Saturday, 19 September 2009


I give up, is it just me or what.

I know how a thermostat works, it is simple. You don't have to know the inner workings. The logic is simple. Set the temperature you want. For heating systems it turns the heating on when below and off when above. The heating is only ever on or off. There is no extra on mode that heats up quicker.

So why is it that certain people (who shall rename nameless) cannot get this concept in to their head. Quote from one daughter "It was hot so I turned the thermostat down"...

But but but, it was like 29°C and the thermostat was set for 20°C so heating was off. Not surprising as it is the middle of summer and so had been off for months, and she turns it to 5°C... Like that is a sensible temperature. She expected to set it to something higher, like 30°C when it gets cold, and so on?!?

It seems that many people use a thermostat like an on/off switch. Set low to turn on, and set high to turn off (for heating systems). They just do not understand.

Its like a certain other person that insists on pre-heating a gas oven by setting to gas mark 9, and then later setting the right temperature. I think she thinks it gets hotter quicker if you set to a higher level.

And what drives me even madder is that you cannot explain it. Well, you can, but it does not actually help. They still do it...

Am I alone in finding this very annoying?


  1. No you are not alone. I know several people who complain about their (mainly wives) who do the same.

    Worse than that, we have PID loop controlled furnaces at work (I am an electrical engineer). Several operators get impatient and, even though the burners are running flat out, will increase the temperature setpoint wrongly thinking they are speeding it up. It doesn't make a blind bit of difference except that the burners don't back off when they should and the operator then complains that the temperature overshoots - of course it will!

  2. I tried explaining this to a British Gas engineer who expressed surprise and shock that we leave our heating turned on all year round. He just didn't get it - a bit worrying coming from somebody who fits, manages and maintains heating systems for a living.

  3. Indeed, Nick, why would you not. And as you get in to September there is the old cold night and it kicks in - perfect. Why some people do not understand one of the simplest automated systems ever devised is beyond me. What hope have they for understanding what computers do with heuristic algorithms.

  4. And who has won an argument with a women and regretted it. Phrases like "look, setting to 20 degrees instead of 15 degrees and cold air does still come out, because it is way over 20 degrees right now" just gets you a glare and a lot of silence for the rest of the trip.

  5. They do that in the office.. the heating is off all summer - except they always switch it on too late, meaning we feeeze for a month.

    It's so common that I've wondered if there was something that I was missing.. I'm glad to know it's not me, and everyone else is in fact mad.

  6. You're not alone, I hate that sort of thing too. My younger sister was turning mum's thermostat to 10 to make the house heat up faster. There's now a note explaining thermostats with "Set to values x...y or barakta will yell at you for being stupid"

    You guys have of course committed the cardinal crime of 'being right, while male'. There isn't much of a solution to that unless you can find a female who groks it to do the 'explaining the wrong' thing and even that doesn't resolve the actual 'believing and doing wrong things' problem. I try and avoid arguing with women, it's too annoying.

  7. This is a regularly cited example in explaining interface design principles - "keep it simple, stupid". Question is how simple and how stupid do you go?...

    It also reminds me of the time I set a basic programming task for a group of ~10 physics PhD students to model how rapidly boiled water cools more quickly that slowly boiled water. Not one of them debated the truth of this assertion!

  8. In my house I ended up gaffer taping the thermostat to a sensible temperature.

    Whilst my housemate did get the concept of how it worked, he didn't make it as far as "I'm a *little* bit cold, so I'll turn the thermostat up a *little* bit." It went to 30 every time. So it got too hot, at which point it went down to something low, so it got cold again...


  9. Fair enough, i understand the whole thermostat thing, but im pretty sure if you are pre heating an oven and you turn the gas mark up higher it does get hotter quicker because you can see the flames get larger as you turn it up so it will get hotter faster?

    the part i dont understand in the example is the need to pre heat the oven at all

  10. I agree, I am puzzled by the need to pre-heat an oven. Surely with gas burning the air in an oven is hot in seconds?

    I was under the impression the gas had two levels. A low level until it gets warm in-case there is no flame at all, and full blast until it gets to full temperature. But I am happy to be proved wrong. I'll try it.

  11. Slightly confused by your comment on turning on a gas oven to mk9 as a pre-heat.

    Turning up to 9 == more gas == bigger flame.

    However, having discussed this in the office at length, perhaps you have an uber modern gas cooker, not a clunky old banger where bigger gas mark == more flameyness?

  12. I have just checked the rangemaster 110 we have. I left long enough to start a full flame (there is some safety feature that keeps it pilot light level until it gets warm).

    Then tried different settings from 1 to 9, and the flame stayed the same height.

    I can only assume we have a gas oven that uses some sort of thermostat.

    However I am quite happy to believe that some gas overs work differently and do not use a thermostat but control gas flow rate. That being the case my comment would not make any sense, I agree. If that is the case I have learned something (which is good0.

    But this is about thermostats :-)

  13. Thank you so much for saying this!

    I am currently sat in a computer room at St Andrews University, where we are lucky to have a pretty advanced air conditioning / heating system.

    The thermostat is not difficult to understand. It has a digital display and an up and down button. It turns the air con or heating on depending on the current and desired temperatures.

    When I entered the room 2 hours ago, it was set to 21C. Perfect. However, some girl has decided to get up and change the thermostat because she is cold. But she has set it to 27! 27!!!!!

    It is not getting unbearably hot and I have a strong conviction she will soon get up and set it to 18.

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

  14. I don't believe it - nasty draught coming in because window open!

    Why? because too hot!

    Why? because thermostat way up!

    Why? because earlier it was "freezing cold in here" so she turned up the thermostat!!!!


  15. Slightly unrelated, but I feel in the same mindset (especially after it happened on the same day as educating my better half on thermostats & the heating system in our new house) and I need a place to rant too!

    We have a tumble drier with a condenser system, which in our last house was great, as it meant we could put the tumble drier in a convenient place with no vent or other waste pipe.

    However having moved house recently, the tumble drier is now situated right next to a waste pipe used also by the washing machine. The tumbler drier designers thoughtfully created their tumble drier with the ability to disconnect the pipe from the condenser reservoir and attach to a waste water pipe - eliminating the need to ever empty the container again.

    However, said better half doesn't want it done. For no other reason than "I don't want it" and "I don't mind emptying the container" (ahem, I empty it to and I do mind)

    There are no aesthetic considerations as it is all in an (already ugly) utility room, and any attempt to apply rationality to the situation seems to wind her up more.


  16. A lot of people think that this is the right way to control the heating in their houses. You're not alone. I asked this guys http: to help me when there was a problem with heating system. And they've done their job well.