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The Sidewalks On Campus Aren’t Actually Heated

If you’ve ever heard the widespread rumor that the sidewalks on campus are heated, you’ve probably wondered why there was still snow lining the streets the past couple of days. Contrary to popular belief, the sidewalks on campus aren’t actually heated.

OPP Manager of Marketing and Communications Alex Novak said the sidewalks were not intentionally built so snow and ice would melt off them.

“It is 100 percent not an effort to heat the sidewalks. [Any melting] is a result of where the steam lines are,” he said.

In a few locations around campus, the underground steam pipes come close to the ground’s surface and cause small amounts of snow and ice to melt. The rumors began when people started to notice this phenomenon. Long story short, anywhere the steam pipes’ heat causes snow to melt off the sidewalk is pure coincidence.

Though some of the pipes give off extra heat to the sidewalks on campus, they aren’t leaking any steam. The pipes themselves are heavily insulated to ensure they lose the least amount of heat possible. The melting simply happens because the steam running through the pipes is extremely hot, since these pipes are how the university heats all of its buildings and provides hot water.

While the heat from the steam pipes can help melt some “superficial” amounts of snow, Novak said they don’t help too much in OPP’s snow removal process. When preparing for a snow or ice storm, they treat all of the sidewalks the same way, regardless of a particular walkway’s proximity to the pipe lines.

In order for the heat to actually help with the snow removal process, the sidewalks would need to get much hotter.

“That would be just a horrendous waste of energy to be heating those sidewalks,” he said.

About the Author

Mindy Szkaradnik

Mindy is a senior majoring in Print Journalism, Spanish, and Global and International Studies. She is the 12th member of her family to attend Penn State, she loves Bruce Springsteen, and her friends are always making fun of her for talking too much about study abroad. She can be reached on Twitter (@mszkarad) or via email ([email protected]).

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