By Mary Mazzoni on Jan 9, 2012

How to Weatherize Your Dorm Room

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If you’re a dorm-dwelling co-ed, you may feel completely at the mercy of Old Man Winter. You can’t do construction on your room; you can’t maintain your heating system, and you probably can’t even set your thermostat. So, what’s an Earth-minded student to do? Earth911 assembled this go-to guide for weatherizing your dorm this winter (without sacrificing that $1,000 deposit).

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Photo: Flickr/ofeverydaylife

1. Seal those leaks

Sealing leaks is the No. 1 way to improve energy efficiency – whether it’s in Buckingham Palace or your itty-bitty dorm room. Most universities request that student residents not modify their rooms, but there are a few temporary fixes that work just as well.

If you notice a lot of cold air coming in around your windows, a few sheets of insulating plastic will make a huge difference. Just take the plastic and place it onto your window frame. Leave at least an inch of space between the plastic and your window, and never apply the sheets to directly to window glass. After winter has come and gone, remove the sheets carefully, and your window frames will be left scuff-free.

If you live on a first-floor hallway with an exterior door that’s opened frequently, you should also consider installing a door sweep to keep cool air out. For cracks and leaks on your ceiling or around window frames, doors and air registers, ask your RA about getting a maintenance staffer in to install caulk or weather stripping.

2. Rearrange for efficiency

We know, dorms are small. But don’t forget the heating vents when you and your roommate are divvying up the space. If you have furniture or drapery positioned directly in front of your vents, the heat will not circulate into the room as well – meaning loads of wasted energy for heat you aren’t even getting.

Try to leave at least a foot of space around your air registers for maximum efficiency, and avoid stacking books, clothes and other items on top of the heating unit.

3. Talk to your RA

Since your dorm’s heating system is pretty much out of your control, try having a chat with your Residential Advisor about energy efficiency. Ask him or her about the maintenance of your dorm’s heating system (the EPA recommends frequent air filter changes and a pre-season checkup each year). If your RA doesn’t know the answers, he or she will be able to point you in the direction of someone who does.

And while you’re on the subject of energy conservation, ask your RA what temperature the dorm’s thermostat is set to, and bring up a few eco questions. Who decided on the temperature and why? Has a programmable thermostat been installed? If you’ve noticed your dorm mates complaining about being too warm, ask if the temperature could be reduced to save energy.

4. Use your social circles

Is your room feeling unusually hot or or cold? Ask your neighbors if they’re also having temperature issues in their rooms. If some rooms are hot and others are ice cold, this may be a sign of disconnected ductwork in your dorm’s heating system. Such problems should be addressed quickly to avoid inefficient performance and early system failure. So, tell your RA right away.

If you’re feeling extra-ambitious, try creating a Facebook group or Twitter page dedicated to energy efficiency in your dorm, which will maximize the group effort and help you meet like-minded classmates. Invite your dorm neighbors to join the group and post energy-saving tips and efficiency concerns in real time.

5. If you have control, make the most of it

Controlling the thermostat in your dorm room is a rare luxury. So, if you have it, make the most of it by following some of our energy-saving tips for apartment-dwellers. Denise Durrett from EPA’s Energy Star program suggests turning the thermostat down to about 60 degrees during the school day and setting it to your desired temperature when you return home.

And although you may be tempted to crank the thermostat all the way to the “high” setting when you get home from class, resist the urge. Turning the thermostat all the way up won’t heat your room any faster. And the heating system will be working on overload trying to reach a high temperature, which could lead to inefficiency and early system failure.

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