Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
Signs you might have bedbugs:
What to do if you think you have bedbugs:
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:
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
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.