The case of the useless thermostat

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October 23, 2009 by 8junebugs

According to the thermostat in my bedroom, the temperature is 80 degrees.

My living room is also warmer than I would like, although the temp falls somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees. (I’m most comfortable between 65 and 70.)

I have had the heat switched off, on the thermostats and on the individual room units, since Wednesday night, and yet the temperature hasn’t changed, even with my heat shut off.

“Well,” thought I, “perhaps my downstairs neighbors like living in a sauna and leave their heat blaring all day. Or perhaps there’s still a malfunction in the system somewhere, given that there was such difficulty in getting it switched on this year.”

I asked management what was going on. Here is what I was told:

You have hot water that builds up in your coils inside your unit. With the fan on, the air will push out the heat. When the fan is off you will still have warmth coming from the system as the hot water is still in the coils just not as harsh as with the fan. We can turn the valve off for you ,which will cool the water in the coils. However if you want heat later on you must let us know to turn the valve on during normal business hours.

 Would you like the valve off?

(In roughly that shade of green, too, which I’ve reproduced here because I REALLY hate clever email color changes. I know someone who uses light blue against white on response emails, and that OFFENDS my usability sensi…bilities.)

My response:

No, I would not like the valve shut off. I would like to control the temperature of my home with the dials on the thermostats.

The follow-up response, before the phone call that “settled” the matter:

Also the thermostat is just an on and off switch from the wall. The temp is controlled at the boilers downstairs.

It’s an old building, she explained on the phone. There’s no local control of the temperature.

Wha? What, what, whaaaa? The dial on the thermostat in each room is just an illusion of control? The actual temperature throughout my home has nothing to do with my comfort level, even though there’s a knob for me to fiddle with?

Jesus, it’s just like the meeting rooms at work.

What’s funny is that the heating unit does seem to respond to knob-fiddling. If I turn the knob to a higher number, the unit starts spewing hot air. If I dial it back, it stops. It the heat is “on,” the hot air doesn’t blow nonstop…

So, is management wrong? Or is it more complicated than that?


They’re going to show me how to turn the valve off myself, just in case, but really, the ambient heat that comes out when the fan is off isn’t the problem. NOT BEING ABLE TO CONTROL THE TEMPERATURE IN MY HOME is the problem. Being lulled into believing I have some control by a misleading device is the problem. (I need to go back to the flyer they sent out about “how to keep energy bills down” and see if it says anything about setting the thermostat at a lower temperature…if so, it’s one of a couple of issues I’d like to report to the Better Business Bureau.)

(I do keep all the flyers they send out. I like documentation, and I knew when I moved in that this building tends to screw things up.)

I recommended they take a more honest approach and change all the thermostats to plain on/off switches. I’m sure they’ll take that under advisement. (/sarcasm)

I mean, the good news is that I have a home that’s heated…I have a hunch this is going to be a nasty winter.

The bad news is that, every time something like this happens, my longish-term plan of staying put until I’m ready move into a semi-permanent, all-around nicer place (long-term rental or –gulp– a purchased home) gets jolted. I love my neighborhood and my home…I just hate dealing with the building issues.

Oh, and I hate the pool. While I’m at it. It’s a dumb affectation of a pool. Like the thermostat.


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