Monday, February 13, 2012

Climate, Controlled

T-Rex's fate was sealed when he realized his
stubby arms could reach the thermostat.
Last week I took the next logical step in my quest to control the world. "The World" of course being my condo.

I long ago replaced my simple, electro-mechanical thermostat with an electronic seven-day programmable model which would allow me to save hundreds of dollars per year by automatically turning down the thermostat whilst I'm away, presumably working.

The problem with a programmable thermostat is that it assumes the occupant's life follows a predictable pattern. He sleeps in a little on the weekend, gets up early for work Monday through Friday and works until 6pm. Unless it's Thursday when he has his robotics club meeting until 8pm, or Tuesday when his amateur radio club whoops it up past 9pm.

The sad truth of the matter is, if I were single, a 1-day programmable thermostat would suffice.

But living with JB throws any hope of programmable predictability out the window. As a flight attendant, his schedule is hopelessly random and subject to change without warning. Making matters works is JB's 2º comfort zone compounded by his utter lack of understanding of Thermodynamics and Feedback Control Theory and his frustrating disinterest in any of my attempts to enlighten him in these subjects.

JB thinks of the thermostat of our single-stage HVAC unit as if it were the gas pedal of a sports car. If he's cold, he pushes it up to 88º thinking that will make it warmer faster. And if he's hot, he slams it down to 60º.

I've attempted to correct his flawed analogy by explaining the furnace is less like a car and more like an elevator. How long it takes to move from where it is to where you want it do be is dependent on it's constant rate of speed and how many floors it has to travel. Assuming, of course, there aren't people on other floors calling for the elevator, and that... hey, eyes over here. I'm talking to you!

Cut to me watching JB in the building lobby, impatiently pounding the elevator button like he's trying to send morse code.

Occasionally the solution to a problem isn't to simplify. That's why my newly installed thermostat eschews a fixed schedule for the ability to control it remotely with my existing home automation system. It still has buttons on it, but they've been rendered purely cosmetic. Any functionally they possess can be explained by the placebo effect.

And what happens if I get cold? Fortunately, there's an app for that.


  1. So it's basically a Push-To-Cross-Street button?

  2. I totally want to get one of those apple compatible "Nest" thermostats