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  • Spencer Matthews

The Power of Steam

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

A set of odd new landmarks that has made its way onto the University of Toledo’s campus are the orange chimneys on the sidewalks, particularly between the Rec Center, Savage Arena, and the Glass Bowl. These strange pieces of equipment have raised several questions from students: what exactly are these things? How long will they remain here? What is their purpose?

Robert Huntsman, the manager of Mechanical Maintenance, had the answers.

Steam power is one of the most efficient and safe forms of energy transfer. On campus, thermal energy released from the steam is used not only to heat the sinks and showers all across campus, but to regulate building temperatures—particularly to keep laboratory equipment at a safe storage temperature. This works much like a pot on the stove: as the water boils, releasing steam, the pressure builds until the pot either boils over or the steam and pressure are released in a controlled way.

This is where the orange chimneys come in; the chimneys act as a point where this steam and pressure may be released in a safe way. This avoids the negative effects of the energy “boiling over” and being lost as well as preventing hot steam from causing students any discomfort.

These chimneys, however, are not a permanent fixture on UT’s campus. They are acting as temporary placeholders until the system may be briefly shut down so that the chimneys can safely be replaced by an alternative means of release. Although their time on campus will be short, the impact these chimneys have is shockingly powerful for life on campus.


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