Is UBC Making Money From Selling Hot Water to Students?


Waiting in line at Subway this evening, an hour before ASIC, I heard some disconcerting information.

“Hey! Miss! Is that hot water? You have to pay for it. 37 cents please.”

The poor girl looked bewildered. I felt the same way, even though my outside was saying, “Uhm, lettuce, extra tomatoes…, extra tomatoes please….no, more than the usual amount…green peppers…”

Could heating a travel mug’s worth of water of really cost 37 cents?

Well, lets find out!*

It takes 4.174 joules of energy to warm a milliliter of water 1 degree. That’s just some physics. Assuming the water starts out at 15 degrees Celsius (this isn’t that important, as you’ll see), and we are heating ~400 milliliters of water (my travel mug’s approx. volume), it takes 137 KJ to do the job (or 0.038 KWh)


Since BC Hydro is currently selling energy for 7.07 cents per KWh, this amounts to a the 400mL of hot water costing a quarter of a cent (0.26 cents). THAT’S A 100 FOLD MARK UP.

I don’t think drug dealers have that high of a profit margin.

In short, shame on you UBC.

*Note: upon mulling this over, I realized that UBC might require Subway workers to hassle students every time they want hot water. Therefore, if your average subway worker makes $10 an hour, the minute it takes to hassle a student and make a transaction would cost ~17 cents (a 1.6 fold increase).

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Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: