Archive for Monday, November 4, 2013

When temperature preferences bring marital disputes

November 4, 2013

This is the “in between season” that often leads to disagreements between couples. No, I’m not talking about the time between football and basketball season, which doesn’t exist anymore, or the period between Halloween and Christmas.

The “in-between season” I’m talking about is that period between balmy late fall weather and the chill of winter. It is a time when normally happy couples disagree over when to turn the heat on. The malady returns in the spring when there are debates about when to start the air conditioning.

In our case, Jean believes that the furnace should stay off until you wake up in the morning and have an icicle frozen on your nose. When it’s that frigid in the house, you really don’t need to put milk in the refrigerator, it is cold enough to keep it fresh. On the other hand, the date for air conditioning should be when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk or the Fourth of July, whichever comes first.

When I complain about being chilly, the usual response is, “Put on a sweatshirt." I try to sneak through the room and “accidentally” touch the thermostat setting, but most often I get caught.

Well, yes, I am stretching it a bit, but we, like many other couples, never totally agree on the change over time. In my opinion, we have central heating and air conditioning and should use these modern conveniences. To Jean, the hum of the furnace or air conditioner is the sound of money being unnecessarily spent. We always settle amicably: She makes the decision when we start the conveniences.

We aren’t alone in the disagreement. I have heard many couples talk about the differences and have read a number of columns in newspapers discussing the issue.

Both Jean and I grew up in homes without central heating. In my case, we went for years with a pot bellied coal stove that overheated one room while leaving the rest of the house chilly. Jean probably had it worse since they burned wood, which meant her father had to spend time in the fall cutting and hauling wood. In both of our cases, ultimately our homes were hooked to natural gas, and the coal or wood burning stove was replaced with a natural gas unit. We were married for 11 years before we had a house with central air, which did away with noisy window units.

I was surprised to note that the concept of central heating dates back over 2,300 years. The Greeks built their rooms with a flue over an outside furnace. The Romans improved the system by building rooms on pedestals so that the hot air would have better circulation. For some reason the technology faded into history and during the Dark Ages, heating was done with open fireplaces.

Benjamin Franklin patented the first modern heating stove in 1744. The next big step in winter comfort was steam heat which was the standard for decades. Central heating had its critics and some thought it would lead to moral decline.

It wasn’t long before natural gas became the standard fuel for heating, and cooling was almost always electric. Propane is used in areas not served by natural gas lines. However, there are many newer and possibly more efficient methods just entering the market place, including solar energy. I can’t imagine what heating and cooling will be like in the future, but I know that it will be prevalent, more efficient and probably cheaper.

For the time being, the “battle of the sexes” when it comes to the thermostat setting will continue. Come to think of it, I’m a little cool and maybe I’ll try to sneak by the thermostat and accidentally bump it up a bit.

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