Everything in our house takes just “a little trick” to operate – fill the dishwasher cups only half full, and set it on medium wash; put the security bar in the patio door after you close it; put the soap in first, then the clothes in the washing machine; the lock on the french doors takes a certain pull, tug, and lift to seat properly; etc., etc. And then there is the house heat.
These houses were built in the 1980’s with electric baseboard heat and a thermostat in each room, system #1. Very simple. At some point, the previous owner got tired of the electric bills and put in a large Rinnai natural gas heater in the living room, system #2, which heats the whole house pretty well and for half the price of the electric system. But the little trick to that is keeping upstairs doors closed if we aren’t using those rooms, unless it is below 20f at night, then keeping them ajar is best so that the rooms don’t get so cold that the pipes in the sprinkler system freeze. The other little trick is setting the thermostat to about 66f if you actually want the room to be 72f.
Then a few years ago, we decided to install a heat pump air conditioning system – electric, but much more efficient than the window units we had brought with us. And wouldn’t require muscling them into the window in the spring, and back out in the fall. This system happens to also have heat capability, so that is system # 3. The little trick to this system is the remote control, which has tiny indicators for heat, for cooling, for fan speed, fan direction, and so forth. I came home one evening last year to a freezing house, and asked J what was going on – she said she was cold, and had put the heat on….and we actually don’t use that system for heat at all, we use the Rinnai in the living room. But the little sun symbol on the remote is very like the little snowflake symbol, and J missed it altogether.
And in the fireplace, natural-gas burning logs provide heat source #4. The little trick to this is getting the pilot lit, which requires monkeying around into an impossible position while holding down a knob, turning the gas on, and then holding a match to the pilot nozzle….I guess that’s several little tricks. Since it is a “vent-free” system, it is meant to be mainly decorative, and not run for more than a couple of hours at a time. But it is the only system in the house that would work if we lost electricity – which occasionally happens in the winter. We keep the fireplace blocked off, though, so that I don’t worry whether J will attempt to operate the system.
And the plain truth is that J is now past being able to learn or retain any “little tricks” at all. So, although I am not by her side 24/7, I am on alert all the time to monitor what she is able to handle and what she can’t, and what she thinks she is able to handle but can’t. The electric heat in the bedroom is handy on winter days when J has taken a shower and is getting dressed – but it takes me remembering to go back and turn it off when she is done dressing. So we are now on a sign system – the sign hangs on a push pin above the thermostat and when the heat is turned on, gets turned over to read “Heat is ON”, and put on a push pin in the hall, where we can both see it easily….or, more easily than when it is in the bedroom. And I have set a twice-daily reminder on my ipad & phone calendar, which alerts me to check the heat regularly.
There are a lot of signs in our house. But you can’t put a sign up for every “little trick” which was once learned and remembered effortlessly. There comes a point when you either disable or block access to the item, for safety’s sake. Fortunately, in a way, J has lost interest in dealing with most of these systems. But I keep alert to all of this the best I can.
The spring is really starting now – incredibly blue skies, bright sun, cool breezes, tiny leaves on trees, daffodils, budding azaleas, and birds galore. Just put up hummingbird feeders in three places, since they arrived on May 8 last year – no takers yet, but any day now. All of this is very nice, and something we both can appreciate fully. Thanks for reading!