This may seem to be a trivial consideration but with energy prices rising (not to mention the general question of being energy-efficient and environmentally considerate) the question of putting the heating on has been growing on my mind for several days now. While we may not want to waste the resources of fossil fuels, we still want to be reasonably comfortably warm, so there is a push/pull in two directions for the householder: being a good steward for the sake of the environment (and one’s bank balance) on the one hand; and creating a good environment within the home on the other.

And I imagine that I’m not the only one. The actual cut-in temperature will depend upon your particular circumstances. I remember seeing a Safety-at-Work poster with office- and shop-workers in mind. It stated that employees were entitled to work at a temperature above 16°C. It says something about our expectations of British weather that it did not say anything about a maximum reasonable temperature for such workers to work in. Meanwhile, when I was a teacher, one union reckoned that when there was one degree of frost (i.e. -1°C) outside then a temperature of at least 18°C was reasonable in a classroom. The background to that particular statement was when budget pressures resulted in some schools turning the heating off before the end of the school day. Long gone were the days when those schools left the heating on after the pupils had left for the benefit of the staff who stayed behind to prepare future lessons or attend meetings.

Then there are the places where the elderly live. The ‘reasonable minimum temperature’ is, I think, something like 21°C. It is certainly that bit warmer than for an office, say. Also, when we have visitors I’m more likely to put the heating on for a given temperature. And I suspect that I’m not the only one. Hospitality seems to require a bit more warmth in addition to the warmth of the greeting and the generosity of helpings at a meal.

In the Spring the question is the other way round. We have a relatively warm day, the house feels too warm but it is only just over 18 degrees C. Meanwhile, this time of year, a few days with temperatures over 20 degrees C then makes 18 degrees seems positively chilly. Yes, I know there is such a thing as a thermostat, and, yes, we do set it and use it. But the point is we might tough the chill out for one evening dipping towards 17 degrees in August, but not if it is the beginning of a trend in September. I don’t want to keep turning the heating on and off if I can help it. 

Well, vacillation and prevarication are getting me nowhere. At the moment the sun is shining and the temperature in this room just now is 21°C. This time last week it was 16 and the gas and electric tariffs go up 18% and 11% (or thereabouts) next Monday. Perhaps we can make a bonfire of the bills?

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