Household Thermostat Wars

This is the third blog in the trilogy about household heating. I covered the ubiquitous coal fire method, much fancied back in the 1940s and 1950s, in Parts 1 & 2. In the current blog, I shall address the more modern and widely used method of central heating. I hasten to add that I am not about to write an essay on this topic, nor am I able to provide a detailed analysis of its use and/or its forms of delivery. I shall, however, share with you something of my own experience.

In our house we have a system of radiators. The water that pulses around this circuit is heated by our gas boiler. Of course, compared with the messy chore of making up a new coal fire in the grate, every day, central heating seamlessly runs in the background, once installed and set up. However, if something goes wrong, it can be bad news. Our heating boiler packed up one New Year’s eve – try getting a heating engineer to come and sort that out! Our boiler does the hot water, too. Very chilly.

The thermostat control is positioned on one of the walls. The question arises as to what temperature the thermostat should be set.

I feel the cold; my partner does not. Her preferred thermostat setting is cold for me, whereas mine is too hot for her. The accepted view seems to be that it is easier to wear more layers when cold than it is to revert to summer clothing when hot. I think my own biological thermostat must be a tad wonky. I will attempt to illustrate what I mean by this.

As for sleep wear, I have not one but THREE woollen dressing gowns (small, medium & large sizes). The small size is my natural fit. However, as the weather gets colder, I can wear the medium over the small, and then the large over the medium. By that time my torso is looking veritably box-like.

It goes without saying that in the winter I wear the heavy, brushed cotton PJs. I believe the technical term for the material is ‘Wincyette‘ – rather a nice name for a little girl, I think. As for my feet, they may well find themselves snuggled into a pair of woolly hiking socks. You will doubtless be relieved to know that I do not actually wear my hiking boots under the duvet, although I have sometimes been tempted!

I will not infrequently wear a woollen beany hat to bed on cold nights. Years ago my grandma knitted me a tea cosy (before the invention of T-bags, that is). In order for it to fit over the teapot, it had a hole for the handle and a hole for the spout: I could put it on my head and pull my ears out through those holes – very cosy!

Over the Wincyettes I wear equivalent sweaters to those I wear about the house in winter. The main long-sleeved sweater is usually something serious with heavy knitted ribbing, possibly with a zipped front. The one I currently favour is lined with a layer of lambs wool. I should perhaps mention that underneath the long-sleeved sweater I also wear what used to be called a V-neck pullover or tank top (short-sleeved, in wool).

I now turn to the question of underwear, the same specifications work for both day and night. Of course, I make use of a thermal long-sleeved top and a pair of thermal Long Johns. Beneath the thermals I also wear a pair of briefs and a sleeveless vest. These are made of open-mesh cotton, and thus provide good insulation. The holes in the mesh act to provide many small pockets of air next to the skin. If I remember my ‘O’ Level physics (passed in 1960, btw), metals are great conductors of heat (hence metal saucepans). Although hot air can be blown around as an effective conveyor of heat (think of hair dryers and fan heaters), it has to be warmed up first. So the heat from my body does not easily travel from my skin into these little pockets of air which are not going anywhere.

As for pottering about in the house, I sometimes wear a flat cap. We lose a lot of heat through our heads! I’ve also got a pair of woollen gloves with half-length fingers, and they are great for changing channels on the TV remote control. Well, I think that just about covers everything I want to say on this topic. The trilogy is hereby closed. Speak to you later, my dear blogophiles.

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