A thermostat under pressure


Here’s a somewhat strange set of seemingly disconnected thoughts…

How quickly can you complete a series of tasks in your home?

What types of materials do you take for granted will be located in a certain place, especially when you need them but haven’t specifically looked for them in some time?

How long is a minute?

What motivates you to take action at any particular moment?

A bit of context might be deserved. So, let’s connect the dots.

Last night, Terry mentioned that the display on our thermostat didn’t light up for her. Without a ton of explanation, the short and sweet idea to draw from this statement of hers is that the batteries needed to be replaced.

I’ve done this before. I’ve done it the hard way. I’ve done it the easy way. The main difference between the hard and easy options? Time.

Sure, the unit operates electrically. Yours probably does as well. You know them, and that they have a battery backup. No worries there. But when the batteries need replacing on ours, you need to remove the main part of the thermostat from the wall, which of course means that you’ve disconnected it from the system circuit. And when you do that to replace the batteries, well… duh… that in turn brings you to the point where you’ve removed all power from the unit.

In our case, we have one minute… sixty seconds… to exchange the batteries. Anything longer than that, and when everything is back in place the display will be flashing with a request to set the time. Anything longer than that and, I’m afraid, it becomes a procedure.

For us, most of the procedure involves stuff that we aren’t really concerned about. We don’t use the scheduling and advanced options of the system. It controls not only the heat but also the air conditioning, so we manually turn the system off and on throughout the year as needed while adjusting the temperature based on the old fashioned and slightly out of style way we’re feeling. (For instance: “I’m cold. Are you cold? Let’s turn the heat up a bit.”) That means there isn’t a lot to reset. But, it also means we don’t use a ton of the buttons with any regularity, and it’s really easy to keep hitting the Set and Run and arrow buttons to the point where when all you wanted to do was replace the batteries and wind up needing the instruction booklet because just wanting to get things back to normal you slid right into the scheduling options and have the temperature jumping to 96-degrees at 10:45pm on Mondays.

Ok… resetting our scene… Terry noticed the thermostat display is dark. I’m going to replace the batteries. Ready… set… GO!

Unit off the wall, grab two AA batteries, old ones out and new ones in and… crap, I grabbed two dead batteries. The one-minute exchange is not going to happen, so I need to break out the instruction booklet to confirm that the “…if you’re not setting the schedule…” steps I’m attempting are the actual correct steps to be taking.

A few extra moves, but everything is handled, and I wake up this morning, it’s trash day, and while getting the recycling to the end of the driveway I begin wondering…

What kind of things do I do around the house that have a certain pattern, and are there any others I have to get done in under a minute?

In addition to prepping for trash day… a task that does have a few requirements since everything needs to be in place for an arrival that could happen before I wake up even though the truck usually stops between 10 and noon… I did come up with a few.

Changing lightbulbs. Yup. Lightbulbs. Some of our lamps and fixtures use different styles of bulbs. There’s a big difference between getting to the bulb in ceiling of the garage, replacing something for the lamp on my nightstand, and taking care of the backyard flood light.

Laundry. For me this is because of our dryer. I try to alternate between loads of laundry that will be headed to the dryer or hanging something to dry. Keeps things from backing up a bit. My pattern differs during the year based on putting something outside on the line as opposed to inside on a rack, but it’s still a pattern.

There are a few others, but here’s where things get a bit strange… because of all the tasks I thought about, none of them involve a stopwatch. Or, more precisely, a need to finish things in a certain amount of time or else.

From having gas in the lawn mower before I move out to the lawn to resetting the times on clocks twice a year… from batteries in smoke detectors to adding orange juice to the shopping list… of any and all tasks and chores and repairs and to-do items… I couldn’t come up with one that involved a countdown.

Sixty seconds.

Replace two batteries in sixty seconds. Make it, and the whole process becomes a unit off, batteries swapped, unit back in place we’re done procedure. Don’t make it, and settings and instruction booklets and scanning indexes for information on what page to find battery replacement steps and so much additional fun gets added to the process.

If I need lightbulbs. I do know where they are located. I can find screwdrivers, even those smaller precision kits for special tasks, basically in the dark and probably without needing to open my eyes. But knowing that I have a few good batteries on hand… especially in a pressure situation… and I suppose the whole thing goes a bit bonkers.

That’s about it for now. The trash still hasn’t been picked up, so I’m wondering if I need to call about that. And I should head out to get some AA batteries. Things to do. (And not much time to do them.)


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com