Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Getting it Right

There is one thing that would benefit everyone as the weather becomes cooler -- getting the temperature right.

Outdoors, seasonal changes have begun in earnest. The sunshine has moved to the south of the house, now streaming through windows vacated for many months. Today's temperature is in the 70s, cloudy with occasional showers. The air is very fresh and quite lovely. Clearly it's no longer summer.

When I ventured out yesterday on errands, I took along a sweater just in case.  There are several ways to keep comfortable on an in-between day in early autumn. Wear long sleeves. If outside, stand in direct sunlight. Keep the house windows closed.

But at night, it obvious that the weather has really changed. The house was actually chilly this morning, too uncomfortable for sleeping in. The heat has already been turned on. But the main thermostat was replaced a couple of years ago with one of those automatic units. You decide the temperature and set the time. The thermostat then controls the temperature without manually changing it. The idea is to prevent constant adjustments to the temperature control to reduce energy consumption.

In setting the schedule, one must keep in mind when the house needs to be warmer - now reset to occur from 6:00 a.m. through approximately 11:00 p.m. That means if residents wake up in the night shivering from the cold, they are discouraged from climbing out of bed and stumbling to the thermostat because soon the timer will kick in.

Thermostats are remarkable inventions and help us control the temperature. They are rather fascinating devices once we learn to live with them.

I lived in the Arizona desert for several decades, where everyone is constantly freaked out about the status of their air conditioning, on which they rely heavily and which remains on for most of the year. If you wear shorts in the peak of summer and visit a shopping mall or movie theatre, chances are you will freeze indoors. People who easily chill or, like my aunt, have arthritis, often carry a sweater for covering their shoulders in such environments. Indoor establishments can be so cold that going outside and climbing into a car that has set for several hours at 115 degrees can actually feel GOOD, at least for a while.

Offices everywhere are plagued by fluctuations in the air conditioning and heating systems. One old building where I worked still used an antiquated old heat system using with steam, the walls lined with large, century-old cast iron radiators. The radiators were large and hissed non-stop, but the high ceilings and expansive spaces were kept warm and toasty.  Never mind the noise, the musty smell or the sweaty windows, the heat was dependable.

Any building has a problem if its doors open and close frequently as people come and go. Once any room is filled with warm, sweaty people, someone is bound to switch on the air conditioning. If that room is suddenly emptied, the temperature can drop dramatically and someone will switch the unit again to provide heat. To counteract this response, some businesses have installed plastic boxes around the thermostats -- a sort of prison cell -- to prohibit fiddling with the switch. In such instances, only the manager or shift captain has a key to allow opening the cage and changing the setting. (Another method to reach and adjust the controls include use of a letter opener or coat hanger. But you didn't hear that from me.) Where there is a will, there is a way.

If a workplace has 5 people in one room, no two of them will agree on whether the room is too hot or too cold at any given time. Many cubicle workers have provided their own small electric fan/heater to fit under their desks. These little units can provide a volume of localized air/heat.

Having the right environment is crucial to getting work accomplished. Whether it's cool enough in the summer or warm enough in chillier weather, the less one has to think about his/her own comfort, the more productive the day will be.

 Stay comfy.




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