Saturday, October 29, 2011

Leaving the Heat Off

Again this fall, I have kept the central heating in my house off, heating only the rooms I am actually using and only for as long as necessary. The weather has helped. Locally it has not been particularly warm or cold, and with wetter weather than usual there hasn’t been the usual October freeze.

I am not the only one taking this approach. A partial approach to home heating is still unconventional enough that people who do it don’t brag about it. But I have been relatively forthright in explaining to people that I spend the colder weather mostly in one room in my house, the office, leaving the rest of the house essentially unheated, and more people this year have been responding by telling me how they are doing variations of the same thing.

For some, the kitchen is the room they prefer, and that, of course, is the old way of doing it. It makes perfect sense if you have a supply of firewood (easy to come by in this neighborhood) and a wood-burning stove in the kitchen. A century ago, the average house did not have central heat, and huddling in the kitchen or around the fireplace was a necessity in colder weather.

For me as a writer and computer programmer, it is easiest to huddle at my desk. I can easily close the office door and focus on writing — something I would want to do soon enough anyway.

Measures of oil consumption in particular bear out the suspicion that people are leaving the heat off. This decline in energy consumption is one of the reasons the U.S. trade deficit has backed off from its previous record levels.