Posted by: scribe9 | June 19, 2010

It’s not just Celsius vs. Fahrenheit

The term “room temperature” has taken on a whole new meaning for me. It now means “outside temperature” plus any solar effect or any action we’ve taken to heat up the room, or seepage from nearby rooms.

We have many windows along the east wall, so on sunny mornings we have help heating my office, the lounge (living room) and the dining room. We have two heaters, one that lives in the lounge, and one that mostly lives in my office. We use a timer to start the lounge heater so that we can eat breakfast in relative comfort, and then most weekdays I just heat my office until the evening, when we turn on the lounge heater again. Without central heating, it’s not hard to limit room-warming to appropriate areas and times. Perhaps this is the wave of the post-BP spill era.

When I was at my Wednesday evening group, someone had brought the last of their kiwi fruit for people to take home. I was told that to ripen those that weren’t soft yet, I should put them in a paper bag with an apple, and put the bag in the hot water closet. The bag with the apple I’ve done in the US, but just in the kitchen. The reason they mentioned the hot water closet is that in most houses here, it’s the only “room” that’s consistently warm.

I now know viscerally why the British wore a lot of tweed. My standard working outfit is heavy sweatpants with a long-sleeved shirt topped by a fleece. I don’t understand why so many New Zealand women wear tops with low or downright plunging necklines. Fashion victims, indeed–why make it so hard to keep warm? But I saw a lot of that in much colder weather the winter I lived in Minnesota. At least here, all we’ve had is a light frost.

We’re lucky; this is an older house. It may not have central heating or insulation, but at least it wasn’t built during the ten years of deregulated construction, when improper wood and bad exterior cladding were used.  (So much for leaving it to the market to drive out bad housing.) People didn’t realize what was happening in their new houses for a few years, until the frames started to rot out and water dripped down the inside walls. With an estimated 44,000 leaky houses, mainly in big cities, and huge repair bills (or total replacement of the houses), the original contractors aren’t able to pick up much of the tab, so to some extent the taxpayers do. New Zealand’s experiments in deregulation haven’t been better in the long run than the US’s. Could it be that they dumbed down the economics to pretend it would work? Yes, it could!

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