Morning Buzz

AC Wars: The hot and cold of it

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HOT AND COLD There’s a not-so-silent war going on over the temperature in many homes. (Illustration:

There’s a war going on at Deanna and Steve Sheaffer’s house. Both parties in the otherwise happily married couple – plus their four boys – will tell you it’s a problem: Nobody can agree on what temperature constitutes comfort.

“It’s a huge battle at our house,” says Deanna, who is the strategic gifts manager for the nonprofit Families Empowered. “This has been a battle our whole lives. It’s the bill – Steve pays it.” Steve, chief customer officer for a consulting company, thinks the AC ideally should be kept at a steady 74 or 75 degrees. Deanna and the boys, ages 23, 21, 19, and 13, disagree.

“We have two stories,” Deanna says. “The kids’ bedrooms are upstairs and ours is downstairs. The boys turn the AC down, and my husband goes up and turns it up. They turn it down, and he turns it up. It’s ongoing.

“When we have guests – my mom used to travel to town and stay with us, although now she lives here – she’d say, ‘Please make sure the air is low’ before she came, and I’d tell Steve, ‘We have guests in the house, we have to keep it cooler.’ He’d begrudgingly turn it down.” But the cooler temps would be short-lived, and the war would continue. At one point, Steve thought he had won.

“My husband thought he got smart a couple of years ago, and he got the control on the phone and locked us out. But then I’m a menopausal woman and would get hot and he would give me the code to turn it down. And then the kids would complain, and I’d get tired of listening, and I’d say, ‘Just go do it yourselves, here’s the code.’” Once again, Steve would have to change the code to regain control.

“During the freeze, our pipes burst, and one burst on our bed,” Deanna says. “So we went shopping, and Mattress Mac doubled our budget because they had one of those mattresses – there are a lot of different models – that are supposed to cool one side of the bed at night.” The Sheaffers bit. “I don’t even know if it works, but if you had told me the mattress would clean my kitchen sink I would have bought it. I would have bought anything that promised to make it cooler!”

In all the back-and-forth, Steve has given up. Almost. “When I’m in the house, it’s 68 at night,” Deanna says. “He brings it up to like 74 during the day.”

Wars over the AC are not unique to the Sheaffer family. Heather Kearney, who lives part-time in Crested Butte, Colo. with her husband Wayne, says, “We’ve got God’s air conditioning up in Colorado in summer. I like it really cold at night, so Wayne is always freezing. I’ve got the window open in our bedroom, and it gets down into the 40s. Wayne has been known to sleep with a ski hat on his head.”

We wondered if the Kearneys’ battle is long-lived. “It’s just the last few years,” Heather says. “I’m 55. Enough said.”

Another husband in his early 80s, married for almost 60 years, stands in solidarity with Wayne. But he knows he isn’t going to win the battle: “I guess I am always going to be cold and probably just need to start wearing long johns to bed in the summertime,” he laments.

And yet another couple says, “I keep our AC on so cold my husband says the wooden windows are going to rot from the inside out.”

“Do any spouses agree on thermostat settings?” wonders Kathryn Rabinow. “During the hot days in Houston I casually walk by the thermostats and ‘happen to brush against them’ and lower them by a few degrees. If the numbers are not noticed on the thermostat screen, then everyone is fine with the ambient temperature. But, if the numbers are noticed, then ‘dear spouse’ raises the settings to the high 70s. In the winter, I prefer the thermostat to be set lower than my husband, so the wars continue. I wonder what all that means? Am I just ‘cooler’ than he is? Or is it the other way around?”

The Sheaffers have turned the war into a family joke. Last year, the boys gave Steve a t-shirt for Father’s Day that reads, “Thermostat Police.” He wore it with a smile.

“When we’re not in the house, I feel bad for my kids,” Deanna says. “I think Steve sets it differently when we aren’t there. You know, he changes the code from time to time. So when we’re gone, I just wait for the call saying, ‘We need air!’”

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