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Heat Cost May Rise With Harsh Winter

By Alix M. Freedman

This year's cold weather may force the University to exceed its alloted steam heating budget by between $140,000 and $193,000, a University official predicted yesterday.

Thomas F. Vacha, manager of central services in Buildings and Grounds said that from mid-June to mid-November Harvard spent $50,000 more on steam than it expected.

This 7 per cent increase in money spent during the same period last year resulted from a 91 percent increase in "degree days" a term used to calculate the relative degree of coldness, Vacha said.

Vacha predicted that the University steam spending will run approximately 5 to 7 per cent over last year if the average increase in "degree days" remain constant throughout the year.

But Robert E. Kaufman, associate dean for finance and administration, said yesterday that with the colder winter temperatures and rising cost of fuel, he would not be surprised to see an increase in steam spending of between 15 and 20 per cent, adding that this would result in additional dormitory costs of roughly $50 per student.


"A 5 per cent increase in heating costs would not be a major calamity, but this appears to be more than a 5 per cent cold winter," Kaufman added.

The National Weather Service in Boston contacted yesterday said that temperatures for this November and December ran between 3 and 4 degrees below normal.

In a study based on 30 winters, colder temperatures during these two months indicate below average temperatures and more than average snowfall in the later winter months.

To calculate a "degree day" the average temperature of the day is subtracted from 65 degrees, a figure which the National Weather Service has established as a base line. The number of degree days over this year from mid-June to mid-November was 514.

Vacha said the cost of heating the University would have been $600,000 more, if the same number of degree days had occured last year, citing the increasing success of cost saving measures the University has taken in recent years, including the installation of storm windows and automatic steam valve controls.

"We're getting more efficient in our energy expenditure and we're learning to be colder," Vacha added.

Although degree days are generally estimated by averaging the high and the low temperature of the day and then subtracting. Vacha said the University's system is more accurate than those of the National Weather Service because its averages are based on hourly temperature readings from a monitoring station on top of the Science Center.

"Harvard says it's colder than Logan Airport does, but a high temperature may be very high and last for only two hours," Vacha added

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