Man, the dog days of summer are most definitely upon us bringing about a general sluggishness in the Valley of the Sun, and the Land Manatee is not immune. I have been one lazy bastard lately — in fact, I just realized when I started to write this that it had been twenty-four days since I last posted on my blog.
I know, I know. Let the cry go out — “Slacker!”
Both my blog and book have suffered from my lack of focus and a general malaise.
Blame it on the sun
Maybe it’s the heat sapping my energy? Could be. We are in the hot, monsoon season now and it’s gotten as high as a blistering 116º Fahrenheit (that’s 46.6° Celcius for the rest of the world). Going outside is like stepping into an oven and if the wind does pick up, it’s the equivalent of standing in front of a giant hairdryer. Still, as long as the sun isn’t directly striking my pale, vampiric flesh with its death rays, I can handle it while the thermometer registers in the low 100s. Being outside in anything over 105°F (40°C) though is uncomfortable and 110°F (43°C) on up is pure misery.
Most people are willing — albeit grudgingly — to pay a premium price for a comfortably chilled house.
“But you’re inside,” I hear you saying, “Where you’ve got your brand new expensive air conditioning unit pumping in ice-cold air, right?”
Well, yes, I do have an expensive, brand new AC unit, but to be honest, I’ve been keeping the temperature in the house a wee bit hotter than most folks would probably find comfortable.
Why, you ask, do I keep my house hot? And what do I mean by hotter?
Let me explain.
All part of the plan
You see, my friends, it has all been part of making the Year of Sean possible, which required me to keep my expenses low so I could live in moderate comfort while not having a full-time job (P.S. the new AC unit was an expensive monkey wrench in my plans). A big part of keeping expenses low revolves around the electricity bill because it’s the one bill that varies monthly. In the Phoenix area, everyone’s electricity bill shoots up during the Arizona summer. A lot. Most people are willing — albeit grudgingly — to pay a premium price for a comfortably chilled house. In fact, one friend just told me his electric bill last month was north of $350 — to me, an unthinkably high price to keep a house at a balmy 76°F (24°C). But I’ve heard worse — the Houseguest has a buddy who told her his last bill exceeded $500. Ouch!
Call me Scrooge McLayton, but my July electricity bill was $150 (and I wasn’t happy about it — for comparison, in winter it was around $50). And that’s for a 1500 square foot house.
“Wow, $150 — that’s pretty low, considering what others are paying,” you’re saying to yourself.
In comparison, it is, but achieving a low electricity bill requires a certain amount of sacrifice to be made — and that sacrifice is comfort. Mostly the Houseguest’s.
A method to my madness
See, in normal years, living by myself, I kept the thermostat set at an elevated temperature during the day when I was at the office and then I turned it down later to cool the house as the sun dropped toward the horizon. During the Year of Sean, I’ve been home during the day, which wasn’t a problem until the summer temps started climbing. Still, I resisted dropping the thermostat and kept it set higher than most people find acceptable — somewhere between 85 – 88° F (29 – 31° C). For a day or two, I didn’t turn it on, though this was done with some trepidation. I envisioned emergency responders eventually pulling me out of my house dripping with sweat and barely conscious like Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke after the prison camp warden punished him by confining him in The Box during the sweltering Florida summer.
I envisioned emergency responders eventually pulling me out of my house dripping with sweat
So, I dropped it back down to the 85 – 88° range.
Well, let me amend that — I’ve kept the temperature between 85 – 88° F (31° C) when the Houseguest has been at work. When she’s home, we compromise and set the thermostat at around 83°F (28°C). And when I say compromise, I mean I magnanimously let her drop it a few degrees (with cheap rent and no contribution to utilities or Internet, she only has so much leverage).
Let’s just say one of us is mentally prepared for global warming.
I have to give her credit: she’s adapted to the hotter temperature well. For a while, I was able to trick her because she always gets the thermostat phrasing backward — if she wants the house cooler she shouts out for me to “turn the thermostat up” — when she should be telling me to turn it down. So she’d shout “Turn it up!” and I’d go “Okay!”
She caught on pretty fast when the AC didn’t kick in. And though she still tends to phrase it incorrectly, we have a new understanding: No matter her phrasing, I turn the air on and she won’t kill me. I know, most people would have murdered me in my sleep by now to enjoy a few hours of chilly bliss before their arrest. But the Houseguest has shown remarkable restraint.
I have to admit though, keeping the thermostat at a higher setting must be rubbing off on her. At night she now only turns it down to 81°F and has a fan on. And one day, she actually had it set at 84°F when I returned home.
The secret to living in a
hell hot house
So you’re probably wondering: How do I manage to not go crazy living in a slightly toasty house? Easy, it’s my
cheapness indomitable will — and the fact that I keep a small, but powerful Vornado fan on my desk in the Man Cave. That sucker is indispensable. And, at night, in my bedroom, I have a giant pedestal fan towering over my bed that blows cool air across me all night long, so I get that sucker cranked up to max power — plus, it provides soothing white noise to lull me to sleep.
How can he stand it this hot? What is wrong with him?
Plus, the older I get, the less I find the heat bothers me. Honestly, I get chilly now if I walk into a room that’s in the mid-70s.
Actually, I think I’m turning into my father. The older he got, the more body fat he lost — unfortunately, I don’t have that problem yet — so he became very sensitive to the cold. His solution was to keep his house uncomfortably warm. Walking through the front door was like stepping into a hothouse. In fact, my brother could only take being at dad’s for so long. He’d wipe the sweat from his forehead and mutter about the unbearable heat. Finally, he’d snap and leap to his feet and pace around like a caged animal.
“Oh my God, I have to leave! How can he stand it this hot? What is wrong with him?”
Back then I sympathized with him because the heat used to bother me too. But now? Not so much.
Easy on the wallet
And does all this fiddling with the thermostat translate to a lower bill? Hell, yeah, it does. Every day I check my SRP (Salt River Project) app to see how much they charged me for the preceding day. They even give me various graphs to track my hourly, daily, weekly and monthly power consumption. I can look at the kilowatts used or the dollars charged. For me, it’s all about the tracking the Benjamins I’m spending.
Just look at these two screenshots of the same graph comparing two different days in the same week. You can get an idea by the peaks and valleys what days the Houseguest was home by herself, when we were around together, and what days I was home alone. Okay, you get one guess as to what day she was home by herself.
The future looks hot
So, now that I’ll be gainfully employed again and can afford to drop the thermostat, will I? Maybe
Probably. I would still like to keep the electric bill reasonable. One option is using my programmable thermostat that came with my new AC unit. I could set the thermostat higher when we’re not around and have it automatically start to cool the house down before we return. Also, SRP has various energy plans to help the consumer save money — I really need to explore them.
Anyway, just give me plenty of advance notice if you ever plan to stop by my house so I can turn the AC down. And if I’m not there and you speak with the Houseguest, just tell her to turn it up.