Friday, September 17, 2010

Free Sauna

I'm in charge of all five thermostats at work. Or at least, that's what I've been trying to explain to people since we moved in May. I thought I could trust my co-workers to leave well enough alone, but no, everyone's busy fingers were pressing those buttons whenever my back was turned.

Here is how a thermostat works, for the benefit of the many, many people who seem not to understand. The AC or the heat is either on or off. It's not like your stove. You cannot make the temperature change more quickly by cranking the controls. If it's going to take 10 minutes to adjust the temperature by one degree, that will be the case whether you've set the temperature at two degrees difference or ten degrees difference from whatever the temperature is right now.

It drove me crazy when someone, always anonymous, feeling that their office was a tad warm, would set the thermostat down to 62 degrees. Or they were a little cold, so they'd crank it to 83. When people do that, the thermostats set to reasonable temperatures in other areas fight with the unreasonable thermostat. Much energy is wasted and everyone ends up too hot or too cold.

After sending memos and posting signs did absolutely nothing, I finally gave in and purchased lock boxes to cover the thermostats. Or tried to do so. For a while it seemed that they would never be installed. I called the HVAC guy every other day for two weeks and he always said "tomorrow". It was frustrating.

At 6:40 pm last night I was just stepping in my front door when the phone rang. It was someone back at the office. "There's some guy at the door saying that he's here to put on the Honeywell covers?"

Nice! My HVAC guy finally sent one of his subcontractors, well after office hours and without warning me that he was coming. It was a lucky break that anyone was there to receive him. Fortunately the woman who called me was willing and able to stay late to supervise the work.

This morning I came in to the satisfying sight of the thermostats enclosed in clear plastic boxes. The keys were on my desk. I inspected them all, and everything seemed to be fine. My co-worker said "It took a long time. He had to dis-assemble all the thermostats, mount each box on the wall, and then re-install the thermostats." I had no idea that it was that complicated. I thanked her for staying late.

Everything was fine until around 2pm, when I got a call over the intercom system. "The ladies washroom is unusually warm. You should look into it." That seemed kind of weird and random.

I went to check it out, and sure enough, this one-seater washroom was warm as a sauna. It was all the more strange because all summer long the washroom had been as cold as a refrigerator. It was so hot that I wondered if there was an electrical fire in the ceiling, except that I couldn't smell or see any smoke. Nevertheless, I was worried.

I ran around and checked all the thermostats again, and they were still set to 73. However, the one closest to that washroom was registering an actual temperature of 76. Yes, it was set to "cool". Yes, the fan was working. I played with the buttons hoping that it might reset or something. No luck. I put two and two together and realized the most likely cause of the problem: when the dude re-assembled the thermostat, I bet he switched the heat and cool triggers.

Sure enough, the heat kept blowing. The temperature rose to 78. After running around a bit, calling the contractor and explaining to worried people why the little washroom was toasty as an oven, I finally had the presence of mind to turn the system right off. At least it wasn't getting any hotter.

In response to my URGENT e-mails, HVAC guy sent his dopey sub-contractor back to our site to take a look right away. He pulled the thermostat off the wall, and sure enough he had re-wired it backwards. That was fixed shortly. He also adjusted the air flow to the washroom, which was obviously getting more than its fair share.

The happiest part of this ending was that I was still able to escape and get to my massage appointment on time, because by then I really needed it!


Just Plain Tired said...

We have no access to change temp settings where I work -- thankfully. The other two clowns I work with are polar opposites, one always hot, the other cold. They'd be fighting every day if they had access.

Jen said...

I'm convinced whoever was in charge of the thermostat where I used to work waited to see what I was wearing and then adjusted the temp accordingly. If I wore short sleeves, he set it on freeze...if I wore a sweater, he cranked the heater up to 80.

Glad you got everything sorted out.

LL Cool Joe said...

It always amazes me the way people feel they have the right to just walk around fiddling with buttons and stuff that often they have no idea about anyway. To me it's a bit like going into a friends house and adjusting the temperature of the room, you just wouldn't do it!

DarcsFalcon said...

I started reading and kept thinking, "She needs those clear lock boxes ... Spark, you need those clear lock boxes!" Then, yay, you got the lock boxes! And the dopey installer messes it all up? Sheesh! Too bad you can't send him the heating bill for that area!

Glad it's all been resolved now, and am totally jealous about that massage. :)

Sparkling Red said...

JPT: Yup, people will always disagree about the environmental controls. I encourage people to come to me if they're uncomfortable, and if a majority would prefer the temperature changed, I'll change it. I don't base the setting on my own preference, because I'm that person who always feels chilly when everyone else is perfectly fine. I just put on a sweater.

Jen: My old workplace was like that. Seems like it was either boiling or freezing. If we didn't like the temperature we had to call a guy in to fix it, and sometimes it took 2 or 3 days for him to show up. It's much better to be able to do it myself!

LL Cool Joe: I have closed windows at friends' houses without explicitly asking permission. I wonder if that was bad manners! You've got me worried now.

DarcsFalcon: I love my shiny new lock boxes! I will share the keys with a few trusted associates, but everyone else will just have to ask a manager if they're uncomfortable - like they were always supposed to in the first place!

Jenski said...

I go back and forth with a lab mate too because he's always warm. I shouldn't have to wear a fleece and still be cold at work in the summer?!

Enjoy the stable air temperature in the office now!

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Glad the heat/cooling got fixed, now can he do anything about the smell in there??? ;-)

Sparkling Red said...

Jenski: What is it with some people? It's like they have their own little nuclear reactor somewhere in their bodies to keep them piping hot at all times.

Ron: I elected not to write this into my post, for the sake of not being crass, but one thing that went through my mind when I was told the washroom was unusually warm was: what could make a washroom warm? The only logical answer: lots of hot farts!

Kate said...

Did I mention there are definite benefits to working alone?