I loved the recent Treehugger post In Praise of the Dumb House.
Go ahead. Click on the link and read the blog post from Lloyd Alter. When you get to the picture of Patti Page, you may laugh out loud. I did.
Alter talks about all the newfangled gadgets to keep your house temperature perfect – and environmentally correct. But he points out the problem with this line of thinking:
As Victor Olgyay noted exactly 50 years ago in his book Design with Climate, comfort is not determined by temperature alone, but by a combination of temperature, humidity and air movement. The Nest thermostat turns an air conditioner or furnace on or off, where you might be just as comfortable opening a window or turning on a fan. That’s what you would do in a dumb home. Instead, the Nest causes you to use energy to do what used to be free.
He then goes on to say:
There is also another problem with the smart thermostat: people no longer put on such smart sweater sets like Patti Page used to wear.
This rang so true to me. Every day during the holiday break, a member of our family who shall go nameless but who has become acclimated to Southern California weather would come downstairs – often wearing pajama bottoms, a t-shirt, and standing barefoot - to exclaim, “I’m cold. Turn up the heat.” To which I – attired in my natty pullover or warm hoodie “repping” said family member’s college – would reply, “Put on a damn sweater.” Now I know I should have added, “like Patti Page!”
…because we are too lazy to put on a sweater or take off a jacket, we have let the thermostat and the mechanical engineer behind it change the way we make buildings.” A smart thermostat might actually increase the energy used, not because it drops the temperature when you are not home, but because it increases it while you are there, when you could in fact get just as comfortable by putting on a smart looking sweater.
Now I know I’ve really turned into my father. This is exactly the type of thing he would say. For example, when I go around our new offices at the Watergate and turn off lights in meeting rooms (that would later cut themselves off automatically), some folks look at me quizzically. I usually respond by saying, “Sorry, but my father worked his entire career for the Tennessee Valley Authority. When we left a light on in a room, he would come in, flip the switch to off, and say ‘I work for the electric company, I don’t own it.’”
Yep, Daddy would definitely be in the “put on a sweater like Patti Page” camp.
More to come…