Beginning with the fall 2018 semester, Allegheny College has provided students living in traditional-style dorms with MicroFridges — a microwave and refrigerator combo.
For those not living in a traditional-style dorm, or who have not heard the term for these, MicroFridges are the minifridge and microwave combination units that students discovered already placed and plugged into dorms on move-in day.
The 700-watt microwaves have a 0.7 cubic foot interior, according to the manufacturer, and the two-door refrigerator-freezer combination is 3.1 cubic feet. An EnerGuide included with the unit estimates the annual energy use of the refrigerator to be 195 kilowatt-hours.
Kelly Boulton, sustainability coordinator for Allegheny, said the new appliances would save energy compared with units students have been bringing.
“These MicroFridges use one-third less energy than the average microfridge,” Boulton said. “These manage the amount of energy expelled at the same time.”
Boulton said when people used their own appliances, the college would experience regular energy surges, which could stress the electrical systems of some of the older dorms such as Brooks Hall.
Boulton attributed the surges to the regular morning practices of college students, such as making morning coffee or oatmeal. Multiple students would engage in these practices at similar times of the day, forcing the internal circuits of the buildings to carry substantially more electricity than they would on average. The increased load on the circuits in the buildings could easily cause current overloads, short outlets and cause power outages.
“With these MicroFridges, they manage their energy themselves through cycles,” Boulton said. “Say you were to turn on the microwave to heat your food. For those few minutes, the fridge would turn off.”
This saves a large amount of energy because while the fridge is constantly on, the microwave is not, except for those few minutes it is heating something.
While the appliances are intended to positively impact the college’s energy consumption, some students are concerned about other sorts of effects the MicroFridges will have on Allegheny.
“I’m worried these cost money for the students,” said Alex Butler, ’20.
Boulton said funding for the appliances came from the room and board costs students pay as part of their college attendance.
“These were included in the housing costs,” Boulton said. “Just as the housing covers a bed and a desk, it covers a MicroFridge too.”
As the appliances come preinstalled in every traditional-style dorm room, Boulton said students would no longer have to pay to store their own appliances off campus or haul a refrigerator or microwave between home and the college.
Cat Lord, ’20, Allegheny Student Government director of sustainability and environmental affairs, said the appliances were included in her room made her life easier. Lord, who lives in New Hampshire, said it would have been a challenge for her to supply her own appliances.
“It’s nice because my roommate last year was the one who brought the fridge and the microwave, since I was coming from so far away. I would have had to buy all new ones, and drag them all the way here,” Lord said.
An environmental science major, Lord researched the appliances and discovered they have Energy Star designation. Energy Star, a program sponsored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, provides a special designation for appliances that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy.
Boulton said the new MicroFridges also help reduce the amount of waste that the student body produces at the end of every school year. Refrigerators and microwaves are seen as difficult to recycle, but as the new appliances remain in the room after the end of the year, Boulton hopes they will reduce the amount of waste the college sees every year from discarded old appliances
“There is always a large amount of fridges and microwaves left behind by students every year,” Boulton said.
Allegheny’s MicroFridges will be deep cleaned every summer, and although the appliances have helped cut down on cost for students, they are still energy users.
Boulton is mindful of campus energy use, and she does not credit MicroFridges as the only way to increase campus sustainability. The annual Energy Challenge aims to teach students to be aware of their energy use and further educate campus community members as well as encourage them to be more conscious of their behavior.
“The Fall Break Energy Challenge is coming up,” Boulton said. “And while these MicroFridges save energy, they still use energy.”