Saturday, February 2, 2008

Can You Relate?

Okay... show of hands... how many of you have a loved one who keeps their house so warm you feel like you will smother when you visit? As long as I can remember, my paternal grandparents have done this. My grandfather used to heat their home with a wood-burning stove. He filled it FULL of wood and cranked the thermostat up to full throttle. When Greg and I moved into that house, we would build a decent fire in the same stove, and we had to keep the thermostat at the lowest setting or we couldn't stay in the house - it would get too warm!

So, this is nothing new for my grandmother. But... her last two gas bills have been $191 and $204 respectively - for a 3BR/1BA house that is about 1200 square feet, if that! She told my mother that she "never touches the thermostat - it stays on 70 degrees." So yesterday when I ran errands for her, I said, "Let's look at the thermostat." It was set on 73 degrees, and the thermometer said it was fairly close to 73 degrees. I said, "Okay, so that's not right." She asked, "Do you think it's warmer in here than 73?" "Oh yes!" I replied, "I know it is warmer than that - the thermostat just isn't right." Mistake #1.

"Well, I need a new thermostat," my grandmother replied. "Actually," I told her, "you need a good thermometer so you can determine what the real temperature is." She agreed. I turned around to walk away and stared right into an indoor/outdoor thermometer on her living room wall. I pointed it out to her, and she said, "Well, what does it say?" It showed about 76 degrees, so I don't think that the thermometer was right either. My grandmother said, "Well, I never move that thermostat... except something is wrong... it won't come on at all unless I push it up to around 80 or a little higher, and then I put it back down on 73!" DUH!!! I told her, "Just keep doing what you are doing."

I pointed out that the bills will go back down in a month or so when it starts to warm into spring, and she can afford to keep her house as warm as she likes (although she has told at least two men in town she may not be able to pay her bills, and they have offered to help!). I long ago quit caring what she tells to who, so this neither surprised nor upset me. I have full confidence that many have heard how destitute she is and her family doesn't care ... neither claim could be farther from the truth.

I know I am not alone. My maternal grandmother used to pass the thermostat, and if she was hot, she turned on the AC. Later when she cooled off, she reset the heat and turned it up until she was warm again. She played "thermostat roulette" almost every day! I know that there are countless "hot houses" all over the country and people who are juggling high utility bills and loved ones who jiggle the thermostat. What about you? Have you checked your temperature today?

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