15 October 2009

The heat game

Today is an auspicious day in the Goldsteen household. Today is the day we turned on the heat.

When we moved to this house almost three years ago, we experienced a severe case of utility sticker shock. We expected our utility bill to roughly double. We thought this was a reasonable assumption, because our new house is roughly one-third larger than our previous house. You can imagine our surprise that first winter when the utilities bill was closer to three times as much as we had previously paid. I think this had something to do with an unfortunate confluence of rising natural gas prices, and an older, and thus more inefficient house.

And now, every year, when the weather turns cold, when I look through my lovely old windows, with their rippling pains of glass, I no longer appreciate their beauty, and the way they frame the views. All I can see is THEY ARE COSTING ME A FUCKING FORTUNE. I do, however, appreciate the irony in the fact that we cannot yet afford to replace them.

David has gone on aggressive fact-finding missions, searching out and sealing any obvious leaks, which has shaved approximately ten dollars from our average bill.

And thus, we began to play the heat game.

The heat game is familiar to many homeowners. There are two primary aspects; How Low Can You Go, and How Long Can You Wait?

How Low Can You Go is the less challenging aspect of the game; for amateurs, if you will. My daytime threshold is sixty-seven degrees. Sixty-eight degrees is more comfortable to me, but it's nothing that a sweater, a few additional trips up and down the stairs a little extra vacuuming won't cure. At night, we go down to sixty-four degrees, and we are thinking that perhaps this year, we may try to beat this personal best, and go to sixty-three, or maybe even sixty-two.

Once you agree to play How Long Can You Wait, you have made it to the pros. You start by assigning an arbitrary date before which you will not turn on the heat, NO MATTER WHAT.

And then, you wait.

Our date is October 15, and it has given me a new appreciation as to how cold sixty degrees really is without benefit of sunlight. Sixty degrees is cold enough that I have been wearing two sweaters, a scarf, and a hat indoors. If it didn't impair my fine motor skills so much, I would opt for gloves as well. I look fairly ridiculous, but no less so than my friend Sharon, who equips herself for the heat game by creating a DIY Snuggie made from a blanket she wraps taut around her body as one does post-shower, so that she ends up looking like a ragtag Bedouin.

The heat game means I run the risk of becoming dangerously over caffeinated, because instead of one or two cups of coffee a day, I make cup after cup, so as not to be without a warm mug in my hands. Hot beverages have the added bonus of providing temporary relief to the tip of my frozen nose.

The heat game is very good for certain aspects of housekeeping. The floors are very clean, because vacuuming and mopping are good aerobic activities. Bathroom cleaning ranks low, because while scrubbing the tub is effective for raising body temperature, coming into contact with the water necessary for rinsing would negate its aerobic effect.

I felt a little guilty this year because I cheated when I brought a space heater down from the attic on Monday. The kids were off from school, and while it is one thing to subject myself to such deprivations, it seemed a mercy not to inflict suffering on my children unnecessarily. This gave me the added bonus of getting to watch my children duke it out fighting for primacy in front of the heater, in a true depression-style amusement.

This morning when we awoke, David and I looked at each other and nodded in agreement. We had endured long enough, and it was indeed time. On my way out to take the kids to school, I flicked the switch on the thermostat, and when I arrived home, I was greeted by the metallic smell of water moving blessedly through the radiators.

Yet even as my muscles began to loosen, and my teeth unclench, and my fingers thaw, I found myself wondering, if perhaps next year, we could hold out just a few days longer.

Such is the perverse logic of the heat game. 


  1. FYI- If you get Low-E glass storm windows, they are asw efficient as new windows and WAY cheaper for installation.

  2. Loved this. 'Fraid my heating is temperature controlled and comes on when the hall reaches 16c, and it's been coming on morning and evening all week. What it doesn't do is stay on through the day: like you I have to do alot of running up and down stairs and drinking coffee. The chimney was swept this week so I'm looking forward to our first fire of the season this weekend.