Heating up the house while communicating with NORAD

The other day, I bought a programmable thermostat. You see, this is kind of big thing for me, because you don’t know the half of what I went through to actually get this thing and then to get it installed. A few weeks ago, I honestly didn’t know anything about them. Actually, I really didn’t know they existed.

I should point out that I’m somewhat of a dunce when it comes to heating. I’m from California, and I love hot weather. I’ve tended to live in a lot of very warm climate areas, like Arizona, the desert, the surface of Mars. Until recently. Now, I live in the opposite, a few miles south of the North Pole, in some place called Freezing City, Michigan. Okay, it’s not really Freezing City, but it’s located a few miles west of Freezing City. It’s Grand Rapids, and for someone from California, that means Freezing City or any variation thereof. I think I’m getting the point across. It is cold here sometimes. And I don’t like that.

Sure, it’s not Minnesota, or Canada, or the inside of someone’s walk-in freezer. But it can be cold. When I first moved here, people told me: “Me, you’re not going to believe how cold Michigan can be. You’re leaving warm California for very cold Michigan.” Okay, no one said that exactly, but they could have. However, a lot of people in Michigan when I first moved there said: “Me, do you realize you left a very warm place to come to a very cold place?” Those Michiganders, always filled with great moments of logic.

Anyway, my first Winter here wasn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, it was the mildest Winter Michigan had in decades. I thought immediately, wow, these Michigan people are wimps. This was nothing. I’ve had Winters in San Francisco that were colder than this. And then the next year was one of the worst Michigan had in decades. I immediately bit my words and never uttered such insults again.

Getting back to my subject, I was talking to a co-worker, and she mentioned that perhaps I should get a programmable thermostat after I told her my usual habit of trying to leave my heat on all day so my house was actually warm when I got home. She kind of thought I was wasting a lot of heat (and money) by doing this. When I discovered they made such an item, I immediately decided that I had to have one. So I went to Best Buy to look for one, and of course, they didn’t have any. They could order it and have it delivered to their store in a few days, but they didn’t have any in store. Realizing I can have it shipped to my own freaking house, and not to Best Buy’s store, I walked out of Best Buy pissed off at Best Buy like I usually do whenever I go there to get a specific item that I would figure a stupid brick and mortar store would actually have on its premises (NOT SO I HAVE TO ORDER IT ONLINE).

Then it started to dawn on me that even if I got one, was I going to be able to put it into my apartment? I live in one of those management complexes that does everything for you, except anything you might actually need done. So, I called them and asked them if I was allowed to have a programmable thermostat installed. The response was as follows:

Them: Um, let yeah that should be okay. Let me contact our maintenance guys so they can set up a time to install it.

Me: That would be great.

Them: You do realize that this would have to be after hours because we can’t be held liable for that sort of thing? And I’d have to contact them to see if they could do it.

Me: What exactly does that mean?

Them: He’s not answering the line, so let me investigate this and then get back to you. Can I call you right back?

Me: (realizing where this was going) Um, sure. I’ll await your call.

Then I hung up. That was two weeks ago. Still awaiting his return phone call.

So, I contacted a friend of mine who knew someone who could put one in. Then I decided to buy one so he’d have something he could install when he showed up. That was when I read a great article in the New York Times about a programmable thermostat that was becoming all the rage.

Image for post
Image for post

This one goes to 11

Now, supposedly this thermostat learns as you use it, so it would do all sorts of things that you tend to do and then learns from it. The only problem I saw with it was that it wasn’t all that interested in letting you program it, but it wanted to learn from what you did, which meant instead of setting it for turning off the heat at midnight, it would want me to get up in the middle of the night (at midnight) and turn off the heat and then it would learn from my actions. Not exactly the kind of education I want to teach a thermostat, but I’m sure it has features that work around that.

The biggest problem with this thermostat is that it is sold out for a year, so don’t expect to actually buy one, which for me is usually one of the worst selling points. I mean, I’m willing to buy something as long as someone is willing to sell it to me, but don’t tease me with a great product and then say, “oh by the way, you can’t have one because we weren’t smart enough to manufacture enough of them.” I almost didn’t buy an Ipad 2 because of that. I ended up buying a Motorola Xoom, and boy was that a stupid mistake. Companies need to compensate for buyers like me, who makes stupid decisions because you have a horrible manufacturing deficiency.

So, I went to Lowe’s, and I found another programmable thermostat. This one, however, was just as good (except it doesn’t learn anything other than what I put into it) but you know, I’m okay with that. Sometimes, I don’t really want my thermostat being smarter than I am.

So, I got this one:

Image for post
Image for post

This one actually works and exists in real life

So, I had the guy install this one, and now I’m working through its minor details, like enabling certain functions that I find to be important, like actual heat. The other day, I pressed buttons over and over, launching two space shuttles, picking up three shows on HBO, relaying something called a “go signal” to some strange group in Iraq called SEAL Team 5, and changing the date from BC to AD at least twice. But “heat” seemed somewhat elusive. So I went back to the manual, read it through twice, realizing that this was the original Rosetta Stone they used to translate English to Sumerian cuniform, and then managed to finally get the heater to start putting out air conditioning, and then finally HEAT.

So, now I think I have it working, as I managed to get the heat to run this morning, just in time for the program to effectively turn it off for the day. But fortunately, I have tonight to play with it again when I get home from work.

I’m hoping to use it to communicate with NORAD this evening.

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store