Thermostats are rotten liars

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The groundhog saw its shadow and that means spring isn’t arriving for six weeks. That’s fine with me, because I like winter. However, I dislike my body being cold in winter. When freezing winds blow, I find myself humming Eliza’s tune from “My Fair Lady.”

All I want is a room somewhere,

Far away from the cold night air.

With one enormous chair,

Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?

The problem with escaping the cold night air is my thermostat. That gizmo and I have a running disagreement about the temperature in my house. The heat-controlling monster insists it is 72 degrees, but the thermometer hanging above it — I doubted the monster’s honesty so I hung a thermometer as a threat — reads 68 degrees.

For me 68 degrees is chilly, not “loverly.” It is even worse in the morning because I turn the confounded thing down at night to about 68 degrees to conserve energy. My thermometer tells me it is 64 degrees when I wake up shivering.

I’ve seen the commercial advising us energy consumers to set our thermostats at 68 degrees. The announcer said I’d be happy and comfortable if the temperature outside was 68 degrees. I tried this and my feet were two lumps of ice all day. The next time I saw him, I yelled, “It is not 68 in my house. It is 64 and I’m not happy or comfortable.”

Earlier in the year, we had our heating system inspected and I mentioned the thermostat/thermometer discrepancy to the technician. He pulled out a tool that measures the accuracy of the temperature in a given area.

“Looks pretty close to right to me,” he said, holding it near the thermostat.

“But look at the thermometer,” I said. “It says it is four degrees colder than the thermostat reads.”

“Oh, this,” he said, tapping the thermostat, “is probably more accurate than one of these cheap thermometers.”

So, I kept setting it at 70 during the day and 68 at night. I was cold and I started channeling Eliza again.

Lots of choc’lates for me to eat,

Lots of coal makin’ lots of ‘eat.

Warm face, warm ‘ands, warm feet,

Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?

(I know eating chocolate has nothing to do with this, but chocolate needs mentioning at every opportunity.)

Anyway, I decided perhaps the problem was not the thermostat but my “cheap” thermometer. So I purchased a more expensive model, one with its own frame thingy that held it off the wall and was easier to read. I chose 70 degrees as the test, set the thermostat and waited.

“Ah,” I said, teeth chattering when I checked 30 minutes later. “It’s 66 degrees in here.”

Armed with evidence that the problem was not a faulty thermometer, I went to my husband for advice. After careful explanation, I waited for his response.

“It is kind of cold in here sometimes,” he said.

Knowing this man could be comfortable wearing short sleeves in a blizzard, I felt a sense of victory. I was right; the thermostat was wrong.

“Look,” my husband said matter-of-factly, “why don’t you just set it high enough to get the house warm and leave it alone.”

The words floated toward me like a voice from heaven as the light of understanding dawned.

“Why don’t I do that?” I whispered punching the button until the thermostat’s setting was 74 degrees.

The heater hummed and the thermometer read 70 degrees. I settled into my enormous chair, warm, happy, contemplating the groundhog’s prediction of more cold weather and sang softly with Eliza.

Aow, so loverly sittin’ abso-bloomin’-lutely still.

I would never budge ‘till spring

Crept over me windowsill.

Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Loverly, loverly, loverly, loverly