any student is permitted to bring an air purifier for their room if needed.

Please see the information below regarding the types of air conditioning systems on campus. Don't forget about the Health Center; they can help you with your sniffles as well!

This document contains more information about air conditioning in the residence halls.

All requests must go through Student Accessibility Services as noted above.

A dropdown about summer bike storage.
I have a bike on campus and I don't know what do to with it for the summer?

You have two options: 1) You can either store your bike in one of the bike racks on the main level at the left and right of the main entrance in the Parking Garage. In order to do this, your bike must be registered with Parking and Transportation Services and you should use your bike lock to secure it to the rack. You will be able to pick the bike up when you return to campus. Neither Parking Services nor the University accept any liability for bikes stored in the garage. 2) You can get a temporary marking tag which must be placed on the handle bars of the bike before the announced annual abandoned bike collection conducted by Parking and Transportation Services. All bikes without a tag will be seized and inventoried as abandoned property and subject to a fine. Neither a W&M bike decal nor a past year tag can be used as a current year tag. Check the Parking and Transportation Services website for details about the current year collection. Questions? Call 757-221-4596.

A dropdown answering frequently asked questions about bugs in the residence halls.
I don’t like bugs and it seems I see them everywhere in my room—what can I do to get rid of them?

Nothing is more annoying than having unwelcome pests in your room, and I am not referring to your annoying neighbor. The two most common pests in our buildings are ants and cockroaches:

  • Ants: these little buggers seem to show up out of nowhere, and they bring several hundred of their closest friends. There are two types that we find on campus: The Monosodium Minimum (Little Black Ant) and the Argentine ant. Monosodium Minimum is not a kingdom on Westeros, but instead is a tiny little ant that prefers to live outdoors, but will go indoors to seek food sources and tend to travel in long trails in and out of buildings. The Argentine ant is an invasive South American species that will take up residence in buildings. They are unique in that they will form “super colonies” that work cooperatively in large territories and that there is often more than one queen in a colony. While nothing beats the visceral satisfaction of using bug spray, the most effective control is the use of liquid bait stations—the workers ingest the poison and take it back to the colony. This can take up to 4 to 5 days to work but results in a more permanent solution. These ants are attracted to food sources, especially liquid sugary residues like soda. So keep your food sealed; rinse out cans before you throw them away; take the trash out; and keep your room clean.
  • American Cockroach: this is not a title for a TV series on TLC, rather it is the most common roach seen in our buildings. These bugs like warm, humid and dark environments like basements, steam tunnels, mechanical rooms and sewers. Since warm and humid describes Williamsburg most of the time, they thrive in this area. The same advice goes for roaches as it did above: keep you room clean and food sealed. In addition, if you are living in an apartment, don't store your paper bags from the grocery store under your kitchen sink; that is like putting up an apartment complex for roaches. Baits and spraying are effective treatments for these pests although the size and age of the building makes it difficult to eradicate them completely. These bugs like to hide and will not come out during the day; however, after the exterminator visits, they actually will come out of hiding to flip upside down and shuffle off this mortal coil. While this seems like a last vindictive act of defiance it is merely a side effect of the poison used.

Facilities Management contracts with a professional pest control company to treat our buildings on Tuesdays and Fridays of each week. In addition to the preventative work inside and outside of the buildings, they also will treat resident rooms by request. Please call Work Control at 757-221-2270 to make an appointment.

I've heard about a bedbug outbreak on college campuses. What can I do to keep them out of my room?

If you are traveling:

  • Always inspect the bed in your motel/hotel. Take the sheet and pull it back to look at the folds and seams of the mattress. Check the mattress pad for signs of blood spots about the size of a pencil point.
  • When packing to leave, check your clothing and luggage for signs of the small insects.
  • If you get bitten while staying in a motel/hotel, look very carefully around the mattress and bed to try to determine if it is bed bugs. Report the situation to the motel/hotel staff.
  • Bedbugs can be killed by heat over 98 degrees. If you discover bedbugs in your clothing or linen, wash them in hot water and dry them in a dryer.
  • Carefully inspect anything you buy at a yard sale, garage sale, or thrift store, and wash it in hot water just to be safe.

Signs you might have bedbugs:

  • You have white to red bites that itch intensely;
  • You discover small, light to dark brown, quarter-centimeter bugs on your sheets or couch; or
  • You discover small darkish-brown stains in the seams of your mattress.

What to do if you think you have bedbugs:

  • Submit a work order to Facilities Management, or have your RA fill out an extermination request form to have multiple rooms on your hall exterminated.
A dropdown answering frequently asked questions about summer storage in the residence halls.
Where can I store my stuff when I am not living on campus?

Residence Life does not offer any other on-campus storage, and residents will need to make other arrangements to store property while they are not living in campus housing.

The university has entered into an agreement with the following vendors offering summer and break storage solutions at special pricing:

Clogged Drains
A dropdown answering frequently asked questions about clogged drains in the residence halls.
My drain is clogged. Can I use store bought drain chemicals to unclog it?

No, no, no, no, and no. Please do not put any chemicals down the drain. Unknown chemicals and mixing chemicals can damage our pipes and can be dangerous to residents and facilities staff. Contact Facilities Management to address the problem.

Flu and Virus
A dropdown about reducing risk of contracting the flu on campus.
I heard there is an outbreak of the flu and a virus running through the halls. What can I do?

When people live in close proximity, such as in the halls, the flu and viruses can spread more readily. However, there are precautions that you can take to minimize your exposure for both air bourne and surface contaminants.

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, long duration is the key to removing the surface contaminants on the hands. Anti-bacterial soaps are of limited use and vigorous hand washing with plain soap will be more effective.
  •  Avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Do not share items, especially utensils, plates and cups. Splitting a pizza or sharing a bag of chips are not good ideas.
  • Surfaces should be cleaned with a 10% bleach solution, but any commercial bleach cleaner will do the job. The most common surfaces to clean will be in the bathroom and the door knobs.
  • Any raw fruit should be washed thoroughly because you don't know who has been handing the fruit previously.
  • Get vaccinated against the flu.
  • Utilize the Health Center.

A poster about the flat.