Sometimes it’s the little things that stick with you.
Since we decided to build a house — more correctly, have a house built for us — Lynn and I have been shamelessly inviting ourselves into other people’s homes. We’ve been in at least five houses built by our contractor. Happily, everyone seemed pleased with their end result.
One house belongs to Bill and Carol Bennett, who graciously let us tour nearly every inch of their Dusty-built home. (We didn’t look at their crawlspace, which seems to have been Dusty’s crowning achievement for this house, built in an area of very high groundwater and so far, a dry crawlspace.)
Lynn admired the vaulted ceiling in their great room, the dish drawer that looks like the one she wants, and the rounded edges of all the corners in the house (which I never would have noticed). We both took note of the Bennetts’ regret at not putting a north-facing window in their northeast guest room (our northeast guestroom will have two windows).
But the thing I find myself going back to, especially these days, was Carol’s rather off-hand response to my question about how they turned the heat up and down for their in-floor system. “We just leave it at 68 year-round,” she said, as though she’d done it once, long ago, and then promptly forgotten about it.
As a child of the Carter Administration and the OPEC embargo, I remember when our president asked us all to turn our thermostats from 70 to 68 to help the American Cause. I also remember — Gunnison must have been colder then — the summer my dad decided to turn the furnace off completely to save energy. It was nice outside, and maybe we just should have spent more time out there, but we were all inside, wearing our winter coats, when my mom decided Enough Was Enough — and took herself and the three of us over to Bartlesons’, where we remained until my dad capitulated and turned the furnace back on.
And now, while my mother accuses me (perhaps Lynn would agree) of keeping our house at sub-zero temperatures, I have a programmable thermostat that leads a very complicated life due to the wide schedule swings in our two-person household. But we set it for 68 when we are both home. Jimmy Carter would be proud.
I have gone through temperature phases in my life, all completely beyond my control. As a kid, and through a good chunk of my adult life, I was extremely thin (now I’m just a good chunk), and that’s what I attributed to the reason for feeling cold so frequently. But then, without explanation, I hit a point perhaps 20 years ago where I felt much warmer most of the time. I haven’t had nearly as much need of my vast sweatshirt collection.
And suddenly this winter, without warning, I am back to feeling cold all the time. I am tempted to blame the City Market pharmacy, which keeps filling my thyroid prescription with the generic when I have asked and asked and asked (and asked) them to use the name-brand, which I think works more effectively. But I’m currently back to the name brand, and I’m still very cold when I wake up.
However — and perhaps this is an aside — I vastly prefer cold. Heat and I do not play together well at all, and I overheat extremely easily, starting at about 72 degrees. I lose my ability to think and react at 80, don’t care about anything at 90, and this is why Lynn won’t let me visit Wisconsin in the summer. She says I’ll die.
Cold is generally easy enough to deal with: put on another layer. Or — in the old days on Tincup Drive (and perhaps the coming days on Riverwalk Drive) — lie on the living room floor in the lovely patch of sunlight coming through the large south-facing window. Or, as I’m doing right now and have done for my entire life, sit in front of the forced-air vent as it puffs out its warmth.
When I wonder what I will miss after moving to a new house, the comfort sound of a forced-air heater is always at the top of my list. It’s among my earliest memories, and a sound that’s been a lifelong companion that can induce warmth simply through its susurrus, especially at night. But I am getting more and more excited about an in-floor heat system.
When the Gaylens remodeled their home, they installed an in-floor system that warmed three stories thoroughly yet gently. I once took a meditation class in an old metal building on a cement floor, expecting to freeze — and instead, it was pleasantly comfortable. People who have these systems, including the Bennetts, speak quite highly of them.
I keep going back to Carol’s comment about leaving the thermostat at 68. I am used, at least in cold months (there are several of those in Gunnison), to sleeping in 60-degree temperatures, so I wonder if it will be too hot at 68 overnight.
But these last couple weeks — it’s 4 below outside just now — I, like my car, am envisioning a warmer future where maybe I won’t have to wear my slippers everywhere and I can do my midnight stretches without getting cold.
Atmos started sending us these last winter. What is says is that we are in the bottom quartile of a group of 92 houses in terms of energy use, and of that quartile, our natural gas use is less than half the average. What’s weird is that a gas company, which makes money selling us gas, wants us to conserve. Either way, that appears to be what we’re doing. President Carter would be proud.