In my house, when I grew up, we had a thermostat. It had three switches: “Heat. Cool. Off.” And damn, do I miss it now.
You were hot? Turn it to cool and move the temperature down to get cool. You’re freezing? Hey, guess what—flip it to heat!
(Of course, in my house, under my penny-pinching single mother's frugal gaze, I was never allowed to use it, touch it, or stare at it for too long, for fear that my clumsy child fingers would somehow cause our energy bill to skyrocket, leaving us destitute and doomed to live out our miserable lives as indentured servants to the electric company. But still.)
Today, in my home, we have a digital thermostat. Its solitary purpose on Earth is to simplify something that is literally already the simplest thing ever. But between the two college-educated professionals living in this house, we cannot seem to operate this fucking thing to save our lives.
No matter what we do, the thing flips off the AC in the middle of the night and slowly begins to heat our house. In the middle of the summer. IN TEXAS.
We’ve tried everything we can to figure out how to stop this. There are more numbers and subset buttons and time arrays and rely switches on this little square contraption than there are on a nuclear submarine. A blindfolded dinosaur would do a better job piloting a Boeing 747 than me trying to operate this thing.
It has a 12,000 page user guide that is more detailed than the Scrolls of Babylon, yet nowhere in its entirety does it actually tell you how to turn the fucking thing on. It tells you how to program it for Auto Program Mode. For Manual Program Mode. For Temporary Manual Override Program Mode. There are more program modes for this thermostat than there are stars in the NGC 123 Galaxy. You want Baryon Sweep Program Mode? No problem. Sous Vide Program Mode? You got it. Twerking Program Mode? Page 182.
Vacation mode? This thing goes on vacation? I haven’t gone on a vacation in nine years. Where the hell does it go? Does it rent a nice house in Cabo and sit out at the pool for a week or so, sunning itself and flirting with young cabana boys?
“NOTE: The Auto Season Changeover feature will not operate while the thermostat is in Permanent Manual Override. Refer to the Auto Season Changeover feature on page 26 for more information.”
WHAT IS THIS EVEN? I DON’T. Am I supposed to be in Permanent Manual Override or Vacation Override or Maximum Override?
“If the system is changed between Heat and Cool modes (either manually or by Auto Season Changeover) during the “Home Today” override period, the setpoint temperature will be automatically updated.
It would be easier for me to get a Master's degree in chemical engineering from Oxford than to decipher what the hell this sentence means.
"It will automatically change from the highest heat program setpoint to the lowest cool program setpoint, or from the lowest cool program setpoint to the highest heat program setpoint.”
What the hell is a setpoint? Where can I get one? Are they expensive? If you have one, please send it to me. I will pay money. I will give you my first born child. I have organs I probably don’t need. Let’s talk.
It took us four hours to read through this whole thing. Then we tried setting the auto-programming feature. But it didn't work. Because it is a lie. They should call it the auto ‘kill yourself' feature. I would have better luck programming the Mars Rover to bust out the Thriller dance before I could program this damn thermostat to set my house at a comfortable temperature.
MacGuyver himself would be undone by the insanity of this contraption. We tried calling service techs. We called electricians. We called the distributor. We called the manufacturer. We performed an ancient ceremonial Druid ritual, under the light of the New Blood moon, beseeching the dark lords of energy efficient appliances to please, please show mercy on us.
All to no avail.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. So we turned to a dark, dark place—the user reviews on Amazon.com. We held each other tightly, whispered what could be our last goodbyes, and went scrolling through to see if we weren’t the only ones living under the control of our thermostat overlord.
Turns out, there are almost no bad product reviews of this thing. That’s fucking impossible. There are bad reviews of rolls of Scotch tape. Socks. Glasses. Fucking boxes of paper get shitty reviews. No one has anything bad to say about this thing that is slowly trying to kill me in my own home?
It’s like the Jennifer Lawrence of digital thermostats. ‘OMG this thermostat is so great! I love it so much! Just want to hang out with it and talk about guys and stuff!’
The worst part of the whole thing is is Energy Star-approved. Energy Star is a program that was specifically created to house the demons of Gehenna who seek to usurp our mortal lands by slowly burning us all to death in our homes. Or at least, that’s what I gather after studying their website. By the light of this cursed box’s Indiglo panel, I swore a blood oath to take down the entire Energy Star program, single-handedly. Because clearly, my failure to operate a thermostat properly = time to shut down the federal government.
The heat was turning me into a goddamn Libertarian.
A few days in a house in Texas during a heatwave, and I’m ready to throw all my ideals out the window. I am ready to join the fricking Tea Party, if it means I can just feel a cool breeze on me at night. Ted Cruz can come in here and dance the Hora naked on my couch if he can just get this damn thermostat in my house to work correctly.
Believe me, I know what all of you are going say. “Burt, you freaking idiot. I have one of these! It’s not that hard at all to set. I set it up just fine on my own. What the hell is wrong with you? You drink too much wine or something.”
FINE. YOU WIN. YOU ARE SMARTER THAN BURT. MR. THERMODYNAMIC ENERGY FOOFOOPANTS EXPERT. I BOW DOWN TO YOU.
Thankfully, now we've survived the summer months without melting into sad piles of technologically inefficient goo. Now, we just have to bide our time, making routine sacrifices to the thermostat in hopes that next summer, it won't rise up in league with the coffeemaker and try to kill us all. Oh and now that summer's pretty much over and the weather's cooling off, we were happily prepared for this thing to start heating our home. But nope.
Now it's turning the AC on, full blast, in the middle of the night.
Images via Hunter Fan, Amazon and Shutterstock.
Rebecca "Burt" Rey is a comedy writer, buffet aficionado and spirit conduit for Mr. Burt Reynolds, aka the greatest human being of all time. Burt Reynolds Is Her Spirit Guide. Her origins are largely unknown. Some people suspect she was raised by a pack of wolves, except it is highly unlikely that wolves would put up with so much drinking and swearing. You can follow her on Twitter @americasbaby1 or check out her website, www.drinkcursescrew.com.