Hot as Helm!

Story posted July 18, 2013

Bowdoin College’s College house system allows students the opportunity to live in beautiful century-old buildings while enjoying community-based living. Helmreich House, fondly known as “Helm” on campus, is part of the system and of the National Registry of Historic Places. However, as anyone who has lived in a 100+ year old home knows, there is a dark side to the palatial rooms and refined fireplaces of Victorian-era structures. The heating system was infamously temperamental and inefficient. As one former resident, Daniel Zeller ’15 put it, “the heat was either fully on or fully off for everyone. There was no way to find a happy medium.”

This summer, Bowdoin invested in some weatherization projects for the house that will not only greatly improve the comfort level, but also the carbon footprint of the building. The previously un-insulated attic over the main room (which doubles as a dance floor during parties) now boasts blown-in insulation on the floor and rigid insulation on the back of the door, keeping the main room and second floor hallway cozier. The basement now features new spray-on insulation as well that is sure to decrease drafts and energy footprints of future residents.

The renovations also include an overhaul of the heating system. Previously based off steam, Helmreich now will be heated on hot water with HTP high efficiency boilers. Tried and true, there are about 13 HTP systems on campus, and this one is expected to greatly increase the heating efficiency of the building. To better regulate this new heating system, each floor on Helmreich will feature a thermostat and will be zoned independently, providing future residents with relief from the sauna that was the third floor of Helmreich. Combined with the conversion to Runtal Radiators throughout the building, maintenance coordinator Jim Deimer is “anticipating conservatively a 17% savings.”

This upgrade offers an example of how on-campus efficiency can not only move Bowdoin closer to carbon neutrality, but save money, and make students happier. As Zeller stated, “Future residents of Helm: you have no idea how lucky you are.”

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