Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

Housemate’s Reactions

January 3, 2009

Yes, the heat is on. Sort of– it’s set on a pretty conservative digital-programmable-thermostat schedule for daytime, down to 45F/7C for sleeping, and still off altogether in my bedroom.

New Housemate valiantly tolerated heat-less-ness for several days, having agreed with me to a 2009 turn-on. You might expect that when the magic moment came she’d be ecstatic… but in fact, when I told her I’d thrown the switch, she said “Oh… I was sort of starting to get used to it… it was just the hat-head that was bothering me.” !!

Then, on the second morning of heat, she sent me an email from work asking if we could adjust the thermostat schedule to have the heat come on later in the morning. I fully assumed she meant earlier, and emailed back to clarify. But no– she did in fact mean later. She said it was too warm in her room, too early in morning (it was set to 62F/16.5C, starting 45 minutes before her alarm clock.) !! Needless to say, I readily agreed.

Then, last night, she had a friend over and they were hanging out in the kitchen bunker after I’d gone up to bed. A little later Housemate came up to my door, whispering to ask if I was still awake, and saying they needed help with the thermostat… because somehow they’d made it uncomfortably warm downstairs. Indeed, they had pushed the “WARMER” button a few times, and gotten it up to a scorching 67F/19C! We reset it back to 63, and I assured her that it would start to cool off soon.

Does this all prove anything? Does it show that just three days of living in the Cold House can start to re-set a person’s temperature expectations and needs? I’m not sure. There might be extenuating factors– for example, New Housemate hails from one of the Lower 48’s coldest cities, and might have antifreeze in her blood already. But I’d like to think there’s something to the adaptation theory.

Tentative End Plans

December 30, 2008

The Cold House Project is, technically, coming to an end soon. My new housemate has arrived. She is not thrilled with the whole experiment. To be fair, it’s hard to expect anyone would be, unless they were in on it from the start and had the benefit of gradually becoming accustomed to both the cool temperatures and the various little habits of heat maintenance that have, for me, become routine.

She’s an open-minded and environmentally-aware person, and has been a good sport about trying it out for a few days, which is more than most people would do. I’m grateful. But, she’d really like to turn on the heat soon. So, we agreed that it will happen January 1st. That gives me a few days to start adjusting back…

I have to say, though, I’d really rather not. The first couple weeks of this, back in the fall, were a bit challenging– but now I am very happy and comfortable. People find this hard to believe; most everyone assumes I am cold, suffering, and undergoing some sort of ascetic/self-flagellatory experience. Not so. The point was not masochism; it was to find out if there is some mental or physical mechanism that kicks in to make cold temperatures feel comfortable. Answer: there definitely is.

People’s reactions to this experiment have been remarkable. Just hearing about it seems to make others uneasy. I’ve been called un-American, unethical, unbalanced, and even potentially criminal. People have told me that I will get pneumonia, that my cat will perish, that my house will be damaged, and that other dreadful things will befall me. The peer pressure to turn on the heat has been enormous. It’s got me thinking about heat-dependency as a sort of addiction around here. Maybe another post on that later.

But here’s a graphic depiction of how far the experiment has gone. The red and blue lines are Portland’s average high and low temps over the course of an average year. Arrow “A” shows roughly where I, and most others around here, tend to flip on the heat in the fall– sometime in October, around the first good frost. Arrow “B” shows where (barring a miraculous conversion on my housemate’s part) I will turn on the heat this winter.

As you can see, at this point we’re only a couple weeks, and a couple degrees, away from the annual temperature nadir. It would be easy, at this point, to push on through to the warming-up side of the graph. The experiment has to end for social reasons, but not for any other. I’m convinced that a whole winter without the furnace would be completely feasible and, even, enjoyable.

I’ll continue posts about things as they come to me. And I’ll be thinking about next year. And there still won’t be any heat in my bedroom, regardless.

No Furnaces, But Not Called Whackos

December 27, 2008

Many thanks to Brushfire for sending over this article from today’s NY Times, about “passively” heated houses being built in cold climates with no furnace at all. These people I think I could get along with. Of course, as usual, they are mostly not in this country.

I have a few disagreements with some of the author’s statements, mainly in regard to the feasibility of living furnace-free in a house that was not designed for it. They envision this experience as “wearing thick pullovers, turning the thermostat down and putting up with drafts.” I’ve found that with a little retro-fitting of my own self (physiologically and psychologically) I don’t need much in the way of “thick pullovers”. And as I wrote before, there are actually far fewer drafts in a house that is purposefully kept colder. And since I do, actually, kind of “treasure an experience like drinking hot chocolate in a cold kitchen”, it’s possible that “the houses may be too radical” for me (?!?). They also mention that these passive designs would fail “on an urban street with no south-facing wall”– to which I say, baloney. You’ll just not be quite as warm. You won’t freeze.

Human nature being what it is, though, the future is unlikely to be in re-acquainting ourselves with the feasibility of living in cooler houses. It is more likely to be in using new technology to keep us at the level of comfort to which we have grown accustomed.

This summarizing part of the article I agree with wholeheartedly:

“…those who want passive-house mansions may be disappointed. Compact shapes are simpler to seal, while sprawling homes are difficult to insulate and heat. Most passive houses allow about 500 square feet per person, a comfortable though not expansive living space. Mr. Hasper said people who wanted thousands of square feet per person should look for another design. ‘Anyone who feels they need that much space to live,’ he said, ‘well, that’s a different discussion.’ “

I still say cold = too big. I’m living in 1300 sq ft per person (not counting Cat as a person), but it’s more than I need– when my new housemate arrives tomorrow, that will drop down to 650. Before you tell me you can’t live without heat, tell me how many square feet you’re living in…

Heat Still Off

December 26, 2008

Just an update, in case you were wondering if I’d frozen to death. (Answer: No.) Certainly I’d envisioned that by this point my heat would be on, or else I’d be running three space-heaters full-tilt around the clock to stay alive. Neither is the case. I use one space heater, at partial-tilt, for parts of the day (sometimes two heaters for brief periods, if I have company and they might object to a cold bathroom.) I have used the electric blanket some lately, while sick, just to stay warm on the sofa– but that uses only 150 watts. It’s pretty much like sitting on a lightbulb. I’ll admit to cooking and baking somewhat more these days than usual, which does warm up the kitchen, but I find no shame in that. And I’ve gotten much better about deviously reclaiming heat from doing dishes, showering, and drying laundry.

Now the solstice has passed… Christmas has passed… still I haven’t seen a need for the central heat. We’re getting more and more sunshine every day, which encourages me. Statistically, the next four weeks are the coldest of the year here. But, statistically, they won’t be much colder than it’s been already. So, no promises, but it seems conceivable that the switch could stay off altogether this year.

You might be wondering how this is possible– to pass a winter in New England without turning on the heat. I’m kind of wondering myself. I wouldn’t have believed it two months ago. The little auxiliary bits of alternative heat mentioned above do add up and help. But beyond that, I think it comes down to three factors: Physiology, physics, and psychology.

Physiology: With just a space heater or two, your house simple isn’t going to be so-called “room temperature” (68F/20C). Your body will need to get used to being less warm. I’m finding out, it’s not that hard. Another post later on the mysteries of human cold adaptation; but I can attest that I now routinely feel comfortable in temperatures which, in October, would’ve had me shivering. In fact, I have noticed only three shivering periods: (1) Shaving in the morning, with wet face and bare chest– but this is followed by hot shower; (2) Undressing in the evening & putting on cold PJs– but this is followed by warm sleep; and (3) While sick– this was miserable, but I think unrelated. Otherwise, my body’s now pretty happy inside at a temp of about 54F/12C during the day and 38F/3C for sleeping. Getting used to temps in this range is definitely the prerequisite.

Physics: It’s astonishing how much less effort is it to keep the house at 50F/10C than it is to try to maintain 68F/20C. Temperature differentials play into everything. A cold house loses what heat it does have much less quickly than a hot house. It’s much easier to keep up with replacing it. This is something I never really had an instinct for, prior to the Cold House experiment. In the old days, if it was 15F outside, and I had my house at 68F, and turned the heat off for the night, it wouldn’t surprise me to wake in the morning up finding the indoor temp had dropped 14 degrees to 54. Which, initially, led me to some fright that my water pipes could freeze if I went to bed with the house at 50… because the same spread (50 minus 14) starts to get uncomfortably close to freezing.

But this just doesn’t happen. The closer the house gets to the outside temp, the more slowly it cools. I never see a general 14 degree drop overnight now. Maybe 5 or 6 degrees, on a really cold night. If the house is anywhere above 40F, and the outdoors isn’t below 0F, I don’t have any worry now about freezing pipes while I sleep.

And happily it works in the reverse, too– the colder the house is, the more heat gets reclaimed, faster, from warm stuff going on. I mentioned before that my pleasant surprise realizing that if my bathroom is below 48F, I actually get heat from the municipal cold water when it refills the toilet tank. That’s fun, but pretty trivial. More considerable is the amount of heat my cast-iron bathtub soaks up from a hot shower; full post on that coming later, but suffice to say, when the tub starts really cold, it absorbs a lot more of the water-heat than if it starts warm. And the colder I let my kitchen get overnight, the more heat I get back from my dishwasher-bucket. And so on. Between these two benefits, it’s really not that hard to keep the house in the 50F/10C range without the furnace.

Psychology: Stay tuned, I’m thinking about that one.

Psychology Of Water Vapor

December 12, 2008


Now here’s another fascinating tidbit I came across in my cold-adaptation research: Did you know that the “relative” in “relative humidity” is “relative to how much water the air could hold, at the current temperature”? Hot air can hold more moisture than cold air. So if you keep the actual amount (mass) of water in the air the same, higher temperatures give lower relative humidities. And since the relative humidity determines how fast damp objects (such as our bodies) dry out, this is what we perceive. From a human perspective, the absolute amount of water vapor in the air is fairly meaningless, unless you know the temperature.

From the limited data I can find out there, humans seem to feel physically and psychologically best at relative humidities between 40% and 60%. More than that starts to feels “muggy” in hot weather and “dank” in cool weather.

At the other end of the spectrum, people around here often complain that the “air is too dry in the winter”, causing dry eyes, chapped lips, etc. But it seems that to at least some degree, this perceived “too dry”ness is primarily indoors, manmade, and a result of (guess what?) artificial heating.

Take this morning, for example. In the Smallish City right now it’s cool and cloudy outside. A small sleet-storm is edging its way towards us for later in the day. The temperature is 28F (-2C) and the relative humidity is 78%. Walking around outdoors, you certainly don’t feel the air is “too dry”. The cold air can’t hold much absolute moisture, but it’s holding about as much as it can– so your body isn’t drying out quickly. If anything, it borders on feeling “dank” out there. And when the sleet starts, it will surely feel downright wet.

Here in my kitchen, however, I have a space heater running to keep the temperature at a toasty 51F (10.5C). The actual amount of water in the air is about the same as outside. But at this indoor temperature, the air could hold a lot more water vapor. The relative humidity drops to 32%– feeling just a bit on the dry side, but still fine for me.

I look out at Accordion Neighbor’s house, though, and notice that he’s got his woodstoves cranking. He probably has it up to 68F (20C) in his house, like “normal” people. At that scorching temperature, the relative humidity in his place right now is a parching 17%. The water is being sucked out of his family’s bodies into the hot air. He probably has chapped lips, his kids might have bloody noses and dry throats (indeed, I haven’t heard them scream in several days), and they are all probably going through hand-moisturizer at a rapid clip.

A.N. is probably trying to counter this problem with an old trick: keeping a kettles of steaming water on top of the woodstoves to get some extra humidity into the air. (A similar old trick is used around here by those with radiator heat: narrow buckets of water that hang from the radiator, getting warm & evaporating moisture into the air.) This trick isn’t necessarily a bad idea, for human comfort– but from a standpoint of energy-efficiency it’s very much a losing battle. In an old house, it won’t be long before that water vapor makes its way back outdoors. And, as we learned in a previous thought-experiment, evaporating water costs you temperature, and energy. Every gallon of water you purposefully evaporate costs you a couple pounds of nice firewood, or cup of fuel oil.

So, call me a crackpot, but: one way to keep yourself feeling dried out in winter is to keep your house cooler.

Johanna said…
Me, I am not swayed by all the arguments for sitting around feeling cold, and I am still trying to wrap my head around this concept of not turning on the furnace to save energy while managing to convince oneself that using an inefficient electric clothes dryer makes economic, environmental or common sense.

I am waiting for the day you actually turn on the heat and focus your thoughts on preventing heat loss, because that’s information I could apply.

11/30/08 12:56 PM
Turboglacier said…
Oh, I’m focused on preventing heat loss, too, inasmuch as that is reasonably feasible. I’ve gone around and caulked all the window cracks. I am putting additional plastic insulation on some of them. I injected foam in many baseboard cracks. I put foam behind drafty electrical outlets. I’m sealing up holes in the basement through which cold air came in (such as the big hole formerly used by the dryer vent.) But, short of a multi-thousand dollar jobs such as re-insulating the walls or replacing all the windows, this is all I can do for the moment.

As for the electric dryer: I have to disagree with the common sense. The dryer is basically just a big electric heater. It’s electricity (in fact, ANY electricity used in the house) is ultimately turned, with 100% efficiency, into heat (with the exception of a miniscule amount that may escape as light.) So, as long as you manage to keep that heat in the house, you’re maintaining perfect efficiency.

(Making the electricity in the first place, of course, is not a 100% efficient process– but neither by a long shot is running the furnace. Depending on the source of the electricity, it’s arguably “greener” than burning oil here at home.)

11/30/08 1:33 PM
C Neal said…
Remember that warm, dry air is actually perceived by humans to be less warm than warm, moist air. A room with a thermostat set at 60 and with 80% relative humidity feels just as warm as a room where the thermostat is set at 65, with only 10% RH. See this chart from NOAA:

As I understand it, dry air feels colder because it increases the rate of evaporative cooling on your skin (conversely, in the summer, hot, humid air decreases the rate of evaporative cooling and makes it feel hotter than it actually is). So the kettle on the stove or the bucket on the radiator may decrease performance in terms of actual temperature, but in terms of perceived temps, it may well be an improvement.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out the details of the trade-off.

11/30/08 2:22 PM
Turboglacier said…
C.Neal: That is most interesting. But I think it still doesn’t come out in Accordion Neighbor’s favor. With this morning’s conditions, if AN set his thermostat at 70F, his humidity would be 16%, and chart says he would “feel like” it was about 64.5F (interpolating between the data points.)

Meanwhile, even if I (uncharacteristically) let my house go up to 60F, I would have a humidity of 23%, and would “feel like” 56.5F. So, AN’s house feels 5.5˚ cooler than it is, but mine feels only 3.5˚ cooler than it is. To make up the two degrees in “feel”, he can make the house warmer, or more humid, but either way he’s using even more fuel. Chasing the tail, I call it.

[Also: I was annoyed with that chart, because it only goes down to 60˚F, whereas my house is considerably cooler. But then I noticed a trend which leads me to question its validity altogether: as the temperatures go down, the chart says you need more humidity to “feel” like you’re at that actual temperature. By 60F, you need 80-90% humidity just to “feel” like it’s 60F. If you extrapolate this pattern just a few degrees, at about 57F you’ll need 100% humidity to “feel like” 57F. At temperatures below that, “feeling like” the actual temperature would take humidity >100%, which isn’t possible. So… I surmise that this chart is good only for a very narrow range of temps– probably not even down to 60F, and certainly not below that.]

11/30/08 3:34 PM
girltuesday said…
ok, i’ll bite: crackpot.

11/30/08 10:51 PM
Victor said…
Oh, I grew up in Very Smallish town with cold (-20°C) winters and, the chart cannot be – as you suggest – valid for colder temperatures. The amount of water in the air also affects the convection and conduction of heat. In “cold” (< 4°C as a qualified guess) temperatures an increasing relative humidity will be percieved as the air getting colder. This is why +3 and rain feels in october feels like -8°C and -20°C with a clear sky in january feels like -8°C.

This are just opinions. And this was a very nice blog!

12/10/08 9:57 AM
Anonymous said…
More than you ever wanted to know about apparent temperature (with equations!):

12/10/08 6:50 PM

Physiology Experiment, Part I: A History of Central Heating in New England

December 12, 2008


So, over the past few months, I got to thinking, you know, about Peak Oil, and about how– or even whether– people are going to live in New England after. We use a crapload of oil (and natural gas) staying warm up here. Everyone talks about how much fossil fuel cars burn up, but that really pales in comparison to what most around here burn up heating our homes (not to mention other buildings). Mid-winter even a small home of average age is likely burning four, six, eight gallons of oil a day or more. Crazy. Some people heed suggestions such as “turn your thermostat down one degree to save up to 3% on your heating bill”, but in the big picture that doesn’t add up to much.

In winter, here, we run from warm place to warm place. We keep our homes somewhere between 65˚ and 72˚F, maybe turning it down to 58˚ or 60˚ just before we dive under the warm bed covers. Our offices, malls, supermarkets, and other enormous buildings are kept on the warm side of the range. In our cars, where the heat is “free”, we tend to really blast it. Many people even have remote car-starters so the car can be run for several minutes before they leave the house, avoiding those few moments of cold driving before the heater kicks in. We grudgingly tolerate bits of cold between racing from house to car and car to office, but generally (with the exception, for some, of weekend outdoor recreation) we makes no bones about avoiding cold as much as possible. Most people with means take a mid-winter trip south to “warm up”. Even the words “warm” and “cold” have clear positive and negative connotations in our language.

But the reality is, this is not a remotely sustainable way to live in this climate. The ongoing (increasing) population of this region is attributable, mostly, to good fortune in heating-fuel developments. Let’s review the history:

When Europeans first arrived here, there was plenty of wood to burn. There were huge trees everywhere, and not many people. In the 17th century, massive, inefficient fireplaces burned massive quantities of wood to keep homes barely warm. Burn all you want, they made more. Slowly, though, there were more people, and fewer trees. The remaining trees were increasingly far from the population centers, and it was not so practical to transport wood (which is very bulky, for its energy content) over increasingly long distances. For a while, the wood-heat economy was sustained by 18th-century improvements in technology, particularly the Franklin stove and Rumford fireplace, which burned wood more efficiently.

These innovations only staved off the inevitable. By the 1840’s, the majority of land in every New England state (with the exception of remote parts of Maine) had been cleared of trees. Widely-dispersed rural citizens still had enough enough nearby trees to heat their own homes and villages, but acquiring firewood wood in urban areas became increasingly difficult to untenable.

Luckily, about this time, along coal and railroads. Coal has far more BTU’s per pound than wood, and the railroads were more efficient than ox-carts for transporting heavy loads. And the supply was plentiful. In addition, it was more convenient: coal was so compact that an entire winter’s worth could easily be stored in the cellar. And a coal fire could be “banked” before bed to provide heat all through the night without re-loading. In response to these pressures and advantages, metropolitan areas rapidly switched over to coal heat.

Initially, coal heat came from coal stoves which provided local heat in the house, much like their wood-stove predecessors. Later, a crude sort of “central heat” was employed in which a massive coal stove in the cellar sat under a grating in the floor above. Heat rose up through the grating to the first floor of the house, where daytime living took place. A second floor was likely to contain the bedrooms, which received only residual heat, either through a second set of grates or, more likely, just an open staircase. Warmth in bed depended on quilts, pets, spouses and (shocking) siblings.

This system was not especially efficient, however. The basement must’ve been the warmest place in the house. And upstairs, some rooms would’ve been much warmer than others. The next advance was steam heat. In this scheme, you still have a big coal furnace in the cellar. But instead of heating the air, it boils water to produce steam. The steam is led by a system of pipes to radiators throughout the house, where it condenses, releases its heat, and flows back as water to the boiler. Radiators and pipes could be sized and located in such a fashion as to produce “balanced heat”– every room roughly the same temperature, and even each part of each room roughly the same temperature. All the homeowner had to do, when he wanted to warm up the house, was go down cellar and throw a shovel-full of coal into the furnace. The rest was more or less automatic. As an additional benefit, the precision with which steam could be moved upwards allowed houses to reach up to more than two floors, while keeping all the heat-stoking machinery in the basement. This, I’m sure, was one factor which led to the boom of New England triple-decker construction starting in the 1870’s.

The advantages of central steam heat, it seems, were so compelling that all new construction employed it, and everyone else retro-fitted it. Growing up in Major Metropolitan Area in the 1970’s, steam was still by far the most prevalent method of residential heating. Hundred-year-old steam radiators are still at work in the Turbopalace, in my parents’ house, and in millions more homes. The disadvantages– primarily, the habit of the pipes to bang and clank– were sufficiently minor as to still be tolerated today.

But coal as the source of the heat to provide the steam was not to last. In spite of its improvements over wood, coal had several detractions: it was dirty to handle, it was dirty to burn, and it could not easily by fed into furnaces by automatic machinery, Perhaps most importantly, you could not readily turn a coal fire on and off– you could crudely control the heat upstairs by shoveling more or less coal under the boiler, but that was about the limit of thermostatic adjustment.

The appearance of oil (and later, natural gas) solved all these problems. With oil, you never have to see, let alone touch, the fuel that will heat your home. Instead of a dusty coal bin in the cellar, you have a sealed oil tank. Instead of shoveling the coal into the furnace by hand, it flows through a pipe to the burner. The burner runs on electricity, has a powerful blower, and can be controlled by a thermostat upstairs. The only remaining tasks for the resident are selecting a preferred temperature, setting the thermostat, and paying the oil bill. Truly miraculous. Sometime around WWII, virtually everyone retrofitted their steam systems to run on oil burners instead of coal. [The suddenness of this seems to have been a bit Pompeii-esque, and has left considerable evidence of the earlier era. Often the old, disconnected coal boiler was left in place for decades next to the modern oil one. And often a partial-season’s worth of coal was left in the cellar. I remember as a kid that there was still a coal shoot, and some lumps of coal, in our basement. V., over at Life In The Slow Lane, reports the house she bought a few years ago has a pile of coal downstairs to this day.]

In theory, this has been “progress”, and everything has gotten more efficient, wasting less and less of the heat contained in our fuels. But, in typical American fashion, that efficiency has been tapped more to increase comfort and convenience than to reduce fuel use. This seems, to me, directly related to the increasing physical and psychic distance we have from the fuel. We’ve gone from being able to count the trees out back, to having coal rolling across the landscape from West Virginia in open hopper cars, to having oil delivered from Saudi Arabia in tankers and pipelines that are largely unseen. We’ve gone from having every member of the family handling pieces of firewood throughout the house all day long, to one person handling coal in the cellar once or twice a day, to never touching or even seeing it. We’ve lost direct connection to our heating fuel, and that makes us much much more likely to waste it.

In my opinion, our current trajectory and attitude is wholly unsustainable. All else being equal, if oil goes up to $6 a gallon, or OPEC clamps down the supply, people will not feel it’s worth living here. I envision New England rapidly depopulating.

If we could burn fuel with the efficiency of today, but with the habits of yesteryear, we’d be in much better shape. In my parents’ older house, and my grandparents’ even older one, there has never been a source of heat in the bedrooms. The only heater on the top floor of the house is a small radiator in the bathroom– and that, I surmise, only as a necessity to keep the water pipes from freezing. When my parents bought their house in 1972, there weren’t even ventilation grates to the heated floor below. Bedtime was cold time. Sometimes really, fucking, bone-chillingly cold. I well remember when, some years later, my parents caved in (slightly) to the modern concept of warm bedrooms and had some small gratings cut in the floors, to let a speck of heat upstairs. That was a big luxury. But the other day I was researching what the definition of a “bedroom” is (for property-tax purposes) and found that in many modern jurisdictions a “bedroom” is required to have heat. Things have changed.

There is no doubt about it: People here in New England used to be colder all winter. And yet they didn’t move away. Even before the softy Europeans discussed above, Native Americans somehow found winter here tolerable– and they didn’t even have the benefit of metal tools to cut trees, or stoves to burn them in. How can it be that the Abenaki and Penobscot and Wampanoag made it through hundreds of winters here? How can it be that the Pilgrims didn’t abandon the region as uninhabitable, after the first winter?

The only good explanation I can think of is that people in the past used to adapt to cold, while people of today just avoid it. I am on a bit of a quest to discover whether this might be true.

brushfiremedia said…
I posit that the Abenaki of yore would not have eschewed central heat if they had it. Though, they may have been smarter about its use.

Personally, I’m all for most people moving away. It’s getting crowded, and doesn’t seem to be improving the economy much anyway. Truck ’em south, I say.

11/26/08 4:34 PM
Johanna said…
When I see my parents at Christmas, I spend a few days in a colder environment than where I live. Not so much the inside part (their wood-heated home tends to be warmer than my natural gas furnaced one) but family Christmas tends to mean a lot of time poking around outside for us. When I come back to southern Ontario, inevitably, I spend a few days walking around with my coat open because the same temperatures that made me shiver before I left now seem a bit balmy.

Similarly, when winter camping, coming into a snow shelter with inside temperature of around freezing feels warm.

This year, I’m back to walking/biking to work, which means 25-45 minutes outside twice a day by default. This isn’t even counting all the puttering around I do outside by choice. I dress differently than when I car-commuted, but I also tolerate a substantially cooler home than a year ago.

However, if I sit still for >20 minutes, I’m cold at home. I wear a long undershirt, a wool sweater, long pants, wooly slippers, and sometimes a toque. If I’m on the couch, there is a throw blanket around my shoulders, and I’m still cold. But if I’m puttering around the kitchen or hanging my laundry on racks or vacuuming or working on any of my many projects that don’t involve sitting still in front of a computer or television or with a book, I’m perfectly comfortable. I conclude that our proclivity for warmer homes has a lot to do with our more sedentary lifestyles.

Also, I spent my early childhood years in a home without central heating of any sort. It is perhaps no coincidence that my siblings and I all spent time in the (heated) playroom but never (unheated) bedrooms, and as soon as we moved to a Canadian house with heat in every room, we turned our bedrooms into our own little kingdoms and our toys migrated there. As soon as it was available, we took advantage. It probably comes as no surprise that contemporary Inuit homes, in my experience, are warmer than my house, which is kept on the lower end of your home temperature ranges above (and definitely warmer than the Turbopalace).

I find it intriguing that you don’t take the leap of logic and consider that heating technology may change again. You seem to assume that once oil is no longer affordable, New England becomes uninhabitable, rather than, once oil hits a certain price level, geothermal heating becomes a reasonable alternative.

And for what it’s worth, we – all of us in the developed parts of the world – *do* lead unsustainable lifestyles if we’re going to take a global view of it. Funny how we take it absolutely for granted that we are “entitled” to these.

11/27/08 11:03 AM
Anonymous said…
This post is either the argument against Canada, the argument for global warming or the argument for more efficient building standards.

11/28/08 11:03 AM