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Thermostat Wars (part II)

When I was a kid growing up the temperature in our house was always a problem. It was cold in the winter and hot and sweaty in the summer. It wasn’t that we were poor. It was that my dad was cheap. To make matters worse, we were probably the last family in America to get a color TV.

One year, my old man, in one of his money-saving schemes had the brilliant idea to install a coal burning stove. This contraption was unfortunately situated in the living room about 10 feet away from the only thermostat in the house. So while the living room temperature was hot enough to melt your face, the rest of the house was an arctic wasteland. We would wake up in the morning with a thin layer of ice on our bed stand water glasses – that’s not an exaggeration.

Another one of my dad’s greatest hits was a thermostat cover. He secured a plexiglass box to the wall, covering the thermostat that locked with a padlock. He would set the one thermostat in the house to 60° during the day and 50° at night. That lasted a couple of years until my brother, my mother, and I realized we outnumbered him and staged a coup. Somehow, we all decided that for the sake of the family we would remain mildly uncomfortable but peaceful.

Technology has changed a lot since then, as have heating systems. In a previous blog post, I wrote about zones for the AC and how I use them. Keeping the house at a cool temperature in the summer has saved us a lot of arguments in our family.

The winter’s a little different as I have more room to play with temperatures. I work from home, my wife works part time, and the kids are in school. My office is in the basement so most of the day the house stays cool. I got used to that growing up, and I’m not opposed to wearing a sweater while I work. Besides, the boiler’s down there, and it stays pretty warm. The rest of house has zoned heating, and while the house is empty I keep it at 55°.

I have the thermostats set to kick on to 68° about 30 minutes before the kids and my wife get home and the house is usually comfortable for them by the time they arrive. We have dinner, the kids do their homework, watch a little TV and go to bed. My wife usually goes to bed earlier than I do and after she and the kids are asleep the zoned-thermostats taper down to about 65°. I keep the living room and TV room around the same temperature while I watch TV. During the night all the thermostats go down to about 60° and come back up to 68° a half hour before everyone wakes up. No one has complained yet and my heating bills are lower than they’ve ever been which keeps me warm and happy.

I tried 55° at night, and while no one complained the kids called a family meeting, voiced their fear of freezing to death in their sleep and threatened to call DYS. While I have a strict policy of not negotiating with terrorists, I conceded for the good of morale and promised never to let the temperature go below 60° unless we were on a trip.


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