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Sunday January 15, 2006 // By Sarah


When we moved into this building, we knew we were getting an old fashioned heating system. When this building went condo, they didn’t put in central air, so we’re stuck with clanky radiators and window AC units.

This winter in particular, the lack of an up-to-date heating system is causing some very strange problems for us and for the entire building. The problem is primarily caused by the way our thermostat is set up. (note: highly non-technical and possibly slightly wrong explanation to follow)

Basically, the thermostat reads a sensor that is in a third floor apartments. When the temperature in that unit falls below the thermostat’s trigger point (say, 68 degrees), the thermostat turns the furnace on and our radiators come to life. If the temperature in the sensor’s unit goes above the trigger point, the heat turns back off.

OK, no problem. Except for all the problems. For some reason, when everyone’s apartment is nice and comfortable, our apartment is often freezing cold. Also, the apartment below us is hearing excessive clanging and scraping in the pipes leading them to complain that we’re turning our radiators on and off all the time, which, given how much we’ve been complaining about being too cold is rather a strange thing to imagine us doing.

Meanwhile, the real wrench in the system is that the unit with the sensor is having its floors redone, and the workers, naturally, need to keep the windows open to diffuse the fumes. Well, that drops the temperature in that unit, which then triggers the thermostat to turn on the heat to all our apartments when we don’t really need it, wasting money and overheating us.

This has led to a comedic run of emails, including lots of talking past each other, and slightly confusing suggestions. Most of these emails start “couldn’t we just…?” end with the phrase “does this make sense?” The answer both questions, sadly, is usually no.

The problem (besides the fact that people seriously don’t read each other’s emails and subsequently often write things that are confusing and/or just plain wrong) is that there’s no good solution.

If we leave the thermostat alone, and the workmen open the windows, the heat will never turn off, leaving all of us sweaty and lethargic. If we make the workmen close the windows, they will end up sweaty, lethargic, and quite possibly dead. Plus, we’ll waste tons of precious heating money, which is tight this season.

But if we adjust the thermostat trigger down, so that it only turns the heat on when the sensor’s unit temperature is below, say, 50, then when the workmen leave for the day the rest of us will freeze.

So, what to do? Currently the working plan is for the couple on the third floor, who work odd hours, to run up and down to the basement and adjust the thermostat trigger every few hours. This is not a good plan. Any ideas? (Please be sure to include the phrase, “does this make sense?”)

Posted by Jim // Jan 16, 15:25
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