Winter is a time of cold temperatures, snow days, and bundling up to fight off the chill. In many homes, winter also means fighting about where the household thermostat should be set.
Since the invention of forced air central heating, men and women have been fighting over the household thermostat like cats and dogs. Everyone likes to save money, but nobody really wants to be uncomfortable.
And so the Thermostat Wars are started…
The Thermostat War
Central heating is a perfect example of a technology created to give the consumer more comfort, but it ultimately ends-up creating endless discomfort due to the incessant fighting between household members over temperature.
I’m almost certain this was not the motivation for the invention of central heating, but hey — it’s reality!
Further innovation in modern times has attempting to “improve” upon the original technology by giving us “smart” thermostats. Unfortunately no amount of artificial intelligence has been able resolve the unwinnable battle of the thermostat.
Why? Temperature is extremely personal. One person’s hot is another person’s cold.
Did Mrs. Tako and I resign ourselves to fighting endlessly over a couple number on the thermostat? Or, did we suffer in the cold just to save a few dollars and reach FI a little sooner?
Instead of blowing money on Nest thermostats (or expensive divorces), our family solved the problem cheaply by looking into the past…
Life Before Central Heating
Before central heating was commonplace in Western homes, houses were cold in the winter. The most common sources of heat in those days was a fireplace or a wood-fired kitchen stove.
If you’ve ever lived in a home with an open hearth fireplace, you’ll know they’re not actually that warm — lighting fires can be tricky at best, and the vast majority of the heat gets pushed up the chimney along with the smoke.
Kitchen stoves were a big improvement on open fireplaces, but they share the same basic problem — they heated only the room they were in, and someone had to be around to maintain the fire.
This meant only one or two rooms in a house were warm… the rest of the house was often quite cold in the winter. It wasn’t a perfect situation, but people didn’t fight about the thermostat setting either.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect. Our forebears simply learned to bundle-up and wear layers.
Fix Those Cold Toes
Did I mention the floor is always the coldest part of a room?
Throwing on a sweater makes a HUGE difference in general wintertime comfort, but it doesn’t completely solve the problem — sweaters don’t cover your fingers and toes. Those small extremities furthest from the heart are the most sensitive and often closest to the floor (in the case of toes).
Understanding these simple facts goes a long ways toward solving the thermostat “battle royale”.
In Western cultures, it was once very commonplace to wear footwear indoors. Before cushy wall-to-wall carpeting and central heating, homes had dirt floors or rough hewn floorboards. People wore shoes indoors to keep feet clean, dry, and warm.
Asian cultures were different of course. Inside a typical home they commonly used woven straw mats for flooring. In Japan, this is called tatami and it’s a mortal sin to wear shoes on it.
Any dirt,water, or mud would completely ruin the expensive straw mats. So in countries like Japan it became the culture to not wear shoes indoors.
This Japanese culture of slipper wearing keeps feet warm despite having no central heating even in modern Japanese houses.
Nowadays, Western homes have nice floor coverings too … and the practice of wearing shoes indoors has slowly fallen out of practice in-favor of having floors that aren’t disgusting and dirty.
Except unlike Japan, we don’t have this “slipper culture” in the West. People just crank-up the thermostat to near tropical levels to compensate for what simply amounts to cold fingers and toes.
Turning up the heat is a insanely wasteful way to solve a problem that was already solved a thousand years ago by our ancestors (who didn’t have central heating).
Here in the Pacific Northwest, winter temps outdoors are usually in the mid-30’s (Fahrenheit)… but we don’t rely on central heating to stay warm in the winter.
Do we suffer in the cold to save a few dollars?
Nah! Indoor temperatures average about 60F in our house without the heat on. For some people that might sound cold, but I’m toasty warm in my wool slippers. (Sometimes even too warm!)
There’s absolutely no need to turn on the central heating during the day when indoor temps are this warm.
Yes, we mostly won the Thermostat War by simply adopting a slipper wearing culture at home! It sounds stupid, but it’s completely true!
Everyone in our household owns a pair of warm slippers, including the kids.
Having warm feet wasn’t quite enough for Mrs. Tako however — her hands were cold too!
She types a lot, so wearing fingered gloves indoors wasn’t a solution that was going to work. Instead we splurged a little on a North Face thumb loop hoodie for her. It looks pretty close to this:
It’s hard to describe, so it was easiest for me to just take a picture of her hand in it:
She absolutely loves these and owns several different coats and hoodies in the same style. She says they’re easy to use when tapping out a message on her phone. I’m told they’re even quite stylish.
If you don’t want to invest in all new clothes, Mrs. Tako also pointed out these fingerless arm warmers do a very similar job:
So that’s how our family ended the Thermostat Wars. It came from the realization that feeling cold mostly stemmed from cold fingers and toes. Peace was achieved by solving this problem, and money was saved.
Instead of cranking up the heat, we adopted a culture of wearing slippers indoors and hand coverings (for Mrs. Tako)
Once we solved the real problem of feeling cold, there was no need to heat the house to tropical summer levels. We’re now quite comfortable with temperatures in the mid-60’s (Fahrenheit).
Yes, slippers and hoodies do cost money, but these solutions are incredibly cheap compared to the cost of running our central heating 24/7.
This was how we ended our Thermostat War, and I’d gladly pay the cost all over again.